I tried to post this last night (Thursday), but there was no wifi for some reason.
When Jo, Sarah, Sonia and I visited Unawatuna 8 years ago, it was an unspoilt little bay with a few small tumbledown beachside shacks and many palm trees.
That of course is a very narrow focus on appearance: the tsunami of the previous Boxing Day had certainly scrubbed the little bay clean and left it spotless a year later but in the process, apart from the hundreds killed, all the original stalls and beachside cafes had been destroyed and all the livelihoods wiped out. It was certainly more attractive then than now, but I’m really glad I went back and saw it thriving again.
As I left the Hillside I came across a woman picking delicate wee flowers from a bush and collecting them in a bowl. The normal greetings exchanged, I asked what she would do with them. “Worship!” was the smiling reply.
I’m slowly learning useful stuff and I now know where the nearest bus-stop to the hotel is. Next is to learn the frequency of the buses.
I was standing at the stop hoping for a bus into town when a guy coming out of town on a motorbike pulled over beside me. He was quite smartly dressed and asked if I was waiting for a bus. Yes, I was or I’d get a tuk-tuk if I had to wait ages. “Not many buses,” said the motorcyclist, “let me take you to the main road.” And before I knew it I was on the back of the bike, sans helmet, speeding towards the town. He was, thankfully, a careful road-user – exemplary by local standards – and dropped me off a mile or more down the road. It was obvious from the start that he was just doing me a favour and he refused point blank when I offered him petrol money, just turning his bike to go back over the section of road he had just travelled both ways once already. It was a lovely way to start the day, if a little nerve-racking.
A bus stopped, I got on, again found my way through Galle’s vast chaos of a bus station, got dropped off in Unawatuna and I was soon sitting on the beach. Having survived for the last couple of days on basic rations of bread and jam, I was treating myself today and was soon tucking into scrambled eggs – better than they looked – “toast” and a whole pot of tea. Luxury!
It’s easier to chill out if there’s nothing more than two palm trees and a hammock. All the people meant I couldn’t drop my rucksack and run into the sea, but I had a cunning plan. I did my exploring, visited the Buddhist temple on the headland and tracked down what I hoped was the correct diving school, of which there are now many.
The “correct” diving centre – where the three of us dived together years back – or not, Unawatuna Diving Centre is now run by a guy called Hans – Dutch of course – and has a shambolic but professional air to it. We did some paperwork, I presented my GP’s assurance that she expected me to survive a course and I’ve signed up. If Sonia hoped I’d maybe not get round to taking up her Christmas Present, she’ll be disappointed. But I’m delighted. It will cost 56000/- (£280) and I’m really looking forward to doing it. Hans was surprised when I said I had the best part of 3 months: most people try to cram the course into a ten day or fortnight holiday. One of his instructors will ring me to organise the time of my first lesson.
The cunning plan to which I alluded above was simply that having ingratiated myself with the management, I was able to leave my stuff in the office whilst I had a swim. The sea was lovely, but I won’t go on about it as it was just warm seawater and I know some of you are struggling with foul weather.
After that, a ginger beer was called for. Leaving aside the first beer after a day on the Scottish Hills, there is little as refreshing as EGB Ginger Beer. We – and Sonia in particular – fell in love with it previously as it has a really gingery flavour and goes down a treat. The “real ginger” of the label gives it a cloudy appearance like old-fashioned lemonade. (Other SL ginger beers are available.) A second EGB was required.
The guidebook said that Dalawela beach a bit along the road was quieter but it was easy to miss, so another tuk-tuk and another beach. More ex-pat in flavour and thus a bit more upmarket, fewer people certainly, but also a lot less beach, so it seemed crowded. But palm-trees and quiet nooks could be found.
Eventually I walked back the kilometre or two to Unawatuna, mostly on the beach and passing some fishing stilts which “moonlighted” as platforms for diving terns to swoop from at unsuspecting fish.
Back at Una…, I found a place for lunch and a Lion. I enjoyed the beer while waiting for my seafood platter, which I washed down with an EGB. Succulent battered prawns, whose Mummies would have been proud of them, calamari, more of the brown fish Quintus served up –possibly called “seer fish”, but there may have been a misunderstanding in that conversation and it could just have been “seared” – all accompanied by French Fries, salad etc. Not to mention rice, of course. I was glad I had just chosen the ordinary and not the super platter as I couldn’t quite finish it, even having decided to ignore the rice.
After lunch I did a little more wandering and then caught a bus to town, bought some fruit for tomorrow and tuk-tukked it back to base. A great day, much of it thanks to the lady who made it all possible: take a bow Mrs M!