14 days in Sri Lanka without a hairdryer

After little planning (and by little I mean deciding where to go) me and my significant other embarked on a 2-week trip to Sri Lanka. The idea was to go across the country, book nothing, stay wherever and for however long we wanted, do trekking (his invention) and enjoy the seaside (I plea guilty for this one).

The proof I did backpacking, like, for real!

On the way we coped with sudden changes of plans (even if we didn’t plan much, we weren’t counting with a last-minute change of flights), health issues (oh the never-ending diarrhea), bad weather (I shivered in the damp Hill Country, he burned on the East coast), small arguments (“you are never listening to me!”), and cockroaches.

The Day We Did Couchsurfing (or cockroachsurfing…)

My Concerns

From the start my other half was pretty adamant about visiting a couchsurfer. I mildly opposed — I value my privacy, I don’t trust other people easily, I don’t open up and jump into conversations, I get quickly tired of people, and I do enjoy the freedom of sleeping naked. His arguments about fantastic experiences he had with couchsurfing never convinced my private nature. But as it seemed to be such a highlight for him, I stepped down and let him choose a couchsurfer with a suspiciously high number of recommendations and a very blunt description (“no laundry without permission! You buy food and cook and eat with my family!”)

Our Host Is a Creep

And that’s how we met Ben. He greeted us with a cup of tea and the most awkward silence I had in my life. Michal did his best to keep the conversation going, but all he got was yes and no answers, if any. Our host beamed briefly when we offered Slovak alcohol, but that was all emotion we could get out of his sedated personality. We quickly decided to escape to town for some sightseeing, while I was already dreading the dinner to come and entertaining morbid fantasies about our host mutilating us during the night.

We Cook

Preparing eggplant curry

In the evening Ben came to pick us up and took us to do groceries — we were absolutely fine with paying for everything, but I couldn’t help thinking that to our host couchsurfing meant naive morons feeding his family for free (especially as he tucked 2 kg of rice into the cart). Once I got to the kitchen with Ben’s mother (lovely wrinkled woman with a grey braid reaching her waist) and got used to the most unhygienic conditions I had the dubious pleasure to cook in, it went smoothly. I calmed myself down when I saw the food being deep-fried in coconut oil, which to my understanding should save me from typhoid. The food was delicious, no one got sick, the massive cockroach in the bathroom didn’t eat me, and no one stabbed us in our sleep.

The Day We Almost Missed The End of The World. Twice.

Setting alarm clock to 3:30 a.m.

One of our must-dos was trekking through Horton Plains, the only one of Sri Lankan’s national parks that you are allowed to enter without a guide. We set off from Nouwara Eliya before dawn to get the best chance for good views. Going there in June is tricky — it’s the rain season and it gets very misty, wet and cold. When we arrived to the park’s gates, the tempreature dropped to 10 degrees and we couldn’t see further than 50 metres.

Entering Horton Plains National Park (the picture is in colour!)

I wrapped myself in my thick sweater and stared in awe at Chinese tourists wearing mini skirts, flats, school uniforms, suits (the sort of one would wear for a Sunday’s mass in a Romanian village), or random pieces of garment (like they just fell into a circus wardrobe and crawled out of it in whatever had sticked to them). On the way through the park’s trail, I studied their behaviour — the Chinese acted like a group of ill-mannered children left without supervision: poking one another with selfie sticks, yelling and running around making various physiological noises, or evacuating the build-up from their sinuses using methods I would have never suspected to be feasible. I felt like I was attending freak show, until they approached us in numb amazement and started taking pictures of… us. Apparently, to them we were the freaks. So I gave up my amateur Sinology and focused on the nature around me.

The highlight of the Horton Plains trek are two observations points called the Little World’s End and the World’s End, from which you can see a stunning vista of the whole area, and with good visibility even the ocean. But once we got there, we hit against by a white wall of mist.

Somewhere there the goal of the trip is hidden

We took a couple of pictures of the fog and wandered off when I realised that the sickening feeling in my stomach was not disappointment but hunger, so Michal suggested to go back, find a nice spot and have a snack. While I was unwrapping my cookie, the gushes of wind started whirling the mist and slowly unveiling the view behind it. We stood there in awe, amazed both with the view and our luck:

The Little World’s End

And that was only the Little World’s End, the legit one was still waiting for us. The situation repeated, we got to the observation point just to see a milky curtain of fog. This time, we were simply stubborn. We sat there in rain, hoping for a second miracle. And you know what? Patience paid off!

The World’s End

If not for the cookie break, we would have missed the view form the Little’s World End. And not knowing that the fog can be dispelled within seconds, we would have missed also the more scenic World’s End which greeted us with thick mist and a shower.

A typical Chinese tourist travelling

The Day I Had a Burger

I must confess I’m a foodie. I enjoy trying new things, I like cooking, I love dining out. And I was absolutely over the moon about tasting all those curries, exotic fruit, and all that stuff I didn’t know the names for.

I lasted four days. After that, I couldn’t look at rice and I craved for a change. A munchy, tasty, meaty burger…

Michal’s wonderful curry baked in a banana leaf and my pathetic burger next to it. I loved every bite of it. Shame, shame on me.

Overall, with Sri Lankan cuisine your need to like rice. And you have to be used to food that burns twice (wink ;).The absolute highlight for me were the fresh juices prepared from papayas and mangoes — June is the mango season, so they were just superb.

The Day We Rented a Scooter

I can ride it myself!

Michal is a scooter enthusiast, I’m a scooter sceptic. But we go along. I just sit behind him and get into the stupor mode, hoping that my karma is in plus for that day. So obviously we took the first opportunity to rent a scooter and do some sightseeing. This time though I acted like a bored diva and demanded to ride it myself.

Bad decision.

Within 2 minutes, I managed to go up the hill, nearly crash myself when trying to turn around going through a pile of leaves, force the right of way, and go on the wrong lane (they are driving on the left, I’m a born and bred right-side driver).

Four coconuts

Knowing what I just did, returned the scooter to my boyfriend saying generously that it was too heavy for me anyway to ride it and that he could have it.

But I got to feed monkeys and had some coconut treat, so I was pretty satisfied in the end.

Monkeys are actually quite scary, don’t get that close

The Day I Developed a Laundry Obsession

What not to wear in Sri Lanka

We made some poor choices regarding clothing and stuff we took with us. Both of us took functional t-shirts that were supposed to dry quickly and make us feel less sweaty. But they were a tight-fit, and after a while we were just dreaming of a loose, light shirt that wouldn’t irritate our sun-burnt bodies. I also took just one pair of long pants, and soon it became the only pair of pants I was wearing — for cultural and practical reasons.

I also didn’t take a hairdryer, which was a mistake I promised myself not to ever make in the future. Howgh.

So after two weeks of wearing just one pair of pants and one t-shirt (the only loose one I had that would cover my shoulders) the first thing I did after coming back home was proper laundry. I’ve managed to restore the original colour of my clothes and now I do laundry with alarming regularity. And I like my favorite pants slightly less.

What I loved:

1. The insanely green terrace in Ella
2. Hiking in Horton Plains
3. Deserted beaches
4. Mangoes
5. Monkeys
6. Snorkelling with sharks

What I wish was different:

1. Treatment of elephants. They are truly magnificent creatures. Unfortunately, Pinnawala that what was proudly called an “orphanage” turned out to be a zoo, designed to take advantage of those animals and rip off money from tourists
2. Peoples approach. Most of them treat you like a walking money bag
3. Architecure. Colombo is the only city in Sri Lanka, the rest are just shanty towns