Leaving Ella, we started early as we knew we had one of our longer driving day ahead of us. We'd drive directly up a mountain to visit Lipton's Seat -- the very spot where Sir Thomas Lipton himself used to sit and scheme up his plantation. Afterwards, we'd descend into the next valley to the secluded town of Koslanda. Relying heavily on maps, we quickly found ourselves winding through local villages unsure if we were headed in the right direction. Fresh concrete under Toro's tires (see part 01 and part 02 of our adventure with our tuk tuk Toro we rented through Tuk Tuk Rental) and glances from the locals as we passed by, reminded us that we were off the beaten path; just how we'd imagined our Sri Lankan adventure.
The ascend up to Lipton's Seat was seemingly built for Toro. We meandered through small roads that were lined with unrealistically green tea fields with views of the distant mountains. Despite our morning coffee cravings, we were in the country of tea and the fresh morning rains lifted the smells of the black tea fields. Just below Lipton's seat, we had the option to drive the tuk tuk to the view point or hike through the tea fields. As much as we wanted to hike the remainder of the way up, we had all of our belongings unsecured in our tuk tuk, so opted to drive to the top. In addition, we'd heard that getting to the viewpoint before 9:00 am is essential unless you want to see a valley of clouds and no views. We were greeted by a young Sri Lankan boy who excitedly showed us the ropes and said, "you are very very lucky sir ma'am - no clouds!" He was also quick to schedule our itinerary: "first you will check out the view point, then you can climb those stairs to another view point, then you will enjoy some fresh black tea with roti, and, lastly, you will visit our tea shop." We enjoyed the escort but started to wonder why he wasn't at school during a weekday morning. We learned that he missed the school bus into town, so instead he was hanging out with his parents hustling the tourists. After enjoying our time there, we fired Toro up ready for our descend to Koslanda. When I turned around to reverse, the boy (and another older man) bounced right into our tuk tuk backseat exclaiming, "I am coming with you. You take me to school." How could we say no? The extraordinary views continued all the way down from Lipton's Seat and we couldn't help but notice how untouched by tourism the area was. It's beauty was so preserved.
After spending a few days at the tranquil town of Koslanda, we left feeling restored and energized. We figured Toro would feel the same. An hour into our six hour drive, Toro let out a grand sputter and we crept to a stop with no momentum coming from the underbelly. We hopped right out but before we could even get the back door of the tuk tuk open (as if we knew anything about a tuk tuk engine), a local woman came out of her shop exclaiming, "I am calling my husband. He in on his way!" Not long after, a man gleefully jumped out of his own tuk tuk and found the problem within five minutes. Turns out, the spark plugs blew. A mechanic from down the road showed up a few minutes later and we buzzed over to the local auto shop to get the parts. A quick 20 minutes later, Toro had brand new spark plugs and it only set us back $12 USD for parts and labor. Once again, we were thankful for the extremely hospitable Sri Lankan people and we were off again to Mirissa.
Of the south beach towns, we enjoyed Mirissa, Wellagama (we recommend checking out our friends' The Spindrifters hostel that will be opening soon), Unawatuna, and the Galle Fort area. We enjoyed a few relaxed days in each area and loved the beaches, food, and island feel of the areas. We stopped by Galle Fort on our last day (just for a few hours) before we had to return Toro in Colombo. This was a huge mistake -- as we would've enjoyed a few days exploring the quaint town!
The final leg of our journey was coming to an end and we were feeling bittersweet. In fact, we were more sad to leave Sri Lanka than we've felt about any other country we've traveled. If it weren't so far from home, Bre and I would wholeheartedly commit to living in Sri Lanka tomorrow! The four weeks in Sri Lanka filled our souls with an adventure we will never forget. We fell in love with the country at a deeper level -- for its untouched beauty, foggy mountains, beautiful beaches, fresh fruits, and kind-hearted locals. The country is gaining in popularity, so we're calling it now: this place will be the next Bali. Run (don't walk) to Sri Lanka if you're able!
where to stay
Living Heritage Koslanda: You know those stunning properties you marvel at in glossy travel magazines while waiting to get your teeth cleaned? Yeah, well, Living Heritage is one of those. We stayed one night in the suite and another night in their jungle pavilion (aaaamazing)! The property is 80 acres of pure tranquility featuring a private waterfall, an infinity pool, an outdoor game room, lots of nature paths to explore, and a delicious restaurant.
The next day, we checked into the jungle pavilion that filled our hearts with some serious zen and our bellies with french pressed coffee. Good coffee is hard to come by in SE Asia, so we may have had a few too many cups! The room was an open-to-nature concept leaving us feeling like we were sleeping right in nature, but with protective white fabric to keep the critters out. Nature's music and the extremely comfortable bed put us right to sleep that night. Bre swears she wants to buy the exact same bed and pillows that Living Heritage has someday when we "settle" down. They're heaven! We awoke to sunrise and enjoyed a yoga/meditation session right on the deck of the pavilion. This experience connected us with nature in the most unique way and, for that, we will never forget it. Living Heritage was built with love, passion, and excellent design taste.
where to stay
Peacock Villa: Some of the most talked about destinations in Sri Lanka are Mirissa and Wellegama. We knew we needed to find a good location that would help us easily access everything there was to do in the area. Peacock Villa is the perfect location for that (right in the town of Mirissa) and staffed by a local family who are some of the most genuine people we have met.
Every morning, we woke up to the odd meowing of peacocks. Quickly, we learned why the place is called Peacock Villa! We could watch the peacocks in the fields right from our balcony. After wiping the sleep from our eyes, we'd walk downstairs to a huge fruit plate, coffee, and a variety of main dishes that helped us get our day started on track. We wandered to and from the beach by walking the path that cuts right to Peacock Villa. All the restaurants we visited were within walking distance of the property which is always a huge plus. Another bonus that we loved was the big white lab, Simba, that greeted us with glee every time we came and went. He's friendly and always ready to play!
what to do
Palm Tree Grove: This location can be a little tricky to find -- like many places in Sri Lanka. Since we were short on time, we drove Toro to the far southeast end of town (normally very walkable from town), parked, and walked to a dead-end gate. Confused, we searched a little more and saw a small dirt path leading up the hill. One thing we learned in Sri Lanka is if you're going the right way, the locals will generally leave you be, but if you're going the wrong way, they are quick to wave you down and help you find your destination. We walked past a group of locals without being stopped, so we knew we struck gold. Once on top, we enjoyed this unique view and we were lucky to share it with only one other couple. The tall swaying palm trees are stunning in such a simple way.
Other than that, we enjoyed hanging out near the beach, visiting Wellegama, and meeting some new (in real life) Instagram friends. We're constantly amazed at the ways in which Instagram has connected us to other like-minded friends.
unawatuna -- we bet you can't stop saying this fun word!
where to stay
Skinny Beach House: Home -- a word we have not used a lot since we left nine months ago for our new lifestyle. Not only is Skinny Beach House a house located right on one of the best beaches in south Sri Lanka (Dalawella Beach), but the house actually felt like a home. The beach is shared with only a handful of other places, so no matter what time of day or day of the week, we felt like it was our own private beach.
Upon arriving at Skinny Beach House we instantly turned on some music and had an epic dance party, enjoyed the ocean breeze coming right in the doors, and bounced from ocean to pool the rest of the day. We enjoyed lunch at Wijaya Beach Restaurant just a few doors down. That evening, we knew we needed to break out some of our former skills and put that big kitchen to use. What was a meal made with our own hands? We've only cooked one meal since leaving home (yes, one). The kitchen had everything we needed to whip up a big meal using all local ingredients. We loved it!
The next morning, a sweet local woman came over and made us fresh coffee, local fruits, and an American style breakfast. We truly didn't want to leave this two-story home that made us miss having a space to call our own.
what to do
Unawatuna Beach: In all honesty, we didn't want to leave Skinny Beach house the few days we were there. We felt like we had everything we'd ever want right at home, but decided to venture to Unawatuna Beach one afternoon. Unfortunately, we couldn't swim fully due to huge powerful waves, but we loved the beach! It has such a chill vibe with surrounding restaurants and we were some of the only people there. Definitely worth the visit!
Galle Fort (15 minutes from Unawatuna): As mentioned earlier, we regret not spending a few days here. The historic area of Galle Fort is located in the Bay of Galle in southwestern Sri Lanka. The town features predominantly Portugese and Dutch architecture with small coffee shops, museums, a lighthouse, and boutique clothing stores. It looks like Galle is yet another reason why we must return to Sri Lanka!
We're putting together a map to visually show our four week route we drove in our tuk tuk. We are also making a video, stay tuned! We hope you've enjoyed following our journey. Bre and I both can't stop talking about Sri Lanka and hope everyone can experience the same paradise someday. Driving our own tuk tuk made the trip for us, and we would've undoubtedly had a very different (and honestly much lamer) experience without Toro.
For the love & adventure,