For the short February mid-term break I took up the offer from Jon (who I visited the first time I went to Sri Lanka) to make a return trip. Following a long and busy 7 weeks of term I was looking forward to a restful break.
Unfortunately it didn’t start well with the school bus taking 3 and a half hours instead of the normal one and a half, due to a very slow driver (oddly for India) who took the strangest route I’ve seen. Fortunately due to the departure times of the school buses I still made it to the airport in plenty of time.
When I got to Jon and Varuni’s house just outside Colombo there was a very welcome sight waiting for me.
The next morning we made a relatively early start to catch the train from Colombo to the south of the island. I was starting to feel that travel on this trip was cursed, when there was a station announcement that the train was delayed by 40 minutes. Boarding the train, when it finally arrived, was a feat in itself that required a considerable amount of pushing and shoving along with the generous use of elbows!! Once on board it was a tightly packed ride for the first hour until a couple of seats came free.
We were heading to a small village called Seenigama that had been heavily affected by the 2004 tsunami. In the wake of this Kushil Gunasekera set up the Foundation of Goodness, a charity that caries out a wide range of initiatives that Jon now volunteers at on a regular basis – http://www.unconditionalcompassion.org/indexc.php
We took a walk through the village and saw the temple (on a raised platform) where around 750 people from the village took shelter as the tsunami approached, and survived. At the MCC Seenigama (sponsored by Marylebone Cricket Club) and saw some of the children from the village who had turned up early for their practice session as well as the excellent facilities. On the sea front we saw the dive centre that is part of the Foundation of Goodness, running PADI courses for tourists as another way of raising money for the charity.
That evening we took a rickshaw to the next town, Hikkaduwa, for a couple of beers watching the sunset before heading to the Red Lobster for a fish dinner.
The next morning, after a swim at the beach, we caught another train to Galle and then on to Weligama to pick up some beers (as the is no off-licence in the village we were going to.) At the bottle shop we were chatting to the owner who asked the usual questions about who we were, where we were from, and then surprised me by telling me that he had lived in Gillingham (just down the road from my home town) for three years!
We stayed in a small quest house for the night and met up with some of the people Jon has met in his visits to Mirissa. We spent the afternoon at Wadiya Beach Bar and went back there for the fresh fish barbeque in the evening.
The next morning we took a walk along the beach and went for breakfast at Dewmini Roti Shop. This was a small scale place in the back garden of the owner’s house. It had previously been a hut on the beachfront but had to be moved after local hotels put pressure on the owner. She closed down and reopened in her back garden, serving what are often recommended as the best rotis in Sri Lanka.
Towards the end of a very relaxing week Jon and I visited Apegama, a re-creation of a traditional Sri Lankan village along with a small deer park and local crafts stalls.
On my last morning in Sri Lanka, Jon and I went to their local temple. It was a simple place with no frills, and Jon and I spent some time walking around and lighting oil lamps and incense.
Views from Jon and Varuni’s balcony: