Sat in my new office, five floors up in the centre of Melbourne's energetic business district, I'm staring out the window at the world below; gravel and pavement, cars, trams, people, every one of them with somewhere to get to and a place to be. It feels so bittersweet to be back in this world, swapping tangled sandy streets and tropical coastlines for the bustling city-life. On the one hand, it feels so good to be back in business, creating again around like-minded people. To be able to go to cool independent bars and cafe's and have new clothes - no need to recycle the same three t-shirts I've lived off of over the past eight months. On the other hand, I miss adventure terribly. I miss not knowing where I'm going to wake up and where I'm going to sleep. I miss the feeling of meeting new people every time I arrive in a city I'd only ever read about, exploring a new world and sharing that experience with alluring strangers who are suddenly my best friends.
Most days, I couldn't be happier to be here in this incredible city, somewhere I've always dreamed of visiting, and Melbourne really is amazing. But days like today, coffee in hand, peering out the window into this concrete jungle, I do find my mind tracing over faces, places and moments I shared and loved over my travels so far. One day in particular springs to mind.
I'd been in Arugam Bay for two hours, and the coach journey from Newara Eliyah was one hell of a ride. Predicted to be four and half hours long, I decided not to book a hostel and find something once I arrived. It would be the early evening and the strip would be coming to life, so I would get a good sense of where to stay. Alas, the heavens decided to open up a mere hour into the journey, sending bolts of lighting down to the Earth along with the thundering rain that smashed against the windshield. It's bad enough that Sri Lanka's drivers persist at driving 100mph regardless of terrain and traffic, ours was now driving almost blind against a thunderstorm.
I arrived four hours later than expected to the town I'd heard so much about from other travellers. Night had already fallen and I had no idea where I was going to sleep, with my clothes drenched through. I found the closest place to stay and dropped my bags before venturing out into the street, which was regaining some life after the storm and it wasn't long before I bumped in to a few familiar faces who I'd end up spending my whole time here with. A few days in, we decided to take a trip to Elephant Point, rumoured to be a great surf spot out of the town. There were 12 of us in total, so we hired some boards and crammed into three tuk-tuks, haggling down to a good price for the ride there and back.
We built a quick rapport with our charismatic driver who let us take it in turns to ride the auto to the beach, which didn't disappoint - elephant-shaped cliffs that sink into gorgeous turquoise swells. The light breeze delivered the salty scent of the ocean into my lungs and from that point all I wanted to do was get in the water. A handful of us grabbed our boards and head straight in.
There was a real freedom that lived within every second of this day. A spontaneity that reminded me why I loved to travel so much. From riding the tuk-tuks, to surfing at the beach, to climbing to the top of the cliff all together, the day was full of freedom and laughter, and it was beautiful.
Once we'd had our fill of Elephant Point, we jumped back into our tuk-tuks and head back towards the Arugam Bay strip. The setting sun draped deep pinks and oranges across the sky, serving as the ultimate backdrop as we raced each other across the open roads, hanging out of our auto's, laughing and joking, until our drivers told us to park up.
We lined up at the side of the road and looked out as the sun made it's decent into the Earth, highlighting the scattered clouds with colour. It was a great moment, but apparently this wasn't why we'd stopped. As the sun disappeared and we climbed back into our auto's, our drivers laughed and told us to wait a bit longer. We talked amongst ourselves, becoming frustrated at our drivers idleness. In the space of twenty odd minutes, it had grown really dark. That's when our drivers called out to us, pointing to the opposite side of the road where thick forest bordered the plain. A huge shape emerged from the woodland, then another, and another. Wild Elephants. The drivers flicked on their headlights, but it was only as they made it to the road you could really see them properly. We were all completely silent, in awe, as these magnificent creatures crossed the road in front of us, pausing only for the briefest moment to register our presence. And then they were gone.
As our engines roared back to life in succession, we all talked about how incredible these animals were and how great the day had been. When we finally reached home we all head out for drinks at Hideaway, our favourite bar, then a beach party, and the night went on. All in all, it was a perfect day - sun and surf, freedom and laughter, incredible nature and unforgettable encounters, all in great company. Not only one of my favourite days in Sri Lanka, but one of my favourites of this whole trip.