Archive for the ‘Sri Lanka’ Category

Elephant-Longboard-Sri-LankI have had a great time in Sri Lanka, but as ever it is time for my adventures to move on once more. Sadly I am packing up my surfboard for the last time on this trip, but I may yet get this local board caddy to help me get it to the airport.

I have enjoyed staying in Hikkaduwa and have been winding down the extremes of my surfing, especially after hitting the reef so hard a week ago but have savoured surfing in shorts for the last time on my trip.

I say my goodbyes to the lovely Austrian couple, Kathrin and David, who have been staying next door to me, and will check in on their own travel blog when I get home.   

Egypt-FlagI have a long journey ahead of me today, which starts with a three hour drive to the airport and then then two four and a half hour flights before landing in Egypt.

Arriving in Africa I will complete my collection of continents visited on this trip. (I didn’t see much point in heading to Antarctica before anybody starts splitting hairs!)

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WP_20131125_021After surfing Turtle point I was keen to try and bag at least two more new breaks today, so we went on Safari in the tuk-tuk checking out Coconut Point, Plantation Point, Rams Right and a few other waves that I have already surfed.

The swell has been dropping all week and because the tide was dropping all morning too I wasn’t tempted anywhere by what was on offer. I could see rocks everywhere and having come so far without losing teeth I did not want to start doing so as close as I am to the end of my travels, particularly for naff surf.

Amarapala and I went up to see this temple off the beaten track and then later stopped in Ahangama, where I had a chat with a semi retired surfer called Graeme from New Zealand. He pointed out the break known as the Rock and the peak in front of his little surfing operation, but those too were closing out so I just stopped to talk about my travels with him and a trio of German surfers who had just got out of the water.

DCIM102GOPROOnce back in the tuk-tuk it we decided to head back to Galle where there is a beach break that works even in the windy afternoon.

You see me paddling out there in this picture where I am clearly starting to look a little too like a walrus, shaking the salt water off my whiskers having just gone through a wave.

DCIM103GOPRO“It is too small” I was told when walking down the sand with my board by one of the local surfers, but I wasn’t buying that after watching the waves for ten minutes before hand.

I spotted a peak where decent rides were available if you were patient and sure enough picked off some nice drops coupled with cruisey rides under the midday sun. (I will not be surfing in shorts for much longer so was happy to top up my tan too!)

DCIM103GOPROIt turned into quite a fun session but was tarnished a tad by a Japanese beginner in the shore break throwing his board to avoid getting clobbered by the incoming wave which I was riding. Instead of hitting him it clipped my leg, cutting it in the process but thankfully not very deeply. I don’t think either party understood a word that was shouted either way after that but the messages definitely made their way across.

Not wanting any more infections I got out soon afterwards and found Amarapala in the position you see here. Having got up early and driven around all day he was exhausted, so I loaded the tuk-tuk by myself so that he could have a bit more rest before driving us home.

Once back in Hikkaduwa I made sure he got a healthy tip for looking after me and my gear so well during my stay here in Sri Lanka. Only two waves today in the end but I can’t really complain.

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WP_20131125_001Amarapala my friendly tuk-tuk driver turned up to collect me this morning at 5am as arranged. Sadly I had completely overslept and had to be woken up and dragged out of bed.

It didn’t take me long to grab my gear and we were soon on our way south along the coast road, pausing only to have a look at a cow which had been mown down by a bus and to enjoy this sunrise at Galle. 

WP_20131125_010The aim was to go as far as possible first thing and then work our way back up to Hikkaduwa. We stopped at Mirissa but the swell has really dropped and what little waves there were there were right on top of rocks and I already have enough scars from this trip so didn’t go in.

Instead we watched a monkey vs blackbird battle at the top of the middle tree you see in this picture. The monkey was obviously trying to steal some eggs and the birds were not happy about it, dive bombing him until he fell from the top of the tree. You can see that I had no line of sight to the base of the coconut palm so do not know how well or how badly it landed, but can tell you that it fell a very long way.

WP_20131125_017We pushed on with our wave safari and Amarapala asked around until we found this reef break in Madiya.

You can see how rocky it is on the shore and the reef continued all the way out to the breaking waves, so I donned my booties to make life easy and paddled out to join the handful already in the line up.

DCIM101GOPROIt was quite shallow and this caused the waves to jack up nicely as they hit the reef, but I was on my game this morning and bagged lefts and rights off the peak including this beauty.

I had a great session seeing so many turtles in the water and slaloming along the clean waves. No complaints at all in fact apart from the outrageous drop in on my wave by a German guy, who afterwards said he had seen me but decided to go anyway, then nearly landed on me when he took off. I can’t publish my response to this moronic statement because I know a few children read this blog, but I can tell you the second word of many was “off” and as a consequence of my tirade he stayed very far away from me until getting out a short while later.

I wasn’t sorry to see him go but wasn’t too far behind him, and was delighted to find that Amarapala had bought me some curried rolls for breakfast when I returned to the tuk-tuk.

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Pitcher, Duncan (Gary) and JackFor much of my time during the evenings here in Hikkaduwa I have been hanging out with Pitcher, Duncan and Jack who you see here. Separately they have travelled from Zambia, Malaysia and Dubai to see their old surfing buddies, catch a few waves in the sun and enjoy a few of the local beers.

It is time for them to head home so I was keen to have a surf with the guys, because up until this point it hasn’t happened due to mismatched hangovers.

DCIM100GOPROAfter my two previous days spent surfing my socks off near Weligama I was shattered and knew I was only likely to get in the water for a sunset session on this day, if at all

However the heat of the day caught up with me, which resulted in an unexpected afternoon nap. Sadly this meant that I only got in at the break in front of Mambos Place just as they were getting out. 

WP_20131120_038I had to surf anyway once I was in the water and quickly caught two great rides. I got the picture of me charging along the wall that you see above, but a bit like the surfer in this shot I got greedy and tried to surf it too far in towards the shore.

Practically stepping off my board onto the dry sand, caused my board to crash into the beach immediately smashing my camera off its mount on the board. Thankfully the camera’s housing was undamaged and the float attached to it brought it to the surface and I quickly retrieved it. A small connecting part was broken but I have brought several spares with me for just such an eventuality, so it wasn’t a big deal.

WP_20131116_001The guys looked after my camera whilst I caught one more quick wave under the setting sun before getting out and freshening up. I hadn’t wanted to stay in too long anyway because Saturday night is Mambo’s Beach Party night and just like last week it was banging tunes until 6am.

I enjoyed more of the local Arrack spirit than I probably needed to before throwing in the towel at 4am, with the music still thumping immediately below my bedroom. (Arrak or Arak is fermented from the sap of unopened flowers of a coconut palm and then is distilled to produce the spirit.)

LeopardA night of excess was followed by a day of not a great deal, as demonstrated by one of the leopards that live here in Sri Lanka.

Nothing in fact apart from being invited by the Austrian girl staying in the room next door to join her for breakfast, fixing the huge hole in the deck of my board caused during the camera smashing incident, saying goodbye to the guys, and then at the end of the day failing to collect the tuk-tuk that I was supposed to have hired for myself to drive to beaches tomorrow. (It wouldn’t start so I am getting the reliable local guy to drive me instead.)

Working life may be a shock to the system after such punishing schedules for a year!

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WP_20131121_010After surfing at Temples my driver Amarapala took me further south and on to Weligama so that I could join my friends for breakfast.

I had decided to spend the day with them and stay the night here, so arranged to be collected the following day at the Weligama Bay View where they were all staying on their trip organised by Surf South West.

WP_20131121_016Weligama is a gorgeous beach break which is not too badly affected by the afternoon winds and I had enjoyed a couple of minimal risk sessions here as well as a lovely nap by the time the sun went down.

Sadly the spare battery I had brought for my camera was not charged, so I had to ration the other one’s usage and do not have any pictures of these sessions to share with you.

WP_20131121_020However by the end of the day I had enjoyed four surf sessions, three gorgeous beaches, two green turtles and a coconut in a palm tree, because Christmas is once again on the horizon.

Here is everybody enjoying dinner and victory beers shortly before all practically collapsed with exhaustion. I had surfed for nearly eight hours today and was struggling to keep my eyes open.

DCIM103GOPROCrashing out so early did have its benefits though because it meant I woke up extremely early and was able to paddle out at Weligama having the whole bay to myself for an hour before anybody else was up.

As you can see the water was like a mirror and the glassy sets were coming through regularly, so I was catching as many as I wanted, thrilled to have the whole break to myself.

DCIM104GOPROAs well as some great photographs of this session in the early morning sun, I decided to try and get some video footage with the Gopro because the rides were so smooth and predictable.

I think you can see how much fun I was having in the small waves. Enjoy!

Wave 1Wave 2Wave 3 and Wave 4

 

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DCIM102GOPROAfter one lengthy paddle from Lazy Lefts across to the other side of the little bay I arrived at this break. I discovered later it is called Temples because of the number of shrines you can see close to where the wave breaks.

There wasn’t anybody on this wave but there were so many in the water across the bay so I was a little wary that there might be a reason why that might be the case. E.g. frighteningly shallow reef, machine guns peppering the line up, etc.

DCIM103GOPROOn the way over I had repeatedly stuck my head under the water to have a look around, but couldn’t see anything more hazardous than a flat rock shelf under the breaking waves, and it was at least waist deep, so there was more than enough room for you to fall into.

Satisfied that I was not certainly going to maim myself again, I got stuck right into the action and bagged two gorgeous rights. One of them that you see here I was able to ride for well over a hundred metres. I was having a ball on my forehand turning top to bottom all the way along the rides.

WP_20131121_001All the while that this was going on Amarapala, the lovely guy who was driving me around in his tuk-tuk, had parked up and was sitting on the beach watching me surf.

Each of the waves I bagged at both Lazy Lefts and Temples resulted in much excitement, waving and clapping from him to let me know how good he thought the rides were. I am not used to having a one man balmy army, but quite enjoyed my efforts being appreciated.

Having collected two breaks in one session, and not being at all fond of the crowd now stationed at Lazy Lefts where I had paddled back to, I decided to get out. Catching a last left in I could see how much the tide had dropped because it was now possible to see every one of the rocks that I had been surfing over in blissful ignorance more than two hours earlier and how little water there now was between them and me!

It was perfect timing to call an end to proceedings, and a perfect start to the day.

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DCIM101GOPRONow that the cuts on my back had benefited from a couple of dry days to aid the healing process I needed to get out of Hikkaduwa and find some other breaks. I hired one of the local three wheeled tuk-tuk taxis to ferry me around.

In order to make the most of the waves in the morning before the wind picks up I had arranged for my driver Amarapala to collect me before dawn. We drove south to Midigama, where you see me here, getting ready to paddle out to sea as the sun came up.

WP_20131121_004My first surf of the day was at the wave you see here, which breaks off the rocks and then peels beautifully into the bay.

When I got into the water there were only two others out, one of whom was somebody I have waited a long time to meet. Long term readers of this blog may remember me writing earlier this year about Gavin Jag who had embarked on a similar trip to mine from his native Canada.

DCIM102GOPROOur paths have finally crossed in the last ten days of my adventures abroad and we had arranged to meet up here to enjoy a few waves together. Gavin is on the left of this picture.

That my London based surfing friends were also planning on surfing here was an additional bonus, and Vaughan and Shannon arrived not long after I did with their guide called John. To know so many people in the water and be cheering people into waves made me realise how much I have missed surfing with my friends of late, and perhaps also that the novelty of spending so long on my own is perhaps wearing off.

DCIM103GOPROAs you can see I had so much fun in the cruisey left hand point break. I had caught a hat full of rides before most had got in the water, and was enjoying chatting in the line up and seeing how much Vaughan and Shannon had improved since I last saw them surf.

As more and more bleary eyed surfers started arriving in the line up things got a tad busy for my tastes, and sure enough bad etiquette followed soon after in the water. However I had noticed a right hand wave across the other side of the bay and thought I should investigate it further.

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WP_20131120_010Due to injuring myself yesterday I am staying dry today and thought I would explore the coast road south to see the breaks that I might travel to later in the week.

I still have the moped that I hired for the princely sum of 700 Rupiah per day (Approximately £3.50) so set off early with my first stop being the city of Galle. It was developed by the Portuguese and the Dutch from the sixteenth century onwards.

Galle_lighthouseAs well as the magnificent fortifications surrounding the old town there are a number of colonial style buildings within the fort and this gorgeous lighthouse on the tip of the peninsular.

It is a tourist hot-spot and there are a few too many hawkers trying to get me to buy old coins and such like that I don’t need so I kept moving once inside the fort.

During the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami 80% of Sri Lanka’s entire fishing fleet was lost in the devastation here in Galle, as well as many lives when the waves swept as much as 5km inland.

However the sturdy ramparts protected some of the residents because almost everything inside the old walls was largely unaffected by the giant waves.

WP_20131120_004After my pit stop in Galle I followed the coast road south, over rivers and skirting alongside a few beaches, making mental notes of the surf options as I went along.

I didn’t see many people in the water but as with almost every other break worldwide there is usually an enterprising soul who has set up a surf shop or themed restaurant and/or hostel to help me identify the best places to catch waves.

FishermenThe rocks that you see here would prevent many decent rides, but I had to stop to watch the fishermen perched on top of wooden platforms working their rods to land what they could.

Having gone so far so early in the day I decided to take my little moped onward a bit further, despite the same traffic issues as previous journeys in Sri Lanka.

london-red-busThe reason for this was that three surfing buddies of mine from London are actually staying in Weligama some 50 miles south of Hikkaduwa and I thought I would surprise them a day before we had arranged to meet up.

As usual it is great to have seen familiar faces, but I only stayed for lunch with Shannon, Vaughan and Tanja because tomorrow I will be getting a lift back down this way anyway to join them in the water.

SONY DSCIt was a long trip back to Hikkaduwa in the shorts and vest I was wearing, especially because I had been out in the sun all day.

A thunderstorm also drenched me and made all the roads quite treacherous at the start of the return leg leaving me soaked for the whole journey. It didn’t aid my comfort levels at all about the usual manic activity on the Sri Lankan roads either.

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Hikkaduwa-Gal3There are some great waves available at this spot, which is the break in sight of all the guest houses and hotels here in Hikkaduwa, and it is often busy as a consequence.

The howling winds that ruined everything yesterday had dropped leaving perfect glassy lines approaching the shore, so I didn’t look out of my bedroom window for long before deciding to get out of bed.

DCIM100GOPROIt was still only a short time after dawn and I paddled out just as the sun was rising over the palm trees along the shore behind me, excited to be bagging a new break for the scrapbook.

There were only a handful of surfers out and it wasn’t long before I joined them in the line up, even enjoying a dry hair paddle out.

DCIM100GOPROThe set waves were still pumping but there were long lulls between them, which resulted in everybody being back on the peak by the time the next set would arrive.

It also allowed for a few chats with the surfers in the water from all over the world, but after two dry days and being conscious that the days left on my tour are numbered I just wanted to get stuck into the surf.

DCIM100GOPROThere is a left hand break off the reef but I spent my session having so much fun in the rights.

You can see how smooth the water was in this picture from the session. It made for easy take offs and a playful wall to charge along. I had caught loads before most of the other surfers in town were even out of bed.

WP_20131119_002However on what turned out to be my last wave I was having so much fun that I surfed right into the shallow water and then got absolutely slammed onto the reef.

You can see the results of this experience here, and because I wasn’t wearing my helmet I am just considering myself lucky that it wasn’t my head that got smashed against the reef. (Earlier comments about the reefs here not being dangerous are summarily withdrawn!)

Some of the scrapes are quite deep, but none are life threatening even if they will keep me out of the water for a day or two. If you think they look painful try to imagine what it was like having lime juice rubbed into them by the locals after I had limped my way back to the shore. Owwwwwwwwwwwwww!!!!!!

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WP_20131118_027The wind was howling off the sea today and the surf was getting ruined as a consequence. I didn’t do anything yesterday as a result of my hangover, so felt that I should get out and about rather than stagnate once more.

There really isn’t much to Hikkaduwa where I am staying, and I will soon have bagged all the breaks here so I needed to go and do some exploring. I hired some wheels to help with that, and after a wobbly test ride immediately treated the tyres to some air, which the owner must consider an optional extra.

BusIt was great to be mobile again and I would have enjoyed cruising north up the coast road towards Ambalangoda a lot more were it not for the other drivers and in particular those in charge of the buses who must be insane.

The town is only a half hour ride away and it was largely an enjoyable experience, feeling the spray of the waves that landed on the beaches next to the coast road hitting my face as I drove along. However at times the journey was as close to death as I have ever felt on this trip. This clip of Sri Lankan bus driving that I found online should explain why. It is an accurate portrayal of the roads here.

WP_20131118_039I was in no rush so was happy to go at my own pace letting any buses and tuk-tuks past as soon as they appeared beeping their horns in my mirrors, and took a few breaks to get out of the madness and check the surf available at the beaches I saw.

This scene along side the road was also particularly tranquil, so I couldn’t resist pulling over for a few minutes. I couldn’t find out what it was for though.

WP_20131119_007The reason for my journey to Ambalangoda was because I had read it was a centre of excellence for the making of the devil masks that are used in local ceremonies to ward off sickness and ill fortune.

I wanted one to add to the collection of wooden masks I have acquired around the world and took a tour around one of the few museums here that explain the history of the culture and offered a demonstration of their workshop.

Many of the masks in the shop were brightly coloured, but I liked the look of this one sporting a cobra, in a nod to my recent snake dancing exploits. After a healthy bit of haggling it was soon stashed in the space under the saddle of my moped.

Hikkaduwa SunsetI didn’t hang around long though because I wanted to get home for beers watching another of the amazing sunsets over the sea here.

There was no way I would consider driving after dark. It is horrendous enough during the day!

 

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