After the peak came the last segment of our trip where we were to go west coast to Beruwala for a couple of nights by the beach. And again we decided on public transport since it would have been ridiculously expensive to hire a taxi for that one. That time was the ultimate experience with public transport and locals and it took us the whole day to reach our destination.
The journey started with a bus from Dalhousie to the train station in Hatton. It was so crowded, full of fellow hikers who did the peak the other night too, and we had to stand for like half of the two hours trip. Imagine doing that after going down the peak a couple of hours earlier! The bus dropped us off in front of the train station and we got ourselves two 2nd class tickets to the capital that’s Colombo. I was getting hungry by then and the only option I had was a street food vendor that sold roti and other pastries. And despite me asking for a non-spicy roti, it was of course too spicy for my taste and eating it out of hunger was quite a pain!! You don’t really get to complain if you are hungry I suppose!
The train trip to Colombo was long but comfortable, maybe the most comfortable part of the whole day. As usual I couldn’t nap though I needed to so I just kept on looking outside the window watching towns and trees pass me by while listening to music and taking an occasional walk between carriages. We reached the train station in the capital city after dark and were able to catch the last train to Beruwala. PHEW! That train, let me tell you, was a 3rd class train where you will be lucky if you ever find a seat. The interior was all wood except for the seats. It was so ancient that I thought it should belong to a museum; they don’t make them like that anymore.
Thank God, and I really mean it, thank God, that we were able to find two seats. It was unimaginable how it would have felt being squashed in that carriage. People kept on squeezing in till there was no more space inside and then they either squeezed some more or dangled from the door. It was similar to those pictures of the trains in India with people oozing from all openings except that unlike Indians, Sri Lankan didn’t occupy the roof.
It was so hot inside that I was melting and even when the train moved, I didn’t get any of the breeze that came from the opened window. Tiredness and hunger got to me then and I just wanted it to end. I wanted to be in a hotel room, getting ready to sleep and preferably having something to eat before doing so! I was day dreaming guys! Sara and I, as usual, looked strange to the people in the train being the only foreigners but as always, it was never a problem and at the same time we were offered help to detect which stop is ours. We got off the train a little after 10 to a deserted town! The streets were dark and almost no one was there that it felt creepy.
In a decision to pamper ourselves during our last two nights, we booked a room in a fancy “resort” by the beach. Well, it was fancy yes but not really a resort. It was a villa turned into an accommodation kind of a thing. The room was very nice, smelled nice too and came with a roofless stone bathroom. Yeah, I had a problem showering in there I admit 😀 The villa has its own access to the beach with hammocks and comfy deckchairs around the place and a roof of coconut trees. It was so quiet and kind of romantic so no wonder that all guests were couples except for the two of us.
Everyone was practically asleep by the time we arrived; we actually woke them up to check in. Of course the restaurant of the villa was closed so we couldn’t order anything to eat and going to town was as useless!! I was hungry and super tired and to top it off, I had quite an argument with the host. I had myself booked for a whale watching tour in Mirissa with a couple of friends who were staying there and to catch the tour, I needed to be there before 6:30 am which meant leaving where I was maximum by 4:00 am!
And as I was trying to arrange for transportation with the host, for some reason he thought I didn’t want to stay in his place!! He got pissed off and offered to move me somewhere else if I didn’t want to stay on the property. I had no idea where did that come from as I couldn’t really see a relation between asking for a very early transport to Mirissa and me not wanting to stay in the villa!!
I couldn’t reach a deal with the guy, my attempts to find another means of transport failed, and I was left with only one option, a bus at 3:00 am to Mirissa. That didn’t seem like the right thing to do specially that it was storming that night and I was advised not to wander the streets alone at such an early hour. Sadly, I ended up canceling the tour with my friends and that was my only chance to see them. Bummer! Such an unpleasant ending to a long and tiring day.
I was too frustrated to sleep and the ongoing thunder storm that night didn’t help either. I had to use ear plugs and an eye mask to be able to get some sleep. I woke up to yet another cloudy day, the sun decided to take a break again when I really needed it to shed some of its light on us. The off feeling was still hovering so after breakfast, which was yummy by the way, I went out and tried to get myself an Ayurveda massage. But apparently on the spot appointments were not popular or maybe I didn’t look up hard enough.
Time for plan B I guess and that was to go to Galle. On my way to Galle I experienced another act of kindness from a local which brightened my day immensely. During my search for a massage place, I came across a nearby hotel and had a talk with the guy at the reception asking for directions to town and an exchange office. After I left, he came up to me and offered me a ride in his tuk tuk. And when the exchange office in town was closed, he took me to another one which was a little further down the road. The other office was also closed as the Muslim owner was already attending Friday prayers. I didn’t know what to do as I only had a couple of hundred rupees on me and I didn’t want to be stuck with little cash!
I asked my ride if there are any other places to go to but instead of taking me to another office, he had a talk with the grocery shop next to the exchange office so they would agree on exchanging my dollars for rupees on behalf of the temporarily unavailable exchange officer. I knew the ongoing rate and the deal seemed legit so I went for it as I really did need the money! I couldn’t have done it without the help of the hotel guy who dropped me off in front of the bus station afterwards and didn’t expect a tip and was even surprised when I insisted. It was the act of kindness I needed that day to turn my luck around. Thank you!
The two hours bus ride to Galle were exhausting but once I stepped off the bus and into the Dutch Fort all the tiredness faded away. The first bastion that was initially constructed by the Portuguese in Galle got extensively fortified later on by the Dutch so within those walls the architecture is really something. It didn’t feel like Sri Lanka at all, maybe Cuba with those single story colorful buildings and intersected streets. Not that I have been to Cuba but from what I have seen in some pictures, it did really feel like it. The atmosphere was so chilled and that was exactly what I needed. I kept walking around aimlessly enjoying the scenery and admiring the architecture, even the colorful tuk tuks with their decorations added to the beauty of the picture. Galle is a very good place to buy souvenirs and being quite an addict, I was extremely happy.
I walked myself to the seafront of the fort and had a rest on the Flag Rock which is part of the old Portuguese bastion. It’s a very popular spot for watching the sunset or jumping off into the water if you feel like it. Now, I have never seen that many lonely planets as I have seen during that trip. Almost everyone had a guidebook and kept on checking it every now and then. I’m not a big fan of them to be honest but I did have one! Guilty as charged I know! I had it not because I willingly bought it but because a friend offered it and I thought why not. I didn’t check it that much and frankly, it wasn’t that helpful at all especially when it came to public transport!! Locals were much more helpful in that regard. And come to think of it, being “guided” is not always a good idea if you know what I mean 😉
As I strolled around the city I found myself having a talk with one of the Imams of the town’s mosque. Of course he was curious about the solo veiled female traveler and got so excited when he knew I was from Egypt. He told me tales of one of the very first Egyptian Imams who came to Galle to teach them about Islam and help at the Islamic center and seemed to be very fond of the guy. The conversation was concluded by a recommendation for a halal dinner and an offer to have me as a guest in his house for tea.
I accidentally ran into the place he recommended and decided to try it for dinner. And while I was sitting there enjoying my shrimp kottu and taking in the night breeze, I saw this lady who was on the same bus to Galle with me in the morning. I asked her to join and we had a small conversation. She was from Germany and was visiting Sri Lanka for a couple of weeks. I offered her some info about the places I have been to and she gave me ice cream recommendation for desserts.
I headed back to the bus station afterwards, but not before having some ice cream of course 😀 , and luckily I took the AC bus back to town. It’s more expensive than the regular one but I didn’t have the energy for another ride like the one I had in the morning so I didn’t mind the extra payment and it was quite a change not to be melting over the heat and humidity.
I reached Beruwala a little after 9 pm and it felt deserted again! The streets were almost empty and I had to wait for a while till I was able to find a tuk tuk to take me to the villa. While waiting, this guy came to me and asked where I was going and didn’t want to leave my side even when I replied to him! I wasn’t sure if he meant any harm or if he just didn’t want to leave me waiting for a tuk tuk by myself at night! The incident did freak me out just a little but it didn’t feel life threatening though. I think I might have overreacted due to all the stories I read about Sri Lanka being unfriendly to female solo travelers. It was kind of awkward because what I experienced was the opposite of being unfriendly!
That was my last day of enjoyment in Sri Lanka as the following day marked my departure. I woke up early and had a quick swim before breakfast. I was on an island for 9 days and that was my first, and last, time to swim. I wasn’t really impressed by the beach to be honest. Yeah, they are beautiful with all those coconut trees and everything but in Egypt we have see-through waters and sandy beaches where the soft sand runs between your toes! I think those could be my kind of beaches!
The breakfast was delicious like the day before, freshly baked bread and tasty Sri Lankan cheese. Oh that cheese! Just yum! Though I kind of started off on the wrong foot with our host, we came to an understanding when I was leaving. He was interested about what I did in Galle the other day considering the fact that I went on my own because Sara wanted to stay in and relax. As I was saying good bye, he greeted me with a big smile and told me not to worry and that everything will be ok. Did I look worried to him 😀 I appreciated the kind thought nonetheless.
Sara and I took a train back to Colombo, the train passed by the coast and the views were beautiful. And from the train station, we took the airport bus to catch our flight. The trip was coming to an end and though I enjoyed every bit of it, I’m not quite sure if I would want to visit Sri Lanka again. The nature is amazing and the people are generous and kind but the island didn’t leave me with the urge of wanting to come back. It’s weird admitting this now as I never left a country with the feeling of not wanting to go back. And I can’t really pinpoint a reason for my feeling like that! I guess only time will tell if that island will draw me back to its lands again so let’s wait and see 🙂