Sri Lanka-Day One- Colombo Airport to Kandy

After an 11 hour flight, I eventually arrived in Colombo, Sri Lanka at 4:30am on 20th October. I walked out of the gates, cleared immigration, picked up my backpack and surfboard straight into my first taste of Sri Lanka.

I was greeted by a driver from the volunteer programme which I’ve never had before but was actually really quite reassuring. We stepped out of the airport and into the early morning darkness. The smell hits you instantaneously, that warm, humid tropical smell that you never get the chance to experience in England. The smell of the incense, the jasmine, the rain that has just fallen immediately pulls you out of that post-flight daze. Then comes the sound of the traffic, even at this time in the morning the roads are busy, tuk tuks swerving by, honking away, weaving skilfully in and out of the path of buses and people.

All loaded up we set off into the night, just me and the driver on the 3 and a half hour drive up to Kandy where the volunteer base is. I passed out in the back managing to get a lie down as I didn’t manage to sleep at all on the flight. The car ducked in-between tuk tuks and buses, adults and children, the car’s horn never stopped honking away, either to inform others of our whereabouts, to say hello, or just to honk for the hell of it. Through dazed eyes I saw the sunrise on the straight road from Colombo to Kandy. My first Sri Lankan sunrise. The sun burned the sky orange, ridding it of its stars. Palm trees loomed over the telephone pylons, and lights from Buddah shrines twinkled and danced at the side of the road. Eventually I passed out again, waking up just 10 minutes before we reached ‘The Green Lion’ centre in Kandy.

Kandy feels like a bit of a dream now, although only yesterday morning I arrived it already feels like a lifetime ago. I met all the other volunteers with everyone partaking in various projects, from elephant projects to helping out in orphanages; so many different projects are available. After dropping my bag off in my room and meeting my roommate, we went to orientation, to listen to what the day ahead held in store for us and what we would be doing on the projects. 

After orientation and a 2 hour nap ( from which I collapsed on my bunk from sheer exhaustion) we set off for Kandy centre. We walked up the busy road, careful not to be run over by tuk tuks, up to the bus stop to catch the bus to take us the next 5km up the road. Kandy greeted us with heat, people and smells coming from all directions, some good, some not so good. This was basically just a chance for us all to become acquainted with our surroundings, to get some money out, get some SIM cards sorted and eventually watch a traditional Sri Lankan dance followed by flame throwing and fire walking! Bit touristy but quite cool to watch the dance. 

After the show we stumbled out of the hall into the rain, caught a bus back to the centre, had some dinner (a Sri Lankan lentil dahl, with rice and shaved coconut with turmeric and other spices-actually pretty tasty), talked with some of the other volunteers then passed out at 9pm, ready to catch a 5hour train journey at 5am down to Ambalangoda to start the turtle conservation project. (This is where I am writing this from now, on the top of my bunk bed, feeling satisfied with a belly full of spicy curry, rice and tea!)