From the moment you enter the wooden gates, the gentle breeze and the wide open green spaces just wash you over with a sense of peace and calm that cannot be brushed aside. This feeling would continue even through the welcome by the gracious and smiling hosts and the refreshing drink of thambili and it continues to…well, let’s say I was just happily sailing in a sea of calm!
When we decided to take a break and get out of Colombo and all its noise, we didn’t imagine the serenity of Palpatha, speckled with the many calls of the rich bird life in the area would be such a big change. But clearly, we thought wrong. The silence was overwhelming and yet welcome. The spacious lounge area at this retreat was easy on the eye with little coloured cushions that simply beckoned me to come lie down and relax…perhaps even fall asleep.
Well, sleep is in fact what comes to mind after a three and a half hour journey with two children, but not surprisingly it felt better to just lie down a bit, half leaning against the mud clad walls of the lounge and take in all the surroundings. Just to get the system used to this; just to get myself to slow down and relax. Our chalet for the stay was located a very short drive and walk away, so we thought we would rather have lunch and then go to see our abode for the night.
Indika, our personal caretaker for our stay was always there with a smile- not too close so as to invade our privacy and not too far away to find when we needed something. He was so accommodating with the kids, taking time to show birds and other small wildlife and explain things to them. The whole family was thrilled especially when he introduced us to ‘Nangi’ which translates to ‘younger sister’ in Sinhala. Nangi is the resident giant rock squirrel who is not shy at all and quite playful unlike her kind. She was a lot of entertainment for both the adults and the kids!
Soon it was time for lunch…which…well, was one of the things I absolutely loved about Palpatha. The cook is a lady from the village, so the food was pure Sri Lankan – authentic to the very core. The menu consisted of rice- Sri Lanka’s staple food, accompanied by chicken curry, a green mallung (something like a salad), beans, deep fried bitter gourd salad and to top it all off, fried fish- a totally fulfilling combination. To end the meal was delicious dessert of curd and treacle, locally dubbed as a King’s dish! The distinctive thing about the meal is that every component of it was sourced right from the village, which I think is great because it means that as a community they are giving back to the people.
Although we did have the option of going on a safari to the Wilpattu National Park (since it’s only a 15 minute drive away), we went back to enjoying the cool shade of the Palpatha chill-out zone. In the evening we started the short journey to our chalet, accompanied by Indika. Having driven a very short distance and then walked a couple of minutes we finally saw our beautiful house for the night. With its muddy coloured walls and wide open spaces, we felt so relaxed and happy in this thatched roof chalet. Indika left us to settle in and we all explored our chalet a bit more. The sleeping area was open, and there was one double bed and next to it, about 3 single beds- all lined up and opposite to those were about 5 lounging chairs, which were always welcome of course. The thing we liked most about the chalet, since we were travelling with kids, was the availability of running water and a clean spacious toilet and shower. There is also the facility to recharge any electrical equipment, one at a time.
The dining area for this cottage, Kohomba, which like the rest of the property is eco-friendly, was a private space just a few steps away from the chalet itself. From here, you can also enjoy the bird watching and if you’re quiet and patient, the resident peacock and jungle fowl will also put on a show for you! The kids really enjoyed the open spaces and the bird life in the area. In the evening, Indika brought us our dinner, all the way to Kohomba- it was delicious pittu with coconut milk, a lunu miris (local dish consisting of chilli and onion) and sugar or banana for the kids (although I must admit the adults enjoyed this too!).
As we were having dinner, we couldn’t help but notice the vast open sky that was densely dotted with stars. It was so gorgeous that after dinner and a lovely dessert of banana fritters, we spent most of the night star gazing. It was a beautiful end to a wonderful relaxing day and we were reluctant to think of our impending departure the next morning, to get back to Colombo, back to the noise and dust, back to the rat race, back to deadlines, targets and rush hour traffic. But the moon and the stars above always brought our thoughts back to enjoying and living the moment- to take in the peace and calm of the night and to enjoy this great escape.