Sri Lanka, you have been hot and sweaty, spicy and sweet and oh so patient with me while I learn more about your country and its bargaining requirements.
Your daily fresh fruit juices were refreshing, your friendly orange stained smiles welcoming and your greenery breathtaking. Your hospitality and constant giving has been the light that has kept this weary heart from feeling scared, lonely or anxious. You have remained positive and welcoming in the midst of devastation and heartache and I feel blessed to have had a glimpse of the light you radiate.
My first week was spent volunteering on a coconut farm. A bit more rustic and “rural” than what I expected but it was a culturally rich experience and my time was filled with an endless supply of coconut water and coconut dishes. Uncle Sunil, one of the workers on the farm who’s English vocabulary consisted of “eat and wash” took me under his wing and was my teacher/friend for the week. Together we did “the farm things”, cooked Sri Lankan meals, practiced tasks the Sri Lanka ladies would normally do and chopped coconuts, many many coconuts.
On the farm they harvest the coconuts every month over a period of 2 days and I was lucky enough to be there over those 2 days. There are 4 sets of worker groups: the first group have long bamboo stick with a little Captain Hook blade at the end of the stick which they use to cut of the bunches of coconuts that are ready for harvest. Then the bunches fall on the ground, some coconuts break from the bunch and the 2nd group gathers the loose ones to make small little “hoopies” among the trees. The 3rd group have to remove the remaining coconuts from the bunch with big, panga like knifes and add them to the pile once chopped off. The final group comes and gathers the coconuts, pile by pile they pick it up and transfer it to a tractor with a trailer. I did the humbling job of chopping with the panga and after 2 days, my back and arms were broken. Mad respect for the harvesters!
Next stop took me to Sigirya which is more inland and known for the famous Lion Rock. Like everything in Sri Lanka, the tourist price for this 2 hrs hike to the top was very expensive and being at the top for sunrise was not possible as the gate only opens at 07:00. Fortunately I settled for the “cheap rock” and was able to admire the magnificent Lion Rock from where I sat while watching the sunrise.
God blessed me with a travel buddy from the Netherlands for the next few days and together we headed for the Hill country to drink tea, speak Afrikaans and Dutch and ride the train. Fortunately our experience on the train rides was wonderful and we got to see some stunning landscapes and greenery. Many people we met along the way were not so lucky and they basically had to stand for 5 hrs without seeing anything.
Our daily activities included searching for waterfalls, hiking, drinking fresh fruit juice, eating [a lot of] local food and trying our best not to look like tourists. We also learnt all about where black, green and white tea comes from but there’s nothing quite like a cup of good old Rooibos tea. We welcomed the cooler temperatures and found ourselves stopping at every view point as the scenery and views were simply breathtaking
The rest of my time in Sri Lanka was spent at the South Coast, visiting places such as Hirikitiya, Mirissa, Weligama, Unawatuna and Galle Fort. It rained almost everyday making the experience a bit different to what I had expected but it was a good time for me to rest and reflect on my time so far. The coastal towns are all fairly similar and the beaches are lined with coconut trees, surfing schools and beach bars that light up the beach at night. Even though the rain kept me indoors for some time, the beaches really are breathtaking and I can see why Sri Lanka has been on the “top destination to visit” list in the last few years.
Stay tuned for some more stories about this beautiful country
Ronny [as the locals pronounced it]
Ps. Most of the photos posted was taken by Joren Groote 🙂