Sri Lanka Part Two

24 04 2013

A selection of further random observations from our Sri Lanka trip:

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Negombo

Now, I don’t wanna start this blog entry on a downer. Consider it more of a warning, perhaps. But Negombo – the first place most visitors will experience as they arrive in Sri Lanka – is an out-n-out shithole.

I won’t be argued with on this point. Here is a town with zero redeeming features. OK, it’s close to the airport. But that’s where it ends.

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Beautiful Negombo

An uninspiring beachside strip of bland hotels and rundown restaurants, a grubby beach and not much else.

A few wandering, confused Euro tourists; an overcast, sullen air. This was a town to leave behind, and fast.

In fact my overwhelming impression of Negombo was a frightening insight into what a post-apocalyptic world might look like.

For one thing the town is overrun by crows. And even if you’ve never seen the Omen movies, crows are creepy as shit. Pecking your eyes out and stuff…

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Ever-present crows. Cover your eyes…!

Throw in some crumbling hotels, a filthy beach littered with dead things, grey skies and a pervading air of hopelessness.

Inner-city canals turned an odd shade of blue by wastewater runoff. A fish market surrounded by enormous rotting fish heads.

And weird, raggedy fishing boats with cloth sails scrounging the seas for whatever is left.

Straight out of the Sri Lankan Mad Max.

Don’t hang about in Negombo, dudes….

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It might not look that rainy. But it was. OK?

A bad day at the office.

Wow, this blog entry is sounding all whiney. We had a good time in Sri Lanka, honest.

But I thought I might relate to you the trials of one of our toughest days, whereby we rode through the rain for eight hours on breaking-down bikes.

Here goes:

We leave our overnight accommodation ‘Little Dream’ and head south toward Mahiyanganya (pronounced Mar-younger-ny-ya). Our route is largely back roads but we have Google Maps.

A man waves us down. “Don’t go that way. Water!’

Whatever, bro. Do you have an iPhone on your bike? No.

Our dirt road rounds a bend and leads straight into a river. Promising start.

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Google Mapped ourselves straight into a river

We stop for what would prove to be the cheapest meal of the trip: tea, short eats, roti and dahl for two for less than AUD$1. There’s hope.

Then it starts to rain. And rain and f**king rain. Hope soon fades.

We begin to pass landslips where mud covers the road. We pass a low bridge where the high water is beginning to bubble up over the road. We no longer lift our feet through puddles. Canvas trainers, jeans and ill-prepared riders are now thoroughly soaked. It is about 10am.

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The Soggy Bottom boys hang out at the store.

Bike problems begin. My blue Baja’s idle-adjust snaps off, so it no longer idles. The electric start also fails. And the headlights. And the blue Baja does not have a kick-start.

Cue an afternoon of Rhys push-starting me when there is no downhill slope.
This gets old very quickly in the pouring rain.

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Dry clothes, warm hotel room and beer. We were happy once.

At one point we decide the rain is getting too heavy.

We stop, take shelter, eat popsicles, laugh at our predicament, hang out with some locals

An hour later, the rain is even heavier and we squelch off down the road, having achieved, well, not very much.

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The author calls his mum for a pair of dry socks, please.

About 2pm we start to get cold. We both have nice waterproof jackets, but they can only hold off so much rain.

And this is serious rain. It stings our faces, obscures our vision, flows orange around our feet and trickles down our necks.

Finally we arrive at our villa. It is warm and dry and they hang our clothes up and pour us tea, then beer. All is well in the world again

Midigama

Since its inception, our trip included a surfing component. We initially tried Mirissa, but this was a bit touristy, a bit crowded and a bit lacking in waves.

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Mirissa beach scene

Twenty minutes down the coast though, we found Midigama. Not a town so much as a collection of homestays and restaurants along the highway, it was still pretty rad.

We set up camp in a homestay on the ‘wrong’ side of the railroad tracks, run by a lovely girl in her family home,

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Legendary hosts!

The surfers and backpackers had the run of the top storey; she lived below with mum, dad, gran, her ever-smiling brother and various uncles.

Thirty minutes after arriving we had rental boars under arms and were heading to the beach.

Out front, three or four breaks beckoned, from shallow, hollow reefs to crumbly points.

Crowds consisted of Euro holiday-makers, learners and couples, with none of the hardcore scene you might see in Indo, mainly as the waves were more fun than epic.

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But Midigama was such a highlight.

Surf early, tuck into a massive brekkie, wander about, surf again at midday as it was too hot to do anything else, go exploring, try to find a cold beer, hang out with new friends. Much fun.

Warm-water waves without much punch meant surfs were relaxing rather than life-threatening but sometimes that’s enough, you know.

Especially when there are few surfers around and you can grab a few waves to yourself.

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Home at the beach

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Possibly the smiling-est kid in Sri Lanka

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Gran.

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A new take on railroad commuting

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