Sri Lanka is nothing short of fascinating and magical. It is a land where following wild elephant footprints to the surf break is oh so common. Where in a single bus ride, we pass colorful circus-like Hindu temples, pristine white Buddhist dagobas, loudspeaker blaring mosques, and Catholic churches, all on the same highway. Men ride old, clunky bicycles, tucking their lungi (a sarong-like skirt) up underneath them. Pick up cricket matches occupy the beach and roadside clearings. Locals whisper “the monkeys are coming” and hurry to close up their kitchens so they don't get ravaged by the critters.
We took a slow route through the center of the country, stopping in some of the higher altitude places amongst miles and miles of tea plantations. We came very, very close to going on a mountain bike ride, but nasty weather prevented us from pulling it off. Let's just say that Chris was frothing over the mountain bike potential. After spending a few more nights in the chilly hill country (yes, we were wearing long pants, and the worst part, shoes), we took more trains, busses and tuk-tuks to reach our surfing destination, at Arugam Bay, on the east coast of the island. Our last leg of the bus provided great views of elephants roaming in the wild. Katy let out a little yelp, stared wide eyed out the window, the locals stared at her, and everyone was happy.
It's easy livin' in Arugam Bay. A Sri Lankan surfers haven, it is packed with good eateries, cheap accommodation, a tuk tuk waiting on every corner – and lots of surfers. Lots and lots. It's the most crowded place we've ever surfed (that includes places in California, like Trestles and Huntington Beach), so, for better or worse, we are honing in our people skills! We're surrounded by Europeans, Australians, Kiwis, and Israelis on holiday. I digress… To date, in almost three months of travel in Asia, we have met five…only five…Americans amongst hundreds of South Africans, Australians, Kiwis, Israelis, Austrians, Swiss, Germans, Irish, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, British, Japanese, Canadians, even a guy from Reunion Island. Do you know where Reunion Island is? I didn't, until now, so load Google Maps and look it up. We routinely have people asking why it is that Americans don't travel, and we spit out some weird answer while we look at our feet and mumble “it's a lot of things – fear, money, the fact that travel is not a strongly supported value in the US, and well, we just don't have a good answer.” All we can say is do yourself a favor and buy a plane ticket to somewhere, anywhere and see the world.
Back to Arugam Bay, and our two favorite pastimes, surfing and tuk tuk driving. The surfing here, albeit crowded, is a downright kick in the pants. The east coast is teeming with a bunch of known and not so well known right hand, sandy bottom point breaks. Cruiser rides, low fear factor, warm blue water, and absolutely incredible pristine beaches make for very good times. The air so hot, the clouds so low …oh wait, those are song lyrics. But it is hot and dry here during the day, but the evenings are perfect with a light breeze. Our second most enjoyable hobby is exploring the area in our own dirt cheap personal tuk-tuk that we are sharing with our new friend, Kiwi Tom. This is good for two reasons: 1) we can go wherever we want, whenever we want. 2) we get to drive a tuk-tuk, which is a completely functional yet hilarious vehicle. Three tiny wheels, handlebar steering, manual drive, complete with customizable horn sounds, fringe and stuffed animal accoutrements. Yep, its pretty fun. It does pavement, dirt, even a little sand. Unlike at home where we have “singletrack” or “doubletrack”, here we have “tripletrack”. We are working on the sound system, and perhaps installing a black light, to better pimp our ride, yo.
We are very close to the border of one of the many national parks in Sri Lanka, Yala East National Park, so the area is rich with animals and birds. We took a half day jeep safari one afternoon and saw incredible amounts of wildlife, including elephants, wild boar, wild buffalo, jackals, deer, mongoose, tortoise, many very large crocodiles, and tons of exotic birds. We feel incredibly lucky to see some of these animals in the wild before they are gone, as they are quickly losing habitat to development. Fortunately Sri Lankans seem to have great pride in their historical, cultural and natural resources and it appears to be a developing country that, despite years of brutal civil war and a devastating tsunami, has it together in many ways. We are quite impressed.
While we toil away our days in A Bay, we are planning the next leg of our trip, which makes us really feel like we have big WPP – White People's Problems. What should we do? Where should we go? Ideas?
Until next time…
Sunset cricket match. We are starting to learn the rules.
Lots of old clunkers like this.
Solitude while searching for waves.