The Taster Journey – The Beginning, Day One

After residing in Galle for a number of weeks whilst we got to grip with the culture, money and of course learning to drive Lucy the Tuk properly (a number of stalls in the most inappropriate of places now meant Sherard is a beast behind the handle bars) we decided we were fed up of staying in the same place. Also the thing about Galle is that:

1) There is an ex-pat community that is very insular and unless you are a somebody you can feel like a nobody!

2) It is a high tourist destination, most of these tourists being Russian, are loaded to the eyeballs, this means locals expect all white people to have that kind of money and so you experience sudo “white” tax – basically paying up to 3-times as much for products than locals.

3) It just gets a bit boring – you drive up and down the same road, once you have seen the sites like Unawatuna, Jungle Beach and Galle Fort more than the standard 3 times it’s hard to see what originally made it so special, and that is NOT what we want!!

4) As we are in a tourist area and very close to the beach the local people in that area are just rip-off merchants for the most part, they smile but then are quite happy to stab you in the back and after being ripped off over and over you start to lose all faith in the people around you. We are positive people and I always like to believe everyone is good (even if Sherard thinks I tend to be naive) this is the pink fluffy world I choose to live in, and these people were darkening my white cloud!

We needed to explore and see the REAL Sri Lanka and the true nature of the Sri Lankan people. So we packed our bags and went, we decided to aim for Ratnapura (the city of gems) as Sherard has acquired a slightly unnatural obsession with gems and jewels aided by his local friend whose family are gem cutters, polishers and jewellery makers.

So here is our first taste of Tuk life:

Day One – Talpe to Ambalantota

An early start to your journey always puts you in good stead but seeing as we aren’t the most organised of people to have ever travelled the world, and as we have been indoctrinated into local Sri Lankan life time keeping flies out the Tuk door! Eventually setting off at 11 a.m we drove along the Matara Road to Weligama (a favourite spot for beginner surfers – we have surfed there it is a great day out unless like me you are vertically challenged when it comes to balance).

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We stopped off at a temple we actually thought was something completely different. The name was given to us by a monk who looked after the temple – Ageabodhi temple, it was very impressive and completely free – just how Buddha would have wanted it. Of course ladies, you must cover your shoulders and legs in respect, hence my stunning outfit you will see in the later photos.

The 10 metre high Buddha statue
The 10 metre high Buddha statue

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Buddhism is the most popular religion in Sri Lanka with over 95% of the island being active Buddhists
Buddhism is the most popular religion in Sri Lanka with over 95% of the island being active Buddhists
Frescoes in the temple
Frescoes in the temple
More frescoes of buddha
More frescoes of buddha
Amazing paintings and carvings covered every inch of the temple.
Amazing paintings and carvings covered every inch of the temple.
A well where a resident of the temple was gathering water we can assume for cooking or cleaning
A well where a resident of the temple was gathering water we can assume for cooking or cleaning

We actually stumbled upon the Ageabodhi temple whilst looking for Kusta Raja Gala a 7th century statue of the healer, this is situated right on the road and we actually drove past it twice without realising. We asked a local Tuk driver called Susil if he would direct us to the statue but he just told us to follow him back up to the road which is where we found it! He was more than happy to help and went into the garden where the statue is with us, he also gave us his number as his friend is a surf instructor and he said he would get us good lessons for good price 🙂

A stand where locals can pay tribute with incense or flowers
A stand where locals can pay tribute with incense or flowers
The Kushta Raja Gala over 1300 years old.
The Kusta Raja Gala over 1300 years old.
the sign on entering the enclosure/garden where the rock in which the statue was carved stands.
the sign on entering the enclosure/garden where the rock in which the statue was carved stands.

Whilst driving along near Tallaramba we saw a large temple that had a fab elephant engraved wall so we decided to pull over and have a quick look, it was again completely free and was called the Sri Mahindra Vihara according to a local Tuk driver. There were many Tuk Tuk’s parked outside, it wasn’t busy, we were the only people in there so we weren’t sure why there were so many waiting.

The Sri Mahindra Vihara
The Sri Mahindra Vihara
A close-up of the detail on the entry gate
A close-up of the detail on the entry gate
The statue of sitting Buddha and the beautiful Sherard
The statue of sitting Buddha and the beautiful Sherard
The paving stones when entering the temple where Buddha sat, I saw them in many of the temples all engraved with different signs and animals
The paving stones when entering the temple where Buddha sat, I saw them in many of the temples all engraved with different signs and animals
Buddha
Buddha
The elephant wall
The elephant wall

The views driving along were spectacular so we pulled in to take a few photographs and enjoy a refreshing Tambili otherwise know as a King Coconut, you find them absolutely everywhere and they are cheaper than chips but far tastier.

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From here we headed onwards, we made another stop when we reached Dondra, we stopped as we saw a temple with elephants, yes real, live elephants! This was called the Vishnu Devali Devinawara, we had a look around – there was another large statue of Buddha probably about 20 metres tall made from stone rather than painted in colour. There were loads of flowers laid on the table before the statue that locals had placed to pay tribute. We then had a closer look at the elephants which you were able to ride, however they were crudely chained to the trees and had tears in their eyes, I made a note that this temple treated them cruelly and in fact we chose to leave soon after as it was hard to look at these magnificent creatures being held captive.

A golden bird that adorned a nearby post
A golden bird that adorned a nearby post
The gates to Vishnu Devali Devinawara
The gates to Vishnu Devali Devinawara
The paving stones, similar to the previous temple as you enter the main gates
The paving stones, similar to the previous temple as you enter the main gates

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Flowers laid by locals to pay tribute to Buddha
Flowers laid by locals to pay tribute to Buddha
The poor elephant being held captive
The poor elephant being held captive

SAM_1094Whilst having a little rest we decided to whack out The Lonely Planet guide to see if it could offer any useful advice on what to see in the area and it so happens that we were a kilometre away from Dondra Lighthouse that is the most southern point of Sri Lanka. We headed off, parked and made our way to the lighthouse, we were lucky it wasn’t raining but there was a storm brewing so we had to be quick. I read in Lonely Planet it cost LKR200 per person to climb to the top, when we got there the guy tried to charge us LKR500 per person, I mentioned the fact it was cheaper in the guide and he lowered the price to LKR300 per person which we were happy to pay – so make sure you haggle as they will try it on! The climb was not to arduous but very confined so if you don’t like small spaces or lots of steps probably not the sight for you but oh the views! We met a very cute girl called Dahami Daska who wrote in my book that she was 13 and from Sri Lanka, her mum ran a little corner shop near the lighthouse.

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We then went from Dondra to Dikwella and saw some absolutely, exceptionally, beautiful views of the paddy fields.

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We then ventured onwards to the Wewurukannala Vihara temple which has the largest statue of Buddha in Asia it is 160ft tall, it was very impressive. We pulled in and asked a flower lady if our belongings would be ok, she assured us she would look after them and so I bought a bunch of flowers from her to lay at Buddha’s feet, when we left the temple she insisted having a photo with us but shyly hid half her face behind her flowers. After paying entry you are first led into the Hindu temple which is painted top to toe with many different images, the man inside is the loveliest, sweetest, tiny little man, he blesses you and gives you a bracelet before blessing you again with peacock feathers. He then asks for a photo with you and gives his address so you can send it to him. He showed us the people he had blessed in the past and clearly loved what he did.

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There is a tunnel of hell which depicts gruesome images of what would happen to people if they sinned, it is very colourful and slightly gaudy but the tunnel is pitch black so it is worth bringing a torch to get a better look. You must walk through the tunnel of hell before you are worthy to stand before Buddha. You can actually walk up to the top of Buddha and look inside it’s head where there are many relics and adornments. The statue of Buddha is only 50 years old but the temple itself is over 350 years old. Everywhere is painted so bright and colourful you can’t help but smile 🙂

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We had a slight fuel emergency as we didn’t stop in Tangalla as we weren’t running low at the time, however there is not another petrol station for a good long while and so we highly advise to top up when passing through Tangalla and to carry a litre bottle of petrol around with you – they are happy to fill up a coke or water bottle so buying a jerry can isn’t necessary. The true question we found is “how long exactly is a Sri Lankan kilometre”? To this day we still do not know but each member of the public has their own idea with a range from less than a kilometre which has ended being over 5 kilometres to 10 kilometres that has been barely three. Take their concept of distance with a whopping, piled high tablespoon of salt.

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It then got dark, quickly. We had fuel, now we needed a place to rest our weary noggins, as we drove along we soon found signs for rooms, we noticed one that said rooms and restaurant and so decided to have a little look see. The establishment was called Nona Gama Village and was nothing that special, however it was clean, there was a fan and mosquito nets that’s all that mattered! We had dinner there and it was very tasty, I enjoyed my staple favourite of Dahl, rice and poppadams whilst Sherard being the carnivore he is had chicken legs that were slightly questionable but most meat is from places like that but saying that he wasn’t ill and didn’t die so it must have been alright. We retired to bed on the most uncomfortable mattress which meant dead arms for most the night but overall a fantastic start to the trip and the price was even better. The guy who ran the B&B was super helpful, when we asked his advice on what roads to take he rang his dad who spoke with us and gave his local knowledge. It was a lovely place that i would stay in again if in that area 🙂 Goodnight xx

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Below is a table of all expenses we spent during the day for the both of us.

Fuel

LKR1850

Lighthouse Entry

LKR600

Water

LKR100

Tambili Coconut

LKR60

Ciggarettes

LKR210

Cakes

LKR120

Wewurukannala Temple Entry

LKR400

Donations

LKR150

B&B and Dinner

LKR2970

Total

(£32.50) LKR6,500

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