Part 1 – a land of smiling faces
I didn’t plan to write a travel log for Sri Lanka, only to do a few posts about it, but this country and its people inspired me so much so how could I resist.
Before coming to Sri Lanka I did absolutely no pre-planning or research besides checking up the day before arriving how much the currency was worth to be able to tell what things cost. When exiting the airport I had no idea what to do next. I knew the airport name was Colombo so I thought it was close to the city Colombo, but after asking around I decide to go to Negombo instead which seems to be a nicer place. I take a taxi and arrive to a guest house what I think is half an hour later, but which is difficult to recall as the time is now 5 am and I am a bit groggy after not sleeping so much the last two nights during my transfers in Istanbul and Dubai. Luckily enough I write down a tip the driver gives me about where my next destination should be, Mirissa.
After arriving and checking in I go to sleep and wake up 12 hours later, at 5 pm. I ask the guesthouse people who tells me that the sun goes down as late as 7 pm here so I still have some day light. I start my day (which is actually the evening) by walking down to the beach some 20 meters away. Here I chill out for a while and then walk into the town center to find an ATM machine, as I have no money to pay for the guesthouse or even for food. On the way I find two Chinese girls who I join for a dinner. After the dinner the girls head back to their hotel and I ask around and find a hidden local bar where I spend some time before walking back. On the way back I get lost in the dark but I have a business card from the guest house so I manage to find a tuk-tuk (auto rickshaw) that can take me there, after the driver asks about 10 people for the direction. When I arrive back I decide to explore my own area a bit more and find after a while an on-going football match on the beach. I have a nice talk to a guy watching the game with his friend and he tells me that this is the final game. The crowd are really into the match but also social at the same time, sitting with the arms around each others shoulders. Fireworks go off now and then, which seems to be a common thing here in Sri Lanka. After a while, not being a soccer fan and just staying for the people and atmosphere, I decide to call it a night.
The next morning I go up early to go for a swim, being the first in the water. Afterwards I visit a fish market that somebody told me about the earlier night. The market is great and especially the fisherman on the beach are really interesting to watch and talk to. I take a ton of pictures and then head back to the guesthouse to pack my things and go for the bus station. Here I take a bus to Colombo and then change to another bus for Mirissa. I would like to try hitch hiking but because of my limited 10 days in Sri Lanka I decide not to this time. The trip to Mirissa is somewhat long, about 7-8 hours probably, and I arrive in the dark evening. A tuk-tuk driver gives me a free ride to a guesthouse a bit outside of everything but within walking distance from the beach. The free ride is of course sponsored by the provision he gets from the guesthouse for taking me there. The guesthouse only opened a few weeks ago, with me as the 4th guest, and is run by a really friendly family. I decide to be lazy and eat the dinner at their place, and then take a walk to explore the area but as everything is dark and closed the walk becomes very short.
My third morning in Sri Lanka I buy a SIM-card to be able to connect to the internet and work. Not a bad deal, the SIM-card + 1 GB data for about 3 euro. On the way back I see a new street and walk in to explore it. Suddenly I hear a guy shouting after me. It’s a massage place and the owner, a 70 year old man, ends up giving me a 30 minutes neck massage. After the massage he invites me for tea and sells me an inhalator to get rid of the last cold I have since my Istanbul transfer some days ago. We talk a lot and he keeps trying to talk me into coming back a few hours later to meet his daughter, but i kindly tell him i have other plans. He also recommends a Buddhist temple near the city Dickwella which seems like a nice next destination.
After the talk I start walking home, but instead end up walking up a hill to another smaller Buddhist temple with a beautiful view over the whole area. On the way down, exploring a new path, i meet a local rasta guy who rents out surf boards. i go for a sunset swim and then want to find the guy again, asking for a lesson the next morning (although i already know how to surf but you can always learn more). Now it’s pitch black and i can not find his house, so finally i decide to trace my steps back up the hill again to the temple and then the path i walked last time. When i reach the temple I meet the only monk living there, together with his family and crazy dogs. He shows me the path which i can not find in the dark and I start walking down on it. after a while some more crazy dogs stand in the way and i have to find some villagers to hold them back while i cross. Finally i find the house but the guy is not there, only a neighbor who tells me the rasta guys name. I decide to walk to the beach to ask for him, but on the way I meet somebody in the dark and tries the name on him (while i still remember it). It’s not the guy but his cousin, good enough, so I manage to get a surf lesson booked for the next day.
I then walk down to a beach bar with mostly couples and not so much things happening, but good enough for two beers and some relaxing thanks to great music. When I finally decide to walk home I come across a group of Sri Lankans sitting in a ring in the sand. They invite me, and I realize I have met at least one of them before. They are all tuk-tuk drivers, sitting drinking local rum mixed with sprite. I get some drinks and we even manage to find another bottle from some “black” store as everything in the area is closed already. The new bottle of rum disappears surprisingly quick and we split up for the night, just after finding one guy who makes me a nightly omelette for about 10 cent.
The next morning I go up at 6:40 to meet the surfer and enjoy some waves. It’s amazing how nice it is to surf when the ocean is not filled with surfers, only me and the rasta guy plus two Austrian guys sharing the waves. After some hours, when the sun is high and the arms are tired, I decide to give up and go for a mixed fruit pancake breakfast. At this time I also realize that my nipples are hurting and my face is starting to get red.
When I finally get back home I see that the checkout time is only 30 minutes away, so a quick shower, some packing and then I am out on the road again. After 3 buses refuse to stop for me I realize there are actual bus stops you need to stand at. When I find the nearest bus stop I meet two German people and we share a ride with a car that is going our direction, paying 10 cent each for the drive. On the way I ask them about their favorite place on the island which they tell me is Adams Peak, so I decide that will be my stop on the way back north later in the week. The Germans jump off in the outskirts of Matara but I manage to get a ride the whole way to Dickwella with the same driver, just after a quick stop to his brother to drop off some things.
In Dickwella I decide to get a home inside the city this time, to mix things up. After finding a place and taking a shower I eat a lunch for about 1 euro and then go to the Wewurukannla temple. The temple is really nice and I spend some time there, ending up going for a tea with a guy working there and getting his home address (this is very common in Sri Lanka). On the walk back to the city there are so many smiling faces and people greeting me I can not stop thinking about how positive and welcoming Sri Lanka is.
Finally back in town I see the beach and go there to relax for a while looking at the ocean and beautiful sky, although I missed the sunset and it’s now dark. Not many minutes pass by before a guy sits down and starts speaking to me. He tells me about loosing his wife and several family members in the 2004 tsunami, and again – I get his home address and he says I need to visit his restaurant the next day. I tell him that I am going away tomorrow but we can go now, so we do. He parks his bike (unlocked) in the city and we take a tuk-tuk to his house, where I meet his brother and get another cup of really tasty tea, with the tuk-tuk still waiting outside. This gentleness and hospitality in the people I have probably only seen in Palestine before coming here. After a while we decide to send away the tuk-tuk (I dont know why it needed to wait anyway) and walk to his restaurant. The restaurant is located on a beautiful beach (well, its still pitch black) but it’s not open for business yet for a few months. Everything on the restaurant is built from scratch because the tsunami destroyed all what was on this land earlier. After the restaurant visit we find the same tuk-tuk again, which I now realize he asked to come back although there are hundreds of tuk-tuks just a few meters away, and goes to my home where I say goodbye to him and wishes him all the best luck for the future with his family and restaurant. He seemed so sad when he left, although we only known each other for some hour. The owners of the guest house where I am staying (who does not speaking English) seems to have some great fun about me and my new friend, but in a friendly and familiar way.
I get in, take my 3rd shower of the day and start writing – inspired of my last days of constantly great experiences. Just one more stop of the day, out to town to find some food, and then getting to bed looking forward to what will happen tomorrow.
To be continued:
Sri Lanka, a travel story (part 2)