Over the last 10 days, it’s been impossible to stick to my ‘alternate days’ diet.
After my rice and curry meal last night, I was presented with the following breakfast:
Coconut sambol (from last night and identified from my Facebook photo by Angela, thank you)
Mango and banana smoothie
Fruit plate (guava, pineapple, water melon, bananas)
Toast, butter, jam
(I turned down cheese)
At one stage on this SL trip I was missing my normal Granola type breakfasts. I’m not so sure now, but I’m not overly optimistic that Sonia will want to serve up a breakfast like today’s before she heads off to work!
As I sit here eating my breakfast and typing up this stuff, a line of water buffalo, with their attendant egrets, are wandering past at the bottom of the garden.
As I sped away to Tissa bus station, helmetless on the back of a motorbike, I reflected – somewhat nervously – on the last few hours.
After my breakfast spread and a bit of rucksack filling I had tried to pay, but was turned down. My like-minded pal on the staff was adamant the boss had said I was not to be charged, so in the presence of the other chap I handed over 5000 rupees for sharing amongst the staff – I think there’s one more guy. This is certainly well over the odds for a tip, but I reckon my bill with the room upgraded from last time, the curry etc. would have been close on 7500 so everyone wins. The service, atmosphere, friendliness, value, rooms and food are all first rate. I was glad to get a chance to thank the boss and say goodbye by mobile phone just before leaving. A rave review on TripAdvisor will follow once I’m back in the UK.
On the Bus
My biker-chauffeur helped me identify a limited-stop, direct bus to Galle and I’m now speeding along the road, warm breeze blowing in the window and no-one yet brave enough to sit next to the toubab (as they’d call me in The Gambia). There is no doubt that we’re out of the hill country. If the lack of hills didn’t give it away, the greatly increased temperature would.
A bit of Political Commentary
The bus stopped at Hambantota, the town near SL’s new airport. During my political chat yesterday afternoon, I was told the airport is a white elephant as the airlines won’t use it because there are no hospitals and other necessary infrastructure. Each time I’ve been on a bus through Hambantota, it’s taken a loop past the airport, but no-one has got on or off. Don’t forget the current Prime Minister – Mahinda Rajapaksa – and his extended family come from Hambantota, which is currently doing very nicely, thank you, from all this concrete development.
It’s funny how passages from English Close Reading exercises come to mind unbidden over the intervening years: one referred to “the self-defeating quest by holiday makers to find the authentic and unspoilt” or words to that effect. If it does eventually start bringing in the tourists, that will be Hambantota in a nutshell, I fear. If it doesn’t bring them in, SL will be paying a long time for the afore-mentioned white elephant.
Most of the development is Chinese backed after the SL government has cosied up to them: it’s the same in great swathes of Asia and Africa: at best it must be a mixed blessing. I don’t think the Chinese have any colonial aims in the way England did (does?): they are simply interested in their own industrial and economic needs. And then there’s steel and power stations in the UK…
What I find so disappointing is that the same or similar stories happen throughout the world: corruption, greed, nepotism, old boys’ networks… Thank goodness that sort of thing doesn’t happen in the good old UK!
Back to trivia
I really like the wooden lorries. I guess the engines, and maybe the chassis, are metal but the bulk of the bodywork is wood. Sometimes they’re simply varnished, sometimes brightly painted with religious stuff and Sinhala script. They are nearly always faded and “distressed”. Maybe that was where Geoffrey Bawa got his inspiration.
When I got back to base after my 4 hour journey, I could see quite a bit of development at Sera’s too. The workmen are probably at the bits which take longer and therefore progress looks less dramatic, but the steps outside the rooms are tiled, they’re finishing off plastering in the communal kitchen and the landscaping has moved on a bit. Sera had said he planned to have it all finished by the time I leave, but there’s no hope of that without Ground Force and several of those DIY / 60 minute makeover type programmes British tv seems so fond of.
The plan for tomorrow is to visit Rick and Kris: the reasons for this are a) to see how she’s doing after her op – I don’t think she’s tackled the stairs yet, b) to use their printer to get my Etihad boarding pass and c) to go out for a bite of lunch with Rick (and Kris if she’s up to it).
Continuing the good news / bad news theme, I can’t book a seat on the Colombo train but I’ve discovered there is a train from Colombo to the airport and it should tie in nicely with my arrival at the station! If that fails, I did at least discover when I was heading for the YMCA a week or so back that the bus stance for the airport is near the railway station, so that’s a handy backup, though the pedestrian bridge and its steps over the dual carriageway would be a real pain with a case.
I’m going to try to post quite a few photos today: some of them go back to “New Year” at TGS, others are just photos on my camera that I had no way of posting until I got back to the laptop. All that depends on the router working, of course!
Horton Plains / World’s End
Adam’s Peak/ Sri Pada
The Tea Country