July - September 2019
  • Day93

    Finale - Our Final Reflections

    October 5, 2019 in Australia ⋅ ☁️ 15 °C

    Now if there's on thing we can honestly say that we missed more than anything...

    It's Pho.

    We think this Vietnamese creation is photastic, and we were craving it like swollen pregnant ladies the whole time we were away.

    That's one of the trippy things about travel - you can submerge yourself in as many diverse cultures as you want, but you will always end up yearning for the things that are most familiar and comforting to you. The medicinal like properties of Pho were one thing we craved, the chance to eat any cuisine we want at any time, general life routines, and of course our latex Dunlopillo pillows. And our family and friends of course! So believe us when we say we are glad to be home.

    On arriving home after an extended period away, we have received lots of questions such as:
    - What was the best thing you saw?
    - Where was your favourite place?
    - Where would you like to return to one day?
    - Where would you recommend I travel to?
    - What was the weirdest thing you ate?

    The fact is, it was all jam packed full of moments, both good contrasted by the bad, embedded into an exciting package that we always knew wouldn't last forever. There was a beginning, and there was always going to be an end. The end in this case, marks an exciting time in our life that we return to - the next 'phase', or let's get really corny now, the 'next chapter' in the book of A&K Adventures of Life (Kate just rolled her eyes).

    Seriously though, we are so grateful for the opportunity that we have had to explore different parts of the world, for Anthony to finally meet Kate's extended Scottish family, and also in deepening our relationship and understanding of one another. We've had some pretty horrible/intense moments throughout the trip however, which we think we were able to turn around...

    1 - Getting stuck with a non-isle seat on qantas but made up for by the delicious food and free access to snacks throughout the flight (when I could get out of the seat...).
    2 - A thick black hair inside Anthony's satay Katti role from a Bangladeshi NYC food cart. The taste and dire hunger however made him push past it!
    3 - Biting into a breast of chicken and noticing the opacity and funky texture of rawness. But the good news was that Anthony was able to bung it back into the pan with the left over juices - so, disaster was averted!
    4 - The size of the hotel room in London - but this did encourage us to spend as little time there as possible and the size of the bed brought us closer than ever; how romantic!
    5 - Contracting food poisoning while walking the TMB - this truly was a low light of the entire trip. However, finding a luxurious chalet accomodation to recoverer in was a god send, not to mention the half hour nap of delirious dreams had by Anthony in the middle of bustling Chamonix. Plus, we missed the two days of rain - yay!
    6 - Auberge du Mont Blanc and their foul addition of tomato to their rendition of cheese fondue. More like faint rouge goop, with a claggy consistency. At least we met some nice people, played many games of monopoly and were energised the next morning to leave early before the rains began. Kate was also entertained by the odd fellow thrashing out a tune on a set of bagpipes. And Anthony loved the ice cream that looked like the Swiss flag in celebration of Swiss National Day.
    7 - Agreeing to have dinner in the 4 star hotels restaurant in Praiano. The meals were tiny, overpriced and gave Anthony anxiety. Kates positivity and the 4 Euro pizza marinara from the place over the road made for a good turn around. We ended up there for dinner the next night for an absolute value meal!
    8 - More than 4000km later and we had circumnavigated Turkey in more mini buses (with air conditioning that often didn't conquer the 40 degree weather) than we can count on both our hands. Luckily for us, we were able to get travel sickness pills that enabled us to work on the Blog while hurtling up the highway! Plus, we saw a hell of a lot of a large country in a short amount of time.

    The fact of the matter is though, that all of the above are '1st world problems' which we really can't complain about. We are so incredibly lucky here in Australia - the food, diversity, culture, and opportunity. That's not to say we can't improve further (come on Albo!). Travel helps you to remember how lucky you are, by smashing your senses to heightened awareness, coupled with a good old dose of grounding reality.

    3 months, 12 flights and 10 countries later and we sit here in an Air B&B, around the corner from our old one bedroom unit in North Melbourne typing this final post. We've spent the day driving around the inner west searching for a new home, our next home, for our next chapter. While away, we've become experts at researching places together, and supporting one another in our efforts of moving forward. Back home now, not much changes. Kate still rubs Anthony's fat belly after a big meal, and Anthony continues to empathise with Kate after her smelly farts take over a room.

    Remember, life is like a snow globe. Sometimes you've got to just pick it up, and give it a good ole shake!
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  • Day85

    D85 Singapore

    September 27, 2019 in Singapore ⋅ ⛅ 31 °C

    It’s our final full day of travel. We knew it would come around eventually, but man - it still surprised us by how quickly it arrived.

    We had anticipated a day filled with thunderstorms and not much walking, but thanks to sunny (but still hazy) skies we were able to continue our quest to explore Singapore’s CBD.

    We started off with coffee, of course. The coffee scene here is intense, and it’s hard to imagine you’re not in some hipster cafe in Fitzroy. Chye Seng Hiat Hardware was our choice for this mornings brew (thanks to some high rating Google reviews), and 3 coffees and a pastry later we walked on.

    We dropped past a local shopping mall, but the shop we had wanted to look at didn’t open for another hour...when you’ve got limited time even an hour feels like too much to bear! UNICLO and Decathlon stores got our attention (and maybe our cash) in stead, and after abusing some free wifi outside Starbucks we headed towards a thrift shop I had wanted to check out. Turns out an op shop in Asia is just as hectic (if not more so) than an op shop back home - and I managed to find a spare corner where I could hurriedly try on a couple of “must have” items. They both made me look slightly ridiculous so we pressed on.

    By this point it was after lunchtime and sugar levels were below par - an emergency coffee and cake pit stop was facilitated by our friendly local Starbucks!
    We then walked across to St. Andrews cathedral, and sat inside for a few peaceful minutes while parishioners hurried around in the corridors for the afternoon service. The building was a beautiful white washed structure that stuck out very prominently in that part of the city. Lucky for us it was right next door to City Hall train station - we hopped on the next train and headed towards Chinatown!

    By this stage the sun was in full force and we were struggling to keep our sweat levels under control, so we decided to find a lunch spot ASAP. We wandered through Chinatowns Street Food area, which was lined with many others souvenir shops (including a TinTin shop!) but was also crawling with tourists. Plus the added sting of 17% surcharges and tax with your food. I had found a dumpling place nearby on Google, so 10 minutes of walking in circles later we came across one of the older Hawker Centres which held clothing/jewellery/trinket stalls on one level and dozens and dozens of food stalls on the next. You wouldn’t be disappointed here regardless of what you were craving - but since ‘Pig organ soup’ really isn’t our deal we headed for stall #02/135, where I ordered a plate of pan fried dumplings from the friendly owner. The queue built up quickly behind me, and watching the owner work the stoves plus do service, while his wife and son speedily made dumplings before us, made me even more hungry! Within 10 minutes we were carrying out crowned plate of potstickers to a table...and within 3 minutes they were gone. So we got some more, naturally.

    We had tossed around ideas of what we could do for the rest of the day - did we want to end up at a rooftop bar tonight and if so would they accept us in our sweaty state? Should we go to another museum? We fell back on a safe and air-conditioned option; going to be movies. We headed to Raffles Mall, purchased tickets for the new Brad Pitt drama/fantasy ‘Ad Astra’, grabbed some unnecessary popcorn and headed in. 2 hours later and not far from a state of regurgitation and hypothermia, we emerged from the cinema ready to head back to the apartment.

    We decided to walk home, mainly to aid the digestion of the popcorn, but so we could do a full lap of Little India. As Deepavali is fast approaching the streets were lit up with colourful overhead signs and there were people everywhere which all contributed to an exciting atmosphere. Apart from taking numerous photos we didn’t dare stop as we were wary of the black wall of clouds heading our way. We made it back to the apartment and as we are on the 4th floor we could look across the north side of the city and watch the storm....wander off into the distance.

    We continued to digest for an hour and despite our bodies telling us NO, we headed out to Adam’s Corner place for dinner. They’ve fed us so well, and the food has been so consistent and so cheap that it was a no brainer. Yes, it wasn’t the more upmarket scene that we had envisioned for our last dinner, but we were happy to be surrounded by chaos and friendly faces. One masala dosa, a plateful of stir fried greens and another of satay meat skewers, plus two iced teas to wash it down, we were full.

    We cannot believe that we’re heading back to you all tomorrow - we’ve filled our days as much as we could and yet it doesn’t feel like we’ve been away all that long.
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  • Day84

    D84 Singapore

    September 26, 2019 in Singapore ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

    Leaving the air conditioned comfort of our apartment, the sun was already beaming through the Indonesian fire haze currently blanketing the city. The sweat beads began to form immediately. We were in search of a coffee shop close by, that looked super hipster, brewed their own coffee and potentially would provide a light breakfast. Closed for a private function. We backtracked half a block to a minimalist ‘beverage only’ establishment named ‘Apartment’. It’s white washed light wood Nordic styling had us breathing calmly in an instant, as we sipped our pure origin coffees from hand crafted heavy glazed ceramic mugs of pastel shades. It was lovely, our first ‘Melbourne style’ coffees in months. Not quite yet home, but close enough. ‘Think we’re going to like it here Kate!’ I said.

    Continuing south on foot, we reached SunCity Plaza, one of the many many shopping centres that make up the city. We had a wonder through some of the shops, had a quick almond croissant and second coffee then jumped onto the train at Promenade and headed north to the Botanic Gardens.

    Let me just take a minute to say a few things about Singapore and it’s public transport. It’s well designed, safe, clean, air conditioned and incredibly orderly - and I like order! On arrival to a station, the colour coded lines and numbered/named stations make it a breeze to navigate. We went to buy a ticket and the incredibly helpful staff advised us to just use our bankcards....what?! Yes, that’s right, you just tap your card and over the course of the day it’ll work out your fare depending on distances travelled. It’s a great way for irregular and limited use of the system. Now why on earth can’t Myki do that? In fact, why doesn’t every system just use your bank card and figure out using AI the best fare for you, decreasing in cost over time and amount of use.
    Arriving to the platform, there are glass walls to protect you from danger (and lessen the amount of track jumpers), and lines on the floor indicating you to stand to the side to let people in and out of the carriage. It’s so civilised, orderly and it works. No indecent pushing or shoving, just the gentle ebb and flow of people.
    On the train, television screens and lit up iterations of the map indicate which station is approaching, which side the platform will be on, and what features at each destination. It’s so informative! Now should you decide to see this public transport brilliance for yourselves, leave your durian at home. They’re illegal and so is eating and drinking in the system, or a big whopping fine of $500SGD for you.

    I was most impressed at the end of our time at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, when Kate said ‘that’s one of the best gardens I’ve ever seen!’ And she’s got good reason to think that, with it being a UNESCO world heritage site. Founded in 1859, the garden continues to be developed and maintained to an absolutely immaculate level. You see staff up ladders picking out the yellow and dying leaves of vines on arbours. Surely the do that every single day... it was a magical few hours engrossed by tropical wonders. One of the highlights was most certainly the National Orchid Collection. Oh, and we even saw a little snake slither into the ferns; that was cool.

    Here’s an interesting article regarding Singapore’s current status of having 47% of its island designated as green space. A percentage which continues to grow alongside its economy and population, with the conversion of rooftops to green roofs.
    https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/singapore-greenest-city/index.html

    By this stage we had shared a sandwich and drink overlooking Swan Lake, and so were quite peckish. We jumped on a train and headed for Orchard, a huge shopping strip west of downtown. We never actually saw the strip however, because we jumped off the train which deposits you directly from one perfectly air conditioned environwmt and into another - the new ION Orchard shopping centre. Full of glitz and glammer, this is the place we decided to go to a little bakery chain similar to Bread Top and try the Pork Floss bun. It is sweet, yet salty and has the consistency of fairy floss on the outside of its light and fluffy sweetened bread centre. Yum, I’ll be looking out for these at home.

    Back to the station (Orchard Rd will have to wait until our next visit), we headed south to Singapore’s prize attraction - Gardens by The Bay! Approaching the gardens, the Marina Bay Sands looms above with its sci fi, space ship like structure adorning the top of the building. Cascading Bougainvilleas turn the white building shades of pink and purple. It really is quite the architectural feat, and somewhere I’d like to perhaps stay one day!

    The Gardens by The Bay in a nutshell:
    1 Floral Fantasy - the flower exhibit was tacky and not worth the money. The 15 minute 4D show at the end almost made up for it when we had feathers tickle our ankles and sprays of water thrown at our face.
    2 Flower Dome - A huge spectacular of various zones and featuring lots of artwork interspersed amongst the gardens. Unfortunately they included purple Cordylines and hebes in the Australian section...
    3 Cloud Forest - a massive volcanic like mountain covered in foliage. With exception of the queues, it feels more like a green theme park than a showcase of plants. Impressive none the less, and most pleasing at dusk when the lights came on as it appeared as if a Star Trek ship had landed on top of the mount.
    We watched the light show with thousands of others beneath the Supergrove, then ran to a station to AVL the crowds, much like a trip to the footy.

    Arriving at Boon Tat Street we found and ate at the ‘Best Satay’ stall. A few Tiger beers, 20 little skewers of meat and 6 prawns later our bellies were just satisfied. We dunked those delicious meat sticks in spicy, peanut sauce and pallet cleansed with a side if diced cucumber and red onion. Just delicious, tasty and fun to eat. The smoke filled street imbibed our clothes with the sweet and spicy smell.

    19km later on foot, we arrived home to the apartment for a quick shower and cool down.

    Then we ate more. Back to Adam’s Seafood Restaurant, the delicious place around the corner from our apartment, that we went to last night as well. A few more condensed milk iced coffees, parathas, and some greens, and we were ready for our beds. What a spectacular day Singapore provided. We most certainly do like it here...!
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  • Day83

    D83 Sri Lanka to Singapore

    September 25, 2019 in Singapore ⋅ 🌧 28 °C

    So today consisted of:

    - Gathering up and of our stuff and packing all our accumulated items, which was not an easy task!
    - Having a good stretch before sitting down for several hours
    - Waving goodbye to the SL coastline
    - Waiting in the “Online Check-In Luggage Drop Off” point for NO JOKE an hour (Sri Lankan Airlines we are NOT HAPPY CAMPERS!)
    - Flying successfully from Colombo to Singapore (well the pilots did), while enjoying one last curry on the way over
    - Meeting “Uncle Sam” who drove us to our Air BnB and gave us heaps of ideas of what we could do and what we must eat while we’re here!
    - Dropping our stuff and walked around the corner to a 24/7 restaurant and enjoyed eating our weight in noodles...and paratha...and iced coffee...

    And now we sleep.
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  • Day82

    D81-82 Sri Lanka - Negombo

    September 24, 2019 in Sri Lanka ⋅ 🌧 24 °C

    So for the last couple of days our adventuring in and around Negombo has been dictated by the weather. Which, to put it lightly, has been pretty rubbish.

    We managed to sit outside by the pool for an hour yesterday after breakfast, and even had a chance to walk down the street to a Swiss bakery and cafe for a latte lunch and coffee fix. Our hotel, while comfortable, has no idea how to provide coffee (or service for yay matter). We asked for coffee at breakfast and were given a pot of hot water and two sachets of instant Nescafé. I mean, that’s not quite good enough when you advertise a range of coffees on your menu. By mid afternoon, right after Ant left for his in-house Swedish massage, the skies opened and it poured and poured...and continued to pour down until we came down for breakfast this morning! So obviously we enjoyed another meal here last night - wet stinky feet wasn’t our idea of a fun night out.

    Breakfast this morning found us chatting to a couple who live in NSW - they were well retired and very well travelled! They started by asking us where we would rate in SL, despite them being twice before (albeit last time in 1983) but the conversation very quickly moved to British and then Australian politics. Topics of conversation included Brexit, Climate Change, Sco Mo, Education, Health, History, WW1 and POW stories, Western and Developing nation politics. A naturally curious couple, never married or had children, they had clearly spent much time seeing the world after early retirement through forced redundancy from government jobs. Not to mention, spending 3 months a year at their second home, a villa in the south of France.

    Shortly after breakfast the torrential rain eased right up to a sprinkle so we took our chance to walk to the local Food City to get more water supplies, and then took the scenic route back. It’s always nice to walk along the quieter streets as you never know what you’ll come across - a beautiful Catholic Church, ‘St. Sylvester’s’, which had a newly placed life sized statue of the madonna out front to welcome visitors.
    We ducked into a few gift shops on our way back, including a dusty shop that specialised in gems, jewellery but most importantly - general life chit chat. The owner was very enthusiastic and friendly, demanding to know where my parents were from and if we had any children yet! He was doing very well with one grandchild under his belt at age 50 - we congratulated him and slipped away.
    By the time we got back we were soaked in sweat as the sun was peeking its head out and making the streets incredibly humid, so we decided to grab our bathers and jump into the pool. No joke - in the 5 minutes it took us to change and get down to the pool, it was pouring again and they’d closed the pool!
    Anthony had spotted a cafe across the street yesterday and, according to many Google reviews, made exceptional food and, more importantly, coffee. We decided that it was worth getting wet - so we ducked across and enjoyed fresh coffee and pancakes.

    This makes it sound as though our days now are revolving around meals...and you would be correct!

    We had spotted a nice Italian restaurant up the road and decided that was what our bodies were craving for dinner. I’m ashamed to say I was craving Italian on my last night here but Ant reassured me that we’ve eaten our fair share of local cuisine in the last two weeks. I still feel a tad guilty...
    It immediately smelt like a good Italian restaurant, was really well presented and had a nice open kitchen. We ordered a pizza and a plate of homemade ravioli to share; those two dishes plus some house red, creme brûlée and some limoncello on the house made for a very satisfying last meal here. The owner, Roy, was really attentive with everyone and clearly had a passion for good Italian food. He told us he had worked for 10 years in Singapore across multiple restaurants run by Italians and had come home to start up a place of his own. Shame they don’t do breakfast!

    So we bid you all adieu from SL - I’m not quite ready to leave as I know there is so much left to see, but that’s for next time I guess! On reflection, some of the things that have stood out for us while travelling here are:
    - How genuinely interested and eager locals are to make a connection, even simply smiling and saying “Hello.”
    - How few people smoke socially (in comparison to some of the countries we’ve been).
    - That we have drastically slid downhill in our attempt to be environmentally friendly, especially in regards to buying water. It’s a sobering reality that in certain countries, society just doesn’t place this issue as a high priority, and that cutting costs is always more important, especially in smaller businesses.
    - The food here is so unique and different from other Asian countries, even it’s close cousin. The dishes here, and for the most part the curries, are prepared differently and therefore have a certain end result. As coconut milk is king, most dishes that include a ‘gravy’ are quite rich but still remain light - and since you only eat a small amount of each dish you don’t leave feeling ridiculously bloated. We’re feeling more comfortable with chilli again, being so deprived in Europe, and we can’t wait to get home and get cooking!
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  • Day80

    D80 Sri Lanka - Nilavelli to Negombo

    September 22, 2019 in Sri Lanka ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    First things first today - get ourselves into the ocean for one last pre-breakfast swim! Apart from a few fully dressed locals playing in the shallows further along the beach, we had Nilavelli beach to ourselves for about 15 minutes - we are really going to miss the peace and quiet of that beachside town.

    After our last omelette and fruit breakfast combo, we grabbed our bags and hit the road with our driver for the day, who was a local and a friend of Niru. He arrived 30 minutes earlier and considering that he was driving back to Nilavelli, we were happy to get going!

    247km (of probably the best roads we’ve experienced in Sri Lanka) later...we arrived in Negombo! Google Maps kept up in good stead right up until she tried to get us to drive down a train track. So the driver had to improvise a little. He was a great driver, a good balance of safe and risky. And no friendly bottle of booze in the front seat - yay!

    Our hotel is not exactly what we expected - I’ll paint a picture for you. You enter the 3 storey building and the bottom floor featuring the bar/kitchen area is painted like you’re underwater.
    We were shown to our room, which in itself is a 2 storey space - storage and bathroom downstairs and chill out space/bedroom and balcony upstairs. The view to Negombo beach is not too shabby either as we’re on the beach esplanade, so we’re happy!

    This afternoon and evening was spent wandering up and down the local strip, sharing pizza for lunch, stocking up on water, snacks and antiseptic mouthwash for Ant. The poor guy has broken out in no less than 10 ulcers (no joke) in his mouth - he is blaming the box of crackers we ate for lunch the other day. Whatever the source, they look bloody painful so fingers crossed this helps!

    Because it’s a Sunday, much like a pint-sized Galle Face Green in Colombo, most of the locals flocked to the beachside to fly kites and devour street snacks from vendors. We even saw a grown man being led around on probably the smallest horse I’ve seen in awhile. We did laugh to ourselves, I’m not going to lie. Even the locals giggled as he trotted by.

    We decided to have dinner tonight at the hotel restaurant ‘Seafood Embassy’ because it’s nice to support their business, plus an in-house 15% discount doesn’t hurt. Anthony is sticking to bland foods and ordered a European-style chicken dish [autocorrect believes he ate chicken dogs] with veggies and mashed potatoes. I had the traditional fish curry with rice and several sides...I think they may have overestimated the size of my stomach but I did my best guys! The curry was tasty but REALLY spicy - I’ll let you know how I fare tomorrow.
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  • Day79

    D77-79 Sri Lanka - Nilavelli

    September 21, 2019 in Sri Lanka ⋅ ⛅ 31 °C

    So the past three days were big...get ready for this post, cos it’s going to be a whopper. Alright, not really: we’ve done nothing. It’s been pretty great.

    Well not nothing as such - we’ve swum, sunbathed, gone for long [romantic] walks on the beach, eaten food, played numerous rounds of monopoly cards, napped, read, listened to podcasts and music, and then done it all over again. For three days. I feel like we have spent two and half months travelling and are finally on holidays, and it’s just what we both need before reality strikes in a week’s time.

    Our three days in a nutshell:

    Day 1
    Kate got a thorn from a screw pine stuck in her foot, so while she sat on a rock I walked back to the villa to get tweezers and got sunburnt on one shoulder.
    We discovered Leo’s restaurant a bit further up the beach and it quickly became a favourite, having eaten most lunches (except for when we snacked on bananas) and all dinners there since. Leo’s is owned by a local man who is married to a French lady, and they have a little four year old boy who is the funniest kid ever.

    Day 2
    Ate a nice veggie curry at Leo’s for lunch, enjoyed a bit more beach time, had a group of stray dogs proudly run up to us and proceed to have sex next to my deck chair. The local groundskeeper came over and the posse ran on up the beach, stopping only for the occasional enthusiast hump.
    We returned to Leo’s for dinner (fish for me, calamari for Katey) then headed back to the dark beach for our 10 minute walk home. While watching an epic lightening storm out in the ocean, within minutes we heard barking. ‘Quick, turn your phone torch on,’ and low and behold, it was the hyper sexual dogs from earlier in the day, still going at it! It was like the Blair Witch project with us trying everything to deter the dogs from following us, lit by a shaky iPhone torch. Bark, growl, ‘throw some sand!’, ‘it’s not working, turn the light off and walk in the water’, ‘argh they’re coming!’, ‘grrrrrr, get outta here!’, bark, whimper, growl, hump...To be honest, the poor female was probably looking for someone to save her!
    We found the lights on the beach indicating we’d arrived at our villa. We beelined towards it with the dogs on tail. Luckily they saw another couple from the villa watching the storm and headed towards them, providing us with a break to head to our room. The poor couple behind us jumped up and headed quickly towards their villa, probably put out that their romantic night had been cut short! The electrical storm was the highlight here...

    Day 3
    Much the same as day 1. Again, a stray dog ran up to us, this time by himself. It was baking hot so he got on under Kate’s deck chair, dug a bit of a hole and stayed there. He followed us back to our villa, sat outside for about two hours then latched himself into the other couple. We call him Billy.

    Our beach journey of relaxation continues tomorrow when we head to Negumbo in preparation for our departure.
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  • Day76

    D76 Sri Lanka - Nilavelli Beach

    September 18, 2019 in Sri Lanka ⋅ ⛅ 32 °C

    As we were standing in the driveway of our hotel complex yesterday afternoon looking for a potential driver on Google, a young guy pulled up and said “Do you want something?”. We’re getting used to automatically saying “No, thank you!”, but before I could get that out Ant said “Are you a driver?”. In a nutshell we’ve secured ourselves a driver from here to Nilavelli for a reasonable price - we’d be saving so much if we were taking public buses...but we’d be risking losing our nerves and our stuff in the process!

    After a pre-breakfast walk and a “near death experience” (Ant was almost taken out by a falling tree branch), we ate our last servings of hoppers and fresh fruit before running back to our room to pack. The bags are pushing their limits - they’re doing us proud!
    We checked out and collected yet another business card with the attached request for a Trip Advisor review. It’s becoming a full time job I tell you, good thing I love it...
    Our driver was bang on time and after we stopped at an ATM (for us) and a grocery store (for him), we headed down the road. Thankfully it was only 120km to Nilavelli and the roads were supposedly in really good condition in comparison to what we’ve been travelling on so far. Great news if that meant less time in a car!

    About half an hour into the journey and both of us had suspicions that what he was drinking wasn’t orange juice. A quick google of the brand and it soon became clear that his breakfast beverage of choice started with B and ended with RANDY. It’s becoming clear that having a bottle of booze next to the driver’s seat is not abnormal (as we’ve noticed the last 2 days with seperate drivers), and the local authorities don’t seem overly concerned about it (having been pulled over for a license and insurance check, with the bottle in plain view). But whatever, it’s just drinking and driving...

    We got here in one piece, I was so relieved that I nearly kissed the ground! I think it’s a firm NO to his offer to drive us back to Negombo in a few days time.

    We were shown straight to our villa, despite being a few hours early, and met one of the workers, Niru. Apparently the owner Amal, who we’ve read is a great host and an AMAZING cook, is in hospital so unfortunately we won’t be meeting him. But the three guys running the show while he’s gone all seem lovely, and there are only 3 villas which means it’ll be nice and quiet.

    About 30 minutes after we arrived we sat outside on our small verandah and before we knew it the heavens opened up and for the next couple of hours it rained. And rained. And rained. And we had no food. So the minute it stopped we quickly ran 2 minutes down the beach to ‘That’s Why’ beach shack/restaurant/cool dudes hangout, where Niru had said to try for food. I was immediately complimented on my hair by my male hair twin, so I was happy - the food was equally as soul warming!

    For the rest of the afternoon we walked northward up the beach and found a local supermarket where we stocked up on emergency snacks, then scored a lift home from Niru in his tuk tuk!
    The sun had finally appeared so we made ourselves comfy on the sun chairs that the villa supply (we are right on the beach!) and it didn’t take long for us to get into the water. We’re not going to lie - it was pretty nerve wracking as the waves were huge, the drag back out was really strong and it would’ve been too easy for either one of us to have been carried out. We played it safe like the others around and stuck in the shallows, but that didn’t stop me carting 2 kg of sand back off the beach in my bather bottoms!

    We went back to the same place for dinner and it was pretty disappointing - the only beer was the bog standard Lion (which we’re both sick of) and the fish was over cooked. Maybe we’re getting picky, but it wasn’t super cheap and we expected more from a place that is apparently so popular. Ah well, you live and learn!

    We ended the night watching YouTube videos - keeping it real everyone!
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  • Day75

    D75 Sri Lanka - Habarana

    September 17, 2019 in Sri Lanka ⋅ ⛅ 32 °C

    Up at 6am, and my first thought was ‘how on earth am I going to get back into the routine for work’. Pushing that thought of the trip ending aside, we showered, ate more delicious breakfast buffet (egg hoppers) and negotiated a tuk tuk for the morning adventures. Ananda’s teeth were stained red and black from chewing the addictive beetle nut. Flying along, a quick head tilt saw a stream of dark liquid spew from his mouth. Delightful.

    Ananda was a great driver, taking the time to point out buddhist monuments on the roadside, he gave us a couple of fallen woodapple fruit (incredibly sour and madd my mouth floury) and pointed out wild peacocks and black faced monkeys as we whizzed by at a peak speed of 43km/h.

    We arrived at Sigiriya (Lion Rock), Ananda escorted us to the foreigner ticket booth (it’s exxy... $30usd each) and we set off toward the rock protruding from the surrounding landscape. Built by a king in about the 5th century as a fortified palace adorned with frescos, it is now a key tourist destination in Sri Lanka’s central ‘dry zone’. It features steep, narrow steps all the way up, dropping onto steel pathways bolted into the side of the rock. Halfway up, as you hit a vertical incline, you come across two giant lions feet, part of a grande entrance of a lions face, giving rise to the rock’s name.
    There were signs leading up to this point indicating that wasp nests were in the area, and that should a wasp attack occur, no refund would be provided. How reassuring! Hanging high on the rocky face lay numerous large nests. We walked up the stairs on our tippy toes in an attempt as to not scare them.
    On the very top of the rock, we sat down to soak up the views. A minute later we hear this French lady scream towards a yoinks posing Korean girl, “Stop! I’ve told you before (with a tone of ‘you idiot’), there is a snake.” We spotted the thin, long snake with a green stripe down it’s back sitting on the edge of a set of stairs.
    On our return to the tourist car park where our driver would be waiting, there was a snake charmer throwing (ok, placing) huge pythons onto unsuspecting tourists’ shoulders. He also had three cobras in their little wicker circular houses.

    After our hike up to the top, we asked our driver if he could take us to the neighbouring rock, which is only $4 or so to hike up. He agreed, at no additional charge. This tuk tuk was a bargain!
    The hike up was a little tougher, more polluted and a far less travelled trail. At the entrance there is a huge decorated leaning Buddha about 5m long inside what was a rocky overhang before it was bricked in. Along the way there was a second leaning Buddha, this one much larger and more impressive, measuring some 20m long. The trail then became a rock hopping, shimmying and climbing adventure to the summit, which was a large granite scalp with a few patches of vegetation. The plants were interesting;
    succulents that one would buy as a house plant back in Australia.

    Reaching the bottom, we grabbed ourselves and our driver a coke, then returned to the hotel for an afternoon by the pool.
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  • Day74

    D74 Sri Lanka - Habarana

    September 16, 2019 in Sri Lanka ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    After a goodbye breakfast with Suwadi and Dean, we booked this afternoon’s private safari to Kaudulla National Park.

    A relaxing swim in the interestingly shaped pool at the resort, and before we knew it, we had reached our safari departure time of 2pm.

    While the safari was expensive, where else on earth can you witness large herds of more than 30 elephants? It was a humbling experience to say the least and not one we will forget in a hurry. The highlight of our visit was being trumpeted at by an angry female as she threw dust into the air with her trunk, at a point when we’d clearly outstayed our welcome with her herd. Only minutes later we watched a reasonably sized bull chase another Jeep full of tourists - hilarious.

    We capped off the day with an exceptional buffet. There were so many options, that you’d need a few days to cover everything! The pictures of my 3 courses will hopefully do it justice.
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