Tag Archives: travel photography

One of the best things, and also one of the absolute worst things, to happen to me whilst travelling. And all in one post!

30 Mar

Next morning we found that Rosie still had selfishly not given birth

She surely must be about to any minute though :) We had the breakfast of champions (toast and Marmite) and headed off for a quick swim. We got on the bike to go and see the nearby Buddhist temple, but Craig hadn’t got long trousers on so according to the sign we weren’t allowed in. The road to it was very pretty and decorated with Buddhist flags

We thought we’d go for a bit of a wander on the bike and drove round “inside”  as the locals would say – anything that is off the Galle Road is referred to as Inside (as opposed to Beachside). If you want to say go round the back, it’s Backside, which never fails to amuse me.

We also saw this man carrying a bedframe in the best way possible – I told you they don’t take anything on buses here!

We went to see England play Sri Lanka at a pub in Hikkaduwa; glad to see they’re up to their usual glittering form. Thanks for making everyone laugh at us when we say we’re from England. Cheers. We enjoy that.

After a quick bite to eat on the beach, we went back for a nap before going back to see Pathum, his dad Silva, his mum Nonny and his sister Delinda for dinner. We brought a bottle of arrack with us, knowing it was Silva’s favourite, which he poured out in thankfully thimble-sized glasses, mixed with ginger beer. We sat outside and watched the sunset, chatting and eating fried tuna with squeezes of lime juice and poppadoms. Lovely. In true Sri Lankan style, after every sentence Silva instructed us to eat. So it would be ‘I’m just going to the kitchen. EAT!’ ‘I used to work as a fisherman and before that I was a tailor. EAT!’ ‘If you come back to Sri Lanka, you must stay with us. EAT!’ I think we were force-fed an entire tuna but it was yummy.

After a couple of hours we were pretty tired and said we should think about leaving…to which Silva replied, ‘But we have dinner now!’ Yep, more food. Delicious coconut rotties, dhal and tuna fish curry (guess we hadn’t eaten the whole fish then). We could only manage about half before we were in danger of exploding! He also gave us a pineapple in case we were in need of snack on the way home. So generous (he didn’t want any money for the drinks or food and also gave me a new needle and thread after I lost mine to fix one of my skirts) and a great evening but we are becoming more beachball-like every second! I think we’ll have to eat at least seven Thai meals a day to feel full after this :) We arranged to meet Pathum the next day to go to the carnival in Ambalangoda which should be fun.

Craig got woken up by me, having not slept at all so I was already awake, at 5.15am the next day as he had arranged to go fishing with one of Ajit’s friends. He got up and had a shower, looked at the weather which was thundering and lightening out at sea, and said it was too dark and he didn’t want to go. Then he looked at his ipod and worked out that yet again, I had forgotten about the time difference as we are still on Bangkok time. That meant it was actually 3.45am. Ooops. I was already in his bad books because the day before, when I asked him whether he had the keys, he made some kind of mountain lion noise which I took to mean yes, so I locked the guesthouse door behind me. It turned out that ‘Grrworrrrlllll’ did not in fact mean yes, it meant no. And Kumari did not have a spare key to the room. So Craig, wrestling with a hangover from the tree party the night before, had to clamber onto the hot roof tiles of the extension, try and unscrew the bars on the window with a bent screwdriver, remove them and then climb in. I inexplicably found this hilarious, which I am sure didn’t help at all.

However, Karma is a force to be reckoned with and once Craig had gone back to bed last night, understandably grumbly, I nipped to the loo only to find that the only toilet paper left was a little bunch on the side that we’d obviously nicked from some restaurant or other. Once in the bowl, from the middle of the bunch, a live cockroach ran out of it, furious and plotting my tortuous demise. Oh, the horror. I flushed the loo, but no, he still glared defiantly up at me, his nasty little legs thrashing around and getting angrier and angrier. I tried filling up a bucket of water and poured that on him whilst flushing – his expression said ‘Keep going, this is only making things worse for yourself. I’ll start by BITING YOUR EYES.’

Finally I got the empty roll and fished him out into the bucket, sprinted across the room whilst simultaneously trying to protect my eyes, not be sick or wake Craig up, chucked the enormous bug and the cardboard roll over the balcony, and sat in a blisteringly hot shower for 20 minutes. Practically crushing one of Earth’s most disgusting creatures into intimate areas by using cockroach paper is not how I’d usually choose to start the day. Excuse me whilst I bathe in bleach.

Anyway, Craig enjoyed fishing and although he only caught crabs (:I) and two coral fish, he had a really good morning on the catamaran. We had breakfast and went off on the bike to Kosgoda to see if we could arrange to release the baby turtles they look after there back into the sea (which they do every day) the next day. We eventually found the place and they said yes so we’re really looking forward to that.

On our way back, we bought some rope to try and make a swing for Ajit’s daughter, Atma. She’s only three and has two older brothers who are into cricket and boy things and we thought it would be nice for her to have something to play with. Twenty metres of rope cost about a fiver and we found some wood in Ajit’s garden, so Craig and I set about trying to make one for her in the boiling heat. Craig came up with a clever system which meant that the ropes could be lassoed onto the very tall coconut tree (chosen for the angle it was growing at and also because it is right outside the kitchen window so Kumari can check on Atma as the girl has no fear). Atma came to help, beside herself with joy at the thought she was getting a swing

 

And finally it was done. She was a little shy at first but we showed her how it was done, and she went and got Kumari for a trial run. Kumari was also delighted as she explained that by absolute fluke, we had managed to help them celebrate the Sri Lankan New Year (13 April, Craig’s birthday) in style – swings take an important place in the New Year festivities. A large swing is tied onto a strong tree so that all the women and children can join in the fun. They recite special verses which are known as Varang Kavi – swing songs – and our choice of red rope was perfect as that is a sacred colour for Buddhists.

As soon as Atma joined her mother on the swing, she started singing a swing song to Kumari.

Her mum got off to rush and invite the neighbours for a short impromptu pre-New Year celebration. The nearby houses’ women and children all came round and sang the swing song together whilst Atma and Kumari swung, followed by the other women and their children. A really lovely moment and one that made us feel like even more part of the family. Atma loved her new swing and insisted that I got on the swing with her too, and she started singing to me, throwing her head back and laughing all the time. Things like this makes me really sad we’re leaving for Bangkok in a couple of days!

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I left my heart in Akurala

29 Mar

The train station at Kandy (and throughout Sri Lanka actually) is like it’s out of the Railway Children – there is a Chief Station Master’s office, the timetable is carefully hand-stencilled in white letters on a blackboard, the smartly uniformed staff have silver pocket watches and there are first, second and third class seats, plus an Observation Saloon.

All of the trains are diesel and still make that lovely cluh-clunk noise as they slide along the tracks. It’s quite odd to feel nostalgic for an England you’ve never actually known yourself! Our train left on time (so maybe the English influence isn’t so clear after all!) and cost us £1.10 (second class) to go from Kandy to Katarula South, which is a five hour trip. Unlike the buses, our carriage had enough space to put our bags in the overhead lockers and each set of four seats had a window that could be fully slid up so you could have uninterrupted panoramic views of the Hill Country and the West Coast. They don’t seem to be as health and safety conscious here – this would never be allowed in the UK for fear of someone leaning out too far and chopping their head off. Here there seems to be more of a ‘use your common sense’ attitude.

Window: ‘If you lean out of me too far, do you think it’s likely your head will get chopped off?’

Me: *small voice* ‘Yes’.

‘Then are you going to do it?’

Me: *small voice, looking down* ‘No’.

‘Excellent decision Sarah. Now get on with your journey and enjoy the view.’

It was also very nice to hear the usual “I’m sorry to announce that the [pause] 3.15 to [pause] the place you really need to get to on time is delayed” on repeat. You’re not sorry, you’re a computer and you’ve programmed to say that by someone who clearly does not give a tiny rat’s ass about whether my train is late.

Anyway…we watched the sunrise

and curled up through the mountains

We arrived at Katarula South to change buses as the train only goes so far at the moment due to works on the track. Got the bus with no problem, and even met one of Ajit’s friends at the station (he knows everyone in Sri Lanka it seems). He offered us a tuktuk for £15 but we said again, firmly, that we would get the bus. [Insert bloody battle scenes here]. Victorious, we got the two hour bus for £0.32 each and went and surprised Ajit and his family.

It was lovely to see everyone again although to our disappointment, Ajit’s dog had not still not had puppies. She was enormous when we last left but now she looks like she’ll explode any second. Can’t wait until they’re here. We gave Atma, Ajit’s three year old daughter, some bracelets to play with and asked his wife, Kumari, to cook us lunch, having dreamed about her food since we left. She said it would be a while but we knew it was going to be worth waiting for so despite being literally starving, we said ok. Mountains of rice, jack fruit curry, poppodums, dhal, devilled chicken and spicy vegetables arrived within an hour. Just amazing and worth coming back for alone!

We went to cool off in the sea and paddled around for a couple of hours, before coming back for chicken noodles (you don’t really order here, Kumari just cooks up what she has and it is uniformly lovely so we leave it in her hands). We met a girl from the Ukraine who was staying here, and introduced her to arrack as she was leaving the next day and hadn’t had any. We had a free beer on the house to say thanks for coming back, as well as a 150 rupee-a-night discount, yay. Ajit had just come back from a tour of Kandy with some Russians, who had tipped him $140, an unbelievable sum, so he was in full celebratory mode and was really drunk early on. He kept dropping his cigarettes, insisting that the Ukrainian girl should cancel her flights and stay in Sri Lanka, telling us inappropriate details about his marital life (Just. Stop. Talking!) and giggling away to himself. He then decided that we needed to go and see whether there were turtles on the beach. Why not? His wife was not happy as it was quite late and there wouldn’t be turtles as it wasn’t a full moon, but he insisted.

As it happened, there was a party on the beach (well, in the middle of some palm trees and bushes), which a more cynical girl would say Ajit knew about, but not me. It was great though because they’d got green apple arrack, Sprite and Bombay mix and wanted us to join in

Craig went off on some enormously complicated mission to get the boys some more arrack, but by the time he got back everyone was very drunk and getting maybe a little too friendly so Ajit, the Ukrainian girl and I went back to the guesthouse, leaving Craig to play his harmonica for them and sing Sri Lankan songs. They asked me to sing an English song but I could only think of Jingle Bells, which is used by the bakery tuktuks as their advertising song so I think they thought that was quite strange.

After a long sleep the next morning, we had dhal and rotties for lunch (and chicken curry, despite not ordering it, as I don’t think she thought we could possibly have enough food) and then went off to Hikkaduwa to get a book for me and to skype Craig’s mum and nan. We decided to surprise some people we met last time, Pathum and his dad, on the way back, but our plan was foiled by Pathum spotting us in Hikkaduwa. But they were still pleased to see us and immediately invited us round for dinner the next day so we could catch up.

Kumari cooked us rice and curry for dinner yesterday but despite us saying just a small amount, there was tons of rice, sweet potato curry, chicken curry, loads of veggies, poppodums  – the full works. We couldn’t do it justice and felt really bad, but she assured us it wouldn’t go to waste. I gave some of the chicken to the cat who has taken up residence on the top floor of the guesthouse over the last week – he was really scared of me but I gave him chicken two nights on the trot and now we’re like, best friends

Just as we were thinking about rolling our tummies to bed, Ajit said that there was a devil dance being performed in his village and would we like to go? We had heard that these dances were hard to find and really interesting to watch so we agreed. Unfortunately they start quite late so by the time we got there, it was already 11.45pm. The reason a dance was going on was because a village man was suffering from a skin disease on his head and other ailments, which was thought to be the result of his mother, who died in the tsunami, coming back to haunt him and cause the illnesses. The devil dance is a way of chasing the demons out of the house, returning the person affected back to health. The whole village usually attends.

The house was covered in candles, floral offerings and ornate handmade decorations and shrines made out of entirely natural materials

Outside, the house and garden was surrounded by white string, with an opening near the gate, to let the demons out. Once the ritual had been completed, the string would be retied, closing the gap. A rooster had been sacrificed and laid out on the ground outside, and there were offerings of food and drink for the spirits inside. A pot of charcoal burned on the ground inside in front of where the dancers were, so they could throw powered incense on it to make the room perfumed. A drummer dressed in a white and red sarong kept the beat, and the main leader, danced in front of the shrine first, chanting along with the other two dancers

Once he had finished, a man in a red sarong, who was meant to represent the man’s mother, began to dance in a trance-like state. As the drumming intensified, so did his dancing, until he was shouting and jumping around the room. He told the man (who was behind a white linen screen the whole time) about things that had happened to his mother and finally threw himself on the floor. He was very emotional and looked completely spent.

The drumming then started again and the main dance leader began to pray and chant. By this time it was 12.30am, so Ajit took us back, but he said that the ritual goes on until at least 5am. It was amazing to see and a real insight into local culture.

However, when I got back, despite being totally knackered, this happened.

I put in my earplugs and looked forward to drifting off to sleep.

Me: Ahhhh sleep.

Brain: JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE ALL THE WAY!

Me: Shut up brai…

Brain: JINGLE BELLS, JING…

Me: You go shush now!

Brain: Jingggggggggggle bells, jingle bells!

Me: Oh come on now, it’s 1am!

Brain: JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS.

Me: I hate you goddamn brain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And we kicked off our shoes, and walked barefoot into the garden.

28 Mar

We got up early the next day to catch the bus which was a fairly uneventful two buses but amazing value at less than £2 each to go a hundred kilometres or so. By the end of it though, we were quite sick of diesel fumes and just wanted to get some food and chill out. This time our dirty caff strategy didn’t pay off…the place was full of gas fumes from the cooker and the food was the worst we’ve eaten the entire time we have been here. But it was at least cheap (eventually, after we pointed out that 140 + 150 + 250 did not equal 2,150 :I). Our guidebook is hopelessly out of date price-wise so after trudging round a couple of guesthouses that wanted £20 a night, we hailed the font of all knowledge, a tuktuk driver, and asked him to take us somewhere cheap. We ended up somewhere that charged £6 so not too bad (and a nice view of the neighbouring monkeys)

– until the lady came home and said that actually, there had been a mistake and it was £9. We could move into one of the rooms round the back instead for £6 tomorrow. Ho hum. We didn’t really want to because the hotel was being used for hourly visits by local unmarried couples and we were basically getting a ‘sexy time’ room but we thought for one night it wouldn’t be too bad. However, it was the most depressing ‘sexy’ room ever – the one window was broken so had cardboard instead of glass, there was mould on the walls and general unnamed grub everywhere. Not somewhere you’d want to have a romantic weekend away! Luckily we’d bought our own sheets! Onwards and upwards tomorrow!

We did use our time at the grubby hotel wisely though – as it was so dirty we had another bash at dyeing Craig’s hair, figuring that if the dye got everywhere you wouldn’t be able to tell.

There’s been a murrrr-derrrrr

End result: all kinds of awesome

Wow! It’s so funny because now Craig’s got red hair, everyone asks us whether we’re from Japan :D Before that it was Germany, I think because we’re too brown to be English now.

The next day was spent at the Botanical Gardens just outside of Kandy. We had our usual battle with the tuktuk drivers that laid in wait at the bottom of the guesthouse’s drive…patiently explaining yet again that we would get the bus.

“But tuktuk is better.”

“But the bus is cheaper.”

“I do you good price – 700 rupees.”

“But the bus is 15.”

“But tuktuk is better.” Repeat ad infinitum.

Needless to say, we got the bus without any problems and it dropped us at the door. The entrance price was £6.50 which was very good value, but slightly less when we saw what the locals paid – £0.25! But the park is 60 hectares of utter gorgeousness and once you see the time and effort that has been put into the place (over several hundred years), it is absolutely worth it and I would say an unmissable experience if in Sri Lanka. It was stunning, so peaceful and crammed full of plants, trees and flowers that we’d never seen before. We took our shoes off and padded through the entire park for six hours.

There were nice foresty-bits with trees that look like they should be in a fairy tale

This Giant Jave Tree’s canopy covers an area of 2,500 square metres.

This was covered in yellow flowering vines but because it was so massive I had to stand about 3 miles away so you can’t really see them.

There were manicured floral gardens with all sorts of exotic flowers

 

…an orchid house with every type of orchid under the sun

And just general gorgeousness

A lovely bunch of coconuts – they take 5 years to grow and weigh up to 20kg each.

A healthy population of enormous fruit bats…

…and even the rare, Lesser Spotted Cotton-Headed Ninnymuggins

It made me miss my garden so much – during the April bank holiday last year we turned the patch of scrubby lawn into a proper garden together and I miss pottering around weeding and watching things grow. It was really rewarding to see all our hard work pay off

Whilst we were having a drink in the evening we got talking about Ajit’s place and how much fun it was having a bike and being near the beach. You can rent a bike in Kandy but it’ll cost you 2,500 rupees, whereas we got ours from Ajit for 500. Suddenly we knew what we had to do: go back across the country and stay at Ajit’s for our last week, hire a bike, zip off to the beach and chill out a bit more. Sorry Temple of the Sacred Tooth Replic, I am sure you’re lovely, but you’re no match for Akurala. So we walked to the train station and found that the first train to the West Coast went at 5.10am. We booked a tuktuk driver to come and meet us at 4.30am but in my confusion about times, I set the alarm for 2.30am (1am Sri Lankan time) and 4am (2.30 Sri Lankan time) thinking I’d covered all bases in case Craig had changed his ipod time yet, but it actually needed to be set for 5.30 so we could get up at 4. Luckily I realised my mistake the first time the alarm went off!

The tuktuk driver pulled up in a cloud of incense, beads and tassles. “Good morning!”

“Good morning! Home please!”

I…want Kandy

27 Mar

We trotted round the Fort in the morning

and saw a bit more of the local wildlife

We also explored the Dutch Reformed Church which was a very beautiful and peaceful church built in the late 19th Century

and the madness that is the Historical Mansion – a gloriously cluttered showcase of one man’s private antiques collection. He collects everything and anything: jewellery, pipes, china, spectacles, antique lace, coins, knives…you name it, there are at least 20 of them in there.

It was a bit sad as the collection was dusty and mouldering away, unloved, but the number of interesting items there was amazing. I asked why the man collected all this stuff, and the guide shrugged and said it was because he was crazy. Of course! He makes his money selling gems and then buys shiny things and puts them in his museum. I think he needs about eight more of them to fit everything in properly!

Craig went off to get his hair done, but unfortunately still not the bright red result he wanted. The lady kept asking “why??” when Craig said he just wanted a little bit at the front to be red. “Like a bird!” she kept giggling. But the finished product is actually quite good – just a little bit redder so we don’t stand out any more than we already do!

Difficult to see in this picture but it’s the nice reddy-brown henna usually turns people’s hair.

We had another delicious lunch (this time, banana flower and also jack fruit curries, yum) on a rooftop terrace. The bottom floor of the restaurant was a shop, where I was severally tempted by this apron

In the evening, Craig went off to the hole in the wall alcohol dispensers for some arrack and ginger beer

I like how this makes him look like a giant :)

We sat on the roof by our room with candles and the arrack for a bit, wondering why everyone went to bed at 8. Perhaps they are also on Bangkok time after all…

The next morning we caught the bus to Mirissa. Although I don’t love their speed, you can’t argue with the bus prices. We have never paid more than £2 each, despite travelling significant distances. I think the bus from Galle to Mirissa was 28p each. The only thing that is weird after getting used to people travelling with live animals, big bags of vegetables, new bicycles for their children and the kitchen sink, is that the buses here do not have any storage. And I mean none. On some there is an overhead rack which is not big enough to hold a small bag, never mind a big backpack, on others there isn’t even that. We are confused as to how they move their stuff. Tuktuk?! Or maybe they just don’t travel long distances? Or hire a van? Either way, you can feel people huff and puff when they have to manoeuvre round our bags, but we don’t really have a choice! Craig raised a few eyebrows when he got on the bus with two massive bags plus a carrier bag full of calamari to use when fishing. He kindly hung it on the hook right over my head.

We found a nice guesthouse near the beach for 1,200 rupees per night with the added bonus of a balcony and wifi. We later found out that the wifi is free because they turn it off when they think no one’s using it! Very annoying when you’re trying to chat to someone or upload something and all of a sudden off it goes! The internet was so slow there though that I struggled to load pages, never mind the blog. But the location was great as it was only a few minutes’ walk to the beach and opposite a little shop.

Craig went off fishing (without success sadly) and I went to lie on the beach for a bit. We had tea – you can tell it was more touristy as the quality of the food went massively downhill – and then went to search for Gemma and Joe’s friends, Babi and Sunni. Two wrong Babi’s down, we asked at the next bar and the guy said he worked with a Babi. He called him and it was him! Five minutes later, there he was, beaming away and asking why Joe wasn’t with us. I hope this was the right one Joe!!

I think he thought Joe was coming too so we had to let him down that we were second prize unfortunately. I don’t think he minded too much though as gave him his presents, bought him a beer, told him Gemma and Joe missed him lots and heard about what he’d been up to since he’d seen them. The conversation was slightly interrupted by having to cook all the time, but he said he would be finished by 11. I went to bed but Craig took Babi back to the guesthouse later to fetch his harmonica so he could accompany Craig on his drum, and it turned out that Babi knew the owner so there was a fair amount of arrack drunk

but we ended up getting up fairly early the next morning to catch our bus to Matara where you can get the train or bus onwards…only we couldn’t because the bus was packed and they took one look at our bags and said it was too full; which was fair enough as we do take up more space. We went for breakfast – Craig went for coffee and I a tradition Sri Lankan breakfast – only to be rewarded with the usual string hoppers (rice noodles), dhal and sambal, but also a bread roll, pineapple, melon, oranges and bananas…more food than one person could eat in one day! So Craig gamely joined in and we managed about half of it between us.

As full bus after full bus passed us, we decided to treat ourselves by going by tuktuk. Despite how cheap the buses are, tuktuks are a minimum of 100 or 150 rupees, which seems odd considering you can go probably 25km on a bus for 100 rupees, whereas by tuktuk it will be 100 even it’s just round the corner. We settled on 500 rupees and off we went. As Mirissa didn’t have a cash point, we had to stop on the way to get some money. I think the driver saw his chance as by the time we got to the train station, he suddenly demanded 600, giving us the old “ah the petrol is so expensive…” speech. It’s not, we filled our motorbike up the other day for 400 rupees, went here there and everywhere and still gave it back with half a tank left. But Craig folded and gave him the extra hundred :I When we got to the train station, we found we couldn’t get to Kandy as the only train went at the civilised time of 4.05 am. Huff. We had decided to go to Kandy rather than work our way slowly up North as we could do day trips from there to everywhere we wanted to go, and hopefully saying we were going to stay for a week would enable us to get a good price.

So it was back to trying to get a bus for us, but luckily there were a couple of empty ones to Ratnapura (the direct ones to Kandy having left at stupid o’clock). It was a very long journey but unlike South East Asian buses, they don’t stop. At all. So if you need the loo, or some food, or water – tough. They don’t even stop to let people on – unless you start at the bus station, you have to take a running jump to get on or off! So we pulled into Ratnapura at about 2 o’clock and went to get some lunch. You could tell it was an area that tourists didn’t often visit as the food was very cheap. We went into the nearest dive we could find – napkins made of newspaper, grubby, dirty floor – and ordered the rice and curry and four cokes. This strategy works most of the time – if the locals are in there, the food is usually good, and if it’s fairly dirty, the food is usually cheap. The food was amazing: mountains of rice and curry arrived which we fell upon, not having eaten for what seemed like days. We finished a couple of bowls and immediately new bowls were put in front of us and another plate of rice! The bill was £2 for everything. Unbelieveable.

After eating, we found that we were stuck in Ratnapura because the last bus to Kandy had left. We found a little place for £4.95 a night with a balcony, and settled down in the evening to watch the sunset over the mountains with two newspaper parcels containing hot kottu :)

 

Travel goal number seven achieved. Sort of.

21 Mar

One quick update – I forgot to mention the other day that I achieved one of my travel goals – to have a butterfly land on me. I’m not sure effectively charging at it when we were on the motorbike and crushing it with my face was exactly the moment I had imagined in my head, but I’m still ticking it off the list.

***

We got up fairly early and as usual, nowhere was open for breakfast – we couldn’t understand this as you’d think there would be loads of places open considering how many guesthouses and big hotels there are along Galle Road.

Even this place wasn’t open

…although I hope they don’t do that to my burger.

So whilst we waited, we took the guesthouse owner’s dog for a walk along the beach. Debris is nine months old and spends his life tied up to a post in the garden, with no water and nothing to do. Apparently he is tied up because he can open doors by himself as he’s so big, but I guess that’s what dogs do when they’re really, really bored. So we took out for a gallop along the beach

We were planning to check out when we got back, having been assured we could check out at any time, but the owner was nowhere to be seen so we patiently, and then impatiently, sat and waited. We couldn’t just leave some money for her as she had Craig’s passport. Serious boredom set in so we gave Debris a bath with aloe vera shampoo so that he didn’t stink as much and let him off his lead so he could have a little bit of a play. He used his new found freedom to try and have sexy time with Craig’s bag, then my bag, and then Craig – so back on his lead he went. I painted my toenails and Craig joined in

…after two and a half hours, we decided to put the bags back in the room as it was clear the owner wasn’t going to come back any time soon. We found somewhere that was open and ordered lunch as by then it was half past 12. The waiter came back and said they were only serving breakfast, was that ok??? We asked why and he said it was 11am and the chef didn’t start doing lunch until 12 so we’d have to wait: we have been on Bangkok time for a week and not realised it! Which means we have been getting up at 5.30am thinking it’s 7 and thinking that all the Sri Lankans are so lazy staying in bed and not opening until 10…which would be 8.30am their time which is actually pretty reasonable. Ooops!

We went back to the guesthouse and found the owner had come back. We explained we had been waiting a long time for her to come back but her response was “yes”. That might go some way in explaining why we were the only ones staying there.

The saddest dog in the world

We got the bus from Hikkaduwa to Galle on the one bus in Sri Lanka that went at a non-suicidal pace. However, the slowness and therefore relative safety of the bus journey was counteracted by the fact that the only seats left were by the one window that didn’t open. Sweaty is the understatement of the year.

Hopped off the bus at Galle and were immediately met by our entourage of tuktuk drivers. We explained that we would like to walk around and have a look for guesthouses by ourselves but one kept saying he had a “very very cheap” guesthouse close by – a snip at 2,000 rupees. We had been paying half that in Hikkaduwa so said no thank you. He said that our guidebook was out of date (which it is) and that we wouldn’t get cheaper than that, but off we marched anyway…to be met by another “helpful” soul round the corner. He too, knew a “very very cheap” guesthouse at 1,650 rupees, which we explained was too much but that didn’t seem to put him off shepherding us to it anyway. We got there and the sign said “Super Luxury Rooms” – budget indeed. Craig went inside out of politeness and they said the rooms started at 2,500 rupees anyway! He said that was out of our budget, earning shocked looks from the other English tourists who were in the reception (£12 per night is out of your budget??) who said that we would not find any rooms within the Fort of Galle for less than 2,000. Never ones to back down from a challenge, we politely shooed the tuktuk driver away and walked round the corner, thinking to ourselves that perhaps he was right, the Fort area does look pretty fancy. As this thought crossed our minds, a woman sprang from her shop asking whether we were looking for rooms. We said yes and asked how much: 1,500. Craig did his best plumber’s sharp intake of breath and asked if we could have it a little bit cheaper: immediately she said 1,200. Win!

The room itself is nice and clean with a four poster bed, a mosquito net that looks like it was made this century and is not peppered with mosquito-sized holes in it, a bathroom with four different showers (toilet shower, foot shower, normal shower and head shower, odd!) and a little window leading on to a roof space. It is however, approximately half the size of a postage stamp and as it is the top room in the house, we have affectionately (more or less) named it the Hot Box as the temperature never dips below 35 degrees. If it hadn’t been for the resident ants and the cockroach that scuttled over my hand (so gross) when I went to retrieve my bag from the floor, I would have slept outside to try and cool down. As it was, we spent most of the evening on the roof terrace having a couple of drinks – it seems like this is a daytripper town as everyone disappears at around 5pm and nowhere serves beer as they haven’t got a liquor licence. So our measly curfew, 10pm, was easily met as there was nothing to do and nothing open!

We did make ourselves some entertainment though…we met a Moroccan man called Hassan who ran the most beautiful antique shop stuffed full of amazing things. He was quite a character

and specialised in “the healing power of crystals”. He told me that my aura meant that I am adamant (I think he meant stubborn, which is true and that “if I saw a three legged dog I would swear it had four”) and that none of my friends like me as much as I like them (ouch!). He told Craig that he was “just a fairy, there is no other way of describing it”. You can imagine how difficult it was to keep a straight face! He said that he meant that Craig had so much love in his heart that no one could describe it and that he was a simple man because he didn’t want to show off how much he had.

Stubborn female, 27, seeks someone she can love more than they love her. Ideally, a modest, simple fairy of 31. Sri Lanka area. Contact toaustraliathelongway.”

A match made in heaven!

But anyway, his beard was awesome and we asked how he did it. We were sent off with instructions to go to a shop called The Lovers to buy some henna. I applied it to Craig’s beard and hair in the hope it would go bright red like Hassan’s

but sadly no luck as it just went darker brown. We hope to find a hairdressers who can turn Craig neon like Hassan as I think that would be hilarious. You can’t be a proper traveller until you have silly hair. I am excused from this exercise as I was born with silly hair.

We plan to walk around the Fort today and more of the town which is lovely,

go swimming – not diving from the 12 metre high cliffs into 1.5 metre deep water like the local boys do – and then get the bus to Mirissa tomorrow which is meant to be a really lovely beach. It will be hard peeling ourselves off it to head inland after that! We will also try to meet Joe and Gemma’s Sri Lankan friends there to say hello for them and to pass on a couple of presents.