Down the hills and towards the sea to Tangalle, we find more curries, Maggi noodle food vans and sleepy beach dogs.
Catching buses in Sri Lanka is one of the easiest ways to get around. The trains don't go down the hills to the plains so it's also your only option beside hiring a car and driver. The view down the gorge from Ella was heart pounding, not one for those scared of heights.
There are a lot of different options for this route, some fabulous beachside towns we would have loved to explore and a jumping off point for Yalla National Park to see wildlife. Not enough time to do everything.
There are still snacking opportunities on a bus. One of our favourites was fresh cooked chick peas with little green chillis.
Egg rolls with more chilli and red onion were also a bus travel main stay.
We arrived in Tangalle on a Sunday afternoon. The bus station is right in the heart of town so we were well placed to have a look around before finding somewhere to stay.
The markets are only on Sundays, selling piles of red shallots, fruit, cleaning products, everything you need.
This is where old TV's and computers go to die. Not too much vinyl in there, it would have been melted if it was.
The main street of Tangalle. Later we saw a cow sitting on the roundabout amidst all the bustling traffic.
Getting off the bus around lunchtime, we decided to eat before we looked for a beach place to relax in for the next couple of days. New city - then New City Hotel looked just right. There weren't great deal of choices, this place was further up the street near the big supermarket.
It was comfortable, cool and currieful.
Instead of the usual curry rice, we decided on some curry and fresh made roti from the front window. Carrot curry, Dhal, roti, jack fruit curry and a heavy on the herbs coconut sambal. Bliss. The carrot curry was a particular highlight, it must take a life time balance the sweetness of the carrots with just the right amount of spices to create layers of flavour in every mouthful.
The proprietor of this fine establishment. Later, he showed us his giant frozen fish. He was mighty proud of the one that didn't get away.
Heading back down town, the back streets that head to the beach are calm and tree lined.
We made our way along past a few places. One owner really tried hard to entice us into a less than salubrious venue. The next one we took when offered a great off season rate. We had a view back to the harbour on the right and around the bay to the left and our own bungalow. We probably could have looked a bit harder but it was hot and it seemed OK. Plus they served cold beer.
Tangalle's beach is kinda pretty but there's a vicious shore dump that makes swimming unpleasant, if not dangerous. Paradise not quite found. Being right next to a buzzy little town with a handful of good little restaurants made up for any killer undertow.
Coco the beach dog soon adopts our bungalow for a snooze on the cool tiles. The local dogs (they were most likely sinhala hounds) liked a bit of left over curry and rice, it didn't take much for this one to work out where to get a feed.
The local supermarkets stocked the staples of coconut treacle, an addictive sweet sauce like maple syrup. You can get kittul treacle (made from palm sugar) at the Fiji Market in Newtown.
The treacle goes perfectly with curd (as demonstrated on the packet above) or with plain yoghurt.
Also popular were these rings of soya protein, shaped a little like tortellini. We found these in a few curries, they have a good texture and make a good choice.
Multiple varieties of hopper flour, including roasted red rice flour.
Walking home we find this cheery fellow selling cooked food from the back of a van. We stock up on treats and take them back to the bungalow.
Our fascination with lump rices continues, this version with a piece of curried chicken, egg, chili sauce and a ton of tempered rice.
Fried donut with green chili embedded for extra zing.
Red rice string hoppers with a spoonful of coconut sambal. We ate well, washing it down with a big bottle of EGB (Elephant Ginger Beer!). A few beers at the bungalow bar and off to fight off mosquitoes.
A tourist breakfast the next morning: fruit, pittu (compressed rice and coconut cakes) with a simple curry and some coconut and palm sugar filled crepes.
Paleo diet? Not sure why a caveman needs to advertise burnt cashews. Me likem, ugh.
Coco leads the way in deciding what to do for the first part of the day. A bit of lying down is recommended.
We pick another fine hotel for lunch.
Yes, more curry. This time the beetroot curry blew our minds, perfectly spice so we can taste the beetroot and individual spices. The nice lady at Mithu's Sri Lankan in Homebush West has beetroot curry some days, we're hoping to get back soon and try it.
Fish in a tangy, slightly sour sauce that reminds of us of Southeast Asia's assam (tamarind) flavours. Yeah baby.
We can't believe we only get to try Watalappan so late in our trip. It isn't our last go at it either.
Malky wattapalan is made in Tangalle, we're happy to score a local version. Each one across the country is subtly different in ingredients and everyone we had was delicious. The flavour is like a thick set custard with spices, despite its colour there isn't any chocolate in it.
We also try divul kiri, the juice of the woodapple which is sweet and unique. We tried to get it fresh a few times without any luck. Kik Cola sucks, it tastes like el cheapo generic brand stuff, it's the LA Ice of Sri Lanka.
Some disappointing cakes from the front window. Cakes and hot sun do not help keep them fresh.
If we were going to buy a house in Sri Lanka it would be this one. Wonderful art deco style metres from the beach. Many of the houses had still not been fully restored after the tsunami.
Back for more curry!
Dining in style.
Kottu roti, stir fried finely chopped roti bread, with vegetables. We can't see this one getting the Heart Foundation tick.
The kotu roti lacked magic until we added the sauces. You could have plain, spicy, cocunutty or everything mixed together.
After trying this we also went back to the food van for more lump rice and curry which we barely touched. Coco the dog ate well too that night!
The owners of the Coconut Beach guesthouse decided to have a party that night with a couple of guests (not us). First up was Bob Marley's greatest hits, followed by Michael Jackson and then a live Michael Jackson concert on DVD. They stopped for a while, and we hoped for some quiet, but then some local music came on just as loud and for even longer. Our bungalow was right next to the speakers, our air con had packed it in and the ceiling fan didn't work. We checked out early the next morning and decided to high tail it to Galle. With budget accommodation, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.
Heading out of town on the bus we spy this food van for Maggi Devilled instant noodles. Would love one of these to hit the food van circuit!
Bus to Galle snacks. Shawn buys some lollies for Alison which turn out to be candy coated cumin seeds, yes folks, curried lollies. These turned out to be rather incredible. Each little ball packs so much flavour the pack lasts us the whole way back to Australia tucked into a corner of Alison's bag.
Next stop Galle. We love Sri Lanka.