This had been long awaited, we nearly went to Sri Lanka back in 2006, but ended up buying Rose Cottage instead and travel plans were shelved.
Even being on the plane felt like we had entered a new world, with the stunning women cabin crew with their peacock patterned saris, bare midriffs and sparkly eye shadow. The drive from the airport to our homestay was a quick introduction to being on the road Sri Lankan style, witnessing no less than two crash sites, bus versus three-wheeler and motorbike versus car. Little did we know then, this was to be a theme here.
The first thing we needed to get sorted in Colombo was our India visas, before we could set off round the island. The website said three days processing. This was not to be the case. We would be seeing more of this city than we had planned to.
The best thing that happened was two Kiwis also staying at the homestay, were in the same boat as us, but they were one day ahead. This was a huge help, a quick glance over our carefully prepared and printed forms over breakfast revealed we had gotten it all wrong, and would need to start all over again. Luckily there was an enterprising office opposite the Visa Services who could fix it and do new photos (the right kind of square etc) for a small fee.
Then we learned we had to come back in a week just to hand in our passports. Time for some re-planning of how to see the island via Colombo again in a week.
We were pretty underwhelmed overall by Colombo, though we visited the Fort area, and enjoyed the breeze along Galle Face Green, watched the kite flyers and kids on a school trip splashing in the sea.
We joined forces with our new kiwi friends and explored the Dutch hospital area, museum and visited the Castle Hotel a 'spit and sawdust' kind of men's only bar, where we were warned men would drink too much and fight and wouldn't we rather go in the lounge room. No, we stuck to our guns and shared a lion lager with the locals.
The last sunny afternoon was spent enjoying the pool of the posh Mount Lavinia hotel overlooking the crashing waves as the sunset, for an afternoon at least we pretended to be guests.
It was finally time to start exploring the island, we were headed north to Nilaveli.