Tour of Sri Lanka – Kalutara and Galle
After the challenging tour of South India I landed in Sri Lanka to find, with some relief, that it is positively different to India. They actually bother to collect rubbish on a regular basis, which is always nice, plus there is a genuine warmth and laid-back attitude in the locals. The driving is quite bad, but nothing compared to India’s roads. They actually stop at pedestrian crossings! Sometimes. I was met at the airport by Tumee, a friend from Travbuddy.com, who took me to his recommended first destination of Kalutara. Although he is biased, as it’s his hometown! It’s a pleasant, but slightly dull seaside resort with a notable landmark of the Gangatilaka Vihara buddist temple. And that’s it.
I made a classic mistake of misunderstanding the currency conversion and managed to withdraw the equivalent of less than 6 GBP (costing me 7 GBP in charges!). This lead to me having to borrow money like a complete freeloader as there were no nearby ATMs and it was time to celebrate new year 2011! I actually stayed at Tumee’s house on the first night. What wonderful generosity!
Later we met up with some Geordies that Tumee knew for an early drink at their beach bungalow. A group of stray dogs wandered into the garden and two of them started to get amorous and preceded to full blown pumping action right in front of us. When the deed was done, the dogs were somehow stuck together, rear-to-rear and unable to free themselves. Dead funny. Unbelievably, a third dog then went around to the female’s front end and mounted her and started to pump away, creating a canine ménage à trois. Enough was enough. We hadn’t bought tickets for the doggy porn show! A few pebbles thrown in their direction was enough to send them running, two of them still joined together, running sideways like a crab, before the momentum finally saw them break free.
Our new year’s eve party was outside the house of one of Tumee’s friends with a mere 650 watts of speakers to blast all nearby mosquitoes out of the air. It was certainly a unique experience to see in the new year with Sri Lankan locals, drinking their traditional arrack, made from the sap of coconut palms and also used as tuktuk fuel. Probably. The night was complete with the detonation of a mere 60 fireworks, some launched from the hand of Tumee’s friend. But he did hold them away from his face, he’s not stupid you know… Safety first.
The next day we had arranged to take a river cruise at between 10/11 am ‘Sri Lankan time’. So at 3pm we set off from the river bank. And drifted aimlessly into mid-river as the engine refused to start. Why do these things always happen to me? The delays unfortunately made for a rather short river tour… In the evening I thought I would try Sri Lankan steak. What I received had presumably been wandering the roads in the previous days before being hit by a bus and then served to me. With salad. And fries. Delicious. Like chewing an old boot. With an old man still wearing it.
I left Kalutara on the bus to Galle with a front row view of the Playstation style of driving from the driver, largely in the middle of the road. Maybe he used to drive ambulances, I don’t know, but I didn’t appreciate it! The coastal road still clearly shows damage from the 2004 tsunami, with shells of buildings and graves dotted along the highway.
Galle has a world heritage listed old fort area of the town, which I wandered around in a couple of hours, stopping off to pose for photos with three local boys. Not again! I could have done without someone taking a momento of my sunburnt, sweaty face, but what can you do?
After my stroll, I took a tuktuk to the stunning beach nearby called Unawatuna. Time to sit back, relax and watch the sufers whilst drinking cristal. ‘Cause that’s how I roll… Cristal mineral water, that is, not the champagne. The tsunami really hit Sri Lanka badly, with 35,000 deaths, and the beach at Unawatuna has shrunk to a mere sliver of sand since the tsunami sucked out much of the sand when the waves receded. But it is still an idealic resort and full of families and couples. Although very few backpackers, it has to be said! Next I’m off to find some wildlife and culture in the south east of the island.