It’s no secret that I consider our decision to start 20YH one of the best choices we made before leaving on our Big Trip. The site hasn’t always been easy to maintain and has lent itself to frustration and become a source of stress on more than one occasion, but on the whole, it’s been a really rewarding and fulfilling creative endeavor. We decided pretty early on that we would forgo trinkets and tchotchkes in favor of journal entries and copious photographs, most of which we ultimately package as stories here. As much as we were motivated to share our adventures with our readers, we also had selfish incentives: we knew that once our trip was over we would want something tangible to look back on, to remind us of all that we have accomplished, all of the cool experiences we have had along the way, all of the fantastic places we have had the good fortune to visit. Like a virtual pinch, the site reminds us the last two years DID happen and weren’t just the best dream ever.
More often than not, it has been an intense joy to revisit destinations through our photos and reflect back on our time there so that we can share them with you. But with Sri Lanka it’s all been rather bittersweet and the blog has felt a bit like a double-edged sword. As much as I have loved revisiting our beautiful adventures weaving our way through the island, it has also been really hard to look back on our halcyon days there simply because the country is painfully pretty, and each post we write is a reminder of what we are missing.
I’m not entirely sure why we decided to go to Arugam Bay in the first place. Sri Lanka’s east coast is not nearly as well traveled as its west, but Arugam Bay is the exception: known for its phenomenal breakers, it is a world-class surf destination and attracts surfers from all over the globe.
However, we are not surfers. Not even a little bit. My balance is notoriously poor on dry land, and Tony is sufficiently ambivalent about open water when he’s not wearing a BCD and an oxygen tank, that Arugam wasn’t an obvious fit or love-at-first-sight match for either of us.
Two years later… we’re back in Toronto!
It’s been a week of milestones here at 20 Years Hence: Thursday marked six weeks back home following our Big Trip (How did that happen???), and today is the two year anniversary of the date we first left on our travels (How did that happen?!?).
Given that we’re celebrating the latter concurrent with the former, I anticipated that I’d be looking back on that fateful day when we boarded a plane to Tokyo, Japan with a pang of wistfulness and a splash of mourning. After all, we’re long-term travelers who are, at present, not really traveling. By the looks of it, our Big Trip is over and now we’re home. Do we really want to break out the party hats for that?
We knew the rains would come for us, it was only a matter of time.
Though there are plenty of perks to traveling in shoulder season, the weather (which is notoriously fickle in Sri Lanka at any time of year) is generally not one of them. With each passing day as we puttered along the coastline of this beautiful country, glorying in the clear skies and sunny days, we sent thanks up to the heavens all the while wondering when the weather would turn and we would finally put King Tuk’s roof to good use.
The rains that put a damper on our leopard safari at Yala, followed us as we turned our wheels northward and headed away from Sri Lanka’s gorgeous beaches and into the heart of its hill country, Ella. The roar of the surf was replaced by the crash of waterfalls, rice paddies gave way to undulating hills blanketed by leafy green tea plantations; in a matter of hours, we were in a whole new world, the landscape totally changed but no less beautiful. The blue skies faded to a silvery gray and as we wound our way higher and higher, the clouds seemed to float down around us as a fine mist lightly swirled about and enveloped us in a foggy embrace. The closer we came to Ella, the more it felt like we were burrowing our way into a fairy tale… or maybe an Agatha Christie novel.
Like every traveler to Tissamaharma (a name that trips up the tongue rather than rolls off of it, resulting in it being more frequently referred to by its diminutive, Tissa), we trundled into town to see about some cats.
Positioned such as it is, Tissa acts as the staging post and gateway to Yala National Park. Though Yala is Sri Lanka’s second largest wildlife sanctuary (it spans nearly 1000 square kilometers), it is the country’s most popular animal attraction, in large part because it is home to the world’s highest concentration of leopards. In addition to these big cats, many other species endemic to Sri Lanka (such as sloth bears, elephants, civets, water buffalo and more) are known to prowl Yala’s expansive grounds.
But the shy, reclusive leopards are the park’s big ticket attraction, and it is for them that most visitors flock to Tissa. Although we’re unabashed dog lovers when it comes to domesticated alliances, on this front, we were squarely in the cat camp as well.