Ahh Arugam bay. We spent so much time reading, researching and watching videos about that famous surf break before we left for Sri Lanka. After spending nearly half a day trying to figure out how to get from the hill country to the east coast of Sri Lanka we finally found a route and settled in for an early night, this was after visiting our friend & puppy at One Love bar for one last delicious Passionfruit Mojito. Luscious palm tree’s and waves await. We told our host that we would be leaving at 5.30am to get down into the town for 6am, so please don’t prepare us any breakfast. He insisted and true to his world I woke at 5am to find eggs, bread & coffee waiting outside our room. He had also packed us bananas and sweet treats for the road. I nearly cried, one due to the fact I was so delirious with the early morning wake up call but also at the kindness of Sri Lankan people. We set off for the bus stop, which ended up being just a bigger group of delirious travellers wandering aimlessly back and forth not knowing what side of the road the bus would appear on. In a flash of red our bus has appeared and left with us all on board and paid up.
It was 6.20am and the bus was chocka. I mean barely anywhere to stand, that’s for the men of course. I was offered a seat straight away to which I refused but the kind local man insisted I sit. Gal doesn’t have to be told twice at 6.30am to sit down. We knew we were in for a long ride… thankfully it was all on one bus until we reached Siyamballa. Our bags went under the bus so as the majority of the passengers disembarked at Mongarala we moved to the back, so we could keep an eye on our stuff but also take advantage of the Sri Lankan air con – Open windows and back door! We befriended the ticket guy and he spent the remainder of the journey giving us his life story about his family and job as a ticket man, he was so entertaining to watch as he collected his fares and acted as a human bulldozer to cram just once more person onto his bus. He told us where to get off, directed us to the next stop and told us to wait. We wandered around, couldn’t see said bus stop and a hangry decision meant we were bundled into a tuk tuk within ten minuets to impatient to wait around.
Our Tuk Tuk driver had kindly accepted the fair of 12000 Rupees down from 16000 however about 40 mins into the ride we had already decided to give him the 16000 as we didn’t anticipate it being this far away. We were tootling along the road, relaxing and enjoying the wind in our hair and sweaty faces when I noticed our driver staring into the bushes. He kept slowing and staring then speeding up again. I had no idea what was going on and his jolted starts were doing nothing for my empty travel sick stomach. Then he saw them and pointed so excitedly out of the window I thought we were going to tip over. Two huge & I mean HUGE wild Elephants strolled from the bush, minding their own business they sauntered across the fields and disappeared into the bush again. Our driver slowed down enough so we could watch them, it was magic.
The gateway to Arugam bay is kind of like getting off a plane. What I mean by this is you know when you step off a plane and the intense heat hits you smack bang in the face? Well this happened as we crossed the bridge onto the main road, holy heck it was hot! We drove the main road at least 12 times searching for our guesthouse, eventually found it and sheepishly overpaid the driver after realizing how far it was & how foolish we were to barter him down in the first place! We dumped our bags and ran for the beach that was conveniently at the end of our gate. Robbie had his board shorts on quicker than you can say board shorts and was heading straight for the closest surf rental as I tried to keep my cool sweating silently in the heat. When Robbie had finished throwing himself around in the ocean we headed back to our beautiful little villa for some hammock hangs and plan making.
We had anticipated this place to be the best for surfing so we set out to explore the point break at the end of the beach. From a distance it looks exciting, up close it’s terrifying. The waves were huge and unfortunate for us break right onto four-foot of coral just below the surface, we watched as surfers exited the water further down the beach and hobbled back up with cuts and gashes all over their feet only to hop right back into the madness. I begged Robbie to wait until the swell had calmed down as I couldn’t bear to think of him getting battered around by the beast, we did have five days to choose from so hopefully one will work out & he can play in the big waves. Unfortunately the whole time we were at Arugam bay the wave never calmed down & was far to risky so early on in our trip however we did walk there every morning and evening to enjoy the other surfers, mainly local boys giving it a good old go.
For a ‘surfy’ town there wasn’t much choice of establishments offering that beach chill vibe. We walked up and down looking for somewhere decent to eat & drink but we weren’t all impressed with what we found. The one place we stumbled across that did sell beer was ran by an English woman so it killed my local authenticity feel, however being out of season we were limited on choice so we did visit a few nights.
We also happened to be in Arugam bay on Poya day – a day celebrated by the Sri Lankans every month on the full moon to commemorate key events in Buddhism. So the day before, the day of and pretty much the day after is a no alcohol zone. We literally couldn’t buy a beer anywhere, so we spent our very sober time in Arugam bay sipping juice and watching the world go by.
It was beautiful to see the locals unite and celebrate together. One of the best sunsets I have ever seen was on Poya day here in Arugam bay, as the locals bathed in the ocean we walked the length of the beach twice and back soaking it all in.