Although still a little sore from the previous day’s unfortunate accident, thankfully, Eulanda felt strong enough to travel the next morning. We said goodbye to the good people (and their cow) at Stafford Bungalow and made an early start for our six hour drive from Nuwara Eliya to Negombo. Yes you read it right…six hours!

 

This was the final leg of our Sri Lankan itinerary (you can read parts one, two, three and four here). Although we loved travelling this beautiful country, we were not exactly jumping for joy at the prospect of the long but idyllic journey from Nuwara Eliya. However, the prize at the end of our cross-country jaunt would be Negombo, a large city on Sri Lanka’s west coast where we hoped to baptise our feet in the blue waters of the Indian Ocean.

HDYTI Nuwara Eliya to Negombo

 

Adam ‘dipped his toe’ in Nuwara Eliya

Jai kept up the chat for the early part of the journey as we drove down from Nuwara Eliya’s hills into the colonial town centre. An old post office and red phone boxes once again reminded us of the British influence on the region. Locals went about their daily business as if blissfully unaware of the beauty that surrounded them.

Nuwara Eliya | Sri Lanka

Nuwara Eliya | Sri Lanka

Although mostly famous for its unique blend of Ceylon tea, Nuwara Eliya is also famous for being home to some of the tallest peaks in Sri Lanka. Pidurutalagala, the tallest peak in Sri Lanka greeted us from a distance like a wise old man bearing secrets. It looked scarred by the national TV station masts protruding from its top like angry fingers pointing upwards to the gods.

Sri Lanka Waterfalls

Climbing aficionados can also visit the nearby Adams Peak which is a major place of pilgrimage for Sri Lanka’s Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and Moslems. We saw busloads of people heading there. They say it is called Adam’s peak because after Adam was ejected from the Garden of Eden, he must have settled here and brought some of Eden’s beauty along with him. They say he literally left his footprint (‘Sri Pada’) there and so the aforementioned faiths each considers the peak symbolic in their own way. Again, this was another example of Sri Lanka’s multiple faiths seemingly co-existing peacefully.

HDYTI Tip: Although not on our itinerary, we learned that visits to Pidurutalagala and Adam’s Peak are two of the most incredible things you can do in Nuwara Eliya. Be sure to check them out if you are so inclined (pun intended).

 

Go chasing waterfalls!

If the drive up from Kandy into Nuwara Eliya’s hills was breath-taking, then the views from Nuwara Eliya to Negombo probably left us with no words. We had to stop and simply take in the striking beauty of first, Devon Falls and then St. Claire’s Falls. For all their brilliance, I really wondered why they still bore English and not Sinhalese names!

As Nuwara Eliya faded into the distance, the landscape gradually began to change. Fewer and fewer tea plantations turned into unspoiled tropical rain forests. Being high up along the A-7 (Colombo Road) afforded us great views of the forest canopy. Jai explained that most of these were protected from logging and urban development. We were glad to hear that efforts are being made by the authorities to preserve this great natural resource.

Nuwara Eliya | Sri Lanka

HDYTI Tip: One suggestion for exploring Nuwara Eliya is to go chasing waterfalls in the region. This will involve careful planning but as they are mostly concentrated in this one region, investing a few days might be enough to see a few of them while taking in the natural beauty along the way.

 

The Bridge on the River Kwai

About two hours into our journey, we all needed a water break and some respite from the long drive. Ever the professional tour guide, Jai stopped in Kithulgala, a small town made famous by the Academy Award winning 1957 classic film ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’. He drove to the iconic Plantation Hotel which is located right next to the River Kelani. This was the setting for the scene where the bridge gets blown up in the movie. It also provides a great river view point. The Plantation Hotel, apart from housing a very random auto museum, still carries old photos and posters from the movie. It was worth pausing for a few moments watching the bamboo gently sway in the flowing River Kelani and taking in all the history that happened here in 1957.

River Kelani | Sri Lanka

River Kelani | Sri Lanka

HDYTI Tip: If you are looking for water sports in Sri Lanka, then Kithulgala is the place to come. Day trips from Colombo and Negombo are possible. Posters and rafting merchandise confirmed that this was the white water rafting capital of Sri Lanka. The dry season (roughly December to February) is apparently the best time for this sort of sport.

 

Thank you Jai!

With four more hours to go, we spent time getting to know more about our driver and guide Jai Suriya. His slender 5ft 5in frame belied his age. In his late forties and married with teenage kids, he has worked in the travel industry for almost 15 years. He recently purchased a fairly used Toyota Avensis from a leasing company to run his tours. Incredibly bizarre was the fact that the total cost of the vehicle (including taxes plus interest) came to $40, 000. With such exorbitant costs, Sri Lanka obviously does not enjoy the advantages of being situated close to car manufacturing nations like India and China. He pays $500 a month and has 18 months to go before he is done. With such an expensive investment, we wondered whether he was left with anything after he made his monthly payments.

He spends most of his days on the road during busy holiday season ferrying guests around the country. Although he enjoys his job very much and loves the people he meets, he looks forward to the quiet periods between May and June when he has some downtime which he spends with his family. We’re very grateful to Jai for sharing his insights into the lives of ordinary Sri Lankans and infecting us with an appreciation of his beautiful country. This is a shout out to one very hardworking Sri Lankan dad.

 

Negombo!

We finally arrived in Negombo late in the afternoon and checked into the beach front Jetwing Blue Hotel, one of the many Jetwing Hotel properties along that particular stretch of Sri Lanka’s coastline. Management had kindly laid out a few tasty treats to welcome us and we spent a few moments just taking a breather.

Jetwing Blue Hotel | Negombo, Sri Lanka

Jetwing Blue Hotel | Negombo, Sri Lanka

Too tired to embark on any serious exploration of the city, we settled for a leisurely walk along Porutota Road, just outside the hotel. The local area, though not particularly busy, is mostly filled with open air restaurants and shops, bursting with tourist goods. We came across many shops selling a variety of leather goods with unique designs that will certainly thrill the bargain shopper with a keen eye for quality and time on their hands.

HDYTI Tip: Haggling is welcomed and expected so never pay the asking price for items.

Leather Goods| Negombo, Sri Lanka

Having satisfied our curiosity, we headed back to the hotel and immediately headed to the beach to enjoy the remaining hours of daylight. This particular stretch of coastline is not restricted or private and is open to the public. It was however by no means crowded; even though we did get propositioned to purchase some locally made beach wraps which we politely declined. Again, Eulanda’s hair seemed to attract a lot of interest.

Eulanda on Negombo Beach

Jetwing Blue Hotel | Negombo, Sri Lanka

Jetwing Blue Hotel | Negombo, Sri Lanka

As the evening descended upon us, the sound of the waters of Indian Ocean lapping against the shoreline provided into a soothing backdrop for reflection. This magical country had welcomed us with open arms and infected us with its beauty and charm. We were grateful for the remarkable experiences we’d had so far and the new friendships we had made along the way, including Jai our guide. A local fire dance provided a befitting end to the night as tiredly crept away to the sound of beating drums.

Sri-Lanka-WEB-191

Final thoughts…

Sri Lanka in many ways is similar to my birth country Nigeria in terms of natural beauty, climate and vibe. However unlike Nigeria, it is a country that recognises and appreciates its natural beauty and rich cultural heritage and appears serious about sharing this with the rest of the world. We celebrate all the locals who worked hard to give us a genuine taste of the rich hospitality that this country has to offer. Sri Lanka certainly appears to be well on her way towards creating a world-class tourism industry. HDYTI will certainly be back!!

Jetwing Blue Hotel | Negombo, Sri Lanka

Thank you for following our series on Sri Lanka. We hope you enjoyed it. Please share your feedback and thoughts below. We’d love to know what you think. Even better, we’d love to know if we’ve inspired you to ‘dip your toes in’!

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Overall HDYTI Toe Rating for Sri Lanka: 5/5 – No regrets!