Cricket, turtles, sunsets …. and flying home πŸ’•

Sunday 8th April 2018

A leisurely morning followed by an afternoon/evening in Galle. Another fascinating trip on the rickety train – discovered these are the original trains introduced by the Brits during colonisation in 1860s – I’m all for vintage! On our walk to the station we spotted a whole family of peacocks – Mum, Dad and the kids, so sweet. I had stupidly asked the question that morning about ‘snakes’ – to be informed that oh yes, there would be pythons, cobras and vipers in the fields surrounding the hotel – why oh why did I ask!? No unfortunate incidents however, just a beautiful walk as always and chatting to the local people who show so much interest in what you are doing.

Ticket office was empty when we arrived at the station (pretty remote place) but the ticket master turned up eventually, as did the train.

So, an afternoon of cricket was planned … with the compromise of a bit of shopping later! We made our way to the International Cricket ground – it does the job but it’s not quite on the scale of the MCG or Lords! It was also a completely different game than was advertised – it was in fact the English academy team playing the young Sri Lankans. We stayed and watched for a couple of hours, and Steve got his fix – our lads were so bulky in comparison to the lean frames of the home players!

After that we had an interesting walk around the fort area and into the old part of the city where there are some fabulous shops – too pricey for us pensioners however! Just love the sense of colonial history in this part though.

We wandered on through the streets to the waterfront which is so pretty to walk along – spotted the perfect roof top bar to stop and have a sundowner – once inside it was all a little worn and dusty and the stairs had seen better days. We found ourselves a table and bench on the rooftop perfectly placed for the sunset view … so now it was just about ordering the G&Ts – only to discover that it was a ‘no alcohol’ establishment – so lime soda and chocolate milk shake it was!

And then it was off to find somewhere for dinner – a fair few restaurants to choose from. It had been an incredibly hot day and we were beginning to feel a bit weary – we both found that we didn’t have an enormous appetite but fancied something light with a glass or two of wine. Now, we really don’t have a drink problem but the first 4 restaurants we tried were ‘alcohol free’ – what was going on? Take note any friends who are coming out for the cricket in November! We did find perfection in the end – The Galle Fort Hotel – beautiful dinner, beautiful wine, beautiful location, first-class service – a real treat.

We had arranged for Roisin, our tuk tuk man, to pick us up at 9.00am – we enjoyed a leisurely 30 minute drive back to base.

Monday 9th April 2018

The last full day of our trip – Steve got up at some crazy time of the morning to ‘endure’ his final run in these extreme temperatures. I got up to break the back of the sorting and packing. As always, a delicious breakfast cooked and served by Monty and Azi and then we headed out for our final beach day. We chose to go to Turtle Beach which, although busy, at least you can swim without being dragged out to sea or battered against the rocks! Lots of activity too with 3 regular visiting turtles during the day.

After a spot of lunch and some last minute shopping we headed back to the hotel to finalise the packing – cramming 6 months worth of souvenirs and dirty washing into our overstretched suitcases! Found a little time to chill out in the pool … and reflected together on the amazing adventure we had had – both agreed that the memories we had gathered would carry us through the chilly UK weather we were about to face. We were so excited about going home anyway – longing to see family and friends after all this time.

A final meal out at our favourite beach restaurant- Chill Space – some delicious seafood and a bottle of their finest wine (well actually, the only wine on their list … simply entitled ‘red wine!’ And our last sunset.

Tuesday 10th April 2018

D-day had arrived, we were heading home. We’d slept well and were up early as leaving the hotel at 7.30am. Monty and Azi were up to prepare an early breakfast for us. I was feeling a little queasy – pre-flying nerves so settled for just some juice and toast, Steve opted for a cooked breakfast. We had built a fond relationship with these guys during our stay here and with excitement they presented us with a large platter of cooked vegetable and fruit concoction … in a sauce, proudly pointing out the sweet potato, cucumber, pineapple etc. We accepted it graciously but had to make our excuses in not being able to finish it – felt so bad about it. With hugs and teary eyes we said our goodbyes – even the Hotel Manager turned up early to work to say farewell.

The 2 hour car journey to the airport was a little hairy once again … we vibrated most of the way there, the driver explaining that the wheels needed balancing. And they spend so much time on their mobile phones while they’re speeding along the freeway and manoeuvring through tuk tuks, bikes and buses on the smaller roads.

The rest of the day was a breeze – checked in, no delays, 11 hour flight whizzed by – lots of food and drink supplied, four films watched, comfortable seats. And Tom came to meet us at Heathrow – the warmest of hugs …. and chatter all the way back to MK. More lovely big hugs from Alice, Caroline, Emma, John and Marc – lots more talking, laughing and ‘bubbles’ – SO good to be home. ❀️

We’re going to enjoy a few weeks at home, in our own bed! Steve’s got a marathon to train for too. And then we’ll be planning the next stage of our adventure – it won’t be quite on the same scale but there’s a lot of life to explore and memories to build. But for now, a lot of hellos and cuppa times to catch up on … oh – and all that washing!! 😘

Me and you …. and a dog named β€˜Kevin’ πŸŽΆ

This is Kevin, our hotel dog. He’s really friendly and loves to wag his tail … he’s a bit like Harry Enfield’s teenager character Kevin – skulking around the place and moving from one shaded area to another to sleep. Not sure if that’s how they spell his name but that’s definitely what it sounds like!

Thursday 5th April 2018

Not so much happening today … spent the day at the hotel – caught up on blogging. A cloudy day with the most incredible thunder and lightening storm in the afternoon. Love it when these little visitors come to say hello though.

Did manage to drag ourselves out for an early dinner at Chill Space – and an early night.

Friday 6th April 2018

Decided to set out on a local walk this morning … first thing it was a little cooler than usual …. that quickly changed though! We turned a different way to our usual walk and discovered lots more villages, all with friendly faces coming out to say hello and ask us where we were going. I’m not sure they understand the concept of ‘going for a walk’ – must be an English thing! So lovely to see real life happening – the ladies in their pretty colourful dresses and flip flops, young boys wobbling around on bikes they will grow into, old men with weathered faces and sunken eyes balancing gracefully on their rusty bikes, oh so many shopkeepers waiting patiently for customers … all seemingly selling the same goods – bananas, coconuts, chillies, crisps, biscuits, fizzy drinks and colourful brooms!

They are beginning to prepare for their New Year celebrations here in Sri Lanka, today is the children’s last day of school before a 3 week holiday. We passed some celebrations going on in a school field.

We made our way to the beach area and down to where the major fishing activity takes place … and to the fish market area (by this time of day it was all clear and scrubbed clean – still smelt fishy though). A few fisherman mending their nets but not a lot of life other than that. Well, there was one old boy who tried to paddle across where the lagoon enters the sea, delicately holding up his sarong … only to lose his footing and end up entirely submerged! We had to suppress our giggles!

We walked for about 5 miles in all …. not bad in this heat … always the best way to discover the local community.

On some recommendations, we decided to eat out at ‘The Asian Jewel’ – often referred to as the English restaurant as owned by Mr. Dale who is English. Our favourite tuk tuk driver came to transport us there – it was a fair old drive, completely off the beaten track, up and down hills and bumpy lanes – but it was a fabulous restaurant/hotel, the waiters were charming and the food first class. I’m ashamed to admit that I had shepherd’s pie – I was so excited when I saw it on the menu … and it was every bit as delicious as I had hoped it would be – gravy and everything.

Saturday 7th April 2018

Went out on another ‘long’ tuk tuk trip today – up into the rainforest area, predominantly to see the Andahelenadola Falls. Once again the journey took twice as long as we imagined – through a number of towns and villages, dodging in and out of scooters, trucks and buses as we went – always an adventure! Roisin was driving us so we knew we were in good hands … and he stopped to buy bananas on the way for feeding the monkeys. We feel our hotel in is a rainforest area but by comparison the green lush appearance of this area is on another level. On the way we passed tea plantations, rubber plantations and cinnamon forests. This falls is not yet on the main tourism trail so the simplicity of it made it all the more magical.

Once parked up, Roisin escorted us on the walk through the rainforest – started off on some fairly rugged lanes with a few boulders and then it got much more climby! We traipsed along steep paths of exposed tree roots, waded through shallow rivers – I had to be yanked up occasionally – I was being pretty brave at this point. Eventually we got to the waterfall and it was stunning, the water so clear and fresh.

But it didn’t end there, Roisin suggested we climb up to the top of the waterfall and cross over it as there was a fresh pool for swimming at the top. So, with some coaxing for me, off we set. It was like being back on the South West Coastal Path all over again – climbing up huge rocks, some slippery, not being able to look at the drop below, realising I have a terrible sense of balance. But we did it, and it was great to see the ‘watering hole’ at the top being used by local families – swimming, jumping, splashing … and they were happy for us to look on.

We’d been joined by monkeys on the way up too … and they loved the bananas!

So, now it was all about getting down … this is the bit I really dreaded! With two strong men to guide me, I inched my way along, resorting to sitting on my bottom from time to time … helps with the height thing. By the time we got to the base of the waterfall the worst of it was over. Just a little bit more climbing down in places and a couple of rivers to cross. And of course, on the very last rock on the very last river, what did I do? Yes, it was slippery and I fell off onto my bottom in the water, grazing my leg in the process … not to mention wounding my pride! Well, it gave us all a good laugh πŸ˜‚

We got back to where the tuk tuk was parked and ordered some orange juice from the sole cafe in the area. We absolutely love the orange juice they serve in our hotel – pure orange … but as for this one, well, the only resemblance to orange was the colour …. it was a watery and salty substance, so hard to drink enough of it not to feel rude. They also provided us with some snacks – vegetable samosas and pancakes filled with honey and coconut – now they WERE delicious.

After our little spot of lunch we hit the road …. and as we were leaving the rainforest, guess what, it rained!! Not only did it rain, it poured and then poured some more … all with a thunder and lightning storm …. and this lasted ALL the way home. At times poor Roisin was struggling to see out of the windscreen, with its one wiper and a misting up problem … and then we drove through a massive puddle and it was like we were underwater. I freaked!! I kept ‘suggesting’ we stop for a while but I was outvoted – so I just had to resort to keeping my eyes closed and holding on for grim death. So relieved to get home.

Finished off the day with a home-cooked curry by our chef, Monty – Sri Lankan chicken curry, Dahl, vegetable curry, rice and poppadoms – all washed down with some chilled Sav Blanc – perfect. With the lovely Azi keeping us company – he loves a chat.

Only a couple more days of our amazing trip left …. where did that time go!? πŸ€”

Remembering the Tsunami

Tuesday 3rd April 2018

A leisurely day today … you need them now and again … a bit of admin, a bit of housekeeping – it’s not all holiday you know! Steve had got up early and run 6 miles – I don’t know what my excuse was – I just felt like being a bit lazy. We did walk to the local shops and climbed up 100 or so stairs to visit the temple on the way. Lovely to pass the school and see all the children in their pristine white uniforms – boys and girls – love to know what washing powder the Mums use here – they’re gleaming! We stopped off to see our new friend, Sunil, and have a chinwag and a very sour lime soda (it was us that insisted on no sugar). I had a 20 minute walk along the beach while we were there … and the sand is very soft even at the water edge … so I did get some exercise in.

But the rest of the day we just stretched out on the sun loungers and took occasional dips in the pool – bliss. We had friendly visits from iguanas, kingfishers, blizzard squirrels … and even a monkey came to hang out.

We did manage to get dolled up and take ourselves out for the evening – went to another beach restaurant called ‘Mamas’ – we had seen a flyer advertising live music. Good restaurant – I had a delicious Chicken Curry – and the service was excellent. There was live music, very loud live music (there’s no pleasing us grumpy old gits!) and it was a bit ‘family entertainment’ – Mums and children bopping away on the dance floor. We moved on to another beachfront bar for a swiftie before retiring to home.

Wednesday 4th April 2018

Now today we did get out and about (after a lay in and a late breakfast – well, we are retired)! Our tuk tuk picked us up at 11.00am – we have a lovely driver called Roisin, very amiable. Most drivers we have had here are so humble compared to other parts of the world – they’re almost embarrassed in asking you for money and prefer to undercharge rather than rip you off – it’s so refreshing. We were off to find a lagoon safari … but stopping at places of interest along the way.

1st stop: A temple in the sea. Didn’t find out too much about it but we stopped for a photo opportunity anyway!

2nd stop: The Tsunami temple – a magnificent Buddha statue was erected following the Boxing Day 2004 disaster, as a memorial to the over 35,000 Sri Lankans killed. It is the height of the 2nd wave that caused so much devastation. It was a humbling to visit the memorial as well as our next stop …. 3rd Stop: The Tsunami Photo museum. A collection of photos and posters have been thoughtfully mounted on the walls of a house that was badly damaged by the Tsunami. We met the lady whose house it is … and she has many sad stories to tell. Such graphic photos – a truly sombre and sobering experience.

4th stop: Turtle Farm – in exchange for a ‘donation’ we were shown around this turtle conservation project. It was a simple set up but we believed it to be genuine … the guide mentioned that they buy the eggs (we weren’t sure about the ethics of that one! – maybe you could enlighten us Caitlin?). They had a pool for the disabled turtles (missing limbs) and a pool for the newborns – they return the male ones to the sea after a few days but the female ones are kept for 2 years. They are in separate pools according to their types as some (Hawksbill in particular) are none too friendly.

5th and final stop: The Lagoon safari. For some reason, Steve and I got a whole boat to ourselves, whereas others we passed were packed out. We had a cheery little boat driver … but he looked about 12. Having been told we might see crocodiles in the lagoon I would have preferred a little more experience! But he did us proud, no complaints. He manoeuvred us steadily around the lagoon and through mangrove swamps, pointing out wildlife – cormorants, jellyfish, monkeys. We moored up at Cinnamon island where we were taken to a demonstration of cinnamon production … with retail opportunities! We also moored up so that we could visit a Buddhist temple and had a special blessing and white cotton bracelet tied on by a Buddhist monk …. more donation opportunities! Steve even got the chance to steer the boat and be ‘captain’ … all boys stuff!

And then we ventured out on our tuk tuk journey home – every journey’s an adventure – busy shopping areas, stunning beach views, local markets … cows wandering in front of you! And then, for over a mile, we had to pick our way through chaos as we faced a political demonstration in motorcade form head on – the noise was tremendous – young people demonstrating to out the current Prime Minister.

Luckily, after all that exertion, we had booked to have dinner at the hotel tonight – and they provided a feast of lobster and prawns with rice, potatoes and salad, with our BYO wine. The staff here are so wonderful and love to entertain – Monty is the chef and the gorgeously smiley Azi literally waits on us hand and foot. A perfectly chilled end to magnificently packed day.

Paddling with turtles …. and more fond farewells

1st April 2018

So today’s not only April Fool’s Day but Easter Sunday as well. I don’t recall that combination before but I guess it happens from time to time.

We had all planned to meet up for a late breakfast/early lunch at the Citrus Hotel – Steve and I, Anne, Caroline, Linda and the boys. Anne and Nathan were a little later joining us as Nathan had been late snoozing and then had a pre-breakfast feast of Easter eggs!! And bless her, Anne arrived with Easter pressies all round – lovely goodie bags of chocolates – such a treat. Steve’s pressie was a fabulous M&S bar of chocolate in a Union Jack wrapper – this was devoured pretty quickly … he was very good at sharing though!! As we were going to spend a couple of hours on the beach after we had eaten, we asked the waiters if we could store our chocolate in their fridge. They were more than willing to do so. So willing that in fact when we retrieved them some hours later, half of our treats were missing …. either some of the waiters were a little light-fingered or they genuinely thought we had given them gifts!!

We had to say our first goodbye at this point as Caroline was catching an afternoon flight to Bahrain. We’re hoping to meet up when Caroline next visits her Mum in Woburn Sands.

Having discovered the ‘rocks’ earlier in the week, today we sensibly moved further up the beach where there were a number of other swimmers. Anne and Steve headed in first – the waves were incredibly strong so Linda and I held back a bit. The current still had a fair old pull too especially dragging you out as the waves went back. Poor old Anne got caught with that, found herself suddenly out of her depth and struggling to beat the current to get back in – she’s a strong swimmer though so managed it … only to get tossed about in the shallower waves a few times in her attempt to stand up. It’s not exactly a family-friendly coastline in terms of swimming.

All decided to go home for a freshen up, Steve and I took a long walk home along the beach and spotted some interesting new eating places. Reserved a table at The Moonbeam restaurant – beautiful seafood platters. We all met there later … the setting was gorgeous and the food superb but the service was diabolical … one course and we were there over 3 hours! And rude waiters too – we went to town on Trip Advisor.

Steve and I walked home as it was late by this time and our tuk tuk rank had gone to bed. As we wound our way down the dark village lanes we seem to set off every dog in the neighbourhood barking …. and there are lots of dogs – sorry people of Catakarawatta!!

Monday 2nd April 2018

Had a bit of a lie in (well, I did … Steve had an early run up to the Fish Market) and then we met up with the gang at Turtle Beach, so named as it has some very large turtles that swim into the shallows. Theyr’e amazing – clearly so used to people, children swim along with them and they enjoy being fed with seagrass.

The beach here is a little bay so much calmer for swimming … and there is a coral reef for snorkelling – quite a contrast to the tempestuous seas on the main beach.

And now more goodbyes as Linda and Aiden were flying back to Dubai early evening – it’s been so fabulous meeting them.

So that left the ‘Fab Four’ – we arranged to meet later at Chill Space, another beachside restaurant. I managed a great party piece on arrival – a complete tumble off the plastic chair into the sand – oh so elegant!! Love this restaurant though – a great vibe as they say!

And yet more goodbyes – Anne and Nathan returning home to Dubai in the early hours of the morning …. it’s been amazing having these few days together … an incredible coincidence that we had independently booked to come to the same area of Sri Lanka at the same time. Great minds … and all that!!

Afternoon tea in Galle … and quite a journey

Saturday 31st March 2018

Steve ventured out early on his first ‘Sri Lanka’ run – an interesting few miles! Followed by a leisurely morning at our hotel – so relaxing here. Beautiful bird life including kingfishers and egrets, and the most stunning butterflies. We even have cheeky iguanas come to visit – we were impressed until Caroline sent us a picture of the monitor lizard at her hotel on the beach.

We’d arranged to meet up for afternoon tea with Anne, Linda, Caroline and the boys, at the Amangalla hotel in Galle, a 17th century colonial-style building, within the walls of Galle Fort.

We’d discovered that we had a train station in our village and that 3 trains stopped there each day going to Galle. So this was to be today’s adventure … exploring some more of the area’s local transport. We purchased our tickets at the great expense of 10 pence each and sat on the platform in the blistering heat, waiting for the train to arrive. And it arrived on time … we climbed on board, found a seat by a fully open window, and off we went. A fabulous journey, a little hot at times, passed through some interesting villages, waved to lots of children – slow but efficient.

Caught a tuk tuk from the station to the hotel and met up with ‘the gang’ in the most exquisite of settings – a very special place to have afternoon tea, so proper. Unfortunately it was a Poya Day (full moon) and so in Buddhist tradition no alcohol can be served. So much for that chilled glass of champagne with our feast! But the sandwiches, pastries, cakes and scones were scrumptious and were tucked into eagerly along with lashings of earl grey/Ceylon/English breakfast tea. Nathan and Steve won the prize of finishing their whole serving …. the rest of us more ‘delicate’ eaters had to admit to being full.

Feeling replete, we headed off to look around Galle with its beautiful architecture and interesting shops. We resisted too much retail therapy and made our way down to the walls of the fort and the waterfront … it was extremely busy with Sri Lankans celebrating Poya Day. And of course the old snake charmers were around. Very special to catch the sunset too.

And in true colonial style we stopped for a couple of G&Ts – having been drawn in by the sound of piano playing at one of the many bars.

Anne, Caroline and Linda had booked tuk tuks for their return journey so we said our goodbyes … now, how should we journey back!? Oh no, nothing straightforward for us! We decided to walk to the bus station and then take our chances from there. For anyone that has seen the buses here, you will know it’s a bit of a bone rattler … and a speedy one at that. It took a while to find a bus going our way, in fact when we boarded we still weren’t 100% sure it was. Well, what an experience! It was party-land with a TV up by the driver blaring out a concoction of Bollywood and reggae music. And at the bus stops, vendors got on selling snacks and drinks – it was bizarre. The bus was packed to the hilt – we were the only ‘white faces’ on board. And boy did we travel at speed – the buses seem to be king of the road here, overtaking and beeping like they’re in charge – regardless of what’s coming the other way. I was clinging on with both hands most of the way … but we arrived at our stop in one piece. We dived into the nearest hotel – The Serenade Beach Hotel – which was completely devoid of guests and met the lovely Sunil who was able to rustle up a couple of beers for us. Then we took a more sedate tuk tuk down the local lanes to the peace and serenity of our hotel.

Enjoying Hikkaduwa – with Annie and friends

Friday 30th March 2018

Having arrived in darkness, we were eager to discover where we had landed ourselves so, after just 5 hours of sleep, we got up and found the dining area for breakfast … and from there it unfolded what an amazing hotel and area we were in. We met Azi who is gorgeous – he seems to be in charge of just about everything around the place – and is always happy.

After breakfast we tried out the pool, receiving great approval – perfect temperature.

Before it got too warm we decided to explore the local area – still only 9.00am by this time – pretty warm already! We are surrounded by paddy fields … and we were so humbled that some of the workers took time to look up and wave and gleefully shout hello. We met so many local people as we walked to the shops and without fail they all greeted us warmly. This is exactly the sort of place we love to stay – off the beaten track, a genuine community. The local fields are populated with water buffalo, egrets and peacocks … and there are plenty of dogs wandering the street but they are perfectly friendly. We passed the local Buddhist temple and the local school, walked over the railway line and found the shops – with a tuk tuk rank conveniently based outside. Stocked up on water and orange juice and grabbed a tuk tuk ride back to the hotel. Loving tuk tuks. ❀️

Late morning we took a tuk tuk to the Citrus Hotel to meet up with Anne and Nathan and their lovely friends Caroline, Linda and Aiden. We were able to use the hotel facilities as Caroline was staying there – beautiful pool. We even attempted a swim in the sea – first Anne managed to step on a sea urchin and get a spike in her foot – she pulled it out quickly so danger averted. Some local chaps advised us to swim a bit further along where there were less rocks so Anne, Nathan, Linda and I tried that out … but soon got into difficulties again … the current was SO strong – it pulled us sideways and into the shallows, across more rocks … and it was impossible to stand up. Nervous giggling set in which made things worse. Eventually we all, one by one, managed to scrabble to the shore but we’d gained a few grazes between us! We stuck to the pool after that.

A fabulous day … and we ended it with a meal at a seafood restaurant on the beach.

A stressful transition day … from Bali, via Kuala Lumpur, to Sri Lanka πŸ˜Ÿ

Thursday 29th March 2018

The day started so well. We didn’t need to leave for the airport until 11.00am so plenty of time for a relaxing morning. Steve had an early run and we were in the pool by 7.00am. Oh so chilled!! Leisurely breakfast at the poolside and even a little sit in the sun, before getting ready for the off. Our transfer vehicle arrived promptly and we got to the airport in record time – what could possibly go wrong!?

Doubts started to set in as our flight details were not matching the information board – at our age we have to check and double-check every move we make …. did we have the right day? …. did we have the right airline? Our flight number was showing a later time with no mention of delay, confusing! In the process of investigating this at the enquiry desk, we managed to jump a massive queue to get checked in … yes, the flight had been delayed by just over an hour. So this now left us just an hour and a half transit time at Kuala Lumpur – no worries.

So we had a fair old time to kill in Bali airport, but we ate and shopped and read …. and time drifted by. We were flying Air Asia, the flight going on to Mumbai after our transit stop … it was a large aircraft and therefore swarms of excited passengers hanging around the departure gate. It’s probably us getting old but group foreign language conversations seem so loud and shouty, sometimes aggressive. And loads of children – what joy!!

The revised departure time came and went …. we finally boarded another half an hour later (eating into our transit time!) … but getting everyone settled was another matter. We just couldn’t believe how hard the stewardesses had to work to get people to sit down, it was chaos. This resulted in losing our take-off slot and so we then had to sit for another half an hour before take-off – our stress levels were building. Our transit time now was impossibly short – we were mentally preparing ourselves for a missed connection and a night at Kuala Lumpur airport.

On top of all that, it was the worst flight for turbulence I’d ever experienced … seat belts practically all the way, limited food and drink service as the cabin crew had to remain seated a lot of the time. This still didn’t stop some customers standing up, using the toilets etc. – they just completely ignored instructions. When we did get some drinks service, I asked for a white wine but they said they only had red – then when they checked they had no red – asked for beer at which point they remembered that as we were sat by the emergency exit (extra leg room that we had paid for) we weren’t allowed to have alcohol due to the responsibility that involved!! By now my nerves were big time jangling!!

Anyway, we got to Kuala Lumpur with about half an hour to get through transit, naturally involving more security and passport check, but we decided to give it a go. This involved a good deal of running … our departure gate could not have been any further away, it was the very last gate. We arrived with only minutes to spare!! Another ‘dry’ flight and some turbulence but an improvement on the previous flight. So relieved to touch down in Colombo.

And there we met up with our taxi driver for the 2 hour journey to our hotel in Hikkaduwa. It was 11.00pm by this time so very dark yet the city roads still hectic. There was a Buddhist festival parade in full swing which probably added to the traffic and meant diversions for us. Our driver kept having to stop to ask for directions! But it was when we hit the freeway that the problems set in … the car seemed to be drifting all over the place, we were straddling both lanes most of the time – then Steve noticed that the driver was struggling to stay awake. At one point Steve had to shout out ‘stop’ when the sleepy driver hadn’t noticed that the vehicles had come to a stop in front of him. From then it was like Steve was driving from the back of the car, watching out for vehicles in front and behind, having to mention to the driver when cars were about to overtake him. The driver busily unwrapped sweets and drank from his water bottle, fiddled with the radio, opened his window – all in the attempt to stay awake!! When we got off the main roads at least there was less traffic but we were hurtling down tiny country lanes in the pitch black … with huge relief we pulled up at Vesma Villas about 1.00am in one piece.

We were met by two lovely members of staff, with what seemed limited English, and shown to our room which was quite simple in comparison to what we had just left. So, we were so tired and wound up from the trip – we seemed to have landed in the middle of nowhere, the room was basic, no kettle or tea-making facilities, it was so dark we couldn’t really appreciate the rest of the hotel area …. and there was no mini-bar … in fact the hotel does not serve alcohol … it really hadn’t been a good day! ☹️

BUT, all seemed different in daylight. In fact we are staying in the most beautiful of places – in the middle of a luscious rainforest, with paddy fields surrounding us, coconuts palms towering over our villas – it’s stunning. The room is in fact perfect – everything we need (so funny how things look different when you’re tired!!), fabulous swimming pool, good food and the most friendly and accommodating staff. So quiet and peaceful too – the only noise is birdsong. Just a 10-15 minute walk (or tuk tuk ride if preferred) is the beach and the busier areas of the town, plenty of beach bars, restaurants and shops. We absolutely love it … and it will make a truly magical last stop on our ‘gap year’ trip. We’re also lucky enough to be spending some time over the next few days with Anne, Nathan and some of their friends, who just happen to be spending Easter here. So, more stories to come.