Saying Goodbye To Galle
On my way to meet my group of travel consultants, I decided to to detour through Bentota, where renowned local architect Geoffrey Bawa had his weekend home, Lunuganga. Set on 15 acres, Lunuganga literally means "salt river" as one channel from the Bentota River flows around 3 sides of the property. This place is a tribute to Bawa's work-it was his "lab" where he created models of the masterpieces that he conjured up. The property has 6 villas spread out throughout the grounds and took 40 years to complete. You can see how Bawa incorporated nature into his designs, bringing the outside in and designing around the various trees on the property. When he died in 2003, the villas were turned into a hotel. The property and gardens are beautiful and really provide an insight into Bawa's style of architecture.
From Luxury to Adventure Travel
Wellness Travel isn't just about yoga, meditation and spa treatments. It's also about being active when you travel so you can stay healthy. This could be opting for a bike ride or walking tour of a city vs. sitting on a bus. It involves incorporating whatever form of activity you enjoy, whether that be water sports or hiking, into your travel plans.
I joined my group in Colombo and did a brief tour of the city before heading to Nurawa Eliya. Colombo has some interesting contrasts. There are your traditional street vendors melded with modern elements, the most fascinating of which is the new Town Hall, which literally is a combination of the White House, Capitol Building and Lincoln Memorial all in one space.
Given that this was a six hour drive, we were offered some relief in the form of a white water rafting excursion to break up the journey. I've only done this twice before, and one of those times was really more of a float down the Truckee River vs. an actually white water rafting trip. We were told this was a class 3.5 river, which made me a bit nervous. As luck would have it, as we were driving to the rafting location, it started to rain. I'm not talking about just sprinkles, I'm talking about a torrential downpour! This didn't seem to be a problem for the instructors and we forged ahead. The river itself was manageable and we did have breaks in the rain, however at one point our raft was stuck on a rock while we were being pelted by sheets of water. It was definitely a great adventure and a wonderful way for the group to get to know each other.
Diving In To Active Travel
Our second day started with a 5:30am departure to Hortan Plains National Park. We are now up in the hill country and it was definitely a chilly start. The agenda was to explore the park via a 6 mile hike and then do a market walk through the town of Nurawa Eliya. Talk about jumping in head first! Again, having a "desk job" and not being very active to start, I was more than a little nervous by what was described as a challenging hike.
As we hiked through the trail, I was in awe at the sheer beauty of this place. We hiked down to Baker Falls, stood at the edge of World's End (based on the nearly 2500 ft drop to the valley below), and saw everything from deer to monkeys. The entire hike took about 3 hours and I won't lie, I struggled through parts of it, especially with the elevation. However, our group took rest stops as needed to catch our breaths, have a quick snack, and capture some amazing images. I was also glad we arrived in the early morning hours as the fog was lifting because as we finished the trek, vans full of people (both local and tourists) were arriving by the droves. I was very thankful we were able to enjoy the serenity of the park and the picturesque views without having to fight off the crowds.
Nurawa Eliya, nearly 6600 ft above sea level, was a popular mountain resort for the British during colonial times. It's also called Little England because it resembles a British village with it's tudor architecture, reflected in everything from the post office to the bank building. The Grand Hotel is another iconic heritage property located here with quite the history. It was the former estate of Sir Edward Barnes, the governor of Sri Lanka from 1830-1850. It has an old-world charm and gorgeous gardens. High Tea at The Grand Hotel is a "must do" and a beautiful way to ease into your evening.
It was an incredibly full day and we were all ready to retreat to our rooms for some rest and relaxation. Luckily, we had somewhat of a late start in the morning so we could enjoy the remainder of the afternoon and prepare for the adventures that awaited us tomorrow.