We left Kandy in a van rented by our trusty tuk tuk driver, Sangeeth, who had only driven to the beach twice before. Sangeeth did not drive the most direct route to Hikkaduwa, our first stop on our vacation, but instead went through small towns and villages in the hill country. Sangeeth knew where we were going, but he wasn’t always sure of which road to take. Luckily, Sri Lanka is very well-populated, and even in the smallest village there was always someone to ask for directions.
Hikkaduwa is one of the most popular surf spots and backpacker hangouts in the country, and it felt strange to be around so many white people again. Much of the crowd there was European so there were plenty of string bikinis and even speedos, which are even less appealing after months . The surf was good, but crowded.
Brian caught some waves but stayed clear of most of the local surfers. We did find a good roti restaurant, called the Roti Restaurant, that served roti filled with all the tasty things you can imagine, including avocado, cheese and prawns, or chocolate and bananas.
Our next stop was Weligama, which means sandy village. It is on the South coast, which is relaxed and has a different feel than the hill country or the West coast. The town of Weligama was bustling, but with few cars, mostly bikes and tuk tuks, a big change from Kandy’s dense three times a day traffic jams. While in Weligama Brian cracked the leash plug on his board. We were staying at the Samarua Beach House and the owner, Aruna, took us to a surfboard and wooden boat factory in Galle to have it fixed. The boat builder, Mr. Jayathilaka, was very helpful and gave us a tour of the factory, http://www.nathboat.com/ He’d expanded to surfboards in the last few years, but mostly worked on yachts, canoes, and other types of boats. He was able to make Brian a new leash plug in one day and charged a fair price.
On our trip to Galle we also visited the turtle hatchery in Habaraduwa. They collect turtle eggs from nesting sites and rebury them at the hatchery. Four days after they hatch the baby turtles are released into the ocean. This gives them a better chance of survival, partly because this way they won’t be eaten by people. We also explored a little bit of the Galle Fort, built by the Dutch in the 17th century. In the past few decades Europeans, mostly English, have been buying houses in the Fort and turning them into holiday homes or hotels. It is a beautiful spot, but feels sort of like colonial Williamsburg or Nantucket, but plopped down in the middle of the chaos of modern day coastal Sri Lanka. The rest of Galle felt more like other Sri Lankan cities, with concrete buildings, tiny shops, and crazy tuk tuk drivers.
After Weligama we went to Mirissa, which was more touristy, but had an amazingly beautiful beach. Once again there were Europeans in tiny swimsuits, including one middle-aged man who did not have a swimsuit at all and was walking up and down the beach in his saggy gray briefs. The waves were small while we were there, and we didn’t surf much. However, we did find a great place to eat, the Sunset Hotel, where we had jumbo prawns the size of my hand, and a Sri Lankan attempt at pizza that was not quite pizza but delicious anyways.
We stayed two nights in Ahangama, where there were nice waves, but not much else, before moving onto Matara, where we stayed at Surf Lanka Hotel in Maddawata. This was our favorite place, both because of the hotel and the surfbreak right out our door. The hotel was the nicest one we stayed in, and had the most delicious food. Our first night we had a huge crab curry, cracked crabs in a coconut milk and curry broth. It was the most crabmeat I’ve ever eaten and was amazing. Also, there is a small but fun community of expats and Sri Lankan surfers there.
One afternoon we ventured into Matara, the biggest city in the South. Compared to Kandy, Matara was much less chaotic, and walking down the street was easier and almost relaxing, but not quite. At the end of our vacation we were sad to leave the South because we’d enjoyed our time there so much.