#3 - Uppuveli and Pigeon Island
Updated: Mar 23, 2020
The small traveller’s hotspot on the east coast of the island, facing out to the Bay of Bengal, retains a vibrancy even in the down season. We arrived following a three-hour bus journey from Anuradhapura, facing sweltering heat and clear blue skies head on as we scoured the beach for a hostel. Our main criteria was its proximity to the village’s central attraction – the bar of Fernando’s. And sure enough, with the joint serving what can only be described as gloriously priced pints, sitting on one of the many beach-side tables for two with swinging chairs you could be forgiven for thinking you really had landed a date on Take me Out.
Below: Dressed to impress on a date for two (with Gus) in Fernando's.
The waves at this time of year were just short of surfable, but choppy nonetheless. We decided to make the most of our first day beach-side by booking in an early morning snorkelling session. Whilst the weather was blissful, the waves were persistent, which meant that for my first proper experience of snorkelling I really was thrown in at the deep end.
Despite what our guide Nathan frequently referred to as 50% visibility, it took us less than 5 minutes to spot our first turtle, and even with Gus’s persistent references to his past snorkelling endeavors in Gili Air and Rinca Island (amongst others), this particular find had alluded him until now. Swimming at face level with the creatures of the deep (all 5 metres of it) adds a whole new layer of immersion, and unfortunately, I will never be able to look at an aquarium the same way again.
Since my face had taken a pounding from the strong suction of the goggles, I decided to treat myself to a spa immediately upon return from Coral Island, wherein the endearing masseuse, Christie, had been all too happy to recommend his services as we had waited for our boat a few hours earlier. It was to be my first taste of India and Sri Lanka’s famous ayurvedic treatments, and, with Christie not in favour of the light approach, I exited his shack an hour later with a renewed appreciation for my fingers and toes.
We probably arrived a few weeks too soon to catch Uppuveli in full bloom, and whilst this granted us the luxury of kilometres of beach to ourselves, it also meant that the night atmosphere was a little lacking. On our final evening, after a pleasant late afternoon spent visiting a Hindu temple at the nearby town of Trincomalee, I was lured, out of sparse alternatives, to ‘Gaga’s Place’, recommended by the owner of the bar as he rode past me earlier in the day on the back of a motorbike. His promise of ‘5 party girls’ in return for some weed money had sold me, but a few hours talking about the pros and cons of Melbourne and Sydney with an Australian backpacker and a complimentary Dirty Banana cocktail later, the girls had proven themselves elusive, and it was time to head home for an early night.