After evacuating Hikkaduwa post New Year, and finally getting the train across the south coast to Matara, we needed to get ourselves further along the coast to the beach haven of Tangalle, well known for its stretches of beautiful beaches and, as it turns out, very rough sea!
We arrived in Tangalle and needed a place to stay. After looking at a place we had been recommended and finding out it was full, we were approached by more owners touting their guesthouses. We checked out a couple and after haggling a room down to about £7 we settled with a place right by the beach for a couple of nights. It was true, Tangalle beach was beautiful, however the fishermen are dirty fuckers, with their little patch of beach being the resident shit tip for all sorts of skanky rubbish. They certainly knew how to get their job done though, pooling the recourses they had available to them – when it was time to get their nets in, why bother straining yourself when you are surrounded by over-eager tourists who are more than willing to lend a helping hand, before (after about 10 – 15 mins of yanking at a seemingly never ending rope) they realise that this is not the fun ‘helping out the locals job’ they thought it would be, but actually absolutely knackering; they were obviously too proud to stop though. Not my bag, so Soph and I just watched, mildly amused from a distance, at the smug looking fishermen and tired looking tourists.
There was not a huge amount to do in Tangalle, other than beaching it in the day, getting battered by the powerful waves, and eating more amazing Sri Lankan rice & curry (a selection of about 4 – 5 different curries with rice and a poppadum, similar to an Indian thali, which is different everywhere you go), of which we found some of the best so far at Perlyn Hotel in Tangalle town. We spent one of our afternoons exploring the local lagoon by kayak, which was great, poking around in some mangrove style caves and passages, finding some interesting creatures along the way.
After Tangalle we headed further east to a town called Tissamaharama. Tissa has nothing going for it really as a town, however it is the tourist stop off for safari trips to Sri Lanka’s largest national park, Yala. We arrived into Tissa, and had booked the cheapest “hotel” we could find online so that our safari group knew where to collect us the following morning. This place was a dive. It was run by a creepy little fella who reminded me of a homosexual James Bond villain. He had a pair of fairly retarded older guys (his minions) who pottered around the place doing, well I don’t know, stuff I assume, neither of whom knew how to speak any English – not too handy in the tourism industry. Although, fair play to them, after about 10 mins of charades with the small portly one we did manage to get our clothes washed by the taller, skinny, dribbling one for free! (I felt bad so made him a small donation after my clothes had been returned). I could go on for ages why this places was pretty terrible, but I will try to sum it up: damp; smelly; loud neighbours; lots of bugs; strange people; and a mosquito net that I can only assume just disappeared at night because I got ravaged. Anyway it was a pleasure to leave after 2 fantastic nights.
On the plus side Yala National Park was great. We set off at 4:30am – really??, who knew that was even a real time of the day! – and hit the road with a selection of other safari jeeps that seemed to be racing, Mario Cart style, to be the first at the gate when the park opened at 6am. We came in a very respectable 4th position. Packed full of elephants, and home to one of the world’s largest concentration of leopards (we saw one!), Yala was good fun. We even got charged at by an enormous bull elephant, which stopped his charge a few feet from my side of the jeep and began thunderously growling at us, I thought he was going to kill us – our guide was not bothered in the slightest and just turned the engine off and sat there smiling – I fucking shat myself!
Yesterday we travelled inland, arriving in the hill station town of Ella, and over the last two days have been venturing on different mountainous treks. Yesterday afternoon we scaled a small mountain called Little Adams Peak, which was a casual stroll more than a hike, and this morning embarked on a slightly more adventurous trek up to the top of Ella Rock, which looms of Ella in ominous fashion, and is the picturesque view from our guesthouse porch. I will elaborate more on what we get up to in Ella once we have reached Kandy in a few days time!
Anyway, here are a few photos from Tangalle and Yala National Park: