Ella, 2015

On the way to Ella my parents, husband, daughter and I stopped at Kudwella. We took a short walk past stalls of dried fish to the Ho-o-maniya blow hole- and boy did it blow! The water was bright blue against the dark rocks and stretched far into the horizon.

The next part of the drive took us through Udawalewe National Park and we were lucky enough to stop and see an elephant on the side of the road by a lake. A local bus had also stopped and he seemed to enjoy the attention.

It was raining by the time we started climbing into the hills, but that didn’t stop me jumping out to take a picture of Rawana Falls. Our daughter was sick after all the winding roads so we were glad to reach our accommodation for a couple of nights at the Zion View Hotel.

And what a view it was- right across to Ella Rock. The restaurant had the best views from the top floor and they also had a handy kids play area with a swing and other toys. We met another family with a young boy and our daughter was in play date heaven.

Our family room was a couple of floors down, but still had an amazing view of the rock, Ella Gap and Rawana Falls with a strategically placed hammock on the balcony to watch it from. Early morning sunrises with the little one didn’t seem so bad sitting there with her as the morning fog lifted to reveal the view.

My husband and I ventured into the small town for supplies and stumbled upon a film crew shooting. It was a fight scene so most of the locals were watching excitedly. We also found one of the many funky new cafes that have cropped up in Ella.

Not brave enough to climb through the gap to and up Ella Rock, I was still glad that we had come to see such a beautiful place and taken in the peaceful hill town.

Related posts: Mirissa, 2016, Galle, 2015, Cooler Colombo, 2015, Old Colombo, 2015, It’s a Sri Lankan Thing

Mirissa, 2015

Mirissa was the required beach rest stop that my husband requested for our Sri Lankan trip. We stayed at the Paradise Beach Club on the recommendation of a relative whip worked in the travel industry and it did not disappoint.

Our room had a view of palm trees and the quiet end of the beach from the balcony and was air conditioned. The hotel also had a pool, bar and reastaurant that served good food, not too expensively.

The beach itself was gorgeous and we spent most days strolling one way and then the other, especially at sunset. The tides rose high in the evenings and occasionally took out one of the resatuarants on the beach that served fresh seafood.

We found a roti and hopper stand in town, the former proving quite popular with my daughter when paired with a cold ginger beer. She also enjoyed swimming in the pool everyday, and probably just being out of the van for a few days.

One day we walked all the way to the island at the northern end of the beach. The island was connected to the mainland at low tide and you could climb up a staircase for a view back to the beach. On the way we passed bars, fresh coconut stalls and whale watching cruise sellers.

On our last night we had a sunset dinner while we watched surfers take to the waves and finished off with stage dancing with the little one, before it was bedtime. It was lovely falling asleep listening to the waves and I was glad that we had taken the time to slow down and enjoy some relaxing luxury on the beach.

Related posts: Galle, 2015Cooler Colombo, 2015Old Colombo, 2015It’s a Sri Lankan Thing

Galle, 2015

Galle was my favourite new place that my husband, daughter and I visited on our trip to Sri Lanka. The town is contained in a walled fort area, which made it easy to navigate and explore.

We arrived at the fortification near Flag Rock and walked around the top of the city walls. The water was clear and blue with only a few small waves and fishing poles breaking the surface. We found the white Meeran mosque, the tall Galle lighthouse next to it and the sandy beach in front of that.

The old bell tower was close by and the All Saints Anglican church. The court square was being taken over by large fig trees and ordered lines of school children in white uniforms. The police barracks proudly proclaimed its 1927 inception and we went inside the Dutch reformed church for a little peace and quiet.

We wandered the streets, past the orange marine archaeological museum and an old gate with colonial shield atop it. We forwent the old Galle Fort Hotel and stopped for lunch in Sugar in the newly renovated Old Dutch hospital instead.

Sugar served old style Sri Lankan fare with a modern twist. It was unexpected and delicious. My daughter loved the novelty of drinking out of a fresh coconut and I liked the familiar looking décor that could have belonged in a wine bar in Sydney.

Next stop was shopping at Barefoot and Maison where we picked up some souvenirs and a lovely summer dress for my bestie. I regret not having the sense of mind at the time to buy one for myself as well.

Wishing we had more time to stay, we bundled back into the van and hit the road south to Marissa. On the way to the beach resort, we found some more fishing poles with stilt fishermen sitting upon them. An iconic image and one that we had to pay for to take home.

Related posts: Cooler Colombo, 2015, Old Colombo, 2015, It’s a Sri Lankan Thing

Hot air ballooning in the Hunter Valley

I had wanted to go hot air ballooning for a long time. I saved up birthday and Christmas money for 2 years and finally had enough for the ride and some nice accommodation in the Hunter Valley. I jumped on Red Balloon straight away and booked the experience with Balloon Aloft and then counted down the days until it was time to take flight.

The excitement started the night before when you have to check in by phone at 6pm to make sure the next days flight is going ahead and to confirm you were coming.

The next day I woke at only a little earlier time than usual at just before 5am- yes, my name is Roshan and I have a toddler. I drove myself to Peterson’s Champagne House to check in in person with my pilot Richard, by all accounts a very experienced hot air balloon pilot who had flown everywhere from the Swiss Alps, to, well, the Hunter Valley.

There was 20 to a balloon basket, so our team, the blue team, piled into our allotted bus and we drove to the first launch site to release a test balloon- the same as the ones you get at kids parties- except with a red light on it.

The wind was not right, so we were driven past Margan and Cockfighters Ghost to another launching site in Broke which was nestled at the foot of a very nice looking mountain range.

We got off the bus into a very chilly field, just as the sun started rising. And then we all spread out the balloon in a fashion reminiscent of the parachute game I used to play at school.

I met a balloon enthusiast and his wife, who had been ballooning in my dream destination, Capadocia, plus also Egypt and a few other places. They were planning for Portugal or Morrocco next.

Our balloon was inflated with cold air by dangerous looking and noisy fans. While this was happening I watched 3 other balloons be inflated and take off into the dawn. It was a beautiful sight and you could almost feel your spirits lifting up with the balloons as they went. My excitement built as I knew we would soon be joining them in the air.

Richard added hot air to the now inflated balloon, using four gas cylinders and then the basket started lifting from horizontal to vertical and it was time for all the passengers to jump in quickly before the man on the ground holding the balloon was taken away. I had to switch sides and was scared the balloon would take off without me.

And then we lifted up and drifted off. It was so quiet and still that you could hear dogs barking in the nearby farms.

We floated around, away from the mountains that now had the early morning sun shining over them.

Taking in the other balloons drifting around us and the shadow of our own in the fields.

The scenery was shrouded by early morning fog that lifted to expose vines, farmland and kangaroos, just waking up and hopping around.

A camera suspended on the balloon took a group photo and I took a terrible selfie shot.

We flew up and down and through the valley taking in the gorgeous view and enjoying the moment.

The silence only punctuated by the occasional burst of gas into the balloon to keep us afloat.

Before too long, it was time to land in a friendly field with enthusiastic cattle dogs and startled kangaroos. We braced in the landing position, took a couple of hops and then it was all over.

Time to pack up the balloon- a lot harder than unravelling it- and head back to Petersons for a champagne breakfast with chocolate. We were also given a thoughtful thank you pack with discounts at other wineries and shops for rest of the day.

What a great experience, definitely not one for adrenalin junkies. More peaceful than I thought it would be, I was glad that I had done it. Now, just to get myself to Capadocia for round two.

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Cooler Colombo, 2015

One evening, my husband, daughter, parents and I went up the hill to another opulent old colonial hotel- the Mount Lavinia Hotel. We had missed the sunset and it was dark by the time we arrived through rush hour traffic, but we could still hear the waves crashing down below and see the train weaving its way along the coastline. We sat outside near the pool where a band was playing some old favourite tunes and relished a bit of the cooler atmosphere up here.

The following day, my husband, daughter and I set off in our own tuk tuk to find the little oasis of South Biera Lake in the big city. City buildings surrounded the lake, but they seemed far away, especially when you took the footbridge to the island in the middle of the lake. It was my favourite new discovery in Colombo and I was glad that the three of us had come here together.

There was a meditation centre on the lake also that my husband visited by himself as I was wearing shorts. The centre was very interesting as it had both Hindu and Buddist statues along with the obligatory Adam’s foot. My daughter and I amused ourselves by watching the cormorant’s fish and then we all cooled down with a fresh fruit juice from a local stall on the side of the lake.

My uncle Tommy was an established businessman in Colombo and is the member of quite a few exclusive clubs. He took us to the Colombo Swimming Club as his special guests for lunch that was very traditional and very tasty. We all also enjoyed a dip in the pool of course, which overlooked the ocean and seemed to stretch out onto the horizon and beyond.

On our last night in Colombo, my aunt and uncle hosted a party with many assorted aunts, uncles and cousins. A lady came to the house to make fresh hoppers and there was lots of drinking and smoking as is the Sri Lanka party way. It was nice to see many familiar faces again- everyone was older, perhaps not wiser- but we had all seemed to multiply.

And so, it was time to leave the city, jump in the van with our driver Ravi and set off on our road trip around Sri Lanka. First stop- Galle.

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