After a busy schedule of sightseeing we felt it was time to head south and catch some sun on Sri Lankas gorgeous coast. We thought from Maskeliya it would be easy enough to get down to Tangelle as there was a direct road that said driving time would be around 5 hours. Problem was, despite the road being there (and apparently being a road that went through very beautiful countryside) no buses journeyed this way with any frequency and therefore we would have to have a travel day of 12 hours, travelling first to Colombo and then down around the coast to Tangelle. It was not ideal, but we figured it was better to go the long way than finding we got stuck trying the other.
The first few hours of the bus ride from Maskeliya towards Colombo were stunning. Our bus wound through the mountains and had us taking in vistas of tea plantations, forests, lakes and small villages. The crisp mountain air carried the smells of the trees and flowers into the bus and the whole journey felt peaceful. After around 3 hours we started out decent and the cool, crisp air became once again humid and the forests and lakes melted into palm trees and large, noisy towns. We bumped along for another few hours until we hit Colombo.
Colombo was a nightmare. Our bus happened to hit the city centre just as school was being let out. We sat completely stuck in the maddening traffic for over an hour before our driver was able to slowly inch his way towards the bus depot. We arrived at the depot an hour later than expected, but a bus to Tangelle was ready and waiting when we got there, so at least our wait to continue the journey was minimal. We quickly brought some snacks and more water before the second leg of our journey started.
The bus ride to Tangelle took around 6 hours. While it was long it was made better by the fact that the route this journey followed hugged the coast the whole way, so our views were picturesque almost the entire way there.
Tangelle is a sleepy little surf town full of guest houses and cute bars. It has the feel of a town that is ready for an influx of younger travellers, but is yet to receive them. Almost any bar you chose to go to was empty except for maybe one or two other small groups yet the music was always pumping and a disco light tried to beckon parsons to dance.
Our days in Tangelle pretty much consisted of going into town and getting breakfast from the local bakery, stocking up on water and then heading to the beach to swim and read. It was lovely to be able to take some time to unwind, as until Tangelle it hadn’t really felt like a holiday. We also made a habit of stopping in at the Bus bar, a little bar that three local lads had set up at the end of the Tangelle beach strip. With chilled vibes, cheap(ish) drinks and locals happy to chat with you it was a nice change from the other bars where music and lights were sometimes a little too much.
From Tangelle we headed back towards Colombo around three hours to the town of Hikkaduwa. Hikkaduwa seemed to be happening at a much quicker pace than Tangelle and had a diverse mix of younger and older tourists. The bars here were a little busier, but there was still a calm air to most of them. Hikkaduwa saw us pretty much repeat our behaviour from Tangelle, with lazy beach days full of swimming, reading and some strolling taking up most of our time.
On the first ‘stroll’ we took, we were lucky enough to stumble upon sea turtles!!
The beautiful creatures were swimming around in the shallows on the far end of our 5km stretch of beach and happily gulping down seaweed from tourists. It didn’t seem that anyone was in charge or that this was a paid thing, so I waded in and watched them swim around my feet. We decided to head back there at the same time the next day armed with a camera and seaweed to capture this amazing site.
I was absolutely taken by these turtles. They were large, gentle creatures who seemed to have no fear of us and willingly came to the same spot each night to get their dinner. It was especially nice as there was no one controlling this behaviour. Each night we went everyone seemed surprised that they were there and no one was cashing in on this priceless experience.
We also took a half day trip to Galle from Hikkaduwa to break up our beach and bar hangs. From Hikkaduwa, Galle is a short 30 min bus ride. Galle is famous for its Dutch fort, a huge structure that encases much of the town. Once a stronghold for them against the English, the fort was well built and has been preserved brilliantly. Half a day of exploring this town was perfect and we would recommend staying somewhere like Hikkaduwa and busing in, as Galle is rather expensive to stay in.
In Hikkaduwa we found the cheapest place to drink was by far a bar called ‘The drunken monkey’, with 750ml beers only 350 ruppees. Other bars were charging 350 rupees for a beer half that size. And the bar ‘Chill Space’ seemed to be the place to be on a Saturday night. Drinks were a little expensive but the vibes were good and it was nice a party a bit after a relatively quite few weeks.
After Hikkaduwa we spent a night in Colombo to be closer to our flight. We stayed at Colombo Jumbo city hostel and it was the first properly set up hostel we had been in in Sri Lanka. We didn’t do any sight seeing here and instead spent the night organising ourselves for our next stop… INDIA.