2018 – Sri Lanka

Another birthday, and I figured another trip to Sri Lanka was in order.

Tom ran me to Wickford to catch my train. I was at Heathrow two hours later, dropped my bags, then headed to the lounge.

My departure to Abu Dhabi was delayed, but the pilot made the time up en route and we landed on time.

After negotiating the interminable transfer security queues at Abu Dhabi, I met up with Gaz in the lounge and we were both mortified to learn that neither the lounge nor the terminal bars were serving alcohol – due to the ‘holy month of Ramadan.

So no pre-flight Bloody Maries – aargh!

Our flight to Colombo was uneventful, as was the transfer to our hotel – although we drove through some heavy storms, and our driver seemed unsure of the route to our hotel. We gave him directions and arrived at our hotel at about six. Amusingly, the desk manager – who had been so attentive twelve months earlier – asked if was our first trip to Sri Lanka.

We were checked into rooms on the fifth floor, a floor below  our rooms last year, but they would probably be quieter in the event of storms.

And the storms came, a massive thunderstorm hit as we had dinner and, as the rains eased, Phill and Anne joined us for drinks.

Somebody is spending a lot of money on The Citrus hotel, and it seems to be paying off; the bar was crowded and Phill told us that it’s becoming a hot spot for ex-pats.

I was awake at about six thirty, just before a thunderstorm rumbled down from the hills.

The rest of Monday was grey and overcast with occasional torrential storms, this won’t be a week of sunbathing. We camped in the beach bar, slipping out mid afternoon to visit the jeweller over the road – I had requests from one of the guys down the road. Inevitably the raid started and, although his shop is less than fifty yards down the road, we were saturated.

Monday dawned brighter, and a could see – as Val used to say – “enough blue sky to make a sailor a pair of trousers” – that was her way of predicting a pleasant day and she was correct. I could see shadows, even though the local press reported at least six deaths from Sunday’s storms.

We wandered out, mid-morning into ‘town’ – about a mile or so down the main drag. We were frequently pestered by taxi drivers, tuk tuk drivers, were offered ‘something to smoke’ and ‘private massage with girl’! We found an interesting looking bar on our way back and had a couple of beers overlooking the ocean before returning to our hotel to meet our tour rep.

She was the same tour rep we saw last year and opened by saying that she’d made a special trip to see us – good, that’s your bloody job! She then asked if it was our first trip to Sri Lanka. I politely reminded her that we sat at the same table, holding the same conversation exactly twelve months earlier. She questioned why we’d booked two rooms and we explained that we’re not a couple!

It’s interesting how perceptions and tolerances have changed, most people seem to presume that we’re gay!

Tuesday dawned brightly, we’d booked Lakshan to take us back to Galle and the weather was glorious, however by the time we left the maritime museum it started to rain and the rain turned – as it’s wont to do – torrential. We skipped our planned walk along the battlements and headed to the ‘Heritage Café’, a well regarded and very pleasant watering hole for a cuppa – it was only 11am.

Heritage Cafe – Galle

After which we spent an hour or so exploring Galle Fort, buying a (very) few souvenirs and then enjoying a quiet drink in a bar at the ‘Old Dutch Hospital’ before heading back to our hotel.

We had a few beers in the afternoon and then walked down the road to another well regarded bar ‘Funky De Café’; it was pleasant enough but we were the only customers. We sat and watched the (cloudy) sunset and headed back, trying another bar en-route but that was closed.

So, we headed back to our hotel for a few drinks and dinner.

On Wednesday we walked again through town, but struggled to find any other bars open. We called in to “Mama’s” but were ‘rained in’ by another torrential shower, so we stayed for a few more beers while the storm abated.

We jumped into a Tuk-Tuk and paid 100 rupees to take us the quarter mile back to Mama’s in the evening for dinner with Phill and Anne.

Thursday dawned wet and windy, with massive waves breaking on the shore. Hikkaduwa was discovered by surfers in the seventies and it’s not difficult to see why. The sun broke through on occasion and was scorching, but when it rained, it rained!

Anne pinged me mid-morning, would we like to meet up with Phill for lunch?

Thankfully the rain eased off and we were able to walk down to the bar and enjoyed a dish of local curry and several beers. I called in to the jeweller on the way back to collect the ear studs, and then to the supermarket for some spices. Another quiet evening in the hotel bar, thank heavens we’re All Inclusive! ‘Badde Bar’ – one of the early bars and while we were the only people in, Phill assured us it was popular with ex-pats.

We’d booked Lakshan for another trip on Friday, to a tea plantation just north of Galle. We were welcomed and spent a pleasant couple of hours before hitting the (inevitable) gift shop. We stopped off at the location of the ‘Good Karma Hospital’ on the way back; it’s a teacher training college on the main road out of Galle. It looks so peaceful and pastoral on TV.

We were back late afternoon and I started packing before we headed down the road to a local restaurant for a very pleasant dinner, again with Phill and Anne. Their kitchen is being refurbished, so they couldn’t host us, and they’re eating out a lot.

Saturday, our final day dawned bright and sunny, the best day of the week. I snuck over the road for some cheaper tea and some Incense oil. Our all inclusive package finished at noon, but I was down in the bar early to ‘pre-load’. I later popped upstairs to collect my baggage and returned to find Gaz with two large bottles of ‘Lion Stout’ an 8.8% classic.

We finished a couple of bottles each before joining our car – who had arrived over an hour early due to concerns about flooding’. The Lion Stout ‘encouraged’ us to sleep the nearly three hour trip to Colombo, we arrived at the airport in good time and adjourned to a lounge.

Both flights were uneventful, I bade farewell to Gaz at Abu Dhabi, landed at Heathrow at 06:45, was on the tube by seven thirty and home exactly three hours after touch down.

Layla was quick to forgive my absence, we watched the Monaco GP together – not a classic, I may have dozed a bit.