On Wednesday, December 19th, Arielle, Denise, Hannah, Romi and I left Ella and took a train to Hatton. For once, the train was quite empty and we actually got seats. It was a nice and quiet train ride and we met a very nice guy from Austria, Tom, who was completely charmed by Hannah (they actually ended up together and now, two years later, they live together in Switzerland). From Hatton train station, we took a minibus to our guesthouse which was close to the Adam’s peak, the Narra Homestay, a lovely little guesthouse with delicious food, clean rooms and very nice owners. Since we would have to get up at 2AM the next morning to start hiking up the Adam’s peak, we went to bed early, at 9PM (!), after listening to some Christmas music, braiding hair and preparing our hike.
A bit later, at 2AM, we got up again and we took 2 tuk tuks to the bottom of the Adam’s peak where we arrived at 3AM. This mountain has an altitude of 2243m and it is considered a sacred mountain as well by Buddhist as by Christianity, Hinduism and Islam, because its peak is a rock formation that is considered to be either Buddha’s, Shiva’s or Adam’s footprint… That is of course a bit ridiculous, but it’s a famous pilgrimage place. The pilgrimage season starts on the full moon of every December and goes on until April or so. We were lucky and got there just a couple of days before the start of the pilgrimage season. Once this starts, there are thousands of people going up every day, it is super crowded and it may take you 3 or 4 times as long to get up to the peak.
Getting up to the peak is not a real hike, it’s all steps, and technically not difficult. It is, however, very hard, because all steps have different heights and lengths and you can’t get a proper rhythm. There are about 5500 steps and it is pretty exhausting, but we did it in less than 2 hours and reached the top at around 5AM. It was freezing cold up there, but we had brought clothes to change and Arielle had even brought a big blanket from the guesthouse; she is crazy, I bet her backpack weighted a good 7kg. We waited for sunrise and, I must say, it was absolutely gorgeous! There were quite some clouds, but we were above the clouds and could marvel at the sunrise behind the mountains in front of us. It was an amazing morning and I don’t regret having done this hike, even though the walk down killed my legs and would leave my calves in pain for almost a week…
After a good shower and a delicious breakfast, we took a van back to Hatton and from there a train to Nanuoya. This train ride seemed endless: the train was super crowded and we had to stand for about an hour in the corridors, close to the (open) door… We were very happy when we finally arrived. The trains here are always just way too busy. At the train station in Nanuoya, we met this guy who offered to take us to our hostel in Nuwara Eliya with his van (it was about half an hour away). We were all pretty tired and exhausted, so we accepted his offer – the price was pretty good actually, even though a bus would have been much cheaper – and at 1PM we finally arrived to our new hostel (the Laughing Leopard). We spent the rest of the day relaxing, sleeping, eating and playing cards, but at 9PM, we all went to bed, just too exhausted to stay up any longer…
The next morning, Arielle and I got up at 4:30AM to go to the Horton’s Plain National Park and to do the “World’s End Hike”. The other girls didn’t want to join us because they didn’t want to get up that early again and because they didn’t want to hike the day after doing the Adam’s peak. And I must say, it was quite painful, but the landscape was very beautiful and we had a good time with Emilie from the UK who joined us that morning. Emilie is a very interesting person: she moved to Vietnam 2 or 3 years ago and now works there as a Kindergarten teacher in a school with self-discovery method, that means no academic teaching, the kids are guided and the teachers observe what they are good in and help them develop their talents). The “World’s End” was a bit disappointing. Yes, it is a beautiful valley that you can overlook, but it’s not that impressive or special; the cliff on the Ella Rock was more impressive. Well, never mind, it has been a very nice morning, just maybe a bit too expensive.
In the afternoon, the 5 of us plus Emilie went to the Blue Field Tea factory and to the Ramboda falls. I really wanted to see a green tea or white tea factory and I was a bit disappointed that it was – again – a black tea factory, but never mind. The Ramboda falls were very beautiful and Arielle and I even went swimming even though it was a very cloudy and a bit chilly.
We did have a very good time there and, on our way back to the hostel, we stopped in town to get some takeaway food – the hostel was a bit out of town and they didn’t have any food. In our hostel, there were some really nice people and there was a very good atmosphere, but, in my eyes, the 3 owners are maybe a bit too informal and too straightforward with their guests; it’s not very professional, it feels more like staying at some friend’s place. We met Mitch from Australia and Janine from the UK there, a very strange couple; they were only together when they were traveling together, otherwise they were single, and they didn’t behave like a couple, no affection or anything. I really wasn’t sure if they were together or if they were just friends… But they were both very nice and they joined us the next day on our way to the South. We had booked the same van that had brought us from Nanuoya to Nuwara Eliya because he had made us a very good offer. It was a super long car drive (6h), but we stopped a couple of times for food or toilet breaks and the view was very nice. Hannah was our DJ and even though the van was a bit crowded with 7 people, it wasn’t too bad.
We dropped Mitch and Janine off in Mirissa and we arrived to Weligama where we arrived at around 4PM. We did a very quick check-in; the girl at the reception was a bit overwhelmed with 4 check-ins at the same time: she didn’t have enough registration forms and even gave us a wrong price – way too much. Romi stayed in a different hostel, because ours didn’t have any private rooms. After the check-in, we went straight the sea to cool off a bit. In the South of Sri Lanka, it is very warm, but the sea has a pretty nice temperature. There are quite a lot of waves and Hannah lost here sunglasses, but we enjoyed the cool and clear water and we saw an amazing sunset.
Later that evening, we went to Meewitha, a small local restaurant with the best kotthu ever. Hannah and Arielle absolutely wanted to go out, but I wanted to do whale watching the next morning and so I didn’t go with them, neither did Denise and Romi who were too tired. Unfortunately, when I came back to the hostel, the manager who had told me he would give me more information about the whale watching after I came back from dinner wasn’t there – he went to a different hostel, but was supposed to come back soon – and so I waited… I met Ruben from Belgium and Daniel from Australia that evening and I had a nice time with them, but I was pretty angry that the manager from the hostel didn’t come back. The hostel was completely unsurveilled, there was no staff for hours… At 11:30PM, I was just too tired and I was sick of waiting so I went to bed. 10 minutes later, the guy knocked on our door and told me that there was no space for the whale watching the next day, but he was stoned and drunk and I was very angry. He could just have told that to someone in the hostel before leaving and I would have gone out with Arielle and Hannah instead of waiting like an idiot for nothing…
The next morning, I got up early and went to the beach where I enjoyed a nice, quiet time before coming back to the hostel for breakfast. Arielle and Hannah were very tired, because they had been out until 5AM and so the girls didn’t want to do much that morning. Me, on the contrary, I was itchy to get out and do something, so I rented a scooter and went to visit the “Handunugoda Tea Estate” where they produce white and black tea. It is an incredibly beautiful estate, very green, with lots of different fruit trees, tea and other plants like Jasmin and cinnamon. The tour was fantastic and I had an exceptionally good time there. They gave us a delicious green and black tea to taste and an amazing chocolate cake.
Afterwards, I wanted to join the girls in Mirissa for lunch, but when I was almost there, I had to turn on the main road and somehow my scooter was faster than me and I had an accident, losing control of the scooter and just falling over… It wasn’t too bad fortunately, but I was a state of shock and not only myself, but also the scooter, were pretty scratched… I met up with the girls who insisted I go see a doctor and Arielle went to the hospital with me to get my wounds cleaned. I was afraid there were stones in the wounds in my hands and so it was just to be safe, but there were no stones in them and it was nothing bad. It was quite an experience though, because it looked like a WW2 hospital, very basic and old fashioned.
Afterwards, Arielle and I went back to our hostel and I called the guy who had rented me the scooter. He and his boss came to inspect the damage and went to see a local guy who would repair it. When they came back, I was very relieved that it would only cost 3800R (= +/- 20€). Thank God! I was afraid it would cost more than 100€, but apparently the scratches can be repaired easily.
Later that afternoon, Arielle and I went out for a late lunch and on the way, we bought some wine. Turns out that wine in Weligama is much cheaper than wine in Ella: only 2000R (= 10€)! When everyone was ready, we took 2 tuk tuks to the “Doctor’s House” to meet Mitch and Janine for dinner and for a beer. The “Doctor’s House” is a pretty famous hostel and lots of people go there just for the food and to have a drink. That night, they had a live band playing good jazz and we sat in the grass, playing cards and drinking some beer. The food was okay and the atmosphere was great, but it was a bit expensive and so we went back to our hostel quite early. Also, it was nice there, but it was impossible to meet new people since most people came with their friends and sat in circles so that each group was separated from the other. Still, it had been a nice evening and we were happy to see Mitch and Janine again.
The others were super tired and went to bed immediately after we came back, but Arielle and I stayed in the common area with some other people from the hostel. There was a good atmosphere and we were having a lot of fun, meeting new people and getting to know Daniel – they guy from Australia I had met the night before – better. Arielle and I were sharing the bottle of wine we had bought earlier and all the others were having beer. At some point, we wanted to listen to a funny Christmas song one of the girls was talking about, but the staff refused to play it. Daniel mentioned how bad the music was and so he went to the staff to ask if we can change it, but, again, they refused. The guy who works there came over and was like “No, you can’t change the music. If everyone played what he wanted, this would be crazy! And this is my music anyway, we’re not changing it!”. We asked him if the next day we would at least be allowed to listen to some Christmas music, but he said – half joking, but not really: “No, max. 10 minutes, no more Christmas. I’m not a believer and so there will be no Christmas here!”. We were shocked and, honestly, very angry. It’s not like there had been 10 different music wishes that night, everybody had been okay with just changing the music a bit to a different style. There had been 2 clear groups, the customers and the staff and I believe the customers should be able to decide on the music if everyone is okay with the type of music and not the staff. And then outrightly refusing to let his customers – who all wanted to celebrate Christmas – listen to some Christmas music or celebrate it in the hostel, how awful!
Arielle was mad and went to get her speakers and so we played some different music in our corner of the hostel, but then the staff seriously turned their music just louder. We were super angry and when Arielle is angry, there is no joking anymore. She wrote the worst review in the world and put it everywhere : on Google, Facebook, Instagram and Tripadvisor… The next morning, Arielle showed her review to the other girls and everyone was shocked, that’s not something you’d expect from such a sweet girl. Well, they deserved it. Especially when we heard from Daniel that, after we left, the staff had left the hostel unattended again and when he and some other girl went to get some water behind the bar and to wash their dishes, the staff accused them of being thieves and threatened to kick them out. What on earth! The next day, he had to apologize to the guy working in the hostel so that he could stay; incredible. Well, many people liked this hostel but all of this had really made us dislike it…
After breakfast, the 5 of us took a bus to Galle where we wanted to do some last-minute Christmas shopping. Unfortunately, Romi didn’t feel so good and as soon as we arrived, she took a bus back to spend the rest of the day in bed… So, it was just Arielle, Denise, Hannah and me in Galle. Galle is a wonderful small town and it actually looks very European; you might think you’re in some small town in Portugal or in the South of France. We had a very nice, relaxed morning there and then – big surprise – I saw my friend Max from Switzerland! He had texted me a couple of days earlier that he was in Sri Lanka, but, lazy as I am, I didn’t reply immediately and then completely forgot to answer him… But fate brought us together in Galle and so we spent the rest of the day together so that we could catch up after the 2 or 3 years we hadn’t seen each other. What a wonderful day!
When we came back from Galle, we went shopping for some alcohol, because the next day – on Christmas day – all the wine shops would be closed. After a shower, we finally got to start our Christmas celebrations. We had some real cheese on biscuits, champagne (more sparling wine, but never mind) and some good wine. We had done a secret Santa and we exchanged gifts. Everyone was super happy with her presents and I got some gorgeous earrings with real gems from Hannah. I love them!
We spent quite some time in the hostel with the other guests, chatting, drinking and playing games. That same morning, the hostel staff had decided to do a Christmas barbecue and many people joined in, but we were still angry about the night before and so we didn’t stay for dinner. Instead, we had dinner with 2 German guys in the “Number 1 Roti Shop” in Mirissa, before going to the beach. We found an awesome party there and danced all night long to some techno music, meeting new people, dancing with our friends and having a great time! This had been an amazing Christmas Eve!
On Christmas Day, Arielle and I woke up early to get an Ayurvedic massage at 10AM. We went to a place Hannah had recommended and it really was great. We were super tired and a bit hangover, but the massage and their amazing tea were very helpful. It was in Mirissa and afterwards, we stayed there at the beach to “endure” the heat, swimming in the cool ocean and relaxing on the chairs of some resort hotel. Sri Lanka is a great place for surfing and if you go into the water, you can immediately see why; especially in Mirissa, the waves are violent. I got hit a few times so hard, that I lost my sunglasses (fortunately they float and Arielle found them) and my bikini a few times…
Around 1PM, the others joined us. Hannah had spent the morning with Tom while Denise and Romi had taken their first surfing lesson (they had loved it). We were all pretty hungry and wanted to get take-out food from the roti shop where we had been the night before, but, unfortunately, they didn’t do take-out, so we went to a restaurant at the beach, “Zephyr”, where we had an absolutely amazing Christmas dish : grilled kingfish with fries and fresh salad, a delight!
Afterwards, we went back to our hostel to have a shower and drink some of the alcohol we had left. For dinner, we went back to Meewitha, the local restaurant where we had had dinner on our first night. We met back up with the 2 Germans whom we had had had dinner with the night before. The others were super tired and so we didn’t go out and I only spent 1 hour or so with Charlie from London and a German guy before going to bed. It had been a wonderful Christmas Day and I’m very happy, lucky and grateful I could spend it with my 4 friends.
The next morning, we took our time at breakfast and packing our bags. Around 11AM, Arielle, Hannah and I joined Denise, Romi and Charlie from London (we had met him the night before in the hostel) after their surfing lesson for a last coffee in the Hangtime hostel (a really cool place). It was very sad to say goodbye to Denise and to Romi; we had spent 3 weeks together ,discovering the South of Sri Lanka, hiking and partying and it had been an amazing time with them! They have become very dear friends and I’m sure I’ll see them again soon.
At 1PM, Arielle, Hannah and I took a train to Colombo and – as always – the train was super crowded and we didn’t get a seat… We even got separated from Arielle, but fortunately Hannah and I managed to sit on the door, so that we could enjoy the beautiful view and spent time together. Hannah shared her music with me and we were singing super loud to old music (Backstreet boys, Spice girls, …) that probably drove all the people around us crazy!
Sri Lanka has been one of my favorite countries on this trip. It’s absolutely beautiful with all the rice fields, coast lines, beaches, mountains and forests.
The people are incredibly nice, even tuc tuc drivers are decent.
And the food is just the best food ever: mostly vegan, super healthy and delicious!
I can only recommend you to go there one day yourselves and discover this amazing place, I’m sure I’ll come back one day!