Bus, train, taxi, train, plane, bus, taxi…Sri Lanka! What a breath of fresh air! Sitting at just seven degrees north of the equator with an area slightly larger than West Virginia, this small island nation has a touch of everything, from beaches to mountains and over 2,000 years of recorded history in between. Few islands of similar size contain such natural beauty and diversity. Marco Polo once described it as “the finest island of its size in the world.” I would describe it as “one hell of a break from India!”
The Colombo airport is actually located about one hour north of Colombo, which is closer to the town of Negombo. Instead of trying to make it straight down to the bustling city as day quickly turned to night, we headed to Negombo with a nice German couple we met on our flight from Chennai. We found accommodations at a lovely guesthouse on the beach and decided to stay for three nights while we formulated a plan for our new territory. After speaking to Ram, we decided to head straight to Arugam Bay, on the east coast.
Ram is a small, native Sri Lankan in his seventies. His brother, Sooriya, is one of the founders of Kahumana, the farm in Hawaii where Gabriella and I met last summer. Ram’s son, Ranjith, is currently the head chef at Kahumana Café. Gabriella met Ram briefly during her stay on the farm, but we both got to know Ranjith pretty well. He told us if we were ever in Sri Lanka that we would have a place to stay with his father. Well…we’re in Sri Lanka!
Ram runs a café and guesthouse in Arugam Bay. His property is located across the street from the beach and dotted with seven unique cottages along with a main kitchen/dining room/library area. We arrived just before 7am after an excruciating overnight bus (8 hours) from Colombo. We thought the worst of the bus rides was in India, but this one was equipped with smaller-than-normal seats, non-stop blaring Sri Lankan music videos, and people standing over top of us in the aisles for what seemed like all night long. Fortunately, Ram welcomed us with open arms, a clean bed, and fresh pineapple juice.
Arugam Bay is a popular surfing spot for many Australians and New Zealanders. In fact, we may have been the only white people in town from the northern hemisphere. We met heaps of friendly Aussies over the week, especially those staying at Ram’s. Two of the guys there at the moment have been coming back every year for over 10 years! After dinner our first night, I quickly realized why. Ram is an amazing cook! That must be where Ranjith gets it from! Every night we had a family-style dinner of vegetable curries and rice. He kept adding food to the table until no one could fit another morsel. Some nights we had fish and one night we even had shark. It tasted like a leaner tuna. It certainly was nice to not have to deal with bones!
Most of our time was spent lounging on the beach alternating between reading and swimming. One day we made a trip out to Whiskey Point, which is a smaller break that’s good for novice surfers. The beach here was actually a bit nicer than A-Bay and much less developed. We made the trip out with fellow Ram’s-guesthouse-resident KC, who is currently making his way across Sri Lanka on bicycle. (Hope you’re reading this and doing well, buddy! Keep it on two wheels! Thanks for the movies!) Towards the end we found a litter of puppies at one of the guesthouses and made excuses to walk by and play with them. Puppies and beaches: what could be better?!
After eight days of saltwater baths, we made the tough decision to move west into the hillside. It was sad to leave the wonderful hospitality and home cooking of Ram, but our time in Sri Lanka is limited and there’s so much more to see. The visa is only good for 30 days and we’ve already bought our flight to Thailand at the end of the month. We arrived in the town of Ella yesterday and found an unbelievable place to stay that could easily be considered the Ram’s-of-the-hill-country. We’re slowly adjusting from lazy beachside strolls in the sand to rocky hillside hiking in the mountains. Tough life, right…? 😉