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The end of these travels and the beginning of a new adventure

Jordan was our last stop on this trip. So we headed for home, via Abu Dhabi. The main reason for returning home when we did was because of this little thing:

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A new adventure is in the post for us, so this blog will come to an end. We've met some great people and have been to some great places.

Thats all for now...

Ruth and Ultan

Posted by ruthandult 15:20 Comments (2)

Jordan - Aqaba to Amman

Crossing the Red Sea to Jordan, exploring Petra like Indiana Jones, Madaba, floating in the Dead Sea and chilling out in Amman.

We took a ferry from Nuweiba in Egypt accross the Red Sea to Aqaba. Although the journey is less than 20 miles the ordeal took us most of the day and left us very confused. We decided to spend a couple of nights in a hot hot sea side town of Aqaba. This town is on the Red Sea and Jordan River and you can see Isreal and Egypt from the beach. It is also Jordans second biggest town and there is a lot of domestic tourisim. As it was the end of the Eid ul-Fitr celebrations there were still many families still around enjoying the last of the holidays.
View of Egypt
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View of Israel
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We hired a driver to take us north to the famous city of Petra. He took us along the Kings Highway into the nature reserve of Wadi Rum where Laurence of Arabia was filmed and there are a number of Beduoin settlements
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The ancient lost city of Petra is one of the most recent wonders of the world. Its easy to sea why as its a pretty amazing place and one of the highlights of our trip! The settlement of Petra is as old as 300BC and was considered a lost city and was only re discovered in 1800's by a Swiss explorer. Stephen Spielberg really put it on the map in the late 80's with Indiana Jones' Last Crusade. This film is on every night in most hostels and you can buy the characters hats and whips from vendors around the town!

We got a 2 day pass which let us see the large site at our own pace. As tempreatures went to upwards of 40 we tried to go out a bit later in the day.
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The walk to the entrance of the site is through a killometer of dramatic crevaces. It really sets the scene for the breathtaking sight of the Treasury.
One of the most impressive landmarks we've seen to date, completely carved out of its sand stone enviornment.

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We hiked up a hill overlooking the site for som more spectacular views
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Outside the amphitheatre
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There is similar building to the treasury built high on a mountain at the edge of the site. Spectacular views at sun set.
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We also visited the oldest pub in the world the Cave Bar on the site. This 2000-year-old Nabatean
tomb served one of the only beers to be had in Jordan.
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From Petra we travelled north to Madaba which would be our base for visiting the Dead Sea, Bethany-Beyond Jordan and Mt Nebo.

The site Bethany-Beyond-Jordan is the spot on the river Jordan where John the Baptist is said to have baptised Jesus. The site is extreamy important to all sorts of christians who flock here in droves and have themselves and their children baptized.
This is the spot although not too much water these days.

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Ultan overlooking the river Jordan.

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Next we went to Mt Nebo which is said to be Moses's final resting place where he showed the chosen people the prmoised land.
From up here you can see Jerusalem, Jerico, The Dead Sea, Nabalus, Lake Tiberius and even Bethlehem in the distance.
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Ultan made great friends with out driver Mackleet who begged him to do some driving and give him a bit of a rest. The petrol was half price (less than at €0.50 a litre)and nearly dissapeard before our eyes it was so popular!

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Statoil Jordan style!
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Floating in the Dead Sea was another incredibly surreal experience. The water is a warm, slightly heavy, nearly viscous substance. So full of salt and minerals that nothing can live in it. Its impossible to swim normally in it as you feel so light your legs just pop up to the surface as you bob about. It's great craic!
We were advised not to shave in advance of getting in as you will only discover cuts you didn't know you had. The not shaving was not really a problem for Ultan!

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The mud around the Dead Sea is great for your skin!
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We were also advised to wear modest swimwear in this area rather than bikini's which you would probably wear anywere else.
Local ladies wore either full clothes or whats called burkini's
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On to Amman Jordan's capital and largest city is built on several hills and has a skyline of many mosques and minarets.
It has the largest free standing flag pole in the world!
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and an amphitheatre

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and a citadel with ancient ruins

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All in all Jordan gets a big thumbs up!
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Posted by ruthandult 10:24 Comments (0)

Egypt - Dahab and the Red Sea

Moses Territory

The smaller of the two resort towns on the Egyptian side of the Red Sea, Dahab provides a lovely location to relax for a few days. Diving and snorkelling are the main draws here, aswell as trips to Mount Sinai, and the the beautiful view of the Red Sea. For us it was a chance to take it easy for a few days and maybe get some of those activities in.

We found a hotel overlooking the sea and with some nice views, and enjoyed the local cuisine.

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An attempt to part the Red Sea was proving difficult.

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We did manage to get in some "diving" and snorkelling with mixed results.

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Another grand plan of ours was to hire some bikes and navigate our way to Mount Sinai. This was a complete failure as it was too hot, had no water and didn't know where we going. Some nice views though.

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Time to turn back

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Dahab is also full of goats.

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Goats on boats.

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Goats eating cardboard.

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Where to next?

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Posted by ruthandult 05:36 Comments (0)

Egypt - Cairo and Giza (also during Ramadan)

The Nile delta and the Pyramids

We arrived in Cairo at some crazy time in the morning. It seemed like addresses and road names were not obvious so a taxi should've been the best solution. However, we got a taxi-man who wanted to take money we didn't have off us, for taking us to a place that he didn't think existed, on a road that he'd never heard of. So we arrived back where we got the taxi originally, E£20 lighter, and walked for 10 minutes where we found our hostel eventually.

Once again our planning let us down, as it was still early morning, with no eateries open because of Ramadan. Crackers were the best we could do, to get us through the rest of the day. It was a fab hostel with a nice view over the madness that is Cairo.

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A word of advice we received from an Egyptian man on crossing the road here, "Close your eyes, pray to Allah, and, In'sh'Allah you'll arrive alive on the other side".

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From here, we took a day trip out to Giza to see the Pyramids. There are couple of different sites as well as the Great Pyramids, so it took most of a very hot day to get through, but was well worth it!

There's definitely something up there.

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The red pyramid, which pre-dates the the Great Pyramids, is smaller but accessible through a tunnel that descends 65 meters into the heart of the pyramid.

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The Gate-Keeper of the Red Pyramid

The Gate-Keeper of the Red Pyramid


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An encounter with an old Egyptioan foe!

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Ult is either quoting Shakespeare or screaming obscenities here
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The Sphinx guarding the Great Pyramids.

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Head scrarves had to come out to keep the sun at bay.

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The Great Pyramids! Fascinating stuff!

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The next day we went to the Egyptian Museum. This enourmous place is full of artifacts and relics from Egypt through the ages. Of the 100,000 or so pieces belonging to this museum, 20,000 are out on loan to other countries, such is the demand for them.

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One of the highlights is the Tutankhamun exhibition. Photography is not allowed in here, but in case you don't know, here is an experts artist impression of the main headpiece.

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On our final night, we took a trip down the Nile on a boat to see the skyline, and be entertained, (and join in) in some local dancing.

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The options are plentiful in Egypt, so we decided to head east to the Dahab on the Red Sea. We arrived at the main bus station in Cairo, with no one to be seen, (Ramadan again!).

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Posted by ruthandult 05:27 Comments (0)

India - New Delhi and Uttar Pradesh

New Delhi on Independence Day, "Delhi Belly" and the Taj Mahal

An almighty dash to the domestic airport in Bombay for a connecting flight to New Delhi, we were told we that we were in the wrong airport, we should go into the international airport for this particular domestic flight. With the exchange of far too many rupees, we convinced a tuk-tuk to bring us there at top speed, and just about the made the flight!

We stayed in Paharganj, not too far from the main train station. There's a fab market on most nights here, where we found it difficult to resist the temptation of loading up with spices or even buying a sitar.

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But the fresh orange juice was a steal at only 10 Rupees!

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The next few days we were struck down with the dreaded "Delhi Belly", and so confined to bed, which distrupted our plans somewhat. However after a few days we got to see a small bit of the town.

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The next day was Independence Day, the streets were filled with people celebrating as were the rooftops were people were flying kites. It was an incredible skyscape.

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We made our way down to Agra in Uttar Pradash, to see the Taj Mahal. What should've been a shortish bus journey turned into a long one, as students had decided to hold a political demonstration and closed off the main road for several hours. Time for a little nap on the bus.

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Despite the crowds of protesters, it was one of the happiest demonstrations we'd come across.

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The Taj Mahal is a brilliant sight!

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Took us a few goes to get this one right, but I think we got it in the end!

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As our plans change continually, we've had to cut short our Indian adventure unfortunately, so on returning to New Delhi we made a decision to move on and head East towards Africa via Doah.

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Namaste from India. It's an amazing place, and we're sorry to leave but the next continent awaits!

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Posted by ruthandult 05:19 Comments (0)

Morocco (during Ramadan)

Casablanca, Marrakesh and Essaouria

Because of our unusual situation, we changed our plans of heading to East Africa and decided it best to avoid the higher risk malayria zones of Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda, and instead headed north to Morocco.

As usual little or no planning had gone into this, and we arrived during Ramadan, so eating during the daylight hours proved a little difficult for us! We arrived in Casablanca, tired and hungry and decided to head south to the more tourist friendly Marrakesh for a few days, where we found a nice little hostel just on edge of the main square.

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Plenty of mint-tea drinking here while watching the goings on in the main square.
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Acrobats, cobras, monkeys and hawkers all vieing for the attention.
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This is the heart of the city and we spent most of our days and evenings in and around here.

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More mint tea!

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We took a train east to a seaside town called Essaouria. This crazy little thing on the right is a chameleon, not quite sure what the crazy looking thing on the left is.

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We returned to Casablanca to fly out west again to Egypt, the next destination on our revised plan! Morocco is a fascinating place and deserved more time than we had, but it still got a thumbs up from us.

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Posted by ruthandult 04:56 Comments (1)

India - Goa and Mumbai

Using the crazy rail network, chilling in Goa and spending time in India's hip and buzzing financial capital Mumbai.

They say that each day 20 million Indians use the country's infamous rail network.
We decided to try it out and booked a train from Kochi to Goa Station. There were a few people ahead of us in the queue though.

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This train took about 15 hours or so and meant an overnight stay.
We had really no idea how to go about booking a sleeper ticket and we found this first long train journey fairly confusing compared to China. We eventually muddled our way through the system with some help from other passengers and relaxed for the journey.

Sipping chai on the train of a thousand stops:

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There were over 1500 people travelling on this train. Families, migrant workers from all walks of life. All these people are fed 3 meals a day along with countless freshly prepared snacks and cups of chai for buttons. The food is acutally excellent, quite an amazing feat to pull off as the catering cart is all on board and all prep and service takes place on the ricketty journey.

We arrived in Goa in off season. Goa is known for its chilled out party vibe. As we arrived outside the season we got a different impression of the place. The weather was not great, you couldn't swim in the sea as it was very rough and a lot of the pubs, clubs and restaurants were closed but that said it was still a nice place to rent a bike and go and explore this area of India.

Since most of the beaches were almost empty, the cows make use of the parasols.
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Goa at this time was still very popular with a lot of young Bombaikers who travel to here at the weekends. The main town Paniji was a nice place to hang out. Again a lot of European influence here as with Kochi in the south. The famous dish Vindaloo is from Goa which is a mixture of Portugeuse wine (Vin) and Aloo which is Indian potatoes. This dish is actualy delicious and thank god its not as crazy hot as it is at home. Goa was also the first time we've seen pork since the contraband Serena and Vinny smuggled into Sri Lanka. They make a local chorizo type sausage as well as several pork curries. Yum!

Portugese influence in churches

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Unfortunatley Ultan was eaten alive by bedbugs in Panji for the first and hopefully last time on this trip. Bed bugs unlike mosquitos are not at all partial to Ruths flesh. Ruth protects Ult from mozzies and he protects her from bed bugs.... What a pair!!

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Next we made our way north to Mumbai, still refferd to as Bombay by quite alot of the people.
Having tested out the train system we decided to try the bus network. This was the bumpiest bus of our journey so far complete with a great Indian soundtrack!

Initially we were unsure of what to expect in Bombay. We had seen films about slums and heard mixed things about the dirt and dodgey rooms from travellers. From the moment we arrived in the famous VT station we had a fantastic time in this vibrant and thriving city. We found a great hostel in the Kolaba area which was right around the corner from the famous Gateway to India monument as well as most of the famous musuems and land marks of Bombay.

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Where's Ruth?
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We were eating food on the side of the street one night in Bombay when two local lads asked to join us at our table. They were cool and confident young Sikhs both from Bombay and were really interested in telling us about their city. We went with them to the famous Leopolds nightclub made (in)famous from the book Shantaram and the Bombay shootings.

We had a great night and enjoyed their company as well as their advice on what to do in Bombay and India

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We also shared paan with them. This is a typical indian chewing snack/digestif.
There are many different variations made with spices, tobacco, dried fruit and betel nuts all wrapped up fresh paan leaf. You buy them at the side of the street from vendors.
The lads reccomended a sweet tummy settling version seen below. Very strange but quite delicious.

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We took a taxi tour around Bombai to see the various tourist spots including temples, hanging gardens and a Bombays famous outdoor laundry.
We were told most of the hotels and industrial launderettes send their clothes here to be cleaned. It was a hive of activity with washing lines and men bashing clothes as far as the eye could see.

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Ultan outside Gandhi's house and walking along Marine Drive

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The mosque in the sea. Its only accessable at low tide!

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Another city we could've stayed for longer, but once again it was time to move on.

Posted by ruthandult 04:16 Comments (7)

India - Kerala

Trivandrum, Allepy and Kochi

The Indian adventure began with a short stopover in Chennai airport where we waited for a transfer to Kerala. The capital of Kerala is the almost unpronounceable Thiruvananthapuram. The locals got a great laugh out of us trying to ask directions to it!

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Fortunately, it is locally referred to as Trivandrum which made things slightly easier for us.

After a few days getting used to madness that is India, we made our way north up the coast to the smallish town of Allepy. This is the gateway to the famous "Backwaters" of Kerala. A huge network of canals that can be navigated by boat, or if you wanted to, you could stay on a houseboat and be entertained by the locals who live on the Backwaters. We decided on the first option and took a half day trip with a helpful guide.

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There's an annual dragon boat race that was due to start around the time we were there. This race is famous world wide and people come from all around to watch along with tourists. We were lucky enough to pass one particular boat in training. Very serious stuff!

We made our way north to Kochi. It's a nice town with a walled Fort area remaining from historic trading with the Portugese, Dutch and English. There were real European influences here with several Christian Churches, streets named after familiar saints and a lot of European looking buildings. The locals still used these massive Chinese Fishing nets for catching fish.
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Ruth started acting the maggot one of the nights and Ultan felt he had to put her in place and show her who's the boss.
Result of which is below....

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Took a few days to heal but her beautiful boat-race is back to normal now! That'll learn her!

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Onward north to Goa!

Posted by ruthandult 12:00 Comments (1)

Sri Lanka - Central and East Coast.

Meeting up with Serena and Vinny. Kandy, Siguria and surf dudes in knarley tubes in Arugam Bay.

Two great friends of ours, Serena and Vinny, decided to spend their hols in Sri Lanka and so we met up with them in Colombo to hang out for a few weeks. It was brilliant to meet up with them catch up on whats going on at home. We decided to rent a car and head to the east coast, Arugam Bay, where the weather was supposed to be great and get some sea, sun, sand and surf.

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On arriving the next day, first stop, hit the beah and the sea...

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This particular move by the guys is commonly known as "The Washing Machine"

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The waves just keep on coming

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As a little surprise, Serena and Vinny brought over a pack of Super Quinn sausages, rashers, black and white pudding from home. But as Sri Lanka has a large population of Muslim people we couldn't find anywhere to cook them so we resorted to doing it ourselves, on the beach, which turned out to make them even tastier!

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I'm sure its the first and only pork Beach BBQ in Arugam Bay but the locals were very supportive of us and the evidence didnt last very long. The best surprise from home ever. Yum!!

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The manager of Tsunami Hotel, Razack. A good guy.

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Here are some puppies that had just hatched the day before we arrived, near where we were staying.

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Not too far from Arugam Bay, there are wild elephants who cross the main road each evening, known as an elephant corridor. If you didn't realise this though, there was a helpful sign.

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Good chance you'll bump into a monkey or two aswell.

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Arugam Bay is known as one of the best surf beaches in the world so we had to give it a bash one of the days. Vinny and Ult trying to catch some radical tubes man!

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One of the great things about beaches is the parties and the people!

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Friends...
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This little fella was keen to get some camera time with Serena, while eating her food at the same time!

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Whiskey Bay is a small beach area where there's a very chilled out restaurant, a nice place to hang out and a good surf point too.

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The waves were a little too big though, even for us, although Ruth had a go at a body board

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We left Serena and Vinny for 2 days and took the car into the hill country to visit the ancient temple of Siguria, the city of Kandy and some of the tea plantations of Central Sri Lanka.

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Thirsty work
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Kandy Lake, one of the main features of Kandy

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We spotted what we think was a monitor lizard, which was just after eating a tortoise, sitting next to a duck, just chilling out at the lake.

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The tea plantaions of the central highlands, where we were told that most of the tea drank in Ireland comes from!

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When we got back, a fishing trip had been arranged for the next day, so we set out intent on catching our dinner, with the help of a few guests from the hotel and a few locals, who'd convinced us that this was Dolphin City (population = zero).

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The fishing wasn't going to well, so a swimming break was called.

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Fishing\Sun Bathing resumed back on the boat

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Finally, a fish. Serena won the game...

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and the fish lost...

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On the last night, we treated ourselves to a feast of lobster and mashed potatoes!

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and Ult finally got that haircut he'd been dreading!

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Unfortunately, all great holidays are over far too quickly, so we had to say goodbye. We were delighted to have such great company for our time in Sri Lanka and the rest of the trip won't be the same without them.

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Our journey continues on to India, and the company, the place and the people definitely gives Sri Lanka the thumbs up!

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Posted by ruthandult 02:49 Comments (2)

Sri Lanka - Colombo and the South

Colombo, Galle, Unnawattuna, Tangalle, Tissa and Kataragama

Our first night in Sri Lanka was, as usual, well planned. This meant sleeping in the airport before braving the madness that is Colombo. A few sights and our first meeting with the locals gave us a great first impression of Sri Lanka.

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First taste of Sri Lankan food. Rice and Curry is one of the specialities, delicious. Rice and curry is the generic name for the most amazing freshly prepared vegetable dishes, chutneys and sambols (spicy salads). The Sri Lankan cook everything from scratch so you usually have to pre-order your meal. Its totally worth the wait as the food was really incredible. Best to stick mostly to veg and fish we found though. It is normal to eat food with your hands too!

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Galle on the south coast.

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From here we rented a bike and headed to Unawattuna, just one of many town devasted by the Tsunami in 2004. Its a beautiful stretch of beach, where one hotelier survived the tragedy by clinging to the doorframe of her establishment, which is still on display in the newly rebuilt restaurant. Unfortuantely this woman died a few years later.

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A little further along the coast we arrived at Midigama, a spot famed by surfers for its famous left break. No surfers when we there though, monsoon season kept them away.

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We moved east along the coast to Tangalle, where we found a gem of a little spot to stay for a few days.

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"Hows the surf today, dog?"

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"..awesome..."

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We rented another mad looking bike here and saw a few of sights around this part of the island. One of the stranger ones was a blowhole, that throws water up to 50 metres into the air at certain intervals. This attracts more locals that tourists, and they were all keen to get as much camera time as possible. A lovely bunch...

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All rounded off by a nice sunset.

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We continued our journey east to Tissaharamaha, where the Kataragama festival was happening. This is where 10,000 Tamil people walk the from the north of Sri Lanka as part of Buddhist pilgrimmage, to the week long festival. The Tamil people set up camp in this town and as they are very poor other Tamil people from all around Sri Lanka come to Kataragama to give them food. The festival finishes with the dramatic water cutting ceremony. This envolves lots of devoted pilgrims walking accross burning coals and suspending themselves with hooks from ceilings to prove their devotion.

Tissaharamaha is also the place to go and see Yala national park. We got the two activities in during a busy three day stay!

The obligatory bus break down happened half way to Tissaharahama:

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The dancing elephants of Kataragama...

The locals invited us to a nightime barbeque on the grounds of a dried up lake, where we cooked our own food and danced some of the local moves too!

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The next morning was the trip to Yala National park. This is the home of the elusive Sri Lankan leopard, unfortunately for us it proved too elusive for us, although we got to see some mad looking monkeys and some wild elephants.

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These two elephants were getting very friendly with each other...

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while this young fella was very interested in us!

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With that our journey along the south coast was complete and we made our way back to Colombo, via Hikkawidua, (another famous surf point, although deserted again because of monsoon season). Two friends of ours, Vinny and Serena were arriving to spend their hols with us in Sri Lanka

Posted by ruthandult 06:47 Comments (3)

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