A few words from our Tour Director
"Come and enjoy the best of all worlds; the beaches, sightseeing, sport and then return to England refreshed, relaxed and with an enviable tan..."
Are you still thinking about travelling to Sri Lanka? Maybe a few words from Des Newton - our Sri Lanka 2012 Tour Director - may help you make up your mind...
Known as the pearl of the Indian Ocean, for its shape is such, Sri Lanka (meaning Island Beautiful) is a land of sheer beauty and contrasts. The city streets are concentrated, busy and reverberating with a special charm as people go about their business in a tolerant, informal manner using all forms of transport; from walking to carts, bicycles, scooters, tuk-tuks, cars, lorries and buses all passing by bargain markets, magnificent temples, museums, Colonial buildings and poor areas as well as first-world top-class hotels and modern architecture and shopping centres. However, venture away and you will find some wonderful beaches that look like nature's paradise, with open arms awaiting aquamarine waves breaking in regimental lines of lace rushing towards its welcoming shores of pristine, warm, soft sand, bordered by coconut-laden palm trees swaying to the caress of a soothing breeze.
You can run and dive into the breakers and swim out beyond them to float on your back, on an undulating sea of total comfort and warmth, looking up at a lonely cloud. Time has no meaning as you, the sea and the sky are alone. Back on the beach let the warm gentle wind and the sun dry you again; towels are for separating the soft sand from your body while you spruce up your sun tan before strolling back to the hotel to lounge around the pool with a drink in your hand as an aperitif for dining al fresco.
Where in the world can you experience, in a cricketing mad country, the privilege of a hotel on the beach (without a road to cross) as your base for the games? The West Indies? Yes, but at a higher price. Tourist Sri Lanka is a gem, from the bustling cities to the beaches of the southern coast to the cooler upper reaches of the organised and neat rows of tea plantations growing on cool hills surrounded by majestic mountains overlooking a waterfall plunging into deep valleys below. One has almost too much to absorb, traversing the Tropical jungle with its tall trees and monkey-rope vines. Travelling through Sri Lanka on a long and winding road of exquisite beauty is an experience that no one should let pass them by.
As a visitor to this island, the overwhelming feeling that one experiences from the people is kindness. The hospitality industry is characterised by a willingness to satisfy their clientele, but not in an obsequious, sycophantic manner as subservience does not enter the picture; friendly, efficient service certainly does. Nothing is too much trouble. In my opinion it is part of the nation's nature. This helps to create a happy holiday atmosphere; one of the main ingredients, for anyone, of a trip to remember.
There is so much to do on this island and that is why Howzat Travel is in class of its own for added on extra sightseeing tours for you to experience the vibe of the island. The sheer diversity is obvious, so why not take the opportunity to explore the culture alongside your cricket tour - visit game parks, an elephant orphanage that provides an unrivalled view and close up encounter of these beautiful pachyderms, tea plantations, beautiful hills, rivers, botanical gardens, caves and temples of rich heritage. Feel the influence of the Buddha philosophy. I am no expert but I picked up a smattering of knowledge from my tour guide; Buddhism is not a religion as such but more a doctrine or way of life. It is all based on the principle of 'cause and effect' and the theory that the mind is supreme, and anything done with a purified mind brings eternal joy or merits, and anything done with a polluted mind (even when pretending) brings bad effects or demerits. Food for good thought only. While we are on the subject of food the island offers excellent cuisine varieties: Indian, Sri Lankan, Chinese, western and more, all traditionally washed down with Arrak rum punches and Lion beer.
I have visited Sri Lanka on three different occasions and I have seen the changes; sub Saharan African countries prices increased considerably as soon as they were considered tourist destinations and this will happen here too. At the moment the ambience and tour experience is similar to the West Indies but at a far cheaper price; I predict it won't be so reasonable for too much longer as hotels are being renovated and built all along the coast. The internal war in the north has ended which means tourism to this undiscovered part of the pearl is just beginning. Two major freeway links, one from Colombo to Galle which will make it much quicker to travel across the south west of the island and is opening now; another from Colombo to Kandy is part of the next phase of building and will make access to the centre of the island easier. Previously internal flights were banned owing to the conflict but now, as the Australian cricketers have recently experienced, sea planes are just one of the forms of aviation that can be enjoyed. So come and see it in its natural state before it is westernised. Book before it is too late.
As it stands, England are ranked as the number one test team in the world. What a time it is to follow this team of talented cricketers on tour as they aim to cement their position. Under the thoughtful leadership of Andrew Strauss they are still developing into an even more omnipotent side with the run accumulators Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott, the run explosionists Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan and the aesthetically pleasing Ian Bell; Matthew Prior and Graeme Swann are currently the world's number one wicket keeper and spin bowler respectively and then there is the strength in depth provided by top class fast bowlers James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Tremlett, Tim Bresnan and Steve Finn; a rich seam of current talent that the Aussies could only dream of. And what of their opponents; we did not see the Sri Lankans at their best when they toured England in the early part of this summer in conditions that they would consider cold and very damp but as hindsight has shown they gave England a closer series of test matches than the Indians managed. In their own sultry, sweaty and spinning conditions they are a far more potent force. Yes they have lost Muralitharan and the wonderful Malinga but there is a new generation of 'mystery' spinners and awkward quicks to overcome as well as some of the most talented wristy batsmen in the world such as Jayawardene and Sangakarra. A battle of skills will evolve in front of your eyes and maybe our support will carry England home.
The England team always speak of how grateful they are for their overseas support and what a difference it makes to be cheered and sung to when far away from home. For those that have not watched England overseas before I would implore you to do so; it is like being part of a special community, the extended network of 'team England', you are far closer to them than you are at a test match in England, seeing them in the hotels and occasionally the restaurants and bars. So take on board the Buddhist philosophy, only think positively, and come and enjoy the best of all worlds; the beaches, sightseeing, sport and then return to England refreshed, relaxed and with an enviable tan.
Extracts are taken from Sporting Travels of a Karoo Son by Des Newton and Alicia Hellier © Newton/Hellier