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.



A mosque in Colombo. The main religions in Sri Lanka are Buddhism and Hinduism, but there are plenty of Muslims and Christians as well.

A v egetable stand on the main road.

Local guys walking the rails. The tsunami washed right over these tracks. In fact, these look like replacement tracks to me.

At the Holiday Inn, modelling yet another cheap new shirt.

Gordon shows off his new haircut, and Odel bargain shirt!

The Holiday Inn, with angle windows for a better view of the ocean. Smart! I've seen varying reviews of this hotel on the web, but we really enjoyed our time there, and the service was great.

The beautiful and historic Galle Face Hotel.

Gordon peruses the ice cream menu. You can't tell, but it was once again well over 30 degree Celsius. Colombo was hot, hot, hot.

Fun toys for sale beachside.

And now for something completely different: the Jungle Fowl, national bird of Sri Lanka. You are forgiven for thinking it looks like a regular old rooster.

Death of a hat. It shares its grave with a greasy pizza box from the Hilton (yes, we broke down and ate pizza, but it was GOOD pizza!) Gordon bought this hat in 1992 for our trip to Costa Rica, after losing his really nice Australian-made hat at the Toronto airport after our Mexico trip. You can't really tell from this photo, but the hat was DISGUSTINGLY dirty. It was so bad, G just stopped wearing it towards the end of our vacation, despite the risk of frying his scalp. It's amazing how the hat-filth has disappeared in this photo!

Gordon says good-bye to the hat, his travel companion of 14 years. They were special, special friends. That hat had the sweat of over a decade on the band!
Who knows, maybe a member of the Holiday Inn housekeeping staff gave it a new home, but I really hope not. Gross barely begins to describe its condition.

Good-bye, old friend.
Lucky I was around to dry Gordon's tears afterwards, eh?

And remember...

All photos and text copyright Natalie Rowe 2008 - Stealing brings bad karma. Don't make me set my lawyer-husband upon you!