Retreat to the Jungle

Morning yoga, a trek to a waterfall, and a cooking class with locals. Can it get any better?

Alright, not going to lie, we are skipping some of our trip. We spent a few days in Kandy, and besides the food, we didn’t really enjoy ourselves. We even spent a whole day in the hotel because we wanted to escape the chaos of the city.

There seems to always be someone coming up to you to take you on a “city tour” or trying to take you to “where the locals shop”. We even got scammed at an “herbal garden” thinking we bought something that we are pretty sure was actually just vaseline. We will be writing a guide for Kandy with more details soon BUT we are happy to move on for now.

So, let’s get to the good stuff.

Heading to the Retreat

We spent 3 and a half amazing days at an eco-lodge in the jungle at a yoga retreat. Yes, Ty was happy to do this, Sam didn’t force him!

Catching the Bus from Kandy

We caught a bus from the Kandy bus station to reach our next destination. As we walked around the busy station, we were doing our best to find the bus we needed, obviously lost and standing out from everyone. There’s not much of an “information counter” so it’s a bit difficult to navigate.

In Sri Lanka, there are two types of buses, red ones run by the government and blue/white ones that are privately owned.

This blue bus was decked with lights and was very colorful inside! The base was bumping the whole time.

The 35-40 minute bus ride cost us $0.30 a piece. Knowing this, we’re probably going to be taking the bus a lot more now! 

Often, the buses don’t fully stop and most people hop off or on as it rolls slowly by. With two backpacks a piece and not being confident in our bus hopping skills, we were very happy that they completely stopped for us to get off. 

Arrival at Polwaththa

We were picked up from the bus stop and driven to the eco lodge.

When we arrived, we were shown our accommodation, our own small brick villa with one large room and an attached bathroom.

Outside on our porch, there are a couple of chairs, a hammock, and a view of the trees.

Tucked into the trees with its own trail, we felt alone in the wild, even though it was just a short hike to the rest of the lodge.

Polwaththa Eco Lodge

The lodge is an eco-friendly accommodation with a focus on sustainability for the environment and local culture. Although we were surprised with just how rustic it was, we were impressed with the eco-friendly practices and happy to be here. 

The eco lodge has a kitchen and a covered outdoor restaurant space, a yoga shala, a chillout space, and a small shop where they sell items made by locals. There are 15 different lodges, some brick buildings like ours, and others that are mostly made of wood. They are spread out and connected by dirt trails. Wifi is only available in the restaurant area, so it was a nice, semi-digital escape. 

Hot water is only available in the lodges through the use of solar panels OR heating the water over a fire. Our solar panel wasn’t working and we didn’t want to ask to have them heat our water so we adjusted to cold showers during our stay.

Pictured: Where the water is heated over fire for one of the lodges.

Polwaththa History

The land for Polwaththa Eco Lodge has been in the family since the late 1800s and was once a coconut plantation. Now, the owner and his son, have created the eco-lodge with a focus on reforesting the rain forest and sustaining the local village culture. 

Start of the Retreat 

There were 8 of us here for the retreat, alongside regular lodge guests. 5 of the 6 were from Germany (who came in pairs or separately) and 1 girl from Belgium. We ate dinner together that evening and everyone was super friendly.

We met our yoga instructor, Rogen, and were given a rundown for the next day’s schedule. Although this is a yoga retreat, there would be little downtime on our first full day. 

Our group had a range of experiences with yoga and luckily most of us were near beginners. It was nice to know we wouldn’t be with a whole group of experts!  

We have done yoga before and tried to make it a routine for a couple of months back in California. But we let it get away from us, so it has been a while since we’ve practiced.

Bright and Early

We woke up and met the group at 6:30 am the next day. We had some tea and then headed to the yoga shala for our 7 am class.

The shala is roughly 400 meters down a trail through the jungle so we had to follow our instructor that first day to make sure we got to the right place. 

It has been a while since we have done any yoga but it felt great! The instructor was so kind and reminded us often not to push ourselves past our limits.

At one point in the class, he said “You are where you are, and where you are is perfect”. This really stuck with us (and not just for our yoga abilities).

Trekking through the jungle

We had a short break after breakfast, before meeting up for our trek to a waterfall. Our guide was a young staff member of the lodge who taught us a lot while we walked. To get to the waterfall, we walked through the local village, and while doing so our guide, Prasad, pointed out various plants and trees.

Some of the things he showed us included peppercorn, nutmeg, coffee, cocoa, and cinnamon. He told us about how they harvest different items, how they are processed or dried for sale or use, and how some are used for Ayurvedic medicines.

Ayurvedic medicine is an alternative and holistic medicinal approach with roots in India and Sri Lanka that includes many herbal remedies.

Lunch at the Waterfall

We continued our trek to the waterfall and upon arrival, we all went swimming in the pool before having a packed lunch. Sitting by the pool while eating lunch felt very surreal. Sometimes it is hard to believe that we are here still. 

When we got back to the lodge, we had another short break before our second yoga class of the day at 4:30 pm. This yoga class was Yin yoga. If you aren’t familiar, it’s a lot slower and we hold the positions longer. It was a more “restorative” practice, although the stretches were still sometimes a lot for us. There was a lot of meditation involved too which was nice since we are both interested in learning more about that. 


After dinner, most of us hung out and played some UNO. 

Funny side note: We played a ton of UNO in Croatia too. When hanging out with our workaway family and their friends, we played UNO almost every time. So it was funny to be playing here in Sri Lanka, odd recurring theme of our trip!

That night, although more tired, it seemed harder to sleep. At one point through the night we had a visitor on the roof, either some monkeys or a giant squirrel! Whatever it was, it was loud!

Second Day of the Retreat

In the morning we started bright and early again with yoga at 7 am. This class was a bit more challenging than our first day. Not that this is a bad thing, it just moved a bit quicker so we definitely broke a sweat. 

Planting a Tree

The family who owns the eco lodge also has a foundation with the aim to reforest the land. The foundation is called The Forest Healing Foundation and you can read more about it here.

They have been reforesting their land over the past 5 years and have a goal to eventually buy more land and reforest it as well.

As part of our retreat, we got to help plant a tree for the foundation. Nel, the wife of the man whose family the land has been passed down in, runs the organization. We walked through the property (which is all jungle) and as a team planted a Mee Tree.

Trying New Things

After the tree planting, we had breakfast. Along with the usual fresh fruit, we tried String Hoppers for the first time.

We had tried regular hoppers before but the string hoppers were very different. Instead of being similar to a pancake, they were like noodles made into little circles. Very tasty but strange! 

Cooking with Locals

This was a slower day than yesterday so we had some downtime after breakfast (when most of this blog was written) before our cooking demonstration.

We had a cooking class in the lodge’s traditional Sri Lankan kitchen with two women from the village. They were so kind and shared a lot with us.

We learned how to make Jackfruit and Dhal curry. While making the curries, we peeled and chopped jackfruit, shredded fresh coconut, and learned how to make coconut milk.

We love cooking classes and are compiling a book for ourselves of everything we’ve learned to make on our travels. Hopefully, whenever we get home we have meal ideas from all over the world!

After everything was done, we enjoyed our delicious meal for lunch. And oh man was it good!

It must have smelled good too because monkeys started coming up close to the outdoor kitchen. They were interested in what we had made!

Can you spot the monkeys on the edge of the roof?

We finished the day with another yoga class, a delicious dinner of Jackfruit Kottu, and some more card games.

Saying Farewell

In the morning, we had one last yoga session before packing up and saying goodbye. Most of us took the bus back to Kandy since this was where we would all depart from.

We packed so much into just a few days at the retreat. The people at Polwaththa were so kind and we enjoyed every second (okay, maybe not the cold showers, but the rest)!

We’ll leave you with the wise words of our yoga teacher once more,

“You are where you are, and where you are is perfect”

Until next time,

Sam and Ty