Soul

Been pottering around the beautiful Portuguese / Dutch / British fort of Galle on the south west coast of Sri Lanka. Architecture is beautiful and wonderfully worn around the edges.

Popped into a shop called “Ethnic Roots” They sold hand painted statues of Buddha and Ganesh, copper pots, scarves from Tibet, photos of African women with lip plates, a wooden bowl that was priced at £75. There were some British women cooing over ethnic textiles. Cold play was on. Part of my soul died.

29th December – Galle

We had a restless night due to the Saturday night beach party going on down the coast, we did walk past it when it was warming up last night but the euro pop music didn’t take our fancy. We spent 20 mins getting the bill from our relaxed cafe, which meant waking the guys up from what seemed a very deep slumber!
We then walked into town, which the previous day had been a succession of tuktuk drivers asking us if we wanted a lift, today they were conspicuous by their absence and our backpacks seemed quite heavy, eventually one did appear, only after I had worked up a slight perspiration, Guy’s was a little more than slight as he had his rucksack and hand luggage bag!
On arriving at the bus station pandemonium was prevalent. It was just after 8.30 when we arrived, and loads of buses seemed to be filling up and leaving for various parts of sri Lanka. As usual you find out where the buses are going by the constant calling of the bus conductors, just constantly yelling Matara, Columbo, Kandy over and over, again. Being a tourist though it is easy to be noticed and everyone knows you are either off to Galle, Mirissa or Kandy, that is the tourist trail. So pretty quickly we were herded along with a few other tourists and a lot of locals onto a local bus, were for the price of 250 rupees (65p each) we had a 2 hour drive to Galle. Luxury it isn’t. We had a seat, although as we are huge foreigners we did take up more room on the 3 seats we were in, and as a result I was hanging off the end of the edge of the plastic lined seat. Luckily the cheek hanging off was the one with no less than 7 mossie bites on it, so every cloud has a silver lining! However, as the bus progressed, more and more people were rammed into the aisles and any place possible. This was beneficial as the driver, the usual crazy lunatic, drove at breakneck speeds and his way of navigating through a village or town was to accelerate and continuously honk on his horn, and only break at the last moment, which would have been messy for the passengers if there was room to move.
2 hours later, it seemed much much more, we screeched to a halt in  Galle, and navigated getting off the bus, with rucksacks successfully. Vowing to take the train whenever we can in future.
We were hawked quickly for a lift to our guest house, however embarrassingly enough we didn’t have any change for the tuktuk, so had to borrow 100 rupees from the guesthouse owner.
Galle is full of tourist places to eat, which is fine if you want a cheese and tomato sarnie, however we were still wanting sri Lankan food. After a failed attempt in one restaurant, although I did have the best iced coffee ever, we tried to get roti for late breakfast in a small cafe which doubled as a batik shop, and had a photo album from the tsunami. The Roti’s were exactly as it said on the tin, dried roti with grated coconut and mango chutney on top. Guys had a fried egg on top, with mango chutney. Not a great start!
The rest of the day was spent looking for sri lankan food place for tea and me peering into all the gem shops, trying to avoid guy seeing me!
Eventually we did get a great place for dinner, photos below!

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We also saw a huge procession of dancing kids, some with lit torches (the smell of diesel in the air was intoxicating) some with massive whips, others on stilts all with no apparent regard for health and safety. The procession went on for about half an hour and also included 3 elephants dressed up in lights, bells, and tinselly outfits, again, not something you experience everyday. But it meant we had the latest night out for sometime, 9.30pm. Not sure how we will cope with NYE!

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27/28 December – beach bums!

We now have a couple of days to sit by the beach and generally take it easy after a hectic Christmas! Luckily we are staying in bangallows, I assume this is the sri Lankan for bungalow, that are run by the most chilled out guys ever, I believe they may partake in a ‘recreational’ cigarette or two of an evening. Therefore it takes an inordinately long time to get a menu, get food ordered and to have it served to you. However, we have little else to do in the daytime so that isn’t too much of a trauma. Our first meal was a disappointment, calamari noodles was 2 packets of super noodle’s, stir fried with chicken stock powder some vegetables and calamari, possibly the worst meal I have had.  Guy’s was worse…soggy canned veg in gloopy soy sauce and flabby rice, yum yum. The rest of the day was spent recovering under a coconut tree, watching the Christmas tree on the beach, sweating profusely, consequently a few beers were required to rehydrate in the evening.  We were debating eating elsewhere for dinner, but overheard someone saying that mango, coconut and prawn curry was the best ever, so we decided that walking elsewhere was too much to contemplate, had the curry and it is possibly the best thing we have eaten since the pie, chips n gravy we had as a last supper! Not sure how they can serve the worst and best food we’ve had.

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Day 2 Beach side saw another day under the coconut trees. Using our sri Lankan mobile we booked hotels in Galle and Negombo, it was difficult to hear them speak over the noise of the waves, but we coped. We then felt the need for a walk into town, along the beach. Walking past all the beach bars and local fishermen you get a cheery ‘hello mister’ / ‘hello madam’ (I confess to liking being called madam, might insist on it when I get home) and lots of chatter, however on entering the town there were still lots of police and soldiers with scary big guns and a very sombre atmosphere, so we decided to get some water and leave. That proved easier said than done, we found a ramshackled shop that had bottles of water on view, on asking the slightly mature gentleman if we could have some, he waved towards the next room and intimated I should go through and help myself to a cold one from the fridge. The fridge looked like it had survived the tsunami and hadn’t been cleaned since, inside or out.  There was one shelf with some water and some mangos stuffed in there, I pulled out the water and went to pay. To pay meant disturbing the old fella from sorting out the betel nut parcels (mild natural sedative chewed and spat out) he was ever so carefully making up. He was concentrating so hard, this proved difficult to do, so, as we are English, we politely waited, about 5 mins until he had satisfied himself the 10 parcels were correct, he then toothlessly intimated it was 75 rupees for the water and we paid, unfortunately not with correct change so a further wait was required for that.
So when you all ask ‘What do you do with your time when you are traveling?’ The answer is that just ordering food and buying water can take a whole day!

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26th December – Ella to Tangalle

Woke up with a rather unusual sensation for a boxing day, excitement. We left the cool highlands and snaked our way through the hill passes heading south to the coast. The views were beautiful and the drops from the side of the road were steep. The Italian Job sprang to mind.

We were breaking today’s journey at a national park called Uda Walawe which is supposed to be full of elephants. Since we had seen a wild elephant washing itself in a lake a few days ago we decided it would be nice to see them in their natural environment and it is, after all, the national animal and symbol. We had also heard of wild elephants attacking tourists recently and a German cyclist being thrown across a road resulting in a broken arm and leg. The parks have electric fences now to try and keep them in, but various people had told us of houses being knocked over when they had managed to get out.

We got to the park and clambered into a 4WD and set off through the fence with our guard reassuring us by saying that he wouldn’t get out of the car as one of the vehicles had been attacked this morning. We laughed nervously. Straight away though we spot a solitary male by the side of the track picking and munching away at the grass. We drive alongside, roughly 10 foot away and he is too busy stuffing his face to care. After a minute or so we leave him in peace and feeling dead chuffed we drive down the kind of path 4WD are designed for. Enjoying the warmth of the sun and the scenery we suddenly turn a corner and crossing the path 20 foot ahead of us are a herd of about 10 adults and 2 children. The driver stops and kills the engine. One of the females turns and stares at us. Hoping she’ll turn away and carry on, she does what neither of us want and heads straight towards us. She comes up alongside what was formerly Al’s side of the car and scrapes alongside, giving the car a gentle rock with a push of her hips. At the end of the car she turns and walks slowly back and stops to inspect us, wondering why Al is crouching on the floor. I do a bit of elephant whispering and off she potters in the knowledge we are not a threat to the kids. More nervous laughter and we drive on thrilled and scared by our encounter. The park is beautiful and we also see a crocodile, jackals, water buffalos, loads of birds and loads more elephants but none as close. As we are leaving we pull alongside a Toyota hiace which has also had a close encounter with an elephant this morning. However it has a smashed rear windscreen and a huge dent on the drivers side. Our guide kept shouting “I am lucky, you are lucky” and perhaps this time it wasn’t just tourist banter. (After we paid the guide, he went straight to the local lottery stand and bought a ticket!)

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Al admiring a wild beast

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Where’s Al gone?

We got to Tangalle on the south coast and noticed a lot of armed soldiers everywhere. The driver explained that this is the presidents hometown and he was visiting today on the 7th anniversary of the tsunami which decimated so much of this part of the world. There are still abandoned houses metres from the shoreline.

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It’s chriiiiiiiiiiiiiistmas

So, in true Christmas style, I (Al) have a hangover and feel slightly delicate, however the fact that it is the first hangover in December is highly unusual.

You will be pleased to hear it is cold here, raining torrentially, altogether a very British day! We are wearing all our clothes, so look like we have eaten a Christmas dinner already, and as the weather is appalling we have had a beer before 12, with some other Brits. The guesthouse owner looked at us as if we were mad when we asked for a beer, and said in 20 years of running a guesthouse he had only served beer before 12 three times before. It is now four times.

We are attending to some light admin duties, arranging hotels, getting Christmas haircut – Guy – and blogging before we have another beer in a local bar we found last night, they sell lots of local Arak!

We have an appointment to call home at 6pm this evening our time, so Mum, Dad, we maybe a little merry by then!

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Seasons greetings to you all, have a great day, we miss you all, and don’t overdo it now, will you?

Xmas Eve – Kandy to Ella

Xmas Eve and we are currently in Ella where the local shacks have some very cold Lion Lager, so let’s crack on.

Today was mainly spent on a 7 hour train journey from Kandy to Ella. We bought 2nd class tickets (£1.20) and waited with dozens of other tourists to see a small train pull in with only one 2nd class carriage. The 60ish of us then tried to fill the 30ish seats with a slight London tube sardine feel. We decamped to 3rd class and found standing room outside the toilet. (By the way, the ticket office was more than happy to oversell the seat allocation for 2nd class) We made friends with our extremely immediate neighbours and watched the country roll by. Four and a half hours later one of my arse cheeks was rested on a seat and another hour later the other cheek joined it, ensuring the final hour and a half was in comfort, allowing us to take in the truly breathtaking scenery of what has to be one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world. Then a local band got on, or rather 6 teenagers with a drum. Even the other local teenagers were rolling their eyes. They only sang for a hour at least.

Anyway, the lion is roaring. Merry Xmas all. We miss you all and raise a glass to you. Happy Santa’s!

Live Update – COCKTAILS
Al – Mojito
Me – Ginger Tornado

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