An adventure in rural Sri Lanka

Posted in Guest experiences on Friday, November 9th, 2018

With England embarking on their cricket tour of Sri Lanka, my wife and I decided to this was a wonderful opportunity to combine cricket with the newly introduced Village Ways Grass Routes holiday, organised by Adventure Lanka Tours. https://www.villageways.com/destinations-1-grass-routes/scenic-sri-lanka. It was indeed a marvellous trip, with genuine hospitality in remote rural communities, interspersed with exciting (if somewhat wet) cricket in Dambulla and Pallekelle.

Interior, Ficus Grove

Our tour commenced at Habbarana, staying at the Ficus Grove, a small guesthouse (see above image) ably managed by Jayanthi and her assistant Chitra. It was built in 2010 in traditional spacious bungalow style, affording refreshing through ventilation. We were treated to home-made food and attentive service, including a shopping spree in Habbarana with Jayanthi. Apart from the cricket, we visited Anuradhapura to view the impressive 122m high brick Jetavanaramaya stupa, built by King Mahasena around 1,715 years ago.

From Habbarana we were driven to the village of Attanakadawela (otherwise known as “AK” for easier pronunciation!), which lies in the extensive Mahavelli irrigation scheme. We were hosted by Mr Rathnayake, who has only recently set up his house as the ‘Rathnayake Family Homestay’: we were their first guests! His wife, Yarsomanike, is a truly amazing cook. Assisted by other family members, she produced a diversity of tasty dishes, catering to our vegetarian requests. The location, by a small canal, is incredibly peaceful, not a sound at night.

Rathnayake, his sons Ajit from Colombo and Ilang from Dambulla, and his nephew Amila, who lives nearby escorted us round the family spice garden, the local Buddhist temple and the old anicuts on the Ambon Ganga, near the Angoarmadilla national park. The whole family converged on the Sunday for an impromptu party. Great Grandma cooked egg hopper, while two friends set up a keyboard and sang Singhala and Tamil songs, some of us even joined in the dancing! Great Grandma even sang ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’ to grand children Taru (star) and Ashisha. Next morning we were walking through their rice fields at 6.30 am, spotting with the expert assistance of our chauffeur-guide, Lalith. We saw peafowl, kingfishers, open-bill stork, babblers, mania, green garden lizard and mini-frogs.

We bade farewell to our lovely hosts and drove up into the densely forested scenery of the Knuckles Range, which was declared a UNESCO heritage site in 2010, in recognition of its biodiversity and endemic species. In the Riverston area, we stayed at the Atanwala sub-post office homestay, hospitably looked after by Chandra (su-post mistress) and her husband Ekkanayake.

With our local guide, Vasanta, we explored the Petawela Pathana trail to Mini Worlds End, finding a Rock Frog beneath a stone in the stream, a bilaterally flattened amphibian that is endemic to the region and has been reclassified as Nannothrys ceylonensis, and is no longer in the Ranidae (‘true frogs’). Another endemic, Osbekia octandra, brightens up the hillsides with its pink blossoms. After admiring the distant views and walking back through the shady woodlands, we returned to our homestay and walked down to the Teligamu Oya (river) and explored Atanwala village, with its vegetable plots, extensive rice fields, with cattle and water buffaloes grazing on the stubble.

The nights at Atanwala were memorable for the noise and disco lights: these were provided by the intense sound of insects, calls of night birds and croaking of frogs, and our room was lit up by incessant flashes of flitting fireflies. I have always said that places with fireflies are very ‘civilised’! Finally, after being well fed by Chandra, we set off for Kandy and the next stage of the cricket …. . The Rathnayakes and Ekkanayakes had provided a wonderful break and a chance to experience the warm hospitality of rural Sri Lanka.

Cooking traditional hoppers, Sri Lanka

Keith Virgo

Trips to rural Sri Lanka are available via our Grass Routes partners Adventure Lanka Tours. For further details, see https://www.villageways.com/destinations-1-grass-routes/scenic-sri-lank. When making your reservation, please tell Adventure Lanka Tours that you saw these pages on our website!

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