Ticking off the beaches

We’d heard lots of good things about the city of Galle and we weren’t disappointed when we arrived. Galle is a city fortified by the Portuguese and expanded by the Dutch. The European influence was clear to see and wandering around the streets felt at times more like a holiday than travelling. I’m sure that most of you think we’re on an extended holiday but there’s a difference in feeling between travelling and holiday that’s hard to explain unless you have travelled. Whilst in Galle we experienced a lengthy power cut. We had become very used to frequent power cuts in India but these never tended to last very long. We’ve been lucky enough to not have had too many in Sri Lanka but this one started at around 8am and affected most of the city. We were to find later in the day that it was a scheduled power outage for 10 hours to allow maintenance to take place but it would have been helpful for our guesthouse to inform us beforehand so that we could have prepared ourselves and do useful stuff such as make coffee, take a shower and charge phones etc! We spent a very hot day wandering around trying to get cool. We’d planned for a day in museums but a lot of them didn’t have generators so were closed. We also had to be very picky about where we ate that day as call me fussy, but I wanted my food to have been refrigerated all day.

Galle Fort lighthouse

From Galle we headed a very short distance east to Unawatuna, a beach resort. We ended up extending our stay here as we enjoyed the beaches and our accommodation- we had the place to ourselves and a massive roof terrace where we could watch the afternoon rains roll in. We visited a couple of different beaches here and took a Sunday morning stroll to the Japanese Peace Pagoda, gifted during the time of the civil war. It was quite a stroll uphill, through jungle which reminded me at times of Tayrona in Colombia. From here it was a very short stroll to a tiny beach called Jungle beach. This was a very pretty cove with still crystal clear waters. We also stumbled across another small beach, Wijaya beach, where we were swimming one day and to my surprise a turtle appeared alongside me. Unlike in Hikkaduwa people weren’t trying to touch this one or pick it up. One day on our way out to dinner I tried to navigate us a short cut. I’m not great at directions so this was never going to end well. It had just about stopped raining and some movement caught my eye – a huge snake slithered UP A WALL about a foot away from me. I mean I’ve known some snakes in my time but this was the biggest of all. This obviously didn’t put me off the short cut though and I blithely carried on only to be barked away by a huge pack of stray dogs. I decided that actually maybe we should stick to the main road!

Japanese Peace Pagoda in Unawatuna

From Unawatuna it was off to Weligama, a place famous for surfing and renowned as somewhere good for beginners to learn so we thought we’d give it a go. I have to say I was quite sceptical about it before hand as I didn’t think I’d be any good at it. We were paired up with an instructor called Michael (that well known Sri Lankan name) and he demonstrated how we needed to lie on the board, paddle, push up, put the back foot up and then the front foot, Joey went first and surprisingly for him he didn’t get it straightaway. Soon it was my turn and it turned out that I was actually the natural! I got up really quickly and accurately and only needed a couple of practices. Could it be that surfing was my sport?! I’m extremely competitive and was very excited about the possibility of actually being better than Joey at something (other than Shithead). Unfortunately all of the above happened on the beach and not in the sea. When it got to the water it was a totally different story. Joey picked it up really quickly and I, well I spent most of my time in the sea trying to scrabble back onto the board. I got thrown off so many times it was like being in a washing machine and I was really starting to resent the leash! Can it be called a wipeout if you don’t actually manage to stand up?! I had friction burns on my fingers from trying to get back on the board that lasted a week.

We also did a whale watching tour which was incredible. We sailed about an hour out to sea and eventually saw a spout of water, a tell tale sign that one was about. When we eventually spotted it on the surface it was breathtaking, it was HUGE. You never really think about how large they are, but it must have been as long as the boat. We saw it dive under the boat, and got some pictures of it’s tail as it headed back under.

The tail of a blue whale

Then it was straight to Dickwella. Yet more beach time (well we are on an island!). We wandered to the main Dickwella beach which was so wide and long and also surprisingly empty. We couldn’t understand why it was so empty, it was a little bit of paradise. About two minutes later we realised why when a massive wave came crashing down and caught me totally unaware, I did a very impressive cartwheel /forward roll and ended up whacking the side of my face on the sea bed. I still have a very impressive bruise and am being a drama queen about the whole thing and keep telling Joey that I think I’ve fractured my cheekbone. I’m sure once the swelling and bruising goes down I’ll be able to laugh about the whole incident.

Dickwella is home to the largest seated Buddha statue in Sri Lanka so we popped there. It was very quiet on the morning we went and they have a very impressive / disturbing collection of statues acting out scenes of hell. Some of the punishments being displayed definitely made me wince.

One of the hell punishments

The world’s second largest blow hole is also just outside Dickwella so we headed there. I wasn’t in a great mood that day but I was left distinctively underwhelmed by the whole thing. I’m sure it’s all about timing as it’s not often I’m left underwhelmed by a natural phenomenon.

The world’s second most underwhelming blow hole

Our last stop on the coast was Tangalle. It’s at this point that all the beaches seem to merge into one. We spent a couple of days here swimming in the clear seas spotting lots of colourful fish and working on the tan. It’s here that I cracked and opened the marmite. Not because I’d had a bad day but because I wanted to! You can actually buy it fairly easily here so I decided that we might as well enjoy it and buy a back up jar for our last couple of weeks in India!
Now the plan is to head inland firstly to Udawalwe national park and then towards the tea plantations and cultural triangle. It’s incredible to think we’ve almost had a month here already and that our South Asia leg is over halfway through. We’ve been planning our summer return which is exciting for more than one reason but more on that another day!

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