Breakfast was served at 0800hrs and once again it was a feast for the eyes and the taste buds. The single lady who checked in yesterday was having her breakfast, her rucksack packed on the chair opposite her. No sign of the whiskey drinkers...
Our final bill from the hotel was for our food and drink, so two massive breakfasts, two gorgeous dinners plus the beer, water and coke came to just over £25. It was £25 well spent. Quite sad to be leaving as it is a wonderful place off the beaten track
Our taxi turned up at 0845 and aided by the driver, Mildred and the sturdy one were loaded into the boot, and Si and I into the seats. We were impressed when we noticed he had what looked to be a large bottle of spirits in the cup holder, turned out it was just water. Another awesome gent. Nico had already asked him to stop at the ATM for us to replenish the cash stash and we were on our jolly way.
We left Nico Lagoon Hotel and when we got to the main road turned left which the complete opposite to the way we came in. There were a few more shops a garage and a bank. We overtook two police officers who were two up on what looked to be a 125,
And our driver tooted on them to get out of the way!! What are doing man?! Apparently, they are very good and not corrupt. I'm not sure I would have leant on my horn to get them to move out of the way though!
We drove through the outskirts of Colombo, and whilst it was ok, and on first appearances seemed clean and modern, the traffic was something else. Tuk Tuks and scooters weaving in and out and just pulling out in front of the cars. I stopped looking. Our driver wanted to know why we were going to Hikkaduwa on the train as he said it would be very uncomfortable and take about 5 hours. He offered to drive us down in his taxi, and I think maybe we will contact him to take us back up. He still couldn't believe we were going on the train. However he dropped us off there and handed us over to a porter. Our Porter took us to where we needed to go for ticket purchases. The train that was leaving at 1030 hrs had no first class seating so we opted for second class. The cost was extortionate... £1.95 ... for us both. I know, insane isn't it?! Our porter then wheeled us over the tracks up onto the right platform and parked us up. To give it its due, it is more Mildred friendly than Abergavenny train station, although that is no great difficulty. The station itself has a corrugated sheeting roof and is what I would probably describe as basic. There was a little cafe selling all sorts of delicious things, and men pushing carts up and down the platform with goodies on board.
The train was about 20minutes late arriving, which was no problem as we were chatting to a Scottish man who was in Sri Lanka for business with his wife. The wife looked a bit fierce and wasn't inclined to chat. It was their only free day so they were making their way down to Galle for the day.
The Trains themselves are diesel operated and quite lacking in creature comforts. Third class has only a few benches up along the sides Of the carriages and the rest is standing room only. To be fair for the price we didn't expect the Orient express. As long as it got us there, a bit of rust and some questionable toilets we could put up with. What better way so see the country ? Yes an air conditioned taxi would have been nice, but where is the fun in that?
When the train arrived, the situation resembled that of Abergavenny station when Wales are playing in the stadium, but with more than two carriages. Waaaaay more than two. It was already a standing room only situation onboard but the people trying to get on were reluctant to let the passengers off . The ticket inspector came along and shooed us towards the back of the train, but we'd already been told they didn't hang about so we jumped on where we could find a gap, in third class. He then came to find us to move us up the back. It turns out that was an excellent move, the seats there were seats to start with, and they were padded! Although there were none vacant that I could see, Until a nice man said I could sit by him. Si and Mildred had to stand most of the way. There are no doors on the trains so you get a lovely breeze as you're rumbling along and all the windows are open too. I was lucky enough to have a window seat which afforded me a view of the passing countryside. The other side of the train yielded a view of The Ocean and the line follows it all the way down to Galle and beyond. It was a little hit and miss but when we could see it is was almost lapping at the railway line. Bob joined me in my seat and I clung into him for grim death, the last thing we needed was for him to go head first out of a window. Never to be seen again.
There were so many types of accommodation from large houses to little shelters and the variety is incredible. Each one is unique. One area we passed through, looked to be a large Woodworking area. There were huge tree trunks piled up ready to be cut down into whatever they were making. Seeing the men sat outside working on their craft and the smell of the wood was bloody lovely!
As we rumbled on, the old train clattering over the tracks, 5 cows came to a sliding halt on my left, I'm pretty sure they'd escaped from somewhere, they just had that look about them! A little further on were 3 pigs mooting about in the scrub and some more goats. Just there, going about their day with not a care in the world.
As we were travelling along I was impressed to see such ingenuity for hanging out washing. It was hung on lines, chairs, bicycles, fences, on wood piles, draped over the roof on piles of chippings, and even on the chippings on the track. Again it made me realise just how Lucky we are, and also some great ideas of where to hang clothes when the line is full at home!
On the sides of some stretches of the track, were gangs of men cutting back the grass and weeds and others just sat watching the world go by. Being such a lush countryside I'm guessing it's a full time job just trying to keep it all under control. Particularly given it is a huge stretch of track. Sri Lanka is a mix of Buddhism, Christianity and Catholicism in the main, and we passed three stunning Buddhist Monasteries with the monks in their Orange Robes going about their day.
At one of The stations the train stopped for a bit of maintenance. Four men wearing oil covered Clothes and flip flops approached it. The one man had a sizeable wrench in his hand and shortly after he went out of sight there was a lot of banging, metal on metal going on. I'm guessing the 'gentle' tap of the wrench cured the train of it's ailments, as a few minutes later the train pulled out of the station.
Our arrival into Hikkaduwa, which has only taken 2.5 hours, was relatively non eventful. Apart from the fact that we had no idea when our stop was coming up. By Si hanging out of the door when we approached a station we were able to have a Heads up on when to get off. We were assisted off by the helpful man who was sat next to me. All loaded up in Mildred, the Sturdy One on my lap we rolled down the platform where we were directed to a ramp by the white uniformed station master and out of the station.
There were a plethora of Tuk Tuks waiting and a gentleman persuaded us we could fit in two of them. It was that or a bus so Tuk Tuk it was . Mildred was loaded into one and the sturdy one, Si and I into the other. It was brill, and Bob enjoyed it immensely! The driver rang our host to get directions on where to take us and within a few minutes we were there.
The greeting we had was incredible, we were greeted like we were old friends by Nushi and Geeth and taken into the property. It's a single storey apartment, outside there is a dining table and chairs,
And some sofa seats from concrete with cushions on them. I really liked them, a fantastic idea for year round seating. We were ushered into the apartment and given a guided tour, shown where the washing machine was located and how to work it, and taken next door to meet Nushi's family, Again the reception was lovely, we were hugged and welcomed to their beautiful home by Nushi's Pappa, Newton(I don't think I've spelt it right) who is a fountain of knowledge. Nushi's mamma whose name is PushPa (it means beautiful flower, and is the most appropriate name for her) made us some iced fruit juice which was soooo good. Due to the train trip and not wanting to use the loo we'd not drank anything for quite some time. Whilst we sat and chatted we were shown a menu that PushPa would cook for us if we required it. We are very much looking forward to it, everyone who has stayed here previously has left fantastic reviews about it and praised the food very highly. Finally we met Nushi's brother, Dimutihu, and Nushi and Geeths little boy who is three. The family all speak excellent English and their little boy will be going to an international school once he's old enough
We have a mosquito net over the bed so I will be sat underneath it holding a middle finger up to the little buggers tonight, because they can't have a feast on us.
After stretching out for half hour a decision was made to go for a wander and get our bearings. We had a bit of bother getting the key out of the lock after locking it, and were just deciding to leave it unlocked when the brother came along and did it for us. The apartment has a seperate entrance into the property, which is through a solid locked metal gate. The path to the main road is about 150 metres, and by crossing the railway tracks and going through between the houses you are on the main road looking at the sea. Happy to have seen it, we took in Hikkaduwa. There are lots of clothing stores, Ayervadic (?) treatments, hair salons, beauty salons, pubs, cafes and lots of food establishments. So much choice so little time!
Our journey down on the train had been in glorious sunshine, within half an hour of arriving grey clouds rolled in, bringing with them the first spots of rain. We hoped it would blow itself out but the rain got steadily heavier as we were heading back towards the apartment. Then the thunder and lightning showed its face and we concluded that it might be the perfect time to stop and have a beer and a scoot snack. Our establishment of choice was called Friends Indeed, and what a splendid choice that was. Two beers and two colourful poke bowls were consumed at a rate of knots as the rain increased from torrential to monsoon. Another beer ordered because the rain was still monsoon and we sat and watched the world go by. The things people used for shelter from the rain are so imaginative! Surf boards, plastic bags, festival poncho's, crash helmets, umbrella.... on a pushbike.
Once it had eased off a bit we thought we'd risk it for a biscuit. It's only skin and skin dried quickly. We were offered Tuk Tuks but given that it was only a
Short distance to the apartment we couldn't see the point. We stopped for a huge bottle of drinking water
To take back with us and in a few minutes we were back in the comfort of our little home for the next week.
I've already mentioned the outdoor seating, but I neglected to mention the bed, which is fabulous. The base is painted concrete with a plaster headboard that is moulded to a lovely arch. It's a REALLY comfy bed too!! Not sure what tomorrow will bring but whatever it is it will be fabulous