Massive croc coming out of the water!
I was feeling a bit beached out, so didn't hang around in Mirissa. It was tipping it down when I left, so there wouldn't have been much to do anyway...always a good time to get on and travel. I don't mind sitting on a bus for a few hours when it's raining as you know there's not really anything better you could be doing! The journey from Mirissa to Tissa wasn't as bad as I had expected - I thought I was going to have 2 or 3 bus changes, but in the end I had a short 20 minute ride to Matara (LKR18), the main transport hub on the south coast and immediately found the right bus to Tissa, which left a few minutes later.
...nice timing! Thankfully I had a seat for this stretch (LKR100/$1/60p) and with the way you get thrown around on Sri Lankan buses, that wouldn't have been fun standing up! I was sitting on the back seat, where it looked like 4 or 5 passengers would comfortably fit - this didn't stop one old fella barging in and plonking his a*se down right next to me, pretty much sitting right on me - cheers fella! The buses hair round corners, horn on all full blast, and everything else just basically moves out of the way, otherwise risking being shunted. Despite feeling like you are flying around at speeds that seem verging on unsafe, it still takes bloody ages to get anywhere! Matara to Tissa isn't anymore than 70km, but still took two-and-a-half hours!
Buffalo enjoying a cheeky bath!
When we neared Tissa, a guy jumped on the bus and starting to talking to me - here we go again I thought.
..same list of questions....'Hullo sir, wazz yar cuntry? How long you in Sri Lanka? You like Sri Lanka, sir?' It gets a bit tiring after a while as its all usually a prelude to them trying to sell you something or take you to a guesthouse. sure enough, when i told him that I was staying at Travellers' Home, he came out with all sorts of stories about the owner - he left his German wife with two kids and no money, he had a horrible skin disease, 'he nasty man, sir'. With the offer of a free tuk-tuk to a guesthouse he knew (read: gets commission from), Regina and a promise to take me somewhere after if I didn't like it, I decided to take a look. Oh dear, Regina was awful - a scowling lady running the place put me off immediately and after seeing the rooms I was ready to leave. My thoughts were confirmed after I met Lloyd and Dieter, a Dutch couple who had also had the same ignomous fate on the bus. They had originally agreed to stay at Regina but after a being persistently bothered by the tuk-tuk driver to also buy a tour to Yala National Park, they'd had enough and were off to Travellers' Home.
Me with the ancient Land Rover
I decided to join them and we discussed the carbon-copy tactics we'd both experienced on the bus - they said they'd read about it in the Lonely Planet - i didn't have a copy, but its a typical touting scam, so it didn't surprise me.
Spotted-deer, wondering if there's a leopard about!
We finally got to Travellers Home at around 4pm and were welcomed by Ebert the owner - we couldn't resist but tell him the experience at Regina and the stories the tuk-tuk drivers had said about him. He laughed, but was a bit miffed as it is obviously stopping business coming his way. He doesn't pay commission to the tuk-tuk drivers, which explained why no-one wanted to take anyone there. We were happy with the rooms they showed us - mine was basic with shared bathroom, but was a bargain at KLR400 (£2.
50/$4) a night. I got chatting with my new Dutch friends, who were retired and embarking on a 3-month trip, solely to Sri Lankan - travel slow was their moto! Unlike most people I have seen their age, they were proper backpackers and had been using public transport all the way round, not air-conditioned cars and vans - big respect to them!
The herd of elephants - amazing to see
We decided to try and arrange a tour to Yala National Park, which is basically the only reason you would come to Tissa, as its a bit of a craphole to be honest. The park is about 20km away and I was looking forward to seeing all the wildlife that inhabited it. We knew the rough prices of the tours from the Lonely Planet that Lloyd & Dieter had.
The Department of Conservation & Wildlife try and make things as complicated as possible for you here, by charging entrance fees, per car/jeep fees, service charges (for what we're still not sure) and then adding VAT on top. Bit of a con really, but we decided to go with a tour arranged by Ebert, which we got down to LKR4,400 each ($44/£24). It was for a half day (6 hours) including driver/spotter, jeep and all the entrance fees. We could've probably got it cheaper by looking around a bit in town, but he had good comments in his guestbook and it was by now dark, so we agreed the price and sat down to a nice meal cooked by Ebert's continually smiling wife - what a lovely lady!
A family day out??!
The next day we had a lie-in as we'd decided to do an afternoon tour, rather than the silly-o'clock dawn tour.
I just chilled out reading in the morning and using the guesthouse's free internet before we got ready for our 1pm departure. Nihal showed up in the jeep that would be taking us to the park - christ, this jeep must have seen service while the Brits were still in charge here, it was seriously antique! It ran ok though and we chugged our way down the park, emitting somewhat cloudy fumes which seem a bit out of place when you're about to enter a National Park, but there you go. It turned out to be a fantastic afternoon and the my favourite day in Sri Lanka so far. We started off by seeing massive crocodiles on the lakes just outside the park - much bigger than the caimans I'd seen in South America - these bad boys meant business! Nihal was a pretty good spotter, and we saw all sorts of wildlife - buffalo, spotted and samba deer, wild boar, monkeys, monitor lizards, civvet cats, a mongoose, peacocks, storks, pelicans, beautiful green bee-catchers and a herd of 15 elephants - the highlight of the day.
Just amazing seeing them in their natural environment and despite my fears, it didn't feel like we were encroaching too much as we kept a long way back from them. Unfortunately, we (and no-one else on the day that we could make out) didn't see a leopard - they have the highest density of them here in the world (about 30 in apx 30 sq km) - they are elusive animals! But it didn't spoil my day and we returned back to the guesthouse around 7pm tired but satisfied with our day's adventure. I have had enough of the heat though and tomorrow I head onwards up to the 'hill country', looking to cool down!
Sunset comes over the park
Tissa Hotels & Accommodations review
Travellers' Home is a good choice when in Tissa. Ebert and his wife are friendly and helpful, especially when sorting out tours to Yala and Bundula N… read entire review