Turtles, test matches and afternoon tea … and sadly it’s time to go ✈️

Monday 5th November 2018

Unfortunately felt a wee bit delicate this morning so didn’t venture too far – had a brilliant, but boozy, evening yesterday with Fran and Andy and also Tim, who had all just arrived in Hikkaduwa – all set for the test match starting on Tuesday. Did plenty of swimming in the hotel pool and engaged in my new passion for ‘Desert Island Discs’ podcasts (as recommended by Judy) – particularly atmospheric when listening to them on the beach with the soundtrack of waves.

Early afternoon we set off for Unawatuna – there was a planned Barmy Army pre-test party on the beach there. Steve, Tim and I treated ourselves to a driver (rather than the tuk tuk option) as it was a fairly long journey. Bagged ourselves a good table at the Lucky Tuna bar, under cover, which paid off later when the heavens opened – and the place was rammed. Karen, George and Howie joined us. A fun night – Steve had a good go at keeping up with the younger members of our crew on the Lion Beer front – they’re rather large bottles!!! He was however the only one of us mingling in with the Barmy Army crowd as they started their singalong … “And did those feet in ancient time” …. (Jerusalem) 🎶 “We are the army, the Barmy Army” … 🎶 etc. etc. etc. I did manage to whisk him off at a sensible time – just in time I would say.

Unawatuna Beach

Tuesday 6th November 2018

The first day of the test match in Galle … the excitement was building. We were up early for a walk to the local train station – paid all of about 25p each to catch a 3rd class ride into Galle.

Waiting for our train into Galle

We met up with Tim at Galle station and scooted off for a sausage roll breakfast, washed down with incredibly sweet and milky coffee. Once in the ground we found our seats – we were booked into the Harbour Stand which had very posh white satin seat covers – a bit like a wedding.

We were amazed how they had transformed the ground since our last visit here, lots of temporary stands in place, all looking quite elegant. Not quite fully polished however (the toilets left a lot to be desired – and that’s an understatement)! … and not quite ready – as the game was starting there was a dog running around on the pitch which had to be chased off and they were still fixing up the frill to our stand. Also, we were well into the 5th over before they finished putting the boundary pads in place and up until lunchtime still placing the advertising boards – stadium management at its best!

England started the batting and lost a few early wickets … so a little shaky – more than made up for it later on though. A fantastic atmosphere, about 6,000 in the crowd, predominantly English. Hordes of spectators too on the Galle Fort wall. It was a great day of cricket and, believe it or not, the rain stayed away.

Caught the last train back to Hikkaduwa. Had dinner at Refresh Restaurant – tucked into a delicious cashew nut curry – had to chuckle at the menu wording!

Wednesday 7th November 2018

Plummed for a leisurely morning at poolside and then caught the more speedy train from Hikkaduwa into Galle.

Our trusty train arriving

Steve and Tim joined George and Howie for some more cricket and Karen and I escaped for a little ladies time. We took a tuk tuk into the old town – stopped off at the Amangalla Hotel so that we could book a table for afternoon tea. Intended to go shopping at this point but decided on a glass of Prosecco first instead – strangely enough we were still there quaffing Prosecco when 3.00pm came round and it was time for our afternoon tea. Such an elegant place and we had the full works of delicate sandwiches, savoury pastries, sweet pastries, cakes and scones/cream & jam – we felt like real ladies … and very full ladies at that. We spent the afternoon nattering, exchanging our life stories and laughing at all sorts. Did manage to leave at 5.00pm for a bit of shopping in Galle’s classy shops before we met up with our men.

Thursday 8th November 2018

Decided to take a day off cricket today. Steve got up early for a run – I have decided to address the whole exercise issue when I get home now!! Spent a beautiful morning at Turtle Beach – so perfect to watch these amazing sea creatures calmly weave their way in amongst the bathers.

Turtle beach

Had lunch on the beach but unfortunately had settled ourselves at the only cafe that didn’t have Wi-fi. Steve by this time was itching to find out how the cricket was going so we headed back to the hotel and ‘endured’ some lazy hours chilling at the pool, listening to Talk Sport!

Met Tim in the evening and had dinner again at Refresh – more cashew nut curry – I love it. Poor Tim had travelled back from Galle by tuk tuk in the pouring rain and the tuk tuk had broken down 3 times – quite a journey. The torrential rain persisted all evening … so much so we were forced to resort to cocktails after dinner as far too wet to leave! A self-inflicted lock-in!

Steve and Tim resort to Pina Colada – had had their fill of Lion Beer!

Friday 9th November 2018

Our last full day in Sri Lanka after 5 fabulous weeks. Decided on a bit of beach time before we travelled into Galle. Our lovely tuk tuk driver, Roisin, drove us to a pretty tucked away beach that has magnificent coral and marine life – popular for snorkelling. Just standing on the shore you could see hundreds of fish, all shapes, colours and sizes – you didn’t even need to snorkel or get into a glass bottom boat.

Roisin arrives in his tuk tuk

Anything goes!

The coral beach

As usual we were joined by a dog on the beach – you can never go anywhere without seeing a dog here. And sadly a lot of them are not exactly blessed with good looks – they remind me of the hyenas out of the Lion King.

One of the many ‘unusual looking’ dogs that roam the beach

At lunchtime we set off for Galle for what promised to be the last day of this test – England in a strong position to win. The train was delayed so we put our trust in Roisin to tuk tuk us to the cricket ground – as it turned out it was OK.

View from tuk tuk

Once in the ground, we met up with the others and enjoyed the next few hours of England bowling in the final innings … and we won …. hooray 🎉 Admittedly, Karen and I had a good old natter during this time and everytime a big cheer went up we had to confess to missing the wicket. A few beers were consumed in this time too and on victory there was much merriment. Even a good old-fashioned streaker!

Streaker alert!

We all went to celebrate in the very salubrious establishment called Joe’s Bar in the Sydney Hotel – one drink there sufficed. Moved on to the other extreme in visiting The Fort Printers Hotel in Old Galle town – shared a very decent bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. Managed to get a taxi home (although the driver was not sure of the way) and popped into Buddes Bar for a final meal on Hikkaduwa’s beautiful beach. Fran and Andy joined us for a drink – so nice to catch up with them before leaving.

Saturday 10th November 2018

Big farewells to our lovely friends at Vesma Villas and we were given such a heartwarming send off. I think we’ll be back – how could we not!?

Today we fly back home, in time to celebrate my 60th Birthday at the end of the week! It’s been an amazing trip – some fabulous sights visited, wonderful people met and new friends made … and of course cricket was a big part of this journey – it’s been a pleasure to watch our team play so well and achieve great things.

We will miss you Sri Lanka … but looking forward to the sanity of English roads! 😊

A lazy week in Hikkaduwa … with friends

Monday 29th October – Sunday 4th November 2018

After a lot of moving around, sightseeing and cricket over the last few weeks, we really fancied a chilled week – and that has gone exactly to plan.  We feel so at home back in Vesma Villas, in the pretty village of Thiranagama, in Hikkaduwa.  It’s a 10 bedroom villa complex tucked away amongst fruit trees, coconut palms and paddy fields – so incredibly pretty and peaceful.  And the staff are delightful, especially Asie who is just always there with a big smile, ready to provide whatever is needed.

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The hotel gardens so prettily lit up at night

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Asie – waiter/stand-in chef/photographer/facebook-updater/maintenance man/gardener                 – he’s wonderful

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Kevin – the hotel dog

We’ve sort of fallen into this relaxed daily routine.  Breakfast at the hotel (always freshly and deliciously cooked by Monty, served by Asie.  There’s just one other couple staying at the hotel – the lovely Claire and Andy from Yorkshire – so normally we have a chinwag over breakfast.  And the most amazing thing happened … just in conversation we realised that we know Claire’s best friend – Bobbi Jo Harrison.  Until recently, Bobbi ran an hotel in Phuket and it just so happens that Steve and I stayed there for a month last year … such a small world.

After breakfast we normally spend a few leisurely hours sunbathing, swimming (I get my 50 laps in a day),  Steve tries to fit in an early morning run and I do some yoga – we just generally luxuriate in the peace and serenity of our little haven.  The only noise being the birds, the odd dog bark, relaxing music (c/o Claire and Andy) … oh and occasionally the washing machine!  In the last couple of days, we’ve been treated to some pink gin and tonic at lunchtime (how decadent) – kindly provided by our new Yorkshire friends.

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Asie pouring our lunchtime G&T!!

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It’s G&T o’clock!!  Us with Claire and Andy

Then early afternoon we take a walk through the pretty village of Thiranagama to get to the beach … and every day is different.  We pass by the paddy fields, we see cows grazing at the side of the road, numerous wild dogs just strolling around, beautiful peacocks in large musters running through the fields … and the village folk so ready with their smiles and hellos – some walking, lots on bikes, young children with their fascinated faces (I guess we stand out like sore thumbs – our villa is a bit off the beaten track).

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A village house in Thiranagama

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The local Buddhist temple

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Our village store

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The village tuk tuk rank

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The village station

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Beautiful flowers everywhere

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Lazy dogs everywhere

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So the afternoons are generally beach time and in contrast, the beach can be a fairly busy place – there are restaurants, bars and cafes along the whole strip.  The sunbeds are free and then you buy drinks and food from whichever establishment you have based yourself at.  And they’re all pretty good.  Our favourites are Neelas, The Drunken Monkey, Buddes, Sunny’s and Chill Space – so we’ve tried a few.  The beach is gorgeous but unfortunately the sea is really only for strong and confident swimmers.  The waves are so high and the currents strong – it looks great fun – there are plenty of swimmers, surfers and bodyboarders … but this time we’re just watching.  We tried it last time we were here – it’s not for us.  We’ve been told that there are 4-5 fatalities a year here with rip tides!!  But we’re happy relaxing on our beds and having the occasional paddle – also kept busy with the frequent visits from beach-sellers – products and services ranging from sarongs, wooden elephants, monkey and cobra photo opportunities, spices and Sri Lankan flags.  My favourite has to be the team of men who look about 90, generally with one tooth, carrying a little plastic bag of aloe vera, offering foot massage!  Haven’t been tempted yet!

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Most days we stay on the beach for drinks and then early dinner so we can catch the sunset – all very casual dining.  Mostly living on curries, chicken & rice and seafood – not complaining however, the food’s amazing.  Naturally accompanied by Lion Beer / wine / cocktails.

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This little man walks up and down the beach day and night selling coconuts and pineapples

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Sometimes we go back to the hotel to freshen up first – especially if we’re meeting friends.  It’s been fabulous meeting up again with Karen, George and Howie (previously called Harry in error) in Hikkaduwa.  We’ve had dinner and drinks together a few nights – such great company – lots of laughs.  We’ll be seeing them at the cricket again next week and Karen and I are hoping to slope off for some girlie time!   We also had a fun evening on the beach with Claire and Andy – I started off planning an alcohol-free night but, best-laid plans and all that – great fun.

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Us with Claire and Andy

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Us with Karen, George and Howie

 

No sightseeing trips this week, just pure relaxation – it’s been fantastic.  Today three more friends are arriving out from the UK, ready for the test matches which start on Tuesday in Galle.  So, let’s see what next week (our last week in Sri Lanka) brings in the land of palm trees.

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