It's been Sinhala New Year here which meant two and half weeks holiday for us. The beginning of the holidays was disaster. It has definitely been one of the best holidays of my life but MAN did it start bad.
First place on our travels was Batticola which is in the North East. Erin, Michael and I went to Colombo in order to get the train (don't worry we didn't meanly dispose of Herbie- Juliet his lovely girlfriend was visiting). We arrived in Colombo with 15 minutes to catch our train. We jumped off our bus and ran to the train station. Michael's wallet promptly got stolen. Disaster number 1. We got our tickets and ran to the platform with a few minutes to go. Luckily we had forgotten about Sri Lanka time- nothing runs on time, and the train didn't appear for a further ten minutes. Luckily I had a piece of paper in my hands to fiddle and tear to pass the time. Disaster number 2. It was my ticket. The train chugs into the station and all the men push and shove and throw themselves onto the carriage in order to get seats for the 10 hour journey. Not to be daunted I got my elbows out and threw myself onto the train running down the carriage to get 3 seats. Erin came on the train last looking slightly bedraggled. A drunken man had just pored something all down her skirt. Disaster number 3. 10 hours and an annoyed ticket man later, we arrived at our destination at 4am in the morning. We looked around hopefully at each other to see who had remembered to bring the lonely planet. Nobody. Ah. We slept a few hours in the train station and then headed out to find the local YMCA. Who luckily had thee comfiest pillows I have slept on in Sri Lanka.
We met up with Liz, a friend from Unawatuna and her boyfriend Manju. We spent a few days on a beautiful empty beach, miles of golden sand, broken by an occasional fishing boat stretching into the horizon. We were lying in our swim costumes, feeling it was safe to do so as there was no one else about. On the second day suddenly a school of 40 children arrived and had clearly never seen white people before, they came over and just stared, and stared. Try reading your book and relaxing on the beach if 4 children are looking over your shoulder and another 20 just staring at you!
Next on her stop was Trincomalee we went to the only street with accommodation, the unfortunately named Dyke Street. There were literally NO cheap places, we bargained and bartered and begged and eventually managed to find a guesthouse.
We met up with Herbie and Juliet and had a lovely afternoon wandering around the Dutch fort, and a Beautiful Hindu temple which was situated right at the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea. It had lots of statues and all the trees were covered in beautifully tied ribbon and for some reason we couldn't quite understand they were sacrificing coconuts! It was a brilliant afternoon and after dinner we walked back to our guest house hoping we had exaggerated the grimness. A large group of Drunken Sri Lankan men were sitting outside, we snuck in past them and were thankful for the bars on the window and the extra padlock the guy had given us. They had put new sheets on top of the old sheets, I foolishly ventured my hands into the corners and they came back covered in grime. Don't get me started on the room but put it this way, it was dirty, it smelled, it was hot and it was a tad scary. I was still awake at 1 in the morning and decided to read my book in the hall so as not to disturb Erin. As I sat down, out walked a man, whistling, and stark naked. He looked at me with shock and ran back into his room. I woke Erin up at 7 and insisted we move somewhere else!
The next day we met up with Liz and Manju and we all went to some natural hot springs. It was the first truly hot water we had had since coming to Sri lanka and we had an amazingly refreshing wash, pouring buckets of hot water over our heads. We'd got the bus to the wells but hadn't thought about transport home. No buses went past but we eventually managed to get a lift in a flat bed truck! In the evening we went to Liz and Manju's hotel, it was right by the beautiful Niveli beach. We went for a swim and then in the evening we lit a bonfire on the beach and had dinner. It was a fab evening just sitting and chatting.
The next day was one of the best days of my life! We went snorkelling on Pigeon Island. There was the most amazing coral surrounded by hundreds of different types of beautiful fish, clown fish, black and white stripey fish , long thin fish, purple fish, EVERYTHING . It was one of the most amazing and beautiful things I have seen in my life and all of them were completely unafraid of the huge pink things swimming over them. Within minutes of diving in a large grey fish with a fin flitted past me. It was unmistakably a reef shark. I swam after the shark as it sped stealthily away from me, it was small and swimming fast. It disappeared into the deeper areas of the reef. I couldn't believe my luck!
That evening we had a delicious meal which we ate on the beach while the sun set, it was a really nice way to end the holiday before a long night bus home.
When we arrived home the next day we crashed into bed and slept for hours. At about 2ish my bed started shaking. I called to Erin, "Erin my beds shaking, I think animal might have moved in while we were away". I checked underneath and there was nothing. It was STILL shaking. I tried hitting it. Nope. I was really tired and just wanted to get back to sleep, I knew the best cure for sleep related problems was to put your head at the bottom of your bed and feet at the top. I tried that. A few more shakes, and then silence. ZZzzzz.
Half an hour later I stumbled out of bed to pick up my phone "Hello darling," it was Liz "There's been a massive earthquake and now a tsunami warning, get to high ground , immediately". Oh, possibly a better explanation for the shaking bed. We hurriedly went next door to Govinda's he told us our house was in a safe position and if in doubt to "climb a tree!" We picked up some provisions and headed home, people were milling about crying and women were shouting "TSUNAMI TSUNAMI". We rushed home and looked it up on the internet. There had been several earthquakes each over 8 on the richter scale. We were told that at 5pm we would know if there was going to be a a Tsunami or not. We waited on our beds, emailing and skyping, eating all the chocolate my parents and Jo and Alan had given us. At 5pm I got a phone call from a friend saying " EMMA, EMMA THE TSUNAMI HAS BEEN CANELLED". Phew!
Joan's lovely daughter Kirsty was staying the week in Sri Lanka and we spent the next day chilling with them. On New Year day we all went to Lakshmee's house and spent the day learning how to cook new food, eating and playing cards with Kenneth, her son. In the afternoon we went to a beautiful temple filled with lots of Buddha statues and got blessed by a monk.
The next day we were all invited to Danu's village festival. It turned out we were the guests of honour and were expected to sit on the stage to watch the proceedings. There were lots of races and games. I took part in a piñata type game where you have a stick and have to try and hit clay pots hanging from strings. There was also a game where a tree trunk is placed between two other tree trunks and two boys hit each other off with pillows, and there was a tug of war, which all the woman had a massive fall out over!
After New Year we headed off to Arugam Bay. We stayed in an amazing cabana right on the beach. We met up with Ed and Alex who are here for 2 months to teach cricket at Unawatuna and were travelling with their friends. It was a really relaxing holiday; we spent the week sun tanning, reading, eating and boogey boarding- which I am now an expert at!
On the last Saturday of the holidays it was Alex's b-day so we went to Colombo. I finally got my hair fixed in a salon and so no longer look ridiculous. We went shopping; Erin and I spent most of the time dancing about like idiots as we were so excited to be in proper shops! We also went to Mc Donald's where I am ashamed to say I had my first Mc D's burger. They did say this gap year would change people… In the evening we went to a PROPER pub where there were Sri lankan people OUR age there and there was an amazing guitarist playing.
It's been back to school for the past few weeks with a few exciting escapades which will feature in my next blog!