The daily grind, Sri Lankan style…

Comments 4 Standard

As grown adults we don’t often get the opportunity to take a few months off and do nothing. Just wake up each day with no external expectations, walk down the beach, have a swim, cold beer or just lay in bed the whole day. For the last two months, we’ve been privileged to live that life and have met some amazing people along the way. One of the reasons why we have been shielded from any pressures is also support from our families who have taken care of some of life’s normal stresses, so thanks Mom, Dad, Ma, Pa and Francesco!

We’ve spent the better part of the last two months, meeting people, exploring the local surroundings and enjoying two of the countries biggest festivals, New Years, which is a drunken two day extravaganza of local cheap whiskey, driving recklessly on the beach and very loud music and Vesak, Buddha’s birthday which is a much more spiritual occasion.

We recently spend time on the lagoon, close to Hikkaduwa, where we were really surprised, as it wasn’t exactly a lagoon, but more an ocean, as it was that big. We started with an extraordinary foot exfoliation, which was pretty weird, but my feet felt beautiful afterwards!

IMG_6995

The lagoon is scattered with hundreds of islands and there is an amazing Buddhist Temple run by monks. We all received blessings from the monk, which would cover us for 12 days of good luck. I’m hoping the translator meant twelve years! We also managed to leaf through the Buddha book of wisdom, which was 600 years old. I’m still a little perplexed that they let you page through a palm leaf 600 year old book at your leisure, but hey, this is Sri Lanka, most things go unexplained here.

IMG_7044

IMG_7052

IMG_7061

One of the beauties of where we stayed was that it was literally on the beach and each evening the local guys would play cricket and volleyball, which was really great, but I’m quite certain that they don’t have much hope for SA cricket based on my 2 month average! It really was the quintessential waterlogged bat and old tennis ball beach cricket. What made matters worse was they half of them would have made the SA 20/20 team.

IMG_7089

IMG_7418

Although the water is warm and idyllic, the waves are very big and the currents strong. I may be bad at cricket, but growing up around surf helped me to save a Chinese tourist who got swept out to sea, thinking she was swimming in a pond. Sri Lankans may be good at a lot of things, but they don’t enjoy swimming in big waves and by the time got in to help her they were all standing watching, not wanting to go in. I guess the old adage “swim where the locals swim” rings true.

photoww

As I mentioned above, we were really lucky to spend time here during Vesak, The streets are filled with lanterns, which represent the light of Buddha and for some reason, little old Hikkaduwa held a parade rivalling Carnival in Rio. It was a massive sober occasion, as no alcohol is allowed to be sold on this day, being extremely important to Sri Lankans. Even the most hardened alcoholic tends to stay dry for two days, so you can imagine the run on the bottle store at the end of the festivities!

IMG_7226

IMG_7249

IMG_7170

Kai and Kerala, got extra special attention when we visited Buddhas Temple on Vesak, with all the local kids beautifully dressed up in white for the occasion.

IMG_7113

 

IMG_7111

Our home at Cinnamon Gardens became a wedding venue for two separate couples last weekend. Close to 700 hundred people pitched up over the two days of festivities. It was great to be part of the occasions and the kids were a big hit with the guests as they put on their best clothes and joined in, dancing, eating and having fun. We also got to see how much food needed to be prepared for the guests, starting with 25 kilo’s of rice. Weddings here,  are very similar to a South African wedding, except that they start at 10h00 in the morning and by 14h00 most people are ready to go home as the whiskey is finished.

IMG_7328

IMG_7301

IMG_7364

One of our goals this year was to give our kids the opportunity of spending time with the local kids in a school environment, learning the language and understanding some of the customs. The school we chose was a very basic Montessori, based in Galle Fort, and turned out to be an amazing experience for them. We decided to spread some South African love at the kids farewell party!

IMG_7428

So, what else is there to say about this country. We came not knowing much, but are leaving a lot richer for it. We have to mention some of the people who have made our stay so amazing and that’s the staff, owners and all people involved at Cinnamon Gardens, Samatha, Janith, Janicker and Charmarin to name but a few. You guys will live in our memories forever for your kindness, especially to our kids. They have grown immensely because of the love you showed them.

IMG_7169

Sri Lanka is a country where its difficult to scratch the surface as a tourist, even if you spend three months here. So many things happen around you and without speaking the language it just goes over your head. It works one day, broken the next, he’s here one day and gone the next, who knows why. If you ask, you’ll get 20 different answers, but that’s the great things about being here, you never have to get involved.

The last two months has been a life reset for us. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, we realize how privileged we are to have this time together. But, as they say in the movies, all good things must come to an end. We’ll miss Sri Lanka and all of the wonderful things she has given us, but Europe awaits with all its wonderful architecture, art, food and culture.

And the journey continues…

IMG_7168

Life on the Island…

Comments 4 Standard

Sri Lanka is an amazing country, filled with amazing people, which was one of the reasons why we decided to settle down here for a few months.  We wanted part of our travel experience to be “more local” and to get the kids into school to learn a bit of the culture and meet some new friends.

We settled at a little beach resort called “Cinnamon Gardens”  run by Samantha (pronounced Samata) and his son Janith. It’s about 3 km’s from the busy tourist town, but close enough for us to tuk tuk in when we need groceries, or want to visit one of the posh hotels for a swim.

We enrolled the twins into a Montessori school in Galle Fort, which is a 30 minute bus ride from Hikkaduwa. The school is very basic, but the teachers are amazing and obviously having Kai and Kerala in their school is a bit of a talking point amongst the locals.

IMG_6597

We take the kids to school two to three times a week, taking the local bus. Driving in Sri Lanka isn’t exactly normal by western standards, but it’s a fun way to start the day. The route to Galle drives passed some of the best beaches in the world and the return journey costs about R8.00. We didn’t know the exact fare to start with (they wont tell you) , so started at R20 return; gradually reducing the amount each time we travelled, eventually getting to the sweet spot!

IMG_6592

The kids got into the school just in time for their annual sports day, which started with a fancy dress pageant. Luckily we travel with Princess and Superman attire in our backpacks!

IMG_6646

IMG_6652

IMG_6686

I’m proud to say that Kai placed 1st and 2nd  in his races and Kerala 2nd and 3rd. Kai also won the musical chairs, which started with 20 kids. It was amazing to see how he whittled down his opposition, finally destroying just beating the last challenger to take GOLD!

IMG_6691

IMG_6706

Side note: Nell and myself also won the adults competition which was throwing a balloon filled with water to each other as far as possible. Team Allewell took the most prizes for the day.

IMG_6729

One of the beauties of staying in a place for a while allows us to explore things the average tourists don’t see.  There are so many things that the Sri Lankan people still do the traditional way by hand, such as making lace and polishing precious stones. One of the big exports are gem stones, with the world’s biggest moonstone mine being in Sri Lanka. Turns out Lady Dianna’s jeweller got the saphire for her engagement ring just down the road.

IMG_6606

IMG_6540

IMG_6538

We’ve slipped into a routine and most days we start the day with a walk on the beach, some breakfast and then a swim at our “local hotel” called Lavanga. We bought a monthly membership at the hotel, which includes the gym, an amazing play centre for the kids, a movie theatre and a beautiful pool on the sea front.  The kids still sleep in the afternoon, so we normally head back to our place and then play some afternoon beach cricket and watch the sun go down. It’s a good routine!

IMG_6752

We’ve just celebrated our 3rd New Years Eve for the year, having done South Africa, China and now Sri Lanka.  We headed to the Chaaya Hotel in Hikkaduwa to join festivities with local dancers, singers and a tug of war competition.  I was roped into joining a team, which we named the “Happy Russians”, a play on words, as they are possibly the unhappiest people in the world. I did my best to gee the team up and we walked away with the 1st prize. I must admit, I never thought I would captain a Russian tug of war team, in Sri Lanka, whilst drinking beer – the mind boggles!

IMG_6969

And that pretty much sums up life in Sri Lanka. We have one shelf of clothes and live in a small room, but jeez, we’re happy 😉

IMG_6777

Paradise in Hikkaduwa

Leave a comment Standard

Hawaii meets India is how I best can describe Sri Lanka. It literally has all the best of both countries and possibly some of the finest food in the world.  Hikkaduwa is a touristy little town about 2 hours drive South of Colombo with white sandy beaches, thousands of palm trees and a range of accommodation right on the beach.

IMG_6083

We booked a little cottage about 3 km’s from the centre of town, as we wanted a place for the kids to play. The house was perfect, right on the beach, uninterrupted views, a braai area and a big fridge for the cold Corona’s.

IMG_6076

IMG_6066

Although Thailand got a lot of press during the Tsunami, Sri Lanka was the 2nd worst country to get hit, with close to 50 000 people dying.  Hikkaduwa and Galle, right next door to each other, were two towns devastated by the Tsunami.

IMG_6148

The Sri Lanka people are some of the most friendly and positive I’ve ever met and although many people lost family members in the civil war and the Tsunami, they have such a positive outlook on life. We spent quite  a few days, exploring the local market, the Turtle hatchery and the very emotional Tsunami Museum.

The hatchery was run by a local family before the Tsunami hit, but as it was directly in front of the 10 meter wave, it was completely destroyed and the whole family, except the son, were killed. The son has taken the reigns and now buys the turtle eggs from the locals, as they believe that eating them will make them strong. He then hatches the eggs and releases the turtles back into the ocean.

IMG_6112

One of the more moving experiences on a trip so far, was a visit to the Tsunami Museum, run by a lady whose house was destroyed in the disaster. I’m sure there are a lot of museums around the world depicting death, but this one seemed so real, as it’s a ladies house with hundreds of pictures of people, who lives were changed forever in a few hours.

The Tsunami came in two waves, the first being quite small then drawing the sea back about a kilometer, with locals walking out to see what was going on. The second wave was 10 meters high and was travelling  at 150 km’s an hour. One thousand seven hundred people died in a matter of minutes, many whom had found shelter at the train station in stationary trains.

IMG_6149

IMG_6142

Part of our travels is to spend time in places and get to know people, let the kids go to the local school and generally enjoy daily life. We really thought that we would do this in India, but Hikkaduwa really changed our minds and we’ve hired a small place on the beach and will be staying here for another six weeks or so.

IMG_6053