The Gem of the Indian Ocean
by Daniel Chafer
From a young age, I’ve been fascinated with this teardrop-shaped island and its endless possibilities…
Sri Lanka was the ideal country to experience and document its unique cultural hidden beauty. The balmy waters of the Indian Ocean and offshore trade winds made the sea conditions flawless for barrels. With a combination of picturesque coastlines and forest scenery in a tropical climate filled with fascinating natural treasures, I found myself surrounded by people that believed happiness was the vital key in life. The sole driving reason behind this journey was to escape real life duties. To pursue the goal of searching for what lies beyond the fences and encouraged to go beyond the horizon! It’s difficult in our modern day living to find yourself, in a destination free from rules or restrictions. So we tend to grasp the guidelines and only live through our Social Media.
We aimed to beat the Christmas crowds and arrive in Sri Lanka at the end of March to catch the last of the South West swell season. After discussing with 4 good friends in different time zones around the world, they too were searching for something different. We came up with a date and all arrived with the anticipation of finding a car that was up for the Sri Lankan road trip. We found “Betsy” not far from Colombo airport. It was an old beat up Jeep that was used in the Civil War that lasted for 18 years between the Tamil Tigers and Sri Lankans. If you’re not used to driving on skinny roads with the potential for head on collisions, then stick to the Tuk Tuks. It was nice to not rely on IPhones or navigational systems to get around, as getting lost with maps lead us to some of our best experiences!
It was time to go searching for waves. That’s what we were here for!
The only plan at this point was to head south to Hikkaduwa. The drive was far from boring, as the windy roads took us through a maze of villages, only to arrive to a tropical paradise of palms along the coastal road. Throughout the next week we experienced such a cultural shock, beauty, kindness and the graciousness from the Sri Lankans. Dinner was always a highlight! Throughout the day most of the Banta in the surf was either about how fast it left your body, or how good the aromatic spice-rich food tasted without eating with a knife or fork! The cuisine typically consisted of Beautiful spices, Fresh seafood, coconut rice, and large bowls of vegetables. The roti’s dipped in their Mango Chutney were to die for!
Pumping waves and picturesque coastlines aren’t the only thingSri Lanka has to offer. Its mountainous interior has amphitheaters of lush green Tea fields that are usually crammed with locals filling bags or hampers of Sri Lanka’s finest tealeaves. Exploring the hillside country never made you feel alone because you would always bump into someone that was always happy to guide you in the right direction.
One of the highlights of our trip was arriving at Coconuts Beach in Midigama one afternoon. We had driven down on to the sand to catch the sunset. While getting out of the car, loads of street dogs surrounded us. We all looked at each other in shock as to what was going on. One of the dogs had something in its mouth but couldn’t see clearly as it was covered in sand. All the locals started coming out of their village to witness a true moment. Baby turtles started hatching from a nest under the car and the dogs where trying to eat them while making their dash to the ocean. With so many people there we were able to form a wall and watch over a 100 turtles take their first step into the Gem of the Indian Ocean.
After covering more then 1000 miles, our journey was coming to an end. It was time to give our lacerated reef cuts a break and head back to Australia. We were unhappy to leave but our memories of the island still get told around a good campfire today!
The best thing about Sri Lanka is it leaves you speechless. Then it turns you into a storyteller.
Words and Photography by Daniel Chafer