Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Refreshingly Sri Lanka, just as in the advertisement! Kite, surf and discover

I don’t even know anymore when and how the idea came up to travel Sri Lanka. I heard a lot of things about it- everybody I to, told me different things. Wind, no wind, dangerous, friendly people, many animals, empty and endless beaches, kiteschool on the east coast, the guidebooks tell us Kitesurfing is on the westcoast,amazing surf, slow travelling, rainy season or not- time to find out all those things myself.
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Once arrived in the airport we went straight to Negombo, 10km away from the airport , our first contact to local transportation, which turns out to be super super cheap but which requires a bit of patience as well. Kite and discover country and people that’s the plan. Not very well prepared, but open for surprises and what ever comes up, we are quite flexible in our travelplans- actually there is none. All we got is a map and a quite old guidebook, some tipps of all the Boracaypeople who visited in the last few weeks and a couple of local telephone numbers thanks to KTA, who wants to do a tourstop here in May, which Stephan should check out.
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Nice to be back to warm climate and exotic, but spicy food. First stop for us is the fishmarket in Negombo- colourful women, which were supposed to smoke cigars (but they didn’t) and all kind of fish that you can imagine, tons of fish getting dried in the sand on the beach and busy fishermen coming in with their catch of the day and cleaning up their nets.

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My boardbag got lost and shame for the airline we can’t not wait to get to the spot, so they have to bring my kite to wherever we end up- and they won’t have been happy when they got to know where we ended up. Out travel brought us straight to Kalpitiya- a place in the middle of nowhere, but an amazing place which will always stay in memory, also the travelling there. First lesson Sri Lanka: Local buses are slow, very slow- maximum speed allowed is 60km/h, but normally the road is so bad or the bus is so full with people who hop in and out, that you make max. 30km/h distance. So it took us long- a couple of bus changes and we found the kitemekka and an idyllic place called Kite Kuda with many lagoons and endless beaches for long downwinders and a group of people, all loving the same: kiting.
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6 basic bungalows without windows and doors, actually more a roof to be covered by rain and enough for what you need with an amazing view in the middle of the sanddunes.From your bed you see the stars and listen to the howling wind. Our home for the next few day- kite, eat, sleep, perfect to relax and a very amazing crew taking care of the place. Thanks to Leo and Mischi and Dilsiri, who showed us all the surrounding kiteplaces as Fabio lagoon on an awesome downwinder and Puttalam lagoon on a very special daytrip. Thanks also to Stephan with his VW bus to take us around for the trip.

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If you are a kiter and going to Sri Lanka- don’t miss to join one of the islandhopping trips in Putalam lagoon with loads of space and countless kitespots. The wind is on every day and the lagoon just next to Kite Kuda offers perfect training conditions. Beginners are up on the board within a couple of hours. Shallow warm water and constant wind and we get motivated to learn new things.
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New schools and resorts will start in the next few year here for sure. Evenings are filled with delicious buffets of the chefs Leo and Mischi, bonfires, rumcoke and chats about the latest tricks learnt. Almost the end of the season and the weekend fills up with expats who ve been living here for more then 20 years, who didn’t leave the country because of war or tsunami and who went through all the difficulties and run a health gym or produce t-shirts or kites for Core and North and paragliders for U-Turn.
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Time to say good bye from a place where we will definitely return and thanks to Stephan to take our kiteluggage by VW to Negombo- it would have been a hassle travelling in those local busses, where are double amount of people that fit are squeezed in. Stephan showed patience travelling with me, who gets easily bored after sitting squeezed for hours in a bus and comes up with funny questions that need to be googled at night. I leave out the T-Shirt story in detail, but every pant is stitched by 8 tailors and a bra by 11 people (nothing automatic J) and there are as many sign languages as languages worldwide, which means someone german does not use the same sign language someones uses here- thanks to Mr. Google, important things that one should know.
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I don’t know how many busses but we ended up somewhen after 8 hoursin the middle of teaplantation in the mountains in the highest city of Sri Lanka 1800 m in Nuwara Eliya. We are very open in our travel plans and decided to skip Adams Peak, although the weather would have been cold but wonderful for a climb in the night, cause the hike starts at 1 am to be on top for sunrise. Next trip…. We realized you can not see all in 2 weeks, you have to pick!
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We joined the teapluggers in Nuewa Eliya and visited a teafactory. Sri Lanka is the biggest tea exporter world wide. One factory produces 2500 kg of tea each day and there are 325 factories in the country. Green tea and black tea are made from the same leaves, just manufacturing is different. From the bush to the packed tea ready for the tea auction in Colombo it takes 24 hours only.
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Best thing to visit the are with a spectacular train ride through beautiful nature of jungle, teaplantation, mountains and waterfalls and ended up in a small town called Ella, a paradise for hikers and outdoorfans and the night ended pretty relaxed with a beer in one of the many nice bars- truly a backpackerplace and more and more tourists are coming told us the locals, happy about it.
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From Ella we tried to find our way to Arugam Bay, famousfor Surfers on the east cost of Sri Lanka. Just 6 km outside of town we hopped out of the bus as the 6th highest waterfall of the world waited for a climb. Monkeys were playing in the water and we made our way up to the different pools and enjoyed a refreshing swim- definitely worth the climb.
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So happy to get a change from the local busses as a truckdriver offered to take us to Wellawaya to catch the bus from there to Arugam. I don’t know how the hours were passing in the busses, half sleeping I got awake by Stephan being super excited by seeing wild elephants and from time to time roadsigns: Take care, elephants passing. We found a very special place to stay in a treehouse and definitely a break from all those long busrides- “day off tomorrow” with scootertour to the different surfspots like crocodile and elephant rock with big beachbreaks and Pottuvil point, one of the best spots to surf in the whole country. 7 years ago the Tsunami destroyed the whole area and everywhere are signs showing the way where to run in case another Tsunami is hitting. Very strange feeling. We ended up in Arugam for a sunset surf- where it gets pretty busy and 30-40 people share the beginner waves.
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Super happy that we got some we ended up with an incredible BBQ of Beach hut. The difference of kiters and surfers got obvious for us- 5 am all the surfers are up to go for their first session. The Muezzin woke us up with sunrise anyway and even us made it next morning for the first bus direction back to Wellawaya. We finally wanted to see some animals and decided to go on one of the Safaris in Yala Nationalpark. 6 hours and a sore butt we arrived in Tissa, the starting point for Safaris and still ín travelmode we booked a jeep right away for the afternoon safari. Beautiful landscape and after a while we discovered elephants playing in a pool, waterbuffalos, monkeys, many different birds, crocs, wild pics, just the bears and leopards we couldn’t discover. After a beautiful sunset and a safari definitely worth the money we ended up in one of the local restaurants with Kottu Roti, a noodlelike dish mixed with veggies and whatever, a bit spicy but yumm. The restaurant owner gave us a short cookinglesson and we definitely will try ourselves preparing at least some of the things.
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Used to travelling one of our last stops brought us to Mirissa in the south- a very relaxed beach with big shore break also surfable and cute fishrestaurants on the beach and very few travelers. We expected a maximum 4 hours busride for our last day, but it took us again 8 hours on our last day to find our way back to Negombo- new speed record for 200 km I would say. Worst traffic and slow busses. But soon this will change as they build a speedtrain just along the coast, which will bring definitely loads more tourists who stuck so far in Unawatuna and Bentota.
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Back in Negombo we were very happy to meet Mischi , Stephan and Holger with his wife again. An amazing dinner in “Tusker” a restaurant owned by a Belgian closed my amazing trip. Thanks to travelmate Stephan for sharing countless hours in the busses, hikes, spiciest and who still continue 3 more days before going back to Boracay, he will for sure enjoy the silence without me and I m curious if he is healed by busriding or if he continous 3 more days discovering Sri Lanka??!!
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Anyway thanks to all the amazing people we met on our way and who made that trip fantastic- Dilsiri, Leo and Mischi, Stephan- thanks for all your hospitality and support.There are many many more places to see in Sri Lanka, I only chose a handful and will be definitely be back. Fingers crossed for all your projects and keep me updated until I am back! This beautiful place is on the top of the list and I ll see you soon!
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Full article with pictures on Kathrin Borgwardt's Blog:
http://kathrinborgwardt.blogspot.com/2011/10/refreshingly-sri-lanka-just-as-in.html#!/2011/10/refreshingly-sri-lanka-just-as-in.html

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