I headed out from the main Delhi terminal and was headed South East to Sri Lanka to see Nigel, Shari and their son Sebastian. I had not seen Nigel and Shari since their wedding in June 2008 in the States before Sebastien was born so was looking forward to see my new relative. After a pleasant flight straight to Colombo I had managed to blag a lift to their apartment with the Indian fellow sitting next to me on the plane. He had in fairness annexed most of my seat with his rather large frame so karma dealt me a hand and saved me a few quid on the 45 min ride to Nigel’s house.
I arrived quite late but was greeted by my sleepy cousin and a lovely inviting soft bed with a duvet something I had not had in a long time. The next morning I awoke to meet the Robinson’s! Nigel was more awake, Shari was looking very pregnant (no2 due in Jan) and Sebastien full of energy. A cupa tea and a morning chat to catch up with all the news and then we headed out for lunch at near by hotel on the beach. Driving through Colombo on a Sunday it was very apparent that Sri Lanka was not a densely populated as India. There were also security measures everywhere with road blocks and army checks very 100 meters or so, still in place after the recent conflicts in the country.
The drive was so pleasant as there were few cars on the road and no manic honking of horns every second or so. We soon arrived at the hotel and ambled down to the golden beach for a dip and a play and then back to the hotel for an all you can eat buffet. I had not seen so much food on display and such variety of western and local cuisine for a very long time. 1 hour later, 3kg heavier and I was so full that even my toes had expanded. We all feasted on foods from across the world (from sushi, roast pork to pumpkin currry (Sri Lankan favourite)) and so many puddings that the inevitable was due to occur – mid afternoon nap!
The next 2 days were spent catching up as Nigel and family had only just moved to Sri Lanka to work for a land mines trust. Now that peace had been restored in Sri Lanka (although the true horrors of this cost of peace are just unfolding) enabled them all to move from the States. It was also a chance to catch up on laundry (in a proper washing machine), Internet, swimming and occasional trips down to the mall which was Colombo’s poshest and only 7 floors below their apartment.
During my stay I decided to take a small trip down to the southern coast so as not to become a permanment fixture on their couch and in their fridge. It was a chance to see a bit more of Sri Lanka on my very short stay there. I was aiming for a wondrously sounding town called Anawhatuna and I left the Robinson’s and headed out to the train station and for as little as £4 I was soon departing out along the coast on a rustic, clean and empty train. The journey was delightful as the train hugged the coastline all the way down to Galle where it terminated. Along the journey you witnessed fist hand the devastation of the 2004 Tsunami as the train passed many ruins of coastline properties that had been left there almost as a reminder of the what the Tsunami caused.
It was also so nice to be on a train that wasn’t crammed full of people and to emerge from the journey not dusty and dirty. Galle itself is a city situated on the southwestern tip of Sri Lanka, 119 km from Colombo. Galle was known as Gimhathiththa before the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century, when it was the main port on the island. Galle reached the height of its development in the 18th century, during the Dutch colonial period. Galle is a grand fortified city and the fort is a world heritage site and the largest remaining fortress in Asia built by European occupiers a strange sight to behold in this Asian subcontinent. I ambled through the streets for a good few hours taking in the colonial past.
Tourist trip over and it was time to head to Unawhatuna and find accommodation for the night and also fit in a few dives too. I managed to find an ideal spot right on the beach, it fact it was so close to the beach that when the tide was in I could have jumped out of my window straight into the sea. Here i stayed for 2 nights, I was going to venture further up the coast but it was in such an ideal location with everything I needed. During my second day I managed to do a wreck dive and a muck dive. The current was quite strong and the visibility was quite bad and there wasn’t much coral around and there didn’t seem to be much aquatic life but it was good to be diving again. The evenings were spent reading and watching movies as there was not much night life around and it was also quite quiet.
It was ideal to re-charge the batteries in preparation of the madness that awaits back in India. So back to Colombo and to stay for a few nights again with Nigel and family to catch up on some more laundry, swimming and delicious home cooked food and a soft bed. It was great to catch up with Nigel, Shari and Sebastian but the week passed very quickly and soon I was heading to South India and Kerala where life (I was told) was very laid back. I was heading there to meet up with an friend from Indonesia so for the next month I wouldn’t be on my own as I was in northern India. Sri Lanka had been great if not much more expensive than India but for the peace and quiet and the beautiful surroundings it certainly is a place that I would love to come back to and explore in greater detail.