And, alas, now the trip is over. Gordon and I have taken many wonderful trips together over the years, to Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Turkey, England, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam. Each country was wonderful in its own way, but Sri Lanka stole my heart, and it was the people who made it so special. We felt so welcome. You'd think that Sri Lankans would have nothing to smile about. They've experienced a devastating tsunami (from which the tourist industry has NOT fully recovered, so get yourself down there for a holiday!), ongoing civil strife, and losing to Australia this year in the cricket World Cup... the list goes on. Yet everywhere we went, we were greeted with the warmest of smiles and the friendliest of hellos. Sri Lankans went out of their way to help us enjoy our trip, and not always because it was their paid job or because they expected something in return. One of my fonder memories is walking the train tracks at Ella and having a little boy run up to me and present me with a flower he had picked. I thanked him, and he ran off again. Money can't buy experiences like that. The more you interact with the local people, the more you listen to their stories and see them as fellow human beings with lives of their own, the more you will learn, and the more you will enjoy your trip.
We did not have a single hassle on this adventure. We didn't even get sick! I often read travel blogs and message boards where travellers whine about being ripped off and this and that, and I know bad things do happen, but I think that if you visit a country expecting good things, instead of the worst, you will be amply rewarded. (And it helps to wear a money belt under your clothes, and leave your flashy jewellery at home.) Sure, we had touts come up to us and offer to take us to non-existent elephant festivals, or even just to demand money, but we just politely repeated "no, thank you" and they eventually went away. Things like that are part of the travelling life, but if you keep your cool and remain polite, they needn't become a hassle.
So go VISIT SRI LANKA!!! And if you're visiting Tissamaharama, give Jayantha a call (0777-073813) and hire him to guide you through the national parks. You won't be sorry.