Sri Lanka by Tuk-Tuk

2014 marks the tenth year since my first visit to Sri Lanka, the pearl drop in the Indian Ocean. Culturally, Sri Lanka has a lot to offer, with a plethora of heritage sites and captivating landscapes, harmoniously dispersed across the small island. For foodies, a cornucopia of delicious fresh produce and local dishes (traditionally, and best eaten with hands) are on offer; kottu rotti, sear fish curry, dhal, egg hoppers, string hoppers with kiri hoddi - Sri Lankan cuisine is bursting with a distinctive and aromatic flavour, often laden with coconut milk.

The most charming quality of Sri Lanka, however, is found within the people. After 27 years of internal conflict and the devastating effect of the tsunami in 2004, Sri Lanka has unquestionably suffered. Despite great times of hardship, the nation is blessed with strong-minded, warm-hearted individuals who are appreciative of the most fundamental elements of life and have worked together to rebuild their beautiful country.

The nature of my latest visit was a coast to coast, west to east 'Tuk Tuk challenge' (a popular, 3-wheeled mode of transport in Sri Lanka) as part of British Airways' efforts to raise funds for their charity 'Flying Start.' The itinerary for the 240km journey showcased diverse landscapes and offered plenty of opportunities for wildlife encounters (including an elephant safari) and visits to cultural heritage sites. High on the agenda was to offer support to needy children by hosting a team building day, supplying a library with books and giving each child in two local east coast schools a backpack with school pens and essential stationary items.

For the 'Feed a Family' task, we were given a shopping list of staple commodities to purchase: rice, milk powder, fruit and vegetables, and asked to find and deliver to a family in need. In pursuit of completing our task, we drove 20 minutes off the beaten track, our tuk tuk journey into the jungle resembling more of a roller coaster ride than our previous drift along the main road. Upon arrival at the door of a modest mud shack, our delivery was met with equal measures of bewilderment and gratitude.

The call of the peacock heralded our arrival at the eco-luxe Jetwing Vil Uyana after our winding journey down the mountains of Kandy to Sigiriya. In comparison to our mode of transport, this really was an oasis of beauty and calm amidst the unrefined sights and sounds of nature. Following a culinary challenge preparing authentic Sri Lankan dishes, we witnessed the most beautiful sunset in the evening, the sky metamorphosing into a kaleidoscope of romantic hues reminiscent of a Turner painting.

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