Sri Lanka 2022

Sri Lanka Day 16 – Kandy

We put our washing in to reception and had breakfast before we walked over to the nearby Temple of the Tooth from the Queens Hotel. It started to rain heavily and we popped our shoes in and sheltered for a while. A Dutch couple were filming his “Disposal of the Socks” ceremony, which she assured me was a one off and I shouldn’t come back tomorrow as there would be nothing to see – this was their last temple visit of their trip.

We went into the museum, slightly damp, and saw pictures of the damaged caused by the Tamil bomb attack in 1998 which killed 17 and injured more than 25 people at this World Heritage site. We also saw the replica of the holy relic of the left lower incisor of Buddha – held here in a cask within 6 other casks, the outer of which was displayed briefly three times a day to the throngs who attend the temple in great numbers.

We watched the ceremony, at 9.30am, which started with drummers and then we queued with hundreds of others to file past the open doorway with the cask visible to us briefly in the background.

If we had any fears of catching Covid, surely they must be dispelled by this occasion when we were crushed in a small area with hundreds of other people, yes wearing masks, but….

The other replica in the museum is of the footprint of Buddha that we are due to visit in a couple of days time at Adam’s Peak. Now unless Buddha was 20 foot tall, which he might have been based on the size of his tooth replica, the footprint we saw must surely not be to scale, as it was huge.

After the ceremony and a visit to the wooden hall where the final surrender to the British had taken place by the last kingdom of Kandy, we went back to the hotel where sadly the lift was broken. It was one of those brilliant old ones with two sliding trellice gates and we had enjoyed using to to spare us the three floors to our room. Still, good training for the big walk at Adams Peak I guess.

Shortly thereafter we took the bus to the Botanical Gardens which although only 5km away took almost an hour to reach due to the heavy traffic. There were long queues at each of the garages, stretching hundreds of metres as all types of vehicles an pedestrians with jerry cans waited for the rare appearance of any type of fuel. There is supposedly loads in tankers off the coast, but Sri Lanka has no hard currency to pay for it, hence the devaluation, which had helped us, but not the vehicle owners it seemed as fuel was still very scarce.

The botanical gardens were peaceful pleasant and extensive and we wandered around dodging the showers and crossing half way across the swing bridge, dodging the fruit bats hanging under some trees, photographing large bamboo and elephant feet trees before ending up in the cafeteria run by the gardens.

If you look carefully you can see the bats….
The bamboo is easier to see…

Lunch was a slow affair, waiting over an hour for two sandwiches, one tuna and one cheese and tomato. My tuna turned out to be fish paste and Heather’s cheese was most peculiar, several of the group got upset stomachs later including Heather and I think here was the culprit.

On the way back we stopped at a gem factory, showing us a video of the mining process along with a replica model mine. I eventually bought a star sapphire to go with the ones I bought in Nepal and South Africa and hopefully we can get a pendant made for Heather when we get back which will show off the three very different stones well. I’m still not sure about the heritage of the Nepalese one, but the Sri Lankan one comes with a certificate of authenticity.

We left Gillian there and went back to the hotel, leaving soon thereafter to walk alongside the lake and past the temple to the theatre where we were entertained by the Kandy dancers, drummers and firewaters/walkers. An hour of this was just right and for £3 it was excellent value and good fun.

We walked back and went straight out again, stopping in the Odel store conveniently almost next door, which was a good find. Having bought two great value linen shirts (£13 each), I tried to cross the road to get to the ATM but no chance. I’ll go tomorrow.

We saw the sign for the Red Stag pub and thinking that was the one showing the rugby, went inside, only to be whisked up to a rooftop bar which we soon worked out wasn’t the one other members of the group had been in the previous night. After trying every tv station on the tv and not finding the rugby, we settled in and decided we didn’t need to see the games, thinking Wales would beat Italy easily and France would do the same to England. As it happened Italy won their first six nations match in 36 or so, at the expense of hapless Wales and so we didn’t miss much. England capitulated to France as expected and Eddie Jones was in the press the following day saying “he wasn’t good enough”. Maybe time to go then….

We waited an hour for our meal – battered prawns, which were ok once they arrived and afterwards went back to the hotel where our washing was soon delivered to our room. It is, as I’ve said elsewhere, one of life and travel’s greatest luxuries….

Sri Lanka 2022

Sri Lanka Day 15 – Lions Rock and Kandy

A sensible 7am start to beat both the heat and the other tourists took us a short distance to the car park for the start of the Lions Rock ascent. The ladies and some of the gents were soon seeing hassled by the guides wanting to help them up the various steps – Jenny in particular was getting a lot of attention.

Jenny and Heather decided to peel off back to the bus and had an enjoyable hour or more drinking fruit juice and resisting the curio salesmen, one of whom had the nerve to go and sit at their table for ten minutes – they ignored him.

We pressed on up the steps to the lion’s paws – a flat level area about half way up. Here another clutch of the party decided to stay put and await our return. Sadly the lions head from brick has long since gone, leaving just the paws, but they are impressive enough and one can imagine the whole structure and how that must have looked to the ancient world, guarding as it did the cloud like rock painted in white, with a strip of reflective surface below creating the illusion of the cloud floating in the heavens with the gods.

Those that didn’t suffer from vertigo carried on up the steep metal stairways – how the ancients managed to cope with the simple cut out steps we couldn’t fathom – it all looked very scary.

We wandered around happily on the top, admiring the views, and the reservoir, and the throne, before making our way back behind the reflective area and up a spiral staircase to see the painted ladies on the frescos, made from coloured plaster.

The technique didn’t allow for mistakes and I did blot my copybook somewhat by asking to see the lady with the three nipples whom I had read about, and she was duly pointed out with a smile by AV.

She got told off on the way down by another guide for allowing one of us to take photos of the frescoes, but in fact it wasn’t one of our group at all, but some independent travellers who had tagged along with us. She pointed this out to him forcibly enough….

We had breakfast back at the hotel after the Lions Head experience, one of the best parts of the trip so far. It is a magical place, unlike anywhere I have been before. 

An unexpected visitor at breakfast

We enjoyed a visit to the Dambulla vegetable and fruit market, interacting with the local traders while trying not to get in their way. I was given a fruit which I thought the chap called “Wally, wally” although he may have been referring to me of course. I later discovered he was probably saying “olive, olive” as it is apparently the Sri Lankan version although it tastes more like a fruit. Also tasting like a fruit, although a very sore one, is the local gooseberry which bears no resemblance in texture or taste, but after chewing thoroughly for ten minutes when trying to wash it down with swigs of water, it does start to taste a little sweeter, or at least the water tastes sweet compared to the astringent fruit.

We then visited a woodcarving factory, noted the talk on the different sorts of indigenous woods and also look around at the huge range of curios on offer. All rather expensive compared to say Pollonoruwa, where I had negotiated a set of 4 elephants in a slightly unpleasant way with a trader who changed the size of one of the elephants once we had settled on the price of 1,000 rupees – I just accepted it in bad grace, but I was happy to see that the smallest of the elephants in the woodcarving place was 2,000 rupees on its own so perhaps I had driven too hard a bargain. The vendor did start at 8,500….

Not quite the flavour of the day…

Noting the large stump tables and big elephants were £4,500 inclusive of shipping, we avoided any temptation and we all set off for the spice garden, where we had lunch.

After a decent lunch (another rice and curry buffet) we were shown into the garden to look at the various spices grown there. We thought the might be a bit boring, but far from it, as the nutty enthusiast that was showing us around soon had us all enthralled and captivated.

Enthralled and captivated…

So much so that afterwards when he had finished his talk on Sri Lankan ayurvedic medicine, many of us bought things we were not expecting to – in our case vanilla extract, cinnamon sticks and powder and a few other things and spent £18… A great salesman!

As a result of all our stops we got to Kandy a little later than we thought – it was raining a bit so we didn’t miss much sunbathing time etc. and after a drink in the 168 year old colonial bar in the Queens hotel where we were staying centrally and overlooking the lake, we went out to dinner at another equally colonial hotel a couple of blocks away called the Royal, where we had a great meal in darkness most of the time due to the power cut, with the lights coming on just a after our pasta dishes had arrived – we enjoyed a change from curry this evening. It was a lovely setting and we had a great table by the window of the gallery restaurant, after being recommended it by the departing previously occupying english couple, who also weren’t staying there but had also been tempted by its rating on Tripadvisor.

Sri Lanka 2022

Sri Lanka Day 14 – Pollonaruwa and Sigiriya

Another reasonably early start and we drove to the ancient city of Pollonaruwa for a look around, starting in the museum. We had enjoyed our stay at the Giritale Hotel and would have welcomed a second night there, enjoying the settings and the views.

However we had work to do, once through the museum with the man washing himself very thoroughly in the nearby river which distracted some of the ladies in the party, we studied the artifacts on show from this royal kingdom dating back to the 10th century AD.

It is a world heritage site, one of six that we are seeing on our trip (seven of you include Sigiriya) and it was the second capital of Sri Lanka after the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993. It comprises, besides the Brahmanic monuments built by the Cholas, the monumental ruins of the garden-city created by Parakramabahu I in the 12th century.

We were challenged to find the ancient toilet and Matt duly demonstrated how to use it. Having lowered the tone somewhat we pressed on to look at the Royal Baths (the intricate connections to the nearby reservoirs which meant water flowing down gentle slopes of 1 ince per mile, sadly are no longer working. But one gets the sense of the incredible feats of engineering achieved in that time.

The monkeys posed for us regally. We went to see a large stupa and a set of large buddha statues carved from one piece of rock.

All the sightseeing made us hungry and we were taken to a small countryside restaurant for another enormous buffet with a selection of 20 or more dishes, all cooked on woodwork three in the small home kitchen. The pile of large smoke encrusted clay pots outside showed the scale of the operation. Many unusual main course rice and curry dishes were sampled and then finished off with fruit, curd and treacle and a choice of sweet desserts.

We elected not to take up the jeep safari in the afternoon and six of us were taken to the hotel which we got to at about 3.30pm or so, called the Sigiriya Jungles, not the one that was on the itinerary, which was going to be the Kassala Lions Rock Hotel. We didn’t mind at all, as the hotel was very good indeed, large spacious rooms and a good swimming pool which I enjoyed despite the small children having noisy fun – how dare they!

We had dinner in the hotel, along with a bottle of wine, and a very enjoyable evening – Heather flushed several frogs down the toilet, but when I got up in the night there were still a number in the bathroom, but they knew to hop off before Heather got up again in the morning.

Sri Lanka 2022

Sri Lanka Day 13 – Aukana, Dambulla and Giritale

I settled the bill for the two days extras by card – 13,000 rupees. Amazingly due to the devaluation of the currency (the third one in a week?) what would have cost us £52 a week ago, now cost £40, the difference effectively paying for the washing.

We stopped at a giant standing Buddha in the jungle setting of Aukana, then going on to Dambulla, with an amazing collection of Buddhas within the ancient caves – one of the most atmospheric places we had been so far.

Afterwards we were taken to a jungle setting restaurant with a farm homestead feel and a large organic vegetable garden reached after crossing a swaying rope bridge. A good lunch of – guess what – rice and curry followed. We tried rose apples – picked fresh from the tree and the ants cut out deftly from the core with a penknife.

An optional extra this afternoon was to do a village visit. We opted instead for an afternoon at the hotel in Giritale – even though we went direct by unloading much of the luggage and taking the 6 of us in the small luggage carrying bus, we were still after 3.30pm by the time we arrived, having sought out ATMs that worked and snacks at the supermarket and wine at the wine shop.

It was a very pleasant hotel in a stunning location overlooking the lake. We think we made the right choice although those that went said they had enjoyed their village experience. We didn’t swim, choosing instead to relish the view and enjoy a bottle of wine on the patio after the sunset.

The others went in to dinner, but we chose to skip that, having had enough food at lunch to take us through to breakfast. Again we made a good choice as apparently the food wasn’t good although the breakfast the next morning was very acceptable.

Sri Lanka 2022

Sri Lanka Day 12 – Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura is one of the oldest continuously occupied cities in the world and understandably a World Heritage site – one of 8 in Sri Lanka. It was the capital of the ancient country for a thousand years before and after Christ.

Excavations have yielded copper kilns from 900 BC, and it was the centre of a fertile “rice bowl”, supported by a vast network of reservoirs and irrigation canals. It is still a major city today and is the capital of the North Central Province.

We focused on the ancient buildings – a vast site, one could spend days exploring. We went straight to the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi tree, a sacred ficus religiosa bo tree in the Mahamewna Gardens. It has grown from the southern branch from the historical Sri Maha Bodhi in India under which Buddha attained enlightenment. It was planted in 288 BC and is the oldest living human planted tree in the world with a known planting date.

From there to the Mahathupa or Ruwanweli Maha Seya, a stupa which is just over 100 metres high and dating from 140BC – containing several relics of Buddha it is an important shrine or monument in this ancient setting and hugely impressive.

Then another building I will have to find out the name of, which used to house 5000 monks and has an enormous rice trough to prove it.

Following that the Abhayagiri Stupa, which remains the third highest building from the ancient world after the two pyramids in Giza, but built in brick it is the largest brick built building in the ancient world.

Lots of roosters were outside this impressive stupa, said to contain a footprint of Buddha. We didn’t go in, and instead a chicken pecked lazily at Evianire’s shoe laces.

We went to a statue of Buddha – one of the earliest, with a nose job but otherwise suitably serene.

Then baths – quite big ones, with resident monkeys. Then another stupa, by this time we were stupa-efied. More buddhas – reclining and meditating and by this time it was time for lunch back at the hotel.

It was an amazing site and we loved it – I will have to do some more reading up on the history. It was hot, very humid and my shirt was showing signs of distress.

Lunch was a rice and curry – what else, and quite large too. We had a few hours to rest before we were off on the eight mile journey to Mihintale – believed to be the birthplace of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. At least I was – Heather sensibly chose to stay behind knowing that the rocky climbing would not suit her.

1840 steps were truncated by us driving most of the way up – it was still very hot, leaving us perhaps a few hundred, and then we tackled the stone cut steps and precarious hand rails to get to the first view point.

Two more high spots followed, one featuring a buddha statue and the second an enormous stupa, which we gained brownie points from by carrying up a small bag of stones for the reconstruction going on at the top of another ancient 3rd century stupa. Matt took up a very big bag, being that much younger and fitter than me, but his did make mine look a little pathetic…..

The views were stunning and the obligatory stupa rising from the top of my head photo was followed soon after by the sunset and a detour on the way down to the water source for the site.

We got back to the hotel and showered and changed. We were due to go straight out but I requested a short break as I would have been very unpleasant to sit next to at the restaurant which was about 15 minutes drive away and was excellent with a buffet selection of – guess what – rice and curry.

We got back and our washing was done – bliss – we are going through clean washing at a huge pace in this steamy climate.

Back by 9.45 ish and we were soon asleep in a very comfortable room with the essential air conditioning then followed by a ceiling fan after lights off.

A very enjoyable day.

Sri Lanka 2022

Sri Lanka Day 11 – Negombo to Nuwara Wewa

The outside of the Hotel J was pleasant – unlike the inside!

An 8 o’clock departure meant a 7am breakfast. This was preceded by a fast walk in both directions from the hotel to try and find an ATM – unsuccessfully. I paid the 1600 for the two cocktails yesterday, and settled in to scrambled eggs. I forgot that I was being watched by both the local crows and the local hounds and after Heather went up to the room to finish packing, when I stood up to leave the table four or five big crows swooped in to steal my uneaten toast, with the dogs gathering too to pick up the pieces. Luckily this was all grist to the mill for the waitress who hared down the patio waving her arms at the carrion, dispersing them effectively.

Breakfast on the patio – watch out for crows!

Hotel J was a bit disappointing, but many of the group thought this was a tactic on Explore’s part, and that by giving us the worst hotel on the first night, all others would seem better by comparison. We joshed with Gillian that our cockroach would have been faster than hers although never got to prove it, as although we spared ours, Gillians was bashed by a member of staff’s broom until its racing days were over.

We introduced ourselves to each other in the bus on the way to the fish market. 17 was the biggest group we had ever been with on this sort of holiday and the 20 seater was effectively full. Sheldon the American from Massachusetts (how lengthy that must be to fill in on every form) had joined us, having had some delays on his flights via Doha.

They seemed like a very pleasant group – many very well travelled by the sound of how many times some of them had been with Explore – they were getting 10% discounts which are only granted to those who have done at least nine trips… We were some of the only virgin Explorers!

A-V as she wanted us to call her, our tour leader and guide, seemed excellent at first encounter – quietly intelligent and thorough with a twinkle and a ready smile. Everything she did over the next days enhanced that first impression. It is such a tough job, and it does make such a difference to the success of the trip if the guide is a good one.

Our first stop was at the Negombo fish market, where the wet fish section was too crowded, so we stayed in the dry section. It was smelly and fascinating in equal measures.

Afterwards someone had walked some poo into the back of the bus, so a smell of a different kind stayed with us until later that day. We shared a single large 25 litre container of drinking water, with a battery operated rechargeable dispenser on top – a clever way to reduce the plastic bottle consumption of the group. And a good way to meet the others as they made their way back and forward from various seats to refill their bottles.

Our next stop was to meet some toddy tappers on the coast – an agile 40 something year old shinned his way up the palm tree to tap the liquid from the flower, hitting the stem with a club like instrument and putting a container over an area that he cut to release the juice from within. He would typically do this for 2.5 hours in the morning and the same amount in the evening. He moved between trees on a coconut rope suspended between them – a bit like a very much more dangerous “Go Ape” as he had no protection from a fall. He hadn’t ever fallen, he assured us later when asked – I guess the unsuccessful toddy tappers only fall once…

We sampled the unique, slightly fermented toddy juice – just 4% alcohol at this stage although later it might be turned into the local spirit Arrak, which comes in at around 33%. It can also be boiled down to make a syrup, or if boiled still further it becomes jaggery – a sweet caramel like sugar used in cooking.

Heather didn’t want all of hers and what with that and a refill of mine, I was feeling a little light headed as we went back to the bus – it was still not yet 10am! It was an interesting thing to see and gave me a healthy appreciation of the lengths they go to make the spirit we had been enjoying with fruit juice or ginger beer.

We stopped at the Murugam Hindu temple in Madampe, just off the A3 – we couldn’t go in, but we walked around the outside and took loads of photos of the impressive and colourful deities.

We stopped for lunch in a roadside canteen type restaurant earlier than expected at around 11.30am and had a buffet lunch of curries and accompaniments – this became the standard mealtime fare over the next few days, 1500 rupees for the food and 500 or so for the lime juice or sprite.

We got to the Wilpattu National Park after 2pm and decamped into canvas covered jeeps – we took the furthest and newest looking one, which turned out a good call as it was the lead guide’s vehicle and the other two came along behind us, often missing out on sightings that we had already enjoyed and frightened off.

The group had already expressed multiple interest in seeing elephants and it wasn’t long before we saw one – the only one, just near the gates to the park and fairly well hidden in thick trees although to be fair it was making good progress improving our view by eating the obscuring vegetation…

Deer, mongeese, multiple varieties of birds followed and it was an enjoyable afternoon being driven around in lovely scenery. Our highlight was a water buffalo, in the water, with two terrapins balancing on its back, thus avoiding being a tasty terrapin titbit for the nearby open-jawed crocodile which was basking ominously on the sandy perimeter of the lake.

We also saw some jungle fowl which look like upmarket chickens but are apparently the national bird, and plenty of macaw monkeys entertained us at the stopping and stretching legs point next to a lake in the middle of the park.

A good sighting of an impressive eagle followed on the way back.

We arrived and were welcomed with a drink at the Lakeside Hotel in Nuwara Wewa, next to the reservoir built in the first century BC which is the largest of the three man made reservoirs in Anuradhapura Nuwara Wewa is believed to be built by King Valagamba. It has 70 rooms although we thought most were still not in use, and it is ideally located to explore the nearby ruins.

We had dinner in the hotel that evening after enjoying a swim in the crystal clear pool which was invitingly refreshing. We also gave our washing in to be laundered, hoping that would come back in good time the following evening.

Sri Lanka 2022

Sri Lanka Day 10 – Negombo

Not much to report today, as we transferred from self organising to the group part of the trip. A slow day therefore – a bit like a fellow resident of the Dickman Resort.

Treshan had agreed we could stay as long as noon, but we checked out at 11.00 which gave the team time to find my glasses – under the bed. I had looked there a couple of times, but without my glasses….

We stayed until around 1.30 and then Damith drove us over to the Hotel J. The contrast was marked and immediate. We had a fruit cocktail to soften the impact and checked in to our room overlooking the road. You could see the sea by leaning out over the balcony.

I went to the local supermarket to buy ice and fruit juice and crisps and we had inexpensive fruit cocktails and snacks in the room.

Six pm came after watching some live Sumo and catching up on this blog and we joined 14 of the other 15 people on our tour in the hotel restaurant. One was missing, presumably arriving later.

The average age was surprisingly high and after confirming emergency contact details and insurance policies with Aywee (her initials as her name is too convoluted) we got briefed by her on the trip generally and tomorrow specifically.

Mosquitoes hovered overheads like vultures. Luckily we had sprayed ourselves with Deet. We sat next to and chatted with Laurie – very nice.

Deciding against the communal meal which 11 opted for, we went to Queens. Lords yesterday – Queens today.

A good meal followed of grilled tuna and chilli prawns and then we made our way back in the darkness of the power cut.

Warm wine out of plastic beakers. How things have changed! Oh well, only one night and we will keep the cockroaches and the mosquitoes isolated in the bathroom and hopefully have a decent night’s sleep.

Tomorrow is a big day. An early night will prepare us, especially as Laurie said to Heather earlier – “you look really tired, what time did you land this morning” We pointed out that having been here 10 days now there was no reason to be tired, or look tired, apart from the unusually late night with Elaine and Richard yesterday…

Sri Lanka 2022

Sri Lanka Day 9 – Negombo

Waking refreshed I watched the Wales vs France game, one which Wales could and perhaps should have won.

Breakfast was a superb fruit platter with mango, pineapple, papaya, passion fruit, banana and even an avocado. All washed down with mango juice and tea.

It was a feast and so much food that we couldn’t tackle the main course offerings.

We swam and chilled by the pool, walking out at around 12.30 having been lent an umbrella by Treshan, which came in handy when it started to rain heavily just as we approached the Jude restaurant. It had a clever system of sliding cones that did keep the umbrella from dripping water everywhere once it was closed.

Slightly damp we took our seats, there was one other table occupied by a noisy eastern european (russian?) group of 3.

We rang the bell for service and the young son of the family appeared from up the narrow staircase we had taken to the first floor landing.

Happy to see us we ordered our food – Heather Rice and Chicken Curry, me grilled prawns for a change. £4.50 for both dishes. And they were excellent.

It reinforces the idea that it’s not necessarily the most expensive places that serve the best food here, we were enjoying home cooking today of the finest standard.

The son confirmed his mum was in the kitchen. The daughter also served the other tables that had arrived.

Bravo to this family for building such a superb business- rightly number 2 on the Tripadvisor list of Negombo restaurants.

We dodged the thunderstorm back to the hotel, picking up some wine (£8 a bottle) and a linen shirt studded with small elements on the way back (£16).

We tried to keep our feet dry but the large puddles on the way back defeated us.

Back at the hotel we read and I swam between showers. After a good chat to mum we set off for Lords at around 6.45pm, again having been loaned an umbrella.

The owner was chalking up today’s events as we arrived and we had a short chat – he is obviously quite a character.

The show which comprised of a transvestite singer and his italian companion Anna, started later than advertised at 7.10 or so. We had carefully chosen a table near the back, fearing audience participation.

I noticed a distinctive looking woman with a gait I was sure I recognised enter the restaurant with her partner and take their seats directly in front of the makeshift stage.

“I think that’s Elaine”, I said to Heather. “In fact I’m sure it is” I continued, craning my neck to get a better view.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” was Heather’s no nonsense reply.

“Why don’t you go and see if it is her?” I proffered. “You go..” was the retort.

“I will.” And it was.

What a small world and how wonderful to see her and meet her charming fiancée Richard.

We stayed on separate tables while we ate – Heather and I shared a hot selection of starter – all delicious and then I had the really spicy chicken curry. Equally delicious although I was too full to really do it justice.

We joined forces after eating and drew up two more chairs in front of the cabaret, not really giving it the proper attention as we had so much to catch up on, in my increasingly hoarse conversation.

After a while and a few glasses of conviviality we went back to the Dickmans for a more peaceful chat.

What a brilliant evening and so serendipitous to have met the others in the way we had.

After they left we carried on briefly chatting to fellow resident Trevor and then taking the half empty bottles of wine back to our room, I tried my best to watch the rugby, eventually falling asleep on the sofa without seeing the final score. Just as well.

In the morning my glasses had vanished. I could see from the photo Elaine had forwarded on that I had them with me leaving Lords. Oh well, spare pair it is then. Another £4 worth gone awol.

Sri Lanka 2022

Sri Lanka Day 8 – Mirissa to Negombo

I took the opportunity for an early swim before breakfast, tugging my towel out of the eager jaws of an awake Simba and flip flopping my way down the shortcut path to the beach.

He was awake, briefly…

I swam first in the sheltered area to the east of parrot rock where the early surfers were starting to paddle out, and then to the west of it in the powerful short dumping waves.

No crocodiles were visible this morning and the ATM was still powered down.

Our last breakfast with Russians on the other two tables. I suppose the family owning the hotel had to feed themselves and employed a number of staff but I did wonder of any hotels in Sri Lanka would take a moral stance against allowing Russians to stay. I guess not as Russians represent the highest proportion of all foreign visitors to the country.

We settled up, surprised at first at the huge bill for washing, then realising it was for the whole week and indeed we hadn’t been charged at all for the washing. We had loved our time here and will thoroughly recommend the Peacock Villa to anyone who comes to Marissa.

We bid farewell to Charindu, his father, the rest of the team and to Simba and jumped into Lorenzo’s airconditioned waiting car at just after 11am.

Whizzing along first the smaller backstreet and then the main highway, we stopped briefly half way for iced coffee and cashew nuts and were round the back of Dickmans in Negombo by 2.10pm.

We rang the bell and Treshan greeted us, offering us a delicious fresh fruit juice and a choice of our originally booked room with a balcony or one on the ground floor with poolside access. Heather opted for the latter as the stairs to the first floor had no railing. Plus the hotel was so quiet- just 8 bedrooms, only two others occupied, that poolside seemed a more attractive option. The room was immaculate and enormous. The bathroom was bigger than a small house.

We settled in and at around 3.15 walked down to the beach, deciding we weren’t missing anything by being a few roads back from it, indeed that was probably desirable. We put our noses through the door of the wine shop and pressed on to Salt, the top ranked restaurant on Tripadvisor out of 380 or so.

It was very pleasant and we enjoyed our ringside seats watching the chefs prepare our food and that of the other young couple also dining for lunch. Or early dinner. In fact the chefs outnumbered the customers by two. Six chefs for 4 diners – not a very economical arrangement.

We splurged on a bottle of wine but still the bill was very reasonable and Heather’s grilled seer fish delicious. My prawns were slightly too old and had been frozen, so stuck to their shells a bit. Still tasty though and I wondered if I was starting to look like a prawn…!

Back to the hotel and after a long afternoon swim in the pool we had a quiet evening. I watched the replay of Jeremy Balcombe’s funeral service which was both touching and poignant and I felt for Paul and his family as Jeremy was definitely taken much too young.

I decided I didn’t have the staying power to keep awake for the Wales vs France game and listened to Eddie Izzard to cheer myself up after the funeral.

Sri Lanka 2022

Sri Lanka Day 7 – Mirissa

My 5.45am tuk tuk proved as elusive as the whales had been yesterday and at 6am I messaged the company and walked to the main street picking up another tuk tuk on the way.

Raja (without the Whales) kindly reimbursed me the 300 rupees I had paid on arrival at their office, and with more paperwork completed I walked down to the marina, noting there were more people booked to come today and the boat ended up nearly full.

To get a new perspective I chose the aft most port side seat downstairs. Upstairs was already full – not that I minded.

At 6.50 – a little later than yesterday we set off, with the swell being larger than the previous day and spray was soon coming over the side – not a lot, just a refreshing amount, and enough for me to play “clean my glasses” a number of times.

The swell affected quite a few green looking passengers, who were moved downstairs into seats in front of me. With the wind blowing back towards me I gallantly offered up my seat although my offer wasn’t taken.

I avoided the loud large bombastic know-it-all from Brighton who as I type this is both gorging himself on a sandwich and choking it up at the same time. Not nice….

At one point I looked around and everyone in my surroundings was either asleep or feigning it- maybe the sea sickness tablets had knocked them all out.

All my fellow passengers had apparently knocked themselves out with anti sea sickness pills…

We saw dolphins, spinners and bottlenose and lovely ones which I think are called Spiked – they whirled into the air and did flick flacks in front of us, definitely showing off.

The photos I had been emailed last night taken by the photographer onboard were so much better than anything I could take, that I didn’t bother trying today. I hope he’s on board.

We hammered it hard out to the deep water channel. I thought of the girl I had heard asking this morning: “Can I swim with the whales?” “No, I’m afraid we aren’t allowed to drop you into a shipping lane even if we do see whales” the patient member of staff replied. “Oh, but I swam with whale sharks in the Philippines”, she said. “They are fish,” the man pointed out, “and swim just offshore, not 5 miles out to sea in a big swell surrounded by oil tankers…..”

He should have just let her swim….

No whales again but we chased several large pods of dolphins around fairly aggressively – I hoped they didn’t mind. At least no one threw up on them.

I listened to music and rested my salt encrusted head on the neck cushion I had thought to bring with me. I was looked at enviously. I wiped my sunglasses.

One of the joys of today was that every time a member of the cabin staff suggested I should go across to the starboard side to look at the dolphins, one or more would pop up just in front of me on the port side and jump or pirouette out of the water with a satisfying splash. I laughed as if we were in collusion…

Maybe, just maybe…at least I’d like to imagine so.

So blue whales get added to the short list of things I’ve tried to see and not yet succeed, like the Northern Lights. Better luck next time.

We went a long way in search of whales…

And if the young couple in front of me stopped kissing each other for a while they might see the flying fish, turtles and plastic bags that I’ve been seeing…

I did resist the urge to photobomb their selfies. I must be getting old!

It will be interesting to see if I get offered another free trip tomorrow- just as well we are going to Negombo so I won’t have to decide either way whether the third time might be lucky…😀

As we approached the harbour we passed a returning fishing vessel and I exchanged glances and a smile with one of their crew who looked about my age, but with the effects of a lifetime of really hard manual work, and reflected how lucky I was to be in the one percent of humanity than can afford to spend more than $100 dollars a day.

Maybe try the Ceylon Curry house again for dinner?

Actually lunch… The best meal we’ve had in Sri Lanka and the most reasonable. I tipped well noting that they hadn’t included the standard 10 percent already. Smart move as they did better that way – at least from us.

Lovely prawn curry

Back to the room carrying Heather’s left over cheese and avocado Kottu and I changed and went down to the beach for a swim, in the rough area just where the river that passes the villa exits to the beach. On the way back I saw a decent sized crocodile emerging from the river.

We spent the evening quietly reading and listening to music and packed ready for the transfer tomorrow.