At the south western tip of Sri Lanka lies an historic paradise. The Dutch began its journey, the British added to the fortifications the Sri Lankans’ added the colour and culture and then the tropical air provided the vegetation, leaving a wondrous mix of crumbling walls, colonial architecture, tropical vegetation, sandy beaches, pounding surf and exotic culture.
Our journey to Sri Lanka began in Galle, via Colombo Fort Train Station and the 7AM coastal service into Galle.
Tired, yet excited, we fought our way through Pettah as the market vendors began setting up for the day. We were immediately struck and transfixed by the massive contrasts having only been in Cornwall the day before… Colombo Fort train station was a hive of activity as people jostled along the platform to find their train… A blur of colourful saris’ and flip flops.
Having found our train, we sat and waited for its departure while watching the daily go on around us… A group of monks shuffled down the platform, while delicious child fritters were hawked by the vendors on board the train. Children clutching schoolbooks ran alongside the train as a group of teenagers took part in an impromptu game of cricket.
Slowly the train pulled out from the station and through Colombo towards the coast. A thin haze of mist and spray hovered over the sandy coast and palm thronged beaches as a pounding surf punished the shore. It felt as if the train was in the sea itself, such was the lines proximity to the coast. The train wound its way through a myriad of small stations as commuters, families and schoolchildren hopped on and off the train as it slowly worked its way down the coast.
After two and a half hours the train pulled into Galle Station, home of the most amazing departure board I have ever seen, crafted out of mahogany. We emerged from the station into the organised chaos of the station concourse… Immediately our eyes were distracted by the Galle International Cricket Stadium – often voted the most attractive in the world:
Activity was underway preparing it for the start of the first test match between Sri Lanka and Australia which was due to get underway the following day. We hopped into a tuk tuk and as we made our way around the stadium and the nursery pitches we watched as the Sri Lankan team went through their Captains run.
We passed through the iconic fort walls into the old city and began walking along the cobbled vine covered streets towards where we were staying at Mango House.
Galle is a city like no other. To the east along the coast is a bustling modern city, while situated on this fortified peninsula lies a gem of an old town. The city oozes history and delights and charms lie around every corner.
Outside the city boundaries, across Bonavista Bay towards Unawatuna, down a steep narrow path, surrounded by thick vegetation of palms, vines and hardwood trees sits Jungle Beach. A quiet haven of white sand and turquoise sea.
To the south east is situated a beach of perfect sand and palms with surf crashing onto the reef just offshore. Further round the peninsula, daredevil locals risk life and limb throwing themselves off the pink cliffs into the surging sea below. A thin mist forms offshore from the pounding waves as the sounds of everyday life reverberate around the ancient walls.
Deep within the fort, a myriad of restaurants serve devilishly hot curry and silky smooth mango lassi. Street vendors offer a range of treasures as fisherman carry the days catch to the market.
At the old fort an assortment of cricket matches are in full swing as a young boy sweeps a dizzying spinning deliver down one of the towns many narrow streets. Beyond the make shift pitch, the endless expanse of Indian Ocean fills the horizon until it meets a dazzling sunset; colours exploding across the inky sky, casting a golden light on the fort and town.
As the sun sinks away and thousands of bright stars paint a masterful sky, I walk along the ocean front, waves still crashing on the rocky reef below. The lighthouse casts a beam of light across the sea as I sit and watch the world go by.
Sri Lanka, I have arrived.