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  • Writer's pictureClaire

Sri Lanka 11/12/23

A rather splendid nights sleep with the air con on. Our breakfast was booked for 0800hrs, and we were able to see our accomodation in the full light of day. After yesterdays torrential rain and thunder and lightning we were greeted by a beautiful sunny day and a gentle breeze. Nico, the owner was sat at the reception desk to greet us and take our breakfast order. A delicious omlette with chicken sausages arrived on our table. Wrapped inside of it were grated carrots, spring onions and courgettes .... cant escape the courgettes, we've had them every place we've been so far, its a good job we like them! We weren't expecting anything else, then a huge basket of toast turned up, followed by butter and jam. We felt a bit obliged to eat at least some of the toast since they'd gone to the effort of making it for us. Just when we thought we couldn't eat any more out comes a plate full of fresh chopped fruit. Melon, pineapple, and bannana, all really juicy, tasty, and locally grown.

The Nico Lagoon Hotel where we are staying for two nights, is just beautiful and I can't rate it highly enough. The grounds that the hotel is sat in is really big, has its own bar, is surrounded by palm trees, monkey puzzle trees and lush greenery. The balcony overlooks a large swimming pool and just beyond that the lagoon. I was excited when i saw the see saw just by the pool, turns out it wasn't a see saw at all, but two double ended oars. Most probably to go with the two Kyacks that were resting on the lawn. Whilst enjoying our breakfast we were treated to the sight of fishermen, out on the lagoon on their boats , Their little boats were drifting along steered with a long stick, not dissimilar to the Gondalas in Venice, as was the way they were operating them. As well as fish, as you would expect given the presence of fishermen there are also alligators. Didn't see one, but can't say as I went close enough to find out.

It is surrounded by thick mangroves teeming with bird life I could identify Herons and so many beautiful birds that are total mystery to us! There is a very calm, relaxed feel to the place and you can almost feel your shoulders dropping down from up around your ears back to their normal place. There was another couple staying last night, and they checked out this morning. Once they left we had the whole place to our selves, which feels rather decadent. Over breakfast we were chatting with Nico about the place. It is his families and they've been doing air B@B since 2007. The Government don't do anything to encourage people to diversify, and one party is much the same as another so things aren't going to be changing anytime soon as for them. In 2019 the Easter Bombings of three churches in and around the capitol sent the country into a lockdown. Also targeted were several hotels and hundreds of people were killed. The Government shut down all social media immediately, andthis was the first time since the end of the civil war in 2009 that terror attacks had occured. Obviously this had a massive impact on the Countries tourism trade, and as it was 2019 the goddamn 'rona hit as well and they were forced to close down. Gradually things have started picking up, but like everywhere it's a very slow process.

The hotel has a massive amount of potential. It's location alone makes it quite special, the people who live and work here make it unique. The family has great plans for it, beneath the open balcony/terrace is a huge dining room. Due to the noise they no longer use it as a dining area. I'm guessing it's now a function room. When we return I really hope they have rebuilt the business to where it was before 2019.

Our breakfast finished, we rolled back to our room, and chucked around suggestions for how to spend the day. We opted to take a walk up the lane that supplies the hotel and onto the main drag. Our destination was the beach, Nico had rung his father to see if the men were fishing today. It is weather dependent, and due to the heavy rain they'd been having he was uncertain if they would be out today. We were in luck and we made our way to the beach. As we were leaving we asked Nico about the huge number of people we had seen on our way in the previous night, it was a special festival of the church. We also neglected to get enough cash out at the airport and although the hotel takes card, tuk tuks and taxis don't, so we asked for the neartest cash point machine. Being in the lagoon it was 4km either way. Si misheard and thought he said 400 metres and was all ready to walk over and top up the cash stash.

When i said main drag, that was a little misdescribed as it makes it sound massive. It's not. The road is an unmarked road lined on either side by little houses in the palm trees. All the ladies we met were smartly dressed, hair imaculate, wearing huge smiles and carrying umberellas over their heads to protect them from the sun. Most were happy to acknowledge our greeting, with a nod and a smile and a little hello. The lane to the hotel is narrower than the lane to our place so we heard the meep meep of the tuk tuks and scooters before they came around the corner. There are tiny little shops randomly placed along the road, all selling something different, and all with someone buying produce at them, and passing the time of day.

Where we are is out on a leg, with the lagoon the one side of us, and just cross over the main road to walk a few hundred yards up another little lane to the beach. When we arrived at the beach we could see the fishermen bringing in their nets and the catch.. they were surrounded by groups of men and as we got closer to them a refrigerated van pulled up , unloaded a large scales and set up in the middle of them all. There were fish of all shapes and sizes some still flapping, some not and the guy with the refridgerated van seemed to be bagging the majority of them.

The group of men were local people, and once the fishmonger had selected what he wanted, they picked theirs out. One man came up the beach with a few sizeable fishes, which he stuck under his scooter seat and rode off. Others were following suit, some had bags for their fish, others didn't. As the weighing of the catch was going on a team of men were working together in unison to detangle the nets.

An old tractor was parked further up the beach with winders on the back, and started up, spewing diesel fumes and made its way to the waiting nets. Im not sure what the tractors roll in the scheme of things was but it looked important. It was leaking oil like a charm and several bottles of water suggested to me that the rad may have a leak... or two.

In the main the men ignored us, but all of the younger ones were happy to wave and shout hello as they sped off, 3 up on their scooters. From the beach we returned to the main road and continued on our merry way, and got overtaken by a truck with three men selling coconuts to the locals, they pulled up and jumped out, going house to house selling the coconuts. stopping for a chat with the residents as they did so. I don't mind being overtaken by a truck carrying coconuts, but i do draw the line at being overtaken by an old man on a push bike, not once, but twice, and an elderly lady, who was on her way home from one of the little shops with half a cabbage. I feel i should also mention that the little old lady was barefoot as well, just to add insult to injury.

An elderly man on a pushbike with a cool box on the back, a pair of scales hanging off a hook and a swatch of plastic bags also passed us. I let him off, he was working for a living. He pulled up a little way in front of us, got of his bike and opened up the box for a lady who was stood on the side of the road. Inside were fish , she selected the ones she wanted and he popped them on the scales and I'm guessing came to an agreement on the price.

They say only mad dogs and English men go out in the midday sun, well you can add mad welsh people to that as well. The temperature had crept up and we were both sweating like paedophiles in a playground and decided it was definately time to head for the shade. Returning down the lane to the hotel was slightly shaded and locals were stood around chatting. We passed by a volley ball court, that had two goats tethered in it, munching on the grass. As we approached the hotel entrance we noticed another goat tethered in the grounds, bleating away at us as we passed by.

A few yards down the road, a goat popped its head out of the entrance to a house on a length of rope, closely follwed by a lady. Being a goat, predictibly it stopped to eat the hedge and the plant life and the lady was tugging on the rope for all she was worth trying to get the thing to move. The goat is now tethered with its buddy in the hotel grounds. We went to the bottom of the lane, and to the left we located the fish cold storage and a number of vans. In front of us were two men doing some kind of repair to boats and nets. Wandering around today has reinforced my initial assesment of the place, calm quiet with lovely people.

From the shade of the Balcony, we watched two men back out on their boats in the lagoon checking their nets and pots. Whilst watching them glide over the lagoon , which was mesmerising, we noticed a man knee deep in the lagoon hand fishing. He was using a small soft drinks bottle to wind the line on and had a bag tied to his shorts for his fish. I was inclined to yell out there are alligators, but being as he was local I imagine he already knew that and was happy to take his chances. Watching the people go about their daily lives we noticed Christmas songs were playing on the radio. I'm pretty sure the novelty of chritmas songs on the radio in boiling hot tropical places will never get old. Although white Christmas does sound a bit weird in 85* heat.

Nico was going into Negombo and was kindly offering us a lift in with him. if we had known he was going in earlier we would have given the walk a miss because i was more than a little done in. However, if we had done that we would have missed out on the fishing, and that was something different we dont see every day.

After cooling down and rehydrating and me tripping over the end of the bed we picked up Bob and took him into the balcony and taught him to play crib. He's improving greatly, but he doesn't have digits , just paws and he ran out of them to count on when he got to 4. I lent him some of mine as i wasn't using them at that particular time.

We kept him away from the beer that was served, incase he decided to start fighting everyone. About 4 ish, we were bought a little yoghurt snack, it was refreshing and much enjoyed. I've never considered yoghurt refreshing before, who knew?

Another guest booked in followed by 4 more. The last four were VERY noisy, and by the time we had gone and got changed for dinner there was a large bottle of whiskey on their table, which they had bought with them. The measures they were using were Leonard measures on steroids. They also bought their own food with them. There is a fridge in the room and we were told on arrival that we were free to make use of it, but it just seemed odd to me that they bought their own food when the hotel served such beautiful offerings at a very cheap price.

Our dinner was seriously good. I had fish with garlic butter, salad and some skinny chips. Si had the fish curry. It's flavour delicate and not too spicy. It was enormous. More beer washed it down, and because the new guests were getting stuck into the bottle and their volume increasing we retired for the night.

Taxi booked for Colombo train station in the morning to take us to Hikkaduwa for the next part of the adventure.

Much love


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