Thursday, November 21, 2013

Side Trip to Sri Lanka: Part One

Thank Allah for Eid al Adha!
In the middle of October, there is an Islamic holiday. Unlike the U.S. where everyone's schedule is planned down to the minute, the government here does not declare the exact vacation days until about a week before they happen. We knew we'd have at least a 4-day weekend, so Elise and I decided to go check out Sri Lanka. Luckily, just before we booked our trip, we found out we'd get the whole week off, so we upped the ante and went for all except one day!

After almost not getting on the plane because Etihad had overbooked the flight, we were relieved to find our luggage upon arrival. We found the sign with my name held by our driver Isuru, and he whisked us away in the early morning darkness to our first destination. As we waited outside the busy little airport in Colombo while Isuru went to get the car, we enjoyed the humid air filled with the sounds of early morning bird life and mysterious jungle noises.

Bentota & Hikkadua...Experiences galore on the southern coast of Sri Lanka!

Cocoon Villas Induruwa
We were greeted warmly at this little paradise of hotel. 
Perfect timing…breakfast is served!

Then off to the beach for some much needed R & R after a long night on a red-eye flight.
 Not as sunny as we'd hoped, but still plenty warm. 

Calm lagoon on one side and the crashing Indian Ocean on the other. 

 Cows just wandering down the side of the street. Isuru tells me they belong to someone. 
I guess the cows WILL eventually come home! Who knew?
 I couldn't pass up a chance for some fresh bananas and passion fruit!

 SOOOOO green! Especially compared to the desert!

 Enjoying the fresh fruit after a decadent mid-day massage!

the end of a beautiful day with a refreshing and surprisingly tasty Sri Lankan beer 
and our evening meal...being prepared in the background behind the big windows

Mining for moonstones

 "Cool! Can I go down there?" Elise asks before she thinks about it. This is NOT the U.S... next thing she knows, she's on her way down the rabbit hole!
 "I didn't think they'd actually LET me!"
The monkey part of me could consider doing this for a living if it means climbing up & down 
slimy wooden beams and playing in mud all day! 
 I'm pretty sure this guy proposed to me down in that mine
…good thing I'm already engaged!
 I'm REALLY glad it was actually pitch dark down there, and I could NOT see 
the slime surrounding me!

 I think this might have been the highlight of their day…or it might have been when we (still very new to the Sri Lankan rupee) tipped them each a few months' wages!

 Elise is in a geologists heaven!
This guy is cutting a couple moonstones that I brought up from the mud bucket 
in the bottom of the mine. He even made one into a heart! 

 This guy is setting the cut & polished jewels into silver, 
creating beautiful pendants and other jewelry.

Almost 9 years after...
evidence of the devastating and deadly tsunami 
that completely devastated Hikkadua in December 2004 

side note: there are glass encased Buddahs of varying sizes frequently along the roads,
 like the blue one with a gold roof in this picture

A beautiful and peaceful memorial in honor of the tsunami victims

A guy at the memorial was trying to get these tourists to hold his snake (surely hoping for the gratuity that would go along with this privilege) and one girl (not even in the photo) was sort of freaking out, trying to get into the van but not wanting to get near the snake. Just my observation, but based on his buddy's face (next photo), I steered clear of him too!
 It doesn't show up too well on this photo, but this guys' eye was swollen shut on the left side of his face, and I believe that is a snake basket in front of him...

Enjoying some relaxing time on the beach and swimming in the Indian Ocean. 
This is a tourist area in Hikkadua, but the cool thing is that the locals are all playing and swimming here too...

Cute couple playing in the waves!

You just don't see this in the US - a kerosene pump

 Lunch at a restaurant that survived the tsunami and had VERY good seafood dishes!
A photo taken just after the tsunami...

Garlicy shrimp yumminess! The Coke in the background was not quite what hit the spot…it got replaced with a Lion Lager. So nice to be able to order a beer on a hot day at a regular restaurant, and NOT at a smoke-filled hotel pub. 

A man at the restaurant re-weaving chair seats

 A really cool-looking fruit in a tree above our heads…no idea what it is

Visiting a sea turtle hatchery & rescue home
It is a non-profit safe haven for turtle eggs and needy sea turtles. The eggs incubate in a protected area, then after they hatch, they stay in a "pond" for three days. 
On the third night, they are released into the sea.

holding sea turtle eggs

incubating egg nests - protected from predators with surrounding fence and overhead netting

huggin' babies

swimmin' baby

isn't it cute?! 

The rescue turtles include albinos, fish net injuries,
 and even one who lost a flipper in the tsunami 9 years ago

Beautiful shell! Now I know where they get the term "tortoise shell" 
when referring to sunglasses. I HOPE they never ACTUALLY make frames out of them!

an albino named Rosie
the guy here says that they "rescue" albinos because 
they have very little chance of survival in the wild

 cool little sand crab I spotted on the ground

"Look ma, I can fly!"

I just HAD to say good-bye to the cute little babies!

By the time we left, the sun was setting on the beach that would carry these little guys 
out into the Indian Ocean…
pretty amazing that a 3-day old creature could survive on it's own out there

Toddy Tapping
This guy is gathering sap from the coconut palms. It collects into the pods they attach, is harvested, and made into a local brew called "toddy". Besides selling it locally as toddy, they sell it to distillers who make another alcohol, "arrack" with it. I really wanted to try climbing up there, but figured I'd better not push my luck. Apparently this occupation is a dying trade here because it's dangerous and pay is low.
We thought about trying toddy, but didn't want to get drunk first thing in the morning, 
which we're told is the best time to drink it.

Mmmm…lobster for lunch!

and a piƱa colada

OK, I didn't get the lobster, but there are all types of seafood in this!

Post-lunch stroll across the train tracks and down to the beach

a train on these tracks during the tsunami was completely destroyed, with no survivors.

Frolicking in the surf

Winding down another marvelous day at our paradise pool on the hill

1 comment:

  1. Those turtle are pretty cool. I might have to get one haha. Is it true that a ton of cinnamon is produced in Sri Lanka?