Lena is on her first solo trip: a 6-month journey through Asia. At the moment, she is exploring Unawatuna in Sri Lanka. You can look forward to more stories from Lena's unique point of view as her trip progresses.
Unawatuna is the Samui of Sri Lanka: the very definition of the “beaten track”. One night out and one day in make me crave an adventure, but I'm so exhausted after my never-ending flight from Istanbul that I persuade myself to stay put.
I dedicate the day to reading on the beach, which proves to be challenging as every few minutes I'm required to politely refuse yet another overpriced coconut. People, locals and tourists, are everywhere and they don't let me forget it. I overhear somebody mention Jungle Beach – the words “secluded” and “hard to get to” are used. A few minutes later I'm on my way.
In the western part of Unawatuna Beach there's a little road leading to Jungle Beach. In the very beginning of it a ramshackle cafe called “Blowhole Restaurant” catches my eye; as I'm passing by the owner suggests that I check out the “blowhole for the water”. I have no idea what that means, but I'm fond of checking out in general. I walk up the steps, through a strip of bushes, and gasp. The landscape is spectacular! Large black volcanic boulders, massive waves, and a serene Buddhist stupa overlooking it all.
I return to the road. It's fairly straightforward, but I do make a couple of wrong turns. The locals, friendly and helpful, direct me back to the right course. They keep marveling at my determination to walk to Jungle Beach. “Oh, very far! Two and a half kilometers!” Apparently walking is not the Sri Lankan national sport.
En route I'm annoyed by the abundance of semi-wild dogs. It's one of my two phobias (the other one is heights). The beasts, mostly small, are a little crazy. They start barking when I expect it least. I carry a few pebbles in case they choose to attack my bare ankles.
After an hour or so of walking through an enchanting rural area, I arrive at Jungle beach. A local guy, Lali, offers to show me the way. I follow him down a short, picturesque trail to the beach…and am disappointed. The tide washed up a bunch of litter and the view of Galle across the bay reminds me of a wide river rather than ocean. Lali suggests we go to the “second beach” across a small patch of rocks to the east.
Jungle Beach 2 is absolutely lovely: clean and deserted. There are only two German girls and few local dive center workers. No bars, no music, no shouting tourists, and no touts. After a quick swim, I stretch out on the sand with a book, but my discovery itch kicks back in. One of the German girls mentions a “shortcut trail back to Unawatuna” that is “very hard to find”. If it's hard to find, I must find it.
Lali volunteers to be my guide, yet for a few seconds I'm hesitant if I can pull it off in my flip flops. I was planning for a day on the beach, not a hike in the jungle. But I'll grow another pair of feet before I turn down a novel sight. We head further east and end up in front of a sensational bouldering path. “Shortcut,” says Lali, waving at the rocks.
My fear of heights is primal. It's beyond my control and I commence a rather silly public freak-out whenever I or somebody else is above an abyss of any sort. This patch of boulders – 3 bays, about 1.5 kilometers – is as primal as my fear. It's high, it's complicated, it's stunning. Half an hour after we begin our epic journey, Lali makes a sweeping gesture: “Only Sri Lankan, foreign afraid! You first!” Great, I'm in the middle of a difficult bouldering hike in a flimsy beach dress and Havaianas.
It might be a shortcut in terms of distance, but definitely not in terms of time. Though I don't care anymore – the process itself is invigorating. Every few steps I stop to take pictures. I'm almost weeping with joy.
Two hours later my shaky feet are finally on flat land. Out of nowhere a crazy mutt runs in my direction, barking. My usual reaction would have been horror, but right now I've got so much adrenaline in my system, I could bite the dog back. I look it in the eye and say quietly, “Shhh!” To my amazement it runs away. I feel totally victorious.