Discovering Sri Lanka with Titan Travel
Being the gregarious type, I never mind travelling with strangers, in fact I relish it. I have been on umpteen press trips with fellow journalists, loving every minute, and I enjoy cruises for the same reason. You feel a sense of community and shared adventure.
But a 10-day escorted tour, zig-zagging across Sri Lanka in a coach with eighteen fellow Brits at the end of January 2022, was a first for me. Coaches can sometimes feel a bit cramped, particularly on long journeys. There are traffic jams and other nuisances to worry about. Suppose you get a flat tyre in the middle of nowhere? Or are desperate for the loo? Or suppose, God forbid, you are sat next to a crashing bore for hours at a time?
Any worries I may have had were dispelled within ten minutes of meeting up with my fellow Titan travellers at Colombo airport. We were in masks, like the Sri Lankans around us. The country was coming out of lockdown, but only slowly, and this, we were told by our local guide, was the first such Titan tour in nearly two years. But as introductions were made, and conversations struck up, the sense of camaraderie was palpable. We were going to enjoy ourselves.
As I sized up my new companions, I liked what I saw. They ranged in age from the mid-fifties to the early seventies (I am 66 myself) and came from all over the country, from North Yorkshire to the Kent coast. They were mostly couples, with a few single women and a brace of sisters. Some, like me and my wife, were Titan newbies, others had travelled extensively with the company. But every single one of them, without exception, was friendliness personified. Halleluiah!
If Neal from Solihull looked set to be the joker of the group, Mick from Kidderminster was obviously going to give him a good run for his money. Good-natured banter was the order of the day, with our delightful young driver copping a lot of the jokes. His ability to navigate narrow winding roads with panache, leaving other vehicles in his slipstream, was little short of amazing.
Our 10-day itinerary, carefully crafted by Titan, was quite ambitious, covering large swathes of the country, and involved 8.00am starts most mornings. It was the very antithesis of the kind of lazy beach-based holiday which is how so many people like to get their winter sun. But nobody was grumbling because there was just so much to see: from Hindu temples to statues of the Buddha, from flat rice fields to hillside tea plantations, from soaring mountains to wave-pounded beaches.
On my only previous trip to Sri Lanka, I visited Colombo, Kandy and Galle, all charming, but missed out on other delights, such as Nuwara Eliya, an old colonial enclave, high up in the mountains, Yala National Park, rightly celebrated for its wildlife, and the majestic beaches that stretch for miles along the south coast.
This part of Sri Lanka was devastated by the 2004 tsunami and there was heavy loss of life. More than a thousand people died on a train that was overwhelmed by the waves. But it is well on the road to recovery and we spend our last night on tour in a fabulous hotel on the beach, dancing the night away.
On our last day, as we said our goodbyes at Colombo airport and exchanged contact details, there was unanimity on two points: first, that we had been privileged to spend time in such an extraordinarily beautiful country and, second, that there could have been no better way to explore the country than an escorted tour of this kind, making new friends along the journey. Magic.
If you'd like to follow in Max's footsteps and go on a Sri Lanka holiday, speak to one of our experts today.
An author, journalist and travel writer.
Max Davidson | About the author
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