Colombo and back

Thursday was another day of sitting about, but productive nevertheless. Ben arrived with the tuk-tuk and at the bus station I enquired about an “express bus” to Colombo: these run on the recently finished section of motorway and take about 90 minutes. Despite assurances, my bus was not “express”, took the coast road and well over three hours. On the outskirts I went into a flagship mall, found a photographer (thank you “Rough Guide”) and got some passport size photos which I didn’t think to bring with me from Scotland. I got to Immigration about 11:30 and then had to do a lot of sitting about: when I started I mut have been about 50th in the queue. I expected the authorities would ask lots of searching questions about me extending my visa, but it all went well, if slowly and tediously. They obviously rely on boredom to filter out undesirables, rather than forensic probing interrogation.

About 3:00pm, having been granted an extension but with nothing on paper, I headed back to the bus station and went through the same “find an express bus” routine, again with a singular lack of success. This “luxury express” return minibus was slower than the outward journey and about 15Km from Galle we had a puncture. It was now dark and the bus was at the side of the road near an obligatory bend, with the driver propping the bus up with a combination of rocks and a jack, his legs sticking out into the middle of the unlit road as traffic thundered past, horns blaring. The spare was as bald as an egg: I got off the bus and watched, but most of the passengers were jacked up and down in the vehicle. Once safely back at Galle, tonight’s tuk-tuk driver knew exactly where to go, for which I was very grateful. By the time I got back to base, I was knackered though I’d spent nearly all day sitting in buses, tuk-tuks and immigration offices. Far too knackered to bother with blog entry, hence two days today.

Today, Friday morning, I tried to get information about the date of my first diving lesson. I have had a couple of unintelligible calls to my phone that may have come from a diving instructor, but I honestly couldn’t make out a word and got no reply to the texts I sent. Today I spoke to Hans the owner and am still waiting for a definitive start date.

On Sunday I move to my new accommodation: Sera is collecting me at 9am. We’ll see if all my moans about the Hillside fade into insignificance! There’s another wedding on here today and Sylvia managed to wangle some traditional sweetmeats. There were batter-based things: delicately shaped and called “cookies”, apparently of Dutch origin, and coconutty things that look like a cross between fishfingers and something UK dog-walkers carry in little plastic bags. Both were pleasant enough, but too greasy for my taste.

I’d say many SL men tend to be slim but with pronounced pot-bellies. I don’t know if this observation is valid or the cause of it. It could be puffing out tums to hold up sarongs, but it could be the diet of rice and “short eats” which always seem to be fried.

I’m tholing the music from the wedding disco as long as I can, then I’m going to go into town. With any luck, I can delay my return until after the disco finishes at about 4pm. When the wedding procession arrived, they were ushered in by Kandyan dancers and drummers. All the principal attendees were in traditional dress and looked liked exotic princes in a Disney film or a Bollywood movie. I managed to get some scraps of video and will post them if prevailing conditions permit. (See here: I’ve no idea if it’s worked or not!)

When I went to the ATM it refused to accept two different credit / debit cards. A lady staff member was helpful unable to solve the problem and we decided it was a technical problem. Luckily, another bank obliged. I will need to pay my first month at Sera’s upfront and earlier this week my “diving” money became my “Hillside” money. I’ve still not heard back from the Diving Centre: no money has changed hands so I can easily go elsewhere if Hans doesn’t get back to me. Anyway, I had my fix of wandering round the Fort: I do like the rather quaint run-down chic of the place. It gets really hot amongst the buildings, but when that gets too much a breezier walk along the ramparts brings relief and some good views of the Pacific: a wee bit of it at least. I also returned to a café I’d visited before. The boss bemoaned the fact his staff were missing, but it turned out they were only at Friday Prayers. Minutes later 7 or 8 young men arrived and the place was in action. This may explain why my Spaghetti Carbonara was made with thinly sliced smoked chicken and not the conventional ham / bacon. It was very good.

The Hillside’s water problem seems to have been resolved for the moment and I enjoyed a dip in the newly-refilled pool. I’m getting a shot at the Hillside’s washing machine on Saturday, so at least I should start my new tenancy with clean clothes!

If you’ve read this far you’re up to date, except for me mentioning that Quintus has, unasked, just brought me an “iced coffee”. It tastes more like chocolate, but it’s vey welcome.

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