Today we were leaving the South of Sri Lanka and heading up to Colombo. By 0900 hours we were packed, apartment squared away and outside waiting to say goodbye to our New friends.
We opted to take the train again, as we were in no particular hurry and the trip down had been so pleasant. After taking lots of photographs of the family and exchanging hugs and telephone numbers we were ready to get loaded into Tuk Tuks that Newton had arranged to take us to the station. We were so disappointed to have missed PushPa. As it was a Sunday she had gone to the market to do the shopping for the week. Had we known that we would have gotten up earlier to bid her farewell.
Mildred got her own Tuk Tuk again, and we followed behind her in another. I had visions of her rolling out as we zipped along, weaving in and out of the traffic, by some miracle she stayed onboard and arrived none the worse for her escapade. Newton came with us to the train station, and whilst we were on the platform he pointed out the market, just behind the railway station. It was packed, everyone doing their weekly shopping. The smells drifting across the track to us were making our mouths water. It could have been pork. But whatever it was, we wanted some!!
When we first arrived at Hikkaduwa, we were ushered into Tuk tuks by a man wearing flip flops, one of which was seriously built up. The same man approached us while we were waiting for the train and tried to persuade us that he had a friend with a van who was going back to Colombo and that we should drive back with him. He even said that the train would be late and that we would be waiting a long time so we'd be better off going with his friend. He didn't take no very well, and got a bit shitty. He finally got the message and limped away, creepy little man.
The train was running about 20 minutes late, and you could only buy tickets half hour before it is due. I'm not sure if that's for locals too or just travelling types. The platform was heaving and we were hoping that there hadn't been too many stops before us. Being a Sunday it seemed that everyone was going somewhere, and they were all getting on our train. Newton bid us farewell and went to catch the bus home, and not long afterwards the train pulled into the station. The only available tickets are second or third class. Second class has relatively comfortable
Seats, third class, bench seats. Our hearts sank when the train came to a stop. It was absolutely rammed and hardly anyone got off. We'd shoved our way to the door but there was just no way we'd get on, it was just far too full. A guard came along and went and spoke to a guard on the train, he called us to where he was and told us we could go in there. It was only the bloody luggage car... and Si wasn't allowed in, just me Mildred our bags and Bob. Due to this Si was forced to squeeze his way onto the train, just managing to get off the step and hang on for grim death. The poor chap who got on after him didn't even make it that far. He spent the whole journey stood on the step, hanging off the hand rail and squishing in when the train tracks got close to anything. The luggage car contained me and our luggage, a stack of white sacks with a lady sat on them, and a random tyre. The windows had security bars on them, and they were all shut. In next to no time I was melting. A few stations along we were joined by a family, I'm not sure, but I think the male
Worked for the railway as he seemed to know the guard, hence why his family were in the luggage carriage. Finally the guard agreed to open the windows, not that it made any difference at all, and it just filled the carriage with diesel fumes. The lady sat opposite me asked if she could take my photo. Clearly it's not every day you see a dopey bird in a wheelchair, sat fanning herself in the luggage compartment, holding a much loved fluffy blue Bob!
The journey passed quite quickly, and this time I could see the ocean on the way. It's amazing how close to the track it comes. As we passed through Mount Lavinia, the beach was really busy. Full of families enjoying the sunshine, beach and water. I suspect the water was the best place to be!!
Our journey came to an end at Colombo Fort Station,
And I can't say I was sorry! However, Si was far more
relieved to be off it than me. With sweat pouring out of him, and an aching back from standing and tensing to stay upright on the old train he was in need of a sit down! With more people piling on than were getting off, I can't help but feel a little bit sorry for them. However, why is it that the locals weren't even sweating??
Getting off the platform was a piece of cake, we rolled down the ramp and over the tracks to the exit.
Once outside we were pounced on by Tuk Tuk drivers and taxi drivers. We were trying to decide if we would walk to the hotel as it was quite close by, but in the end we succumbed to the pressure of the Tuk Tuk and rode. When we arrived at Hikkaduwa, Mildred had her own chariot along with the bags. This
time, the bags were jammed in on the parcel shelf behind the seat, closely followed by me, Si and lastly Mildred! She was hanging half out of the Tuk Tuk, with Si holding on to her as we were weaving in and out of the traffic. Thankfully our hotel was a mere 5 minutes away so we were soon pulling up outside. The air conditioning was most welcome as we booked in and located our room.
We are staying in The Fairway Hotel, prettt modern and immaculately clean. After unpacking some things and changing, we decided on a walk to get our bearings. The hotel is located just opposite the site Of the Old Dutch Hospital, which is now an eating courtyard. With all sorts of delightful restaurants. Every where we went we were hassled by Tuk Tuk drivers wanting to take us places. Clearly not understanding the concept of no thanks we are walking. Turning into main road we were approached by a smartly dressed man who told us he was a police man who worked for the hotels. He advised us what the Tuk Tuk prices were and how much to pay for each mile. Then he told us about a festival that was on, saying it was the last day and that we really shouldn't miss it. He called up a Tuk Tuk negotiated a return price of 150slr and we were on our way to the festival. Our driver was the perfect tour guide, pointing out all the land marks and their history, we definitely had our moneys worth! He said he had been a driver for 26 years and that his Tuk Tuk was his second wife. As we passed the government buildings he was less than complimentary, calling them Mafia. We were beginning to wonder where the festival was, because we seemed to be driving for a while. You can imagine our surprise when he pulled up outside a gem store and told this is where we were getting off. We'd been tucked up like kippers.. Two gents ushered us inside and the hard sell began . Already having decided we had no desire to buy anything, we told the sales guy that as soon as we entered. That didn't deter him in the slightest and fair play he tried hard!! When he started his pitch I thought he asked if we were with sheep. I was wondering how the hell did he know we were Welsh!! Turns out he was asking if we were with the SHIP . A cruise liner was in port for two days and he made
The assumption we were on it. Being something of a magpie when it comes to shiny things, I'm seriously impressed with myself for not buckling under the pressure. So many pink sapphires and so little time!! Leaving that little store empty handed was something of an accomplishment for me and y mentallypatted myself on the back.
More than a bit pissed of with ourselves for being yaken in so easily we jumped on the carriage and the driver took ofd. He tried his best to take us somewhere else but we firmly told him to take us back to the street he'd picked us up on. He did it and then demanded happy money. Cheeky little shit. We gave him a 50slr tip (peanuts) and said goodbye, he was not a happy happy. Tough, he shouldn't have conned us! That being enough excitement for one day we decided to return to the hotel and have a bite to eat.
The restaurant is a rooftop affair. It looks out over the city and gives a beautiful view of the Lotus Tower. A spectacular piece of architecture that changes colour throughout the night. All the surrounding buildings and courtyards are all lit up too with fairy lights and Christmas trees, so it's really pretty.
The food in the Botanik restaurant was fantastic, very cheap, and I can quite see why it's an award winning one. Having watched the sunset which was nice, the rain came down ... In sheets. It was then we realised why the floor was just bare concrete and not tiled like the rest of the restaurant. The staff came out of the woodwork like ants at the first spot of rain, and in under a minute the tables and chairs were in under cover. Highly amusing to watch them in full sprint mode.
The long hot day and full bellies made our eyelids really heavy and finishing up our drinks we made our way to our room for the night.