Sri Lanka – Day one. Colombo to Bentota
Whenever I’m in a new country where everything is different and unknown, my senses become insatiably hungry. I want to see everything, hear everything, I want to speak to everyone and drink in their stories. Travelling has inevitably become by comfort zone. Whereas in real life I often feel constrained, anxious and uncertain, when I travel I completely surrender myself to the experience. I let it all wash over me and slip into a state of total acceptance and contentment. It’s so easy in our day to day lives to let our worlds shrink to tiny bubbles where we use the word ‘I’ far too often and stop seeing the bigger picture.
I’m sitting on our balcony at Susantha Gardens in Bentota. The sea is rolling in front of me, just beyond the train tracks and palm trees. There is a man conjuring a cobra out of its basket with his hypnotic music and a tiny ice cream van driving slowly up and down, a gentle, childish tune humming from its speaker. I’m surrounded by bird song and the breeze is fresh and welcome on my skin.
Now a train is rumbling in, arms dangle from the open windows, dappled by the evening light, and men stand in the open door ways, their bodies casually swinging in and out with the rocking of the tracks. I feel more at peace than I have in a long time.
The journey here was an easy one. The red eye from Dubai International was only slightly delayed but the pilot made it up in the air. Immigration and customs was a casual affair, the security with their comically large guns were smiling and laughing with their colleagues as passengers passed mostly unnoticed.
The original plan was to get the bus to Colombo Fort Station, then catch the train and take the coastal line down to Bentota, but after very little sleep we opted for a taxi instead. The guy at the kiosk quoted 6,900 rupees (about £35) which we gratefully accepted and were quickly escorted to a car and driver. The man suggested we take a tour on the way down for an extra 300 rupees but we were so tired, we just asked for the fastest way there. Five minutes into the journey the driver tells us that the Expressway is the fastest way there but there is a toll so we will pay an additional 450 rupees. Jake and I looked at each other with a look familiar to our South East Asia days. The price is never the price. We agreed anyway. Another 5 minutes passed and he driver needed petrol, he held out his hand and asked for 2,000 rupees. After some confusion we establish that this isn’t actually additional but will be deducted from the fare. I pulled out 8,000 and handed it to him. That’s the lot. Keep the change, don’t ask for more.
He drove for a while along twisting, turning roads. It was 5.30am and we were half asleep but Sri Lanka was wide awake. Dogs trotted across the road in front of us, locals in beautiful bright clothes were leading their children to school, going to work or opening their shops. Cars, tuk tuks, trucks and bikes jostled for the road, swerving in and out of their lanes, over taking at the last possible minute. Horns blared from every direction. I love the disorder of it all.
Once we reached the expressway it was smooth going and we both fell asleep. I awoke an hour later as we slowed to pay the toll and then headed back onto the busy roads. (Yes you are seeing correctly – he is on the phone, and watching a music video while driving. We didn’t die so I can’t complain.)
We arrived at our hotel a little before 8am. Our room wasn’t available until 12, but we could have an upgrade immediately for a little extra. We greedily accepted and after quick (cold) showers we both fell gratefully onto the bed and slept until mid-afternoon.
Later, a wander on the beach revealed that snorkelling was out of the question. Waves thundered against the sand, the sea reached out, pushing the beach away from it. As we walked, men sporadically sauntered out from the palms and pineapple trees, calling to us, asking us to eat in their restaurant or take their tour. We graciously declined all offers and continued our slow walk through the surf.
We went to eat early, having not eaten since the plane the night before we were excited for the pizza that was plastered on signs around the resort. The beer was also incredibly welcome, even if they only had Carlsberg. Much to our amazement, while we ate a mongoose scurried past. I didn’t even know Sri Lanka had mongoose…having said that, I don’t think I’d ever really thought all that much about mongoose. Pretty darn cool to see anyway.
So that was day one in Sri Lanka, despite sleeping half the day I only managed to keep my eyes open until 8pm, then I enjoyed a much needed 12-hour sleep.
Please don’t expect from the title ‘Sri Lanka – Day one’ that I will be updating the blog daily… but I’ll try and do a few while we’re here. Never do I feel more inspired to write than when I’m in a magical new land.