After our much needed lazy and relaxed first day in Sri Lanka, Thomson arranged something very special for us the very next morning – a boat ride through Madu Ganga river!
This was in-part ‘special’ because this is something I’d wanted to do after we left Sri Lanka last time, actually get to experience more ‘real’ parts of Sri Lanka, outside of its many UNESCO World Heritage sites and beautiful, albeit sometimes rustic, resorts.
After a short 10 minutes or so ride from our hotel, we hopped onto our boat not too far from the mouth of the river. This was also the first time I got to meet our tour guide who would be with us the entire time we were here.
(*Again, something we didn’t have last time we were here, which, in retrospect I wish we did – we had a choice of whether to get one or not but I didn’t really think we’d need one until I thought about it later on. Don’t get me wrong, we had a driver last time and he was fairly knowledgeable but having a tour guide is very different from having a driver so, well played Thomson).
We headed off on our river safari, of sorts, passing by local villages, stilt shops and even little prawn farms…
We saw Kothduwa temple, a temple reputed to have been home to the sacred relic of the tooth of the Buddha (remember, we visited the temple here) and is still home to a sacred fig tree, planted from a shoot of Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi (the oldest living tree in the world with a known planting date) – a tree that we’d seen before when we visited the ancient city of Anuradhapura.
Although it was a rather fleeting visit, it was exciting and rather fascinating to see these different experiences tie into each other… and it gave me ample bragging rights as I already knew why the Bodhi tree was special (yes, if it hadn’t been for how shy I was in school, I would have been that ‘know-it-all’ kid in school).
We made our way through the mangroves, spotting lots of the local wildlife (the water monitor lizards here are HUGE, btw) and eventually making a stop at a local cinnamon farm.
The inhabitants of the rivers here are well-known for their cinnamon plantations and so we stopped off in one of the farms, where we got to meet the farmer as he showed us how he gets his cinnamon… along with how he weaves the roofs for his farm huts using coconut fronds.
Eventually we headed back to our boat…but not before popping into his reception area to pick up some cinnamon (I have some grand plans for my Christmas mulled wine).
We once again, weaved our way through the different forks of the river before ended up right back where we started our ride, saying farewell to the boat captain and hopping into the car headed for the nearby Galle Fort.
Galle Fort is an old defense fort (*aren’t all forts for defense?) built by the Portuguese in 1558 and is actually now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
We had a little wander around the area, soaking up the amazing coastal view from the fort before calling it quits and heading off in search of something my rumbling tummy had been nagging me about for the last hour or so – lunch!
But more on that in the next post! 🙂