I recently spent two weeks in the South Asian country of Sri Lanka, exploring the capital city of Colombo as well as surrounding areas. A friend was doing an artists’ residency there, and my first stop was to visit her in Hikkaduwa, a small town on the southwest coast.

Hikkaduwa became famous in the mid-1970s for it’s surfing potential. The waves can get quite large, making for challenging conditions. The beach itself is nice, with many resorts and small hotels doting the coastline.

We visited a number of local businesses, including a porcelain mine, a paper mill (they make handmade paper from recycled materials and business waste) and a mushroom grower.

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From Hikkaduwa, we headed north to Nuwara Eliya. The region is rich in tea plantations; you see them everywhere while traveling through the hills. Once it’s harvested, it’s sent to local refining plantations when it’s sorted and processed into various types of teas, the most common being white and black varieties.

We stayed in a cabin right in the middle of the forest. There was quite a bit of hiking available and we decided to climb a hill that led to a waterfall known as Lover’s Leap. From the summit, we could see the whole town below.

A couple of nights later, we headed to Kandy, a town northwest in the central district. Kandy is famous for the Temple of the Tooth, which is said to house the tooth taken from the funeral pyre of the Holy Buddha. Given that approximately 80% of residents in Sri Lanka identify as Buddhist, the temple is a very popular spot for tourists and locals alike.

Kandy also hosts the second largest Buddha statue in Sri Lanka, measuring about 80 feet tall. It’s situated on top of a hill; from there, you also get another wonderful view of the city below.

We then made our way south for the town of Hatton, choosing to travel there by train. Until then I had only taken tuktuks, buses or private vehicles. The scenery was stunning; we rode through mountains and valleys almost the entire way.

We took a short bus ride to Delhouse, famous for the peak of Sri Pada – also known as Adam’s Peak. This is a holy site for Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christian’s. We climbed 5200 steps to a temple that contains an impression of a footprint: Buddhists believe that this belongs to the holy Buddha; Hindus believe that it belongs to Shiva, and Christians and Muslims believe that it is Adam’s (dating back to when he was cast out of the garden of Eden).

We started out climb to the temple around 2am, hoping to catch the sunrise once we reached the top. The path is dotted with shrines and shops, where we bought tea and biscuits to enjoy on the walk. The total elevation change was about 1000 meters; initially, I didn’t think this sounded too bad, but it was, in fact, quite steep. Plan for a 5-hour round trip journey; 3 hours to ascend, 2 hours to descend.

From Hatton we caught a train back to Colombo – a six-hour ride.

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Zacharias Abubeker
Zacharias Abubeker is an Ethiopian-American photographer currently based in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Raised in central Illinois, Zacharias moved to Ethiopia after completing his photography studies at Columbia College in Chicago; in Addis, he works as a commercial photographer, curates exhibitions, and continues other personal projects. Zacharias’ photographs have been shown internationally and are part of the collection at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago. You can see more of his work at http://zachabubeker.com/ and http://zachariaselias.tumblr.com/.