Sri Lanka: srisly good

I booked a trip to Sri Lanka in a rare moment of spontaneity: with an unexpected two week gap in my calendar, I closed my eyes, pointed on a map to this small island in the Indian Ocean, and bought a flight from Singapore to Colombo.

After a year living in Australia, I still hadn’t been surfing (a dedicated surf trip to Byron Bay ended up on crutches for no good reason) and so Sri Lanka was the perfect location to restart a hobby that I actually enjoyed as a keen fresher. Lapoint Camps had 10/10 reviews and so I booked in a week in Ahangama, on the southwest coast, and hoped for the best.

It’s a man’s world

Having arrived at 3am, my first real impression of the place was on Tuesday morning. Lapoint  Ahangama has a beach villa as well as the garden property, where I stayed.

Gated and guarded, I felt completely safe and at home. Being a Norwegian company, the decor was Scandinavian: lots of exposed wood and white walls, with sofas everywhere as well as a volleyball court and pool.

 The European staff were endlessly enthusiastic and kept us entertained and happy all week. Breakfast was at 8am every day, ready for a surf lesson at 9. The food was consistently delicious and filling, with fresh local fruit juices and eggs in the mornings, massive chicken salads at lunch and vast daal curries in the evenings. Twice a yoga instructor came to the villa for an evening class on the roof (it is SO much harder than it looks).

We went out for dinner on a couple of occasions, including a seafood buffet at the Fortress, a local 5* hotel with an outrageous £25 dinner deal which covered as many plates of sashimi, fresh grilled prawns and oysters as you could manage.

The lads

We surfed for at least a couple of hours every day, guided by Kasun and Ranjith, the local instructors. A 20 minute tuk-tuk ride took us down the coast to Weligama, a long beach break with ideal waves for beginners.

Big wave surfing

Within the first hour, everyone was up on their boards riding the white water; by the last day, we moved up the beach to surf the green waves at a little island just off the shore. The locals were amazing to watch, and really friendly despite their spot being overrun with enthusiastic amateurs.

Kasun and Ranjith

Friday was a day off, so I went to explore Galle with Madeleine, the only other girl staying at the camp that week. The town is built around the old Dutch colonial fort, providing panoramic views of the whole area; the local who was showing us around showed us how much of the town had been rebuilt after the 2004 tsunami flattened entire districts.

Poonie’s, Galle

Everywhere you go in Sri Lanka, you hear horror stories; further north, in Hikkaduwa, I met a man whose leg had been visibly decimated by incoming debris from a 29-metre wave. Along the coast, there are constant reminders of Sri Lanka’s total vulnerability to natural disaster, especially when the warning signs simply tell you to run inland, and fast. It’s difficult to imagine an impossibly high wall of water bearing down on villages  made of wood.

Most of the local people I met were relentlessly positive despite a difficult past. After an incredible week at Lapoint, I got a train up to Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka’s original surfing town. At this time of year, the east coast is having its high season, so the west is deserted. I stayed at a local old man’s empty guesthouse (I found myself becoming completely trusting of some very questionable strangers) and spent a few days hanging out in quiet beach bars, making friends with the local business owners.

The Curry Bowl became my firm favourite; Sateesh, the waiter, showed me native dishes like curried jackfruit and coconut sambol (everything was gluten free, apparently).

On my last day in Sri Lanka, I headed up to Colombo to meet Mustafa, a friend from Melbourne who lives in the city. He took me to a local curry restaurant and a couple of hotel bars including the Sky Lounge, 12 floors up. We got a sizzling steak pot before he drove me to the airport, letting me sing at the top of my lungs the whole way… There couldn’t have been a better way to end my trip.

Sri Lanka has a lot to see, especially further inland. The train is the best and cheapest (but slowest) way to see the country because you can literally hang out of the side as you go. My trip was a beachy one, but there are plenty of rainforests, mountains and safaris around. As a (10/10) gal travelling alone, I felt pretty safe most of the time. I would love to see more of Sri Lanka, and hopefully one day perfect a daal recipe to rival the Curry Bowl’s.

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