John Gimlett is a star travel writer—and he loves our Paradise island! His latest book, Elephant Complex, Travels In Sri Lanka, is a warm and affectionate look at a country that’s “so diverse it’s like several countries rolled into one”.
An interview in the UK’s Guardian newspaper highlights a favourite topic of his—food. “Sri Lankan food is exquisite. The cooks are often like alchemists, spending hours foraging for herbs and then working away on the perfect taste.
“To experience authentic cuisine get out into the countryside, to places like the Mudhouse or Galkadawala Forest Lodge. Try their okra curries, or their pancakes, thin and fine and baked to perfection.”
He also waxes lyrical about the environment, eco-traveling and sustainability. “Galkadawala Forest Lodge in the centre of Sri Lanka is one of my favourite places to stay.
“It’s built from recycled materials, there are no external walls and there are just three rooms. The jungle is easily drawn into this structure, and so, at sunrise, I could lie in bed, drinking tea, surrounded by monkeys.
“The owner, Maulie de Saram, organises wonderful walks into elephant country – there are 5,800 elephants in Sri Lanka. And you can swim in the lake, if you don’t mind the crocodiles.”
Talking of elephants, the Guardian hails his new book and highlights how Sri Lanka is “home to thousands of wild elephants, this is a place where natural beauty has endured”.
It says: “Journeying through its many regions—some haunted by war, many rarely seen by our eyes—award-winning travel writer John Gimlette interviews ex-presidents and cricketers, tea planters and terrorists, negotiating the complex relationships of Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim communities and the more sinister forms of tourism.
“Each city raises the ghosts of old colonies: Portuguese, Dutch and British armies striving to claim the most significant ports in the southern seas; each site resurrects a civilization that preceded, and sometimes, outfaced them.”
And says Gimlett: “In my book, Elephant Complex, I wanted to tell Sri Lanka’s story through the people I met: farmers, soldiers, a former president, tea planters, terrorists, people who remembered the Japanese raids of April 1942, survivors of the tsunami, and even a few Test cricketers.
“One of my favourites was a Veddah tribesman – the Veddahs are the original inhabitants of the island, and go back perhaps 32,000 years. He taught me how to make traps, find wild honey, and made me a bow and arrow, just the right size to go in my rucksack.”