Month 13: Sri Lanka

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While I was in the south of India I started thinking that since I was so close to Sri Lanka (and who knows when this would happen again, I should go…) Fast forward to when I arrived in Sri Lanka (A former British Colony next to India) without a plan, with the hopes of just getting lots of surfing done and exploring the country.

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A passport and a dream!
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When I arrived I took the bus into the city and ended up at this hostel after not finding the one I was looking for. I had a bed in the dorm, but went I got back that night after exploring someone was in my bed so I went down to reception to tell them, and they ended up taking me up to this air conditioned apartment on the top floor. Thank you person who took my dorm bed!
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Some buddha statues with the Colombo skyline, as seen from a temple in the middle of a lake. Unlike India that is mostly Hindi, Sri Lanka is buddhist. Although they also have about a 15% muslim population.
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Another temple and museum I visited and enjoyed
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This is a pretty funny story. I´m on my own at the end of the day of sightseeing and walking back to the hostel to see if there are other people to go to dinner with and as I´m walking I notice this girl walking along next to me the same direction, so I said hello. After 2 minutes of small talk as we´re walking she said she´s going to dinner as its her last night, and asked if I´d like to join her, so I did, and we had a very nice dinner together.

I got extremely lucky that my friends Ellen and Vic, who I had met in Varkala (India) found out I was in Sri Lanka and told me to come down to a place called Midigama. They said there was a nice group of people and good surf, so I might as well start there. After giving it some thought, I said why not and only explored Colombo for a day, before taking the train down to Midigama to meet them.

As I said, I was really lucky, because when I arrived I found that beside it being paradise as the guesthouse (Rams Surf Beach) is right on the beach and in front of a famous surf spot, with beautiful beaches and nature all around, there were an amazing group of people that became my family in Sri Lanka.

The main reason anyone would go to Midigama is to surf, as it isn’t even a town…it’s more like a village with a few good surf breaks, so the people who go there are there to surf, and that says a lot about the people. The people were down to earth, good hearted people who love the thrill and search to ride waves.

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The beach and social area of the great guesthouse, Rams.
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Cucumber juice….pretty good!
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One day I´m trying to take an afternoon nap (sunrise surfing limits the sleep), and it was the guy who ran the guesthouse telling me he made a mistake and didn´t hold a room for a girl who called last week asking for one, and asked me if I didn´t mind sharing… So, I shared my room with a nice German girl Jenny for a few days.
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Some card games were played, the same game my Israeli friends had taught me in India.
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Twice I went to an awesome drum circle jam session where people just start playing together and its beautiful to feed off of each others energy and creativity.
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My friends Seb and Wiggy feeding each other. I laughed a lot with all the great people we hung out with.

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My friends Vic and Ellen, to whom I owe them inviting me and introducing me to this little paradise and family.
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Very good guy Maksimilien

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Some beach bums hitting Matara´s pavement barefoot

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I went to Matara out of curiosity as as my friends were leaving and asked if I wanted to join, I did last minute. Unfortunately as we were leaving the city a Tuk Tuk (Rikshaw) stopped rather abruptly in front of me and I ended up bumping into him from behind and Seb and I fell of the bike at a busy intersection, but luckily nothing happened to anyone involved. The only thing was that seconds after we had around 20 people around us including police that made me nervous, but it all worked out and off we were in minutes.
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Getting back into sketching, and feels good

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We had a great view of where some of the islands best surfers showed their stuff.
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Tommer….great guy who can do just about anything who spent over 3 months surfing in this place. It is rare to get a picture of him not giving you the finger, or of him playing an instrument.
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One of the rooms and boards I used while I was there.
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In India I bought some garbage bags to be able to collect some of the garbage you sometimes see in nature, and one day I went out to pick up some garbage and some other joined and we got 6 full garbage bags off the beach 🙂
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Such a nice atmosphere.
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Getting better with the handstands.
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One night a friend decided we should throw a Latin dance party at the guesthouse, which ended up being a lot of fun, and here is my friend Wiggy perhaps with the most impressive dance of the night. With a chair.
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Both my friends Vic and Ellen are yoga instructors and also practiced AcroYoga, and they were kind enough to usually lead a yoga class a day for those of us who wanted to join to hop in. It felt great getting back into it.
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This is a good portion of the original Rams fam….such a good group

Some details of life at Midigama and our guesthouse were:

Going to bed early (before or around midnight) and waking up early to be in the water to catch waves before sunrise or shortly after.

More reflecting and soul searching….meditation, yoga, juggling, drawing, practicing mini djembe drum.

Looking up at the amazing stars and moon from the beach right in front of our guesthouse, sunsets were also unbelievable.

Good conversation and gatherings and singing around a guitar or music…not really late nights of partying, with some occasional party nights.

Day trips on scooter or bus to villages along the coast like Galle, Unawatuna, Ahangama, Mirissa, Weligama, and Matara.

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Day trip to Unawatuna with some friends.

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Hand stands were practiced.
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In Galle, some school boys doing some dancing and singing.

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If you don´t care about Surfing you can skip this part, if not keep reading….

Surfing is the most humbling activity that I have found yet. Although I first learned to surf a long time ago, the last few years I have been trying to surf when the opportunity arises and I’ve tried to get better, as standing on a board is not that tough, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Learning to understand the waves and paddling past where the waves break (exhausting and frustrating as sometimes up to 45 minutes battling the sea just to be able to get to where you need to be ), and then when you finally are past the break of the waves, then they are far from predictable (to a beginner like me) and it’s hard work to be at the right place at the right time, which is key! So LOTS and LOTS of paddling (using your arms to move around and to generate some momentum).

While in Midigama I ended up surfing a few breaks like Lazy Left, Lazy Right, Plantation, Devils Rock, and Kabalana which were all nice, and it felt strange surfing over reef where if you fell you’d sometimes feel it!

Watching the most stunning sunsets with the spectacular colors reflecting off of the water as I sat on my surfboard at one with the ocean and sometimes sea turtles and other surfers.

At times really frustrated from spending up to 2 hours in the water and not being able to get a good ride on any of the waves I managed to stand up on.

2 sessions a day…in the morning and afternoon surf sessions trying to get as much surfing done as possible and better!

Yelling out in delight after catching a good ride and finding a big sea turtle 2 meters away either being startled by my yelling, or coming up to celebrate with me!

Getting pummeled by the ocean at times and feeling the force of the ocean when it decides to show you how small and insignificant you are and you learn to not fight against the ocean, but try to flow with what it throws your way. You learn to be smarter and strategic, or else you are DONE!

It was hard to pull myself away from Midigama and the amazing group we had at Rams, but one morning I took off to explore and hopped on a train around 7 hours (parts with beautiful views through the mountains) to get to Kandy,  that is beautiful as it is surrounded by mountains and beautiful landscapes and vegetation and even has a nice lake in the middle and temples around.

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I was going to take the train with a few friends who wanted to go exploring that day, but when the TukTuk came to pick us up at 4:30 half the people had not gone to sleep partying that night or bailed on the mission, so I took off anyway and saw the sunrise while waiting for the train station to open to take the first train out.

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Taking the train in Sri Lanka is a nice experience, especially in the mountains when you get some beautiful views and can hang out the windows or doors.
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When I arrived in Kandy, it felt great to feel like I was in Sri Lanka again, as the downside to being at Midigama and the beach is that it could be anywhere in the world.
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Stunning sunset on my first day in Kandy as I was walking around this big lake in the middle of the city…and like the ducks at the bottom, the trees around the lake are FULL of SO MANY birds and life.

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My friend Abdullah whom I met while I stopped at this cafe to eat something and do some drawing. We shared some good conversation.

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One day I was walking by the big buddhist temple, and there was a ceremony so I ended up renting these grandma clothes to cover my tank top and shorts and went in to explore and check it out and it was beautiful. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_of_the_Tooth
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I enjoyed exploring Kandy, where I spent around 5 days walking a lot and trying to get myself lost to find interesting things and sights.

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Something I’ve noticed is that in India and Sri Lanka they often use newspaper or random paper to wrap your snacks or even as napkins here. I like this from an environmental standpoint, just hope it is hygienic!
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Crows seem to be everywhere in India and Sri Lanka and you can almost always hear them

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One day I sat by the lake to people watch and do some reading and drawing, and this man with a monkey and cobra was performing for some money…I felt bad for all of them as I think each of the 3 actors would rather be doing something else. Especially the 2 that didn´t have a say in it.

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I also made it up to Sigiriya, further up north in Sri Lanka. It used to be a rock fortress overlooking amazing landscapes.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sigiriya
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Hiking down from another rock we climbed to get the view that we did, as we didn´t pay the 30 dollars it costs to go up to the top of the Sigiriya Rock.
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And on the way back from Sigiriya we passed a river, and at first had no idea we had just seen as it looked like a dead elephant in the river….But as we stopped and went back to see we found this beautiful elephant playing and relaxing in the water between being made to carry tourists. His hind leg was tied, and the man who came for him later had a big sharp stick he uses to control the elephant 🙁 However, it was nice to see him have time to play and relax a little bit in the river, this made me happy.
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At the hostel I stayed at in Kandy there were markers and space to write things, so I had to do this one.
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Beautiful lake and view from the middle of the city.
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A giant reclining buddha on the way up to the top of the rock.

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Kottu, is perhaps my favorite dish in Sri Lanka. It is made by shredding Roti bread into tiny little pieces. Then it is mixed with whatever you choose, like here vegetables, eggs and cheese. It is tasty and filling.
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Image from a temple I stumbled into in Kandy.
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Busy busy new years crowds at train station

Then my lack of planning and a bit of bad timing found me traveling in the mountains where almost everyone in Sri Lanka who can, goes…to the mountains where things got really crowded and accommodation started becoming scarce and expensive and people gave me incorrect information and I wasn’t able to get to a mountain I wanted to climb (Adams Peak) or to Nuwara Eliya and Ella that are supposed to be beautiful , so then I did something I loved. I exercised something I was fortunate to have. A choice! I decided to change my plans and just go back to Midigama to get more surfing done in a place I knew I already loved, and spent one more week there surfing and enjoying it.

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Although, I had always seen the skatepark (Bowl or empty swimming pool space) next to the guesthouse, I never went assuming (Never assume anything!!) that you had to take your own board. But then people told me you can borrow one there, so in my last few days in Midigama I went on a few skate sessions, which were fun!
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I didn´t even know Lassie AKA foxy, was pregnant and one morning came out to find she had dug a big hole and given birth to 4 little puppies. Here they are at 1 day old!
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Before this I had never skated in a skate park or pool or anything like this, so it was very new to me (not to mention around 20 years since I last skateboarded!), but within minutes I was getting the hang of it, and enjoying some nice falls 🙂
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My friend Moshe repairing a drum. I also ran into him in Kandy which was a nice coincidence. He leads the drum circle once a week and has some serious djembe drum skills and has even more amazing energy. He’s also inspiration because he says he’s only played for 7 months and is amazing, so I’m going to use him as inspiration and practice!
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Some of the later days crew at Rams
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Cricket on the beach, as it is is really popular and people play it everywhere!
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The sun is strong!
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My wrists STILL hurt from a few of the nice falls, but I had such a good time!
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Not a bad place to have your breakfast, right!?
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I´ve been taking my mini djembe drum that I bought in Indonesia almost a year ago (but have not really used) out more as I´m starting to practice as that´s the only way I´ll learn.
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Do you see the guy resting in that space at the temple on his smartphone!? This was near Galle.
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I had the pleasure of spending Sri Lankan New Years with a the local family my friend Malou stayed with and one of their customs is to cook this coconut milk by wood in the middle of their home.
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On a day trip to the town of Mirissa, I came across this little guy.
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There were some big waves crashing on those rocks where I was doing a handstand, and was lucky not to get knocked off. It was my first time trying it on rocks like this, and I passed the test.

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Sad and pathetic skin whitening products sold all over 🙁 I even noticed after using a soap I bought that it was whitening! Anyone who knows me knows that the last thing I want to do is get lighter!!

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A beautiful dinner we had at Lala´s where we ended up being 20 of us. The best part I think every single one of us were traveling alone.
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A different angle of the beach in front of Rams guesthouse and the break.
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On the bus with my friend Malou
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Walking around the town of Weligama.
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One afternoon that my leash snapped (rope that is tied between you and your board) so I went back to the beach with my camera and ran into my friend who runs the shop I usually buy a coconut from every day, and took this portrait of him and his kids.

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How insanely beautiful is this sunset!? The crazy thing is I saw many like this, including one that was even more colorful and a rainbow on the other side that I enjoyed from the water while surfing. It was spectacular how the water looked with all these oranges and bright colors reflected on it.
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My friend Michael with some nice skating.

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Pic of some of the Colonial buildings in Fort Galle, the old historic center from my second day-trip there.
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I managed to not have a scooter most of my time in Midigama and it was fine, but my last few days there I rented a scooter (with surf rack of course) and it felt great to be able to go find the best waves and explore whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.
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My last surf session in Sri Lanka, and the day of the best sunset… I had no idea someone was taking this picture and I was coming out of the water and ran into my friend Mariano from Uruguay who I had met on the train on the way to Kandy, and had told him if he loved surfing he had to come to Midigama. And here we were running into each other.
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Has anyone ever handed you a bag of money?…as I´m saying goodbye to someone at the guesthouse a guy I hadn’t even met sitting with my friend asks where I´m heading. When I say India, he says he has a lot of Indian Rupees left, but I tell him I´m leaving right then and don´t have money to give him for them as I have to go to ATM, and he says, he can´t use them anywhere else and just gives me this bag full of cash. It ended up being like $25 bucks…what a nice guy, and how about my luck!? I will have to pay it forward at some point!
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OK this one is a little embarrassing…As I arrive at the airport for my flight the person checking the ticket at the entrance points out that my flight was…the next day. So, I foolishly left paradise one day early, but at least was a day early, not a day late. Here having a beer with my friend Mitch, whom I shared a ride from Midigama with before his flight (his was that day!)

After so much exploring the last almost 14 months, My Sri Lanka trip ended up becoming a  surf holiday. I explored a bit, but not as much as usual as I  gave myself the opportunity to get better at something that I’ve always wanted. I spent almost all of my time in Midigama where I surfed by far the most I had ever surfed, and on top of it, I was in an island beach paradise surrounded by good people giving me hugs and love and we all shared laughs and good times.

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More info about Sri Lanka and it’s 30 year Civil War that ended in 2009.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sri_Lankan_Civil_War

 

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