Once , I started looking for information and everywhere I found that the accommodation cost much more than I was willing to pay. As it was February, and it was high season in the areas where I wanted to go, any room was between twenty or forty dollars a night! Of course asking there I would find things way cheaper, but since it was going to be a couple of weeks only, I decided I would accomplish a full of unpaid nights. For this, I hoped that between Couchsurfing and, above all, the tent we usually use so much, would help me to fulfill it.
I published a couple of public tours on Couchsurfing and I sent a few private messages, but nothing. Having few days left for my arrival, all of them were full with guests already. Then I started looking for information about wild camping in Sri Lanka and found nothing relevant. While I found several blogs saying it was dangerous, others said that maybe it was banned, and nobody provided clear information about it, so I decided to write this post. Because of the thirteen nights I spent in Sri Lanka, nine of them were in the tent and all of them were definitely great experiences! So let’s start:
Like owning the place at Negombo
While I was seeing my girlfriend off in Madurai to catch the bus that would take me to the airport, I met a Catalan-Turkish couple who was going to fly with the same plane as me. The connection was fast, because we usually traveled in the same way: hitchhiking, short of money and with tent. By the time we realized, we had been talking for several hours, we were on a small beach in Negombo with the tents set up and a bonfire between us as we cooked what would be our dinner that night.
The beach where we stayed was not touristy at all and there was only a couple of guesthouses around, who behaved great with us as they let us shower there and even gave us the password of their Wi-Fi. In the morning the fishermen arrived after having been fishing overnight, and after helping them several times to climb the boats up, they gave us fresh fish to cook at night at the fire.
I spent two nights camping on this beach with these two other travelers and with locals who joined us at times. Although it was great and I would have stayed much longer, having only two weeks on the island I had to move. So on the morning of the third day, after a great good morning dip, we dismantled the camp and as they set off for the north of the island, I headed for Kandy.
Wild camping in the center of Kandy
I arrived at night and I could easily see that it would be very difficult to camp in the open air. Kandy is a fairly large city, and very crowded by both locals and tourists.
I started to go around but I always ended up in the same place: in the well-known temple of Buddha’s tooth by the lake, which is basically the center. In the end, tired of walking, I finished asking the temple security agents where I could camp. They stared at me and told me to do it right there. Disconcerted I asked them again, thinking that perhaps they had misunderstood me, and they answered that where else could I be safer than guarded by the uninterrupted security service of Sri Lanka’s most important temple. So, I pitched the tent and slept like a king right there.
The following day they woke me up at 6am and told me that not only had they taken care of me but also the six stray dogs I had played with the night before. They slept around my tent and barked every time someone approached. Finally, they charged my cellphone while I went to explore the temple gardens in the early morning, when there were still only locals.
That same day I contacted a girl from Barcelona who is living in Kandy and she told me to meet her and an Austrian couchsurfer that was traveling there also. We went from here to there, we all liked each other and by the time we left I asked the Austrian girl if she thought that the owners of her guesthouse would mind if I went there to use some Wi-Fi Before I go back to pitch the tent to the temple. She replied that she did not think so, but that in fact, having paid for an entire room with a couple of spare beds, she didn’t mind at all that I stayed there for the night. In the end, not only did I stay with her that night but the next day we spent the day visiting Kandy’s surroundings and at night she hosted me again. Thank you, Christiane! :)
Spontaneous hospitality at Ella
As I was going on a long train from Kandy to Ella, it was raining like crazy. My idea was to camp on the top of Ella’s rock, but when I arrived there was less than an hour left before sunset and having met an Israeli girl who was alone looking for a place to sleep, I would have fet bad to leave her alone and I decided to stay with her and then go camping wherever in the same town of Ella.
Although it cost, since it was all full, in the end the girl found room and I asked the owner of her hostel if he cared that I camped in her garden. The woman, so worried, told me that in the garden no because it was not raining too much, but that I could sleep on her porch, where she put a power extension with plugs and a light. The next day I woke up so early and went up to Ella’s Rock, where I saw several people camping. Definitely it has to be great to sleep and wake up there, write it down for when you go!
Well, so this way I managed to spend the first nights in Sri Lanka, fulfilling the challenge of not paying for sleeping anywhere. To find out how it all ended and where I slept when I climbed Adam’s peak and made the beach route from the south coast to Colombo, you should wait for the second part of this post :)