Down South

Dateline Tangalle 23rd Feb.

I’d really appreciate being able to have a long lie. I never seem tired in the evening and end up going to bed about midnight, but I still wake up about 5:30. I planned a leisurely start today, but was still on the go by 6. I must have a guilty conscience, but I wish I could remember what I did!

I meant to mention that some thieving b@stard pinched my breakfast cereal: the theft was discovered by me yesterday when I went to have my daily dose of iron shakti, mango pulp and – for all I know – genetically modified maize flakes. I have been keeping it in the fridge so the ants can’t carry it off, so that removes several million suspects in one go. On top of that, my latest carton of UHT milk has lumps in it: it’s not off, but the lumps of cream make my coffee less than appealing,

But let’s put my troubles to one side, or at least leave them until later.

After a non-breakfast consisting of flecked coffee, I pottered around as I didn’t want to start my trip too early.

About 10am, I began the first of three bus journeys – just to the bus station this time. A brief stop to stock up on the readies and then the second  bus: an hour and half to do the 45km to Matara. I think the laws of mathematics – and possibly physics – are suspended in SL as I can’t see how a bus that travels at such breakneck speed can only average 30kph. Anyway, I got a seat for the whole journey, I was next to a breeze-providing window and rarely had anyone sitting next to me, so I had no complaints. Now, I’m not slow in moaning if I feel the need but I really think the SL bus service is pretty good, if one ignores the execrable driving standards, which are not much worse than the rest of SL road users. You can get anywhere in SL by bus: every single village, hamlet or steading seems to be served and my journey to Matara cost about 40p. Matara is a main transport hub for the Southern Province of SL and has its very own Fort area, which I didn’t visit: maybe on the way back…

Not only is it possible to go anywhere cheaply, you can also do it frequently. I had hardly finished the Galle-Matara leg and hopped on to the Matara-Tangalle bus (40km, about 90mins) than we lurched off. Once again a seat, but as primary schools seem to finish out here about midday, there were lots of mums collecting their kids and just going a few stops, before being replaced by their counterparts in the next village.

I felt it was time for some music to drown out the horn section from the front of the bus, so on with the earphones and Pink Floyd. In my experience, Pink Floyd (and specifically Dark Side of the Moon) is the right music for any journey: I’ve lost count of the number of bus trips, flights, airport delays and so forth that have been ameliorated by the album.

Having done this journey last year, I remembered the bus station in Tangalle pretty well, also the two or three kilometre walk to the Ibis, so it was ‘No thank you’ to the importuning tuk-tuk drivers and I strode out.

Attentive readers will have noticed a lack of food so far and I admit to having been hungry by the time I’d left Tangalle town behind me. Having passed both Seanic Villa and Wavy Ocean Restaurent, I stopped at a beach-side place and succumbed to a very acceptable seafood-based lunch before continuing to the Ibis, my final destination. Well, I suppose death is the final destination, but I hope I’m speaking shorter term than that.

I won’t repeat lots of stuff about the Ibis as a quick search (see the “search” link on the right) will give you the background. Ranjith recognised me (good people skills but not a very clever trick, as he knew a repeat customer was coming) and I found my room.

SLankans seem to favour dark wood furniture. I see the benefit of rattan in this climate and I suppose the dark wood is local but, along with the mosquito nets, there is a tendency for the whole place to take on a Dickensian feel: think Miss Havisham. I almost feel the lack of antimacassars. That aside, my room is adequate, the shower has water – sometimes warm – and the beer is cold, so I’ve little to complain about.

Angelika, Ranjith’s wife and prime mover in the Ibis / Orphanage setup, is German, which explains the ‘Swiss Roesti’ on the menu; an option I was glad to take at my evening meal, followed by distinctly disappointing Pineapple Pancakes and Honey. The pineapple had either been forgotten or specially selected so as to be devoid of flavour. The honey is nice, but – unless this is different from previous experiences – does not involve bees; instead it is the sweet sap of a tree, but none the worse for that.

There’s a constant – and very welcome – breeze here, but you can just feel the humidity: bedding, towels, cushions etc. are all damp. In the UK ‘damp’ implies ‘cold’ but not here: damp is just damp. I slept on my my damp mattress and under my damp sheet like a damp log.

Despite there not being a Fur Elise-playing tuk-tuk in the vicinity, I still awoke at just before 6am, though I lay in bed and finished the latest ‘Rebus’ novel which I downloaded a day or two back.

A day or two back, possibly whilst eating Nasi Goreng in the Fort, I must have been aattacked by some malevolent blood-sucking insects. Less ‘artistic’ than the attack a few weeks back, these show in the form of blisters on my legs, clustered round where my shorts stop. Needless to say, they are itchy to the point of distraction, but my antihistamine is coming into its own again and everything is under control.

Anyway, that’s it for now: it’s Friday about 1:30pm and, having tucked into ‘toast’ (the peely-wally kind) and tea, I’m giving lunch a miss, but am already looking forforward to my evening meal. Ciao for now.


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