It’s 3.30am and we are currently sitting in Colombo airport after a four hour drive from our place in the rainforest where we’ve been staying for the last few days.
Our first stop in Sri Lanka has come to an end, and we now have an 18 hour journey to look forward to beginning our Indian chapter in Kerela.
I was hoping to nap on the way but the nail biting descent from three thousand feet above sea level saw a swift end to any snooze hopes. The drop is even more terrifying when you can’t see it. I spent most of the journey fake coughing and prodding G to look at the drivers eyes in the rear view to check that he was still awake. Alas, I am here to tell the tale.
We wanted to contrast our first week lazing at the beach with something a little more rustic so a couple of days before leaving we had a quick browse through the £0-£42 options in Deniyaya (this is the town at the edge of the jungle) on Booking.com and found Eco Villa.
We’d vowed to only take buses and trains where possible. Buses are incredibly cheap but you will be charged double that of the locals, 20p rather than 10p so no big deal. Having spent two weeks here we know the bus drill now and in short, they simply do not stop for more than five seconds to let you on or off.
We learned the hard way, if you’re not fast they will go past.
The prospect of trying to sprint alongside a moving bus with my backpack on wasn’t overly appealing so we crumbled and took a taxi.
The journey was two hours and it cost us 4,000lkr which is roughly £21, this was an afternoon of bartering backwards and forwards via email but it was worth it just for the AC.
And the views were spectacular.
A completely different setting to the beach but equally and in some ways more aesthetically pleasing. Everything is so lush and alive. The tallest, greener than green trees completely carpet the mountainside with just about enough room for the very windy road.
And bright coloured houses dotted here and there.
As we climbed higher, clouds blanketed the road ahead of us as though you could pick them up and move them aside, they were so white an fluffy.
We’d chosen a homestay to spend our last few days in. The reviews had said that Bandula (the owner) takes you on an excellent trek through the rainforest in the morning and that his wife cooks delicious Sri Lankan food.
They were very warm and welcoming and when we arrived took us through the bustling main house where nine of them are living (kids giggling at us in their ice white school uniform, an old guy up a tree pulling down humongous jack fruits, kittens, dogs…) to our room at the back of the property. It was basic but for £12.20 a night, it was everything we needed.
By the time we’d got settled and introduced to the other two couples that were staying, dinner was ready.
We all sat together and tucked in. Four vegetable curries and brown rice from the field along the road. Fresh as it gets!
It’s a much healthier way of life here. Most of what they eat grows nearby, the fruit and vegetables are really delicious.
Apart from the ginger snap biscuits that we managed to dig out of a dusty corner in a shop along the side of the road, there are no sweets or unhealthy snacks. Anywhere. Believe me I’ve searched every stall I could find. So if like me you’ve got a sweet tooth, do yourself a favour and pack some fizzy jellies.
We were woken up at 7.30am for Breakfast. There were omelettes too and curd with treacle which was delicious.
By 8.30am we’d all piled in to the rickety old van and arrived at the rainforest.
We spent the rest of the day trekking through the jungle in complete awe of the sounds and the cooling shade that is cast across the forest floor from the canopy of trees with vines growing from them.
And of course its reptile residents.
Who were more than happy to pose for pictures.
A few hours in we all needed a cool down, we arrived at the most amazing waterfall at the hottest point of the day. We plonked our bags down on some rocks in the middle of the stream, stripped down to our swimmies and jumped straight in.
After an hour or so throwing ourselves from various heights into the plunge pool we sat on the rocks and ate our packed curry lunches.
It was like a tale from an Enid Blyton storybook, one of my favourite ever lunchtimes.
Around 3pm every day there are the most amazing thunderstorms with rain falling like golfballs.
The sky went black just as we reached the van and it was pretty much impossible to see out of the window the whole way home. Buckets of rain snuck in from gaps around the windows but we didn’t mind, it was the full jungle affair.
It turned out that four nights was a little too long to stay in Deniyaya. It really is in the middle of nowhere and there aren’t any restaurants around or many things to do other than the rainforest treks. One or two nights would absolutely be enough.
That being said we spent the next few days in awesome surroundings with nothing to do but explore.
I narrowly avoided being bitten by a viper while having this photo taken in one of the hundreds of beautiful tea plantations.
Saw local villagers harvesting rice from the paddies.
Met some delightful kids who loved having their photo taken.
Got caught in a rainstorm and this lady and her little granddaughter saw us taking shelter under huge banana leaves. They invited us in to their home without speaking a word of English and gave us cake and banana until the downpour stopped.
Sri Lanka has been a delight.
A flawless beginning to the trip of a lifetime.