Sri Lanka, Trincomalee

Trincomalee –

My husband tells me that if you see an ants nest you should leave it well alone. The ants you see are the small workers and if you kill them the hive will send larger warrior ants to investigate the disappearing workers.

You might arrive at a place and maybe the sheets are dirty and the room is rundown, maybe the aircon is filled with cobwebs and there are strange footprints on the wall. Excusable you think, this is fine, this is workable, you have paid too much for this to not be workable… Then your wife goes into the bathroom and sees, running along the edge of the room, a line of ants. Just little ones, but enough. She might follow that line to a large hole tucked behind the door. Knowing your dislike of ants she might shut the door and lay a towel down to stop them entering the main room. Not long after you might notice the ants bringing their larvae to the towel, creating little bundles of egg nests. In moment of madness your wife might get some tissue and scoop up the little bundles by the door and drop them in the toilet. Then there are ants on the cistern and so she might grab the little arse hose attached to most toilets in Asia (and lets be real, these things are great and the rest of the world needs to catch on) and spray the ants down. Then maybe ants will start pouring from under the toilet carrying food, in blind panic she’ll hose them down too. Now ants are streaming out from all over, they cover your shoes, hands and every surface in the room. That little line of ants doesn’t look so bad now, does it? Because now your wife has to speak to the host and he is going to give her ant killer and the only way to solve the problem she has created is to cover the whole room in white killing dust and hope the Buddhists are wrong, because shes just committed a massacre, on Vesak of all days.

We stayed for 1 night on Nilaveli beach, Antmageddon proved too much for us. In comparison to Mirissa, Nilaveli was very underdeveloped and quiet. We stopped at one of the only open spots on the beach, a beautiful restaurant/bar called Memo’s. With prime position looking out towards the ocean, fairy lights, hammocks and weathered wood tables Memo’s was a perfect haven from the storm of our hostel. Serving really delicious Italian food, the owners have really made the place their own. They have several dogs and cats who are very friendly and well cared for, we had a lot of fun with some after dinner scritches, and they run an airbnb also. We had a great chat about Sri Lanka and were informed about the fact that the north of the island receives less funding and promotion of tourism then the south, which along with the lingering effects of the civil war is why it is less developed. The north of the island is a beautiful place, the sea is much calmer this time of year and easy to swim in, and the weather is drier and a little hotter. It might take longer to get to, but it really is worth it.

We moved out of the ants nest and went down to Uppuveli beach. Here we arranged a whale watching tour with a local guy called Eddi. He had a small 6 seater boat and his reviews and ratings said he was respectful of the sea creatures and made sure to give them space. I love the natural world. All creatures big and small are of great interest to me, but so is taking care of them, the planet, the environment, and the people that have to co-habit with them. I felt a bit weird about doing a whale watching tour but thought I was making the most ethical choice. Firstly it is the off season, at the very beginning of the migration, I knew this would limit my chances of seeing a whale, but it would also reduce the number of other people whale watching. Secondly I went with a small local business, thus ensuring that I was giving my money to a local person and not a big tour company. Third, I deliberately went with a guide with a small boat, I hoped this would limit any disruption to the sea life I was trying to see. Fourth, I choose to do a tour in the north of the island because that is a less popular region for tourists. I was happy to lower my chances of seeing a whale if that was the more ethical choice. However, what I learned is that even if you go in low season, even at the beginning of the migration, even in the weeks after a terror attack, even in the less touristy part of the island there will be more boats then I am comfortable with. Some of these boats will not keep a safe and respectful distance from the dolphins. Sometimes you can think you are making the best choices possible, but until you experience it you don’t really know.

As respectful as our guide was, seeing the other 8 to 10 boats chasing after this 1 pod of dolphins was kind of, harrowing? Uncomfortable? Sad? All of the above. We sat and watched the dolphins for about 5 minutes or so before asking Eddi if we could move on to somewhere else, which was a plus about doing everything off season, we were the only people on the boat, so we could ask to move on and not have to consider other people on board. Eddi took us further out to sea, in the hope we might find a whale. Instead we stumbled onto a shoal of flying fish, which was a really spectacular sight.

Uppuveli beach is a bit more lively place. With several bars on the shore and more tourists then we had seen in a while. We went on the hunt for coffee, and found a cafe called The 18th, which served homegrown Sri Lankan coffee but done the right way. Sri Lankan beans it turns out are really amazing, they have a rich caramel flavour and serve up a strong and smooth cup of coffee. The 18th also does smoothie bowls, porridge and rice pudding. The rice pudding and smoothie bowls are vegan, I am not 100% sure about the porridge, but the coffee is really great. We met two British guys here who had rented a tuktuk and were driving it across Sri Lanka, which sounded like a lot of fun.

There is a fun bar on the beach called Fernando’s bar, which has swinging chairs, bean bags and a sort of garden/beach/tree house aesthetic. We had a few drinks and dinner here (they have a vegan/vegetarian menu section, but its clear they don’t really understand the difference as a lot of the vegan options had buffalo curd on…)They also run a guesthouse/hostel and it looks like a pretty fun place. We were staying in a much quieter part of the beach, but it was nice to have a “night out” at this spot. Word to the wise, bring a torch with you…

There is a hell on earth. Nightmare eyes peering from underground. They burrow under the sand from Nilaveli to Uppuveli, thousands of sharp fingers hidden in wet holes. In the daylight you can walk from beach to endless beach without fear, but come sunset the scuttling monsters hurry forth. Our only protection the light from a mobile phone and a dawn summoned crow.

From hidyhole to hidyhole these 10 legged demons dash, eyes on stalks waiting for an unsuspecting toe. Beware the beaches from Upperveli to Nivalli for in the night the crab hellmouth opens.

From Trincomalee we got the bus to Kandy which took about 6 hours and cost between 500 – 600 rupees (£5.68/£6.81) for the both of us, we don’t really remember, but it was very cheap!

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