Unawatuna, Southern Sri LankaPosted: April 17, 2012
With the New Year holiday putting the country at a complete stand still, I headed south with the other foreigners and tourists and found myself in Unawatuna. Largely devastated by the 2004 tsunami, Unawatuna recovered so rapidly thanks to the help of all of its’ past visitors who remembered the quaint beach-side town so fondly. There is still plenty work to be done, and unfortunately the beach has shrunk down substantially and will continue to wash away with every monsoon season.
On my way down to Unawatuna I stopped by a sea turtle hatchery. Along with several other hatcheries along the West Coast, these guys seek out sea turtle nests, uncover them, and relocate them to protect them from predators, humans, and the elements. They hatch here, stay for three days to grow, and then are released at sun down. I got to help dig up a couple little darlings, and met a few other sea turtles they keep in captivity (such as turtles who are blind, injured, or albino – making them easy prey).
I made it to Unawatuna around noon and checked in at a local, low-budget guesthouse called the Golden Ente. Although the staff here don’t speak too much English, they are endlessly sweet and accommodating. For Rs. 1300 (about $10 USD), I had all of the necessities, a mosquito net, and a private balcony facing the beach. It was amazing.
With my trusty Rough Guide in hand, I strolled through the town, instantly feeling refreshed by the abundance of foreigners such as myself. I stopped at a roti stand for lunch, sat down with my book, and moments after devouring my fresh pineapple juice I was interrupted by another lonely traveler who needed a table. And am I ever glad that she took the seat! She and another lonely traveler were getting scuba lessons at the same time, and had ended up spending the week together. They invited me to join them at Jungle Beach, and we lived happily ever after.
Well, no, there is more, actually. We made it to Jungle Beach (where I had my first steps into the Indian Ocean), and the area was delightfully secluded, only to find out there was a tsunami threat due to a few earthquakes in Indonesia. After debating whether or not we should chug our beers or take them to go, we decided to seek higher ground, and found ourselves at a Japanese Buddhist Peace Pagoda (poetic, non?). We waited a few hours, just long enough to catch the sun set, which was such a sight. The threat waned, and we were able to return to Unawatuna in one piece. And THEN we lived happily ever after… or at least for the remainder of the week.
Unawatuna was a blast. The people (locals and foreigners, alike) were wonderful, the arrack was intoxicating, the food was delicious, and the beach (or what is left of it) is gorgeous.
I took the long way back to save some money, and tried my hand at the local public transportation. Two tuk-tuk rides, and two hours of blaring Sinhalese pop on a “luxury” bus (read: semi-air-conditioned) later, I finally arrived at our volunteer house in Ja-Ela. Took another express bus yesterday after extending my visa in Colombo, and I am back at Kegalle after putting in a day’s work at Pinnewala.
Things have been amazing here.
I have two more weeks at the elephant orphanage and here in Kegalle, which has begun to feel like home.
I am falling in love with the country and it’s people more and more every day.
Sri Lanka: a land like no other.