More like a jewellery box filled with beauty and worth, Sri Lanka opened up to reveal a sight of breath-taking landscapes, calm and dynamic culture and a generous supply of the best quality goods straight from its rich soils. it was clear immediately that this place has its priorities straight and confirmed that we are in business with the right people.
When driving through the hectic yet… efficient roads in our little red tuk tuk, we noticed the word ‘Ceylon’ pasted all over store signs, hotels, trips, everywhere. With it being the original name for Sri Lanka, Ceylon is still used proudly by the nation in many ways to keep their history alive. We couldn’t help but feel honoured to be able to use their natural product, Ceylon cinnamon, as our key ingredient!
We spent our 4 weeks staying in a small Buddhist town, Ambalangoda, which threw us smack into the middle of the fascinating Sri Lankan culture, where elephants and monkeys in the streets were not the main attraction, but we were. As we arrived, our accommodation was being blessed by the local Monk and we were all asked to enter the new build with our right foot to bring good luck. In our time here, we got to experience real ‘Sri Lankan people time’, spicy as heck homemade cuisines and the town’s true dedication to Buddhism.
Alongside the lazy days basking in the sun and chowing down on great food, we did do our homework too! Visiting some of the local family run businesses, we noticed that the pride they carry on the name and production of Ceylon cinnamon does not stop there, they are also masters of gemstone and tea production, from ground to market. Despite the tight ship ran in the homes to secure their livelihoods, the locals managed to always stay warm and hospitable with their famous ‘no problem, Sri Lanka’ motto.
These people are the true gems! Despite the insanity on the roads, not a single voice was raised or a curse thrown; when the occasional turtle or iguana would jaywalk, all traffic would stop to gently redirect the wildlife; whenever a temple, a Buddha or even an elephant was in sight, all locals would collectively show a gesture of respect. Nothing was ever too much effort or hassle for them.
Now it was our turn to give back to these exquisite humans and bountiful lands. CEIBA got its hands dirty at the Panadura Elephant Conservation Centre, where we spent every day cleaning poop, washing the gentle giants and feeding them their favourites – palm leaves, pumpkins and cucumbers. We also spent the month mucking in at the Ambalangoda Rescued Turtles Sanctuary, where we got to witness not one but two of nature’s wonders; the hatching and the releasing of baby turtles! Here we also witnessed first-hand the damage which our careless recycling efforts have on the wild – one of our favourites being Lilo, the 100 year old resident, who has spent most of her life floating above water level in a tank because of a plastic bag she once swallowed in the sea. It was incredibly eye opening to be hit by these realities, especially when all the litter washed up on the golden white sands would fill our empty boxes within minutes of cleaning the beaches.
Nature, nature and nature is what we came for and what we got… a lot of! This land is blessed with an impressive medley of green beauty, which vastly differs between South and North, where one minute you can be sheltered by palm trees and next you are driving through a dirt road in a Scandinavian-like forest. It was always pleasing to see cinnamon farms dotted around the place alongside natural wonders such as waterfalls and mountains, and to catch a whiff of the unique cinnamon scent during our open-air train journeys everywhere we went.
We really are on the same wavelength, Sri Lanka and us. And as the locals would say, we truly did get ‘Sri Lankaned’!