Day 135: Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka 12/02/2012
Up early enough after a good night's sleep and a decent breakfast. Catch the bus to Arugam Bay (eventually!) which we tried so hard to do yesterday. Carry the bags the five minute walk to the bus station, with some muchos achey calf muscles and the bags, which seem doubly heavy today. Two hour journey to Arugam Bay and on the way there we see some wild elephants mooching about on the plains. Get to the bus stop then take a well overpriced tuk-tuk the 4km to the area with the accommodation. Try the Beach Hut with its slightly shabby rooms and cabanas and then look next door at Surfer's Park. The rooms here are great, brand new and clean and we are able to negotiate a very good deal with the guy there. Have lunch next door at the Beach Hut which is very overpriced and fairly average, although Gemma did have an awesome peanut butter and banana sandwich.
Hit the beach - very careful in the sun today (Factor 50) - and it is practically deserted. There is not much surf (far bigger in Hikkaduwa) though the season for surfing starts in April apparently. A tiny town here, it is literally one street and there is not a lot here but the more we see (or the less as it seems) the more we love it. Amazing dinner at the hotel - chicken curry for me and pasta for Gemma.
Day 136: Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka 13/02/2012
We learn the hard way not to eat in a place where the prices are not shown on the menu. Toast and tea costs us a fortune. Go to the beach again in the morning and again take care in the sun. Go for lunch at the local roti joint and then, upon hearing of a crocodile laden lagoon down the road, we start walking in its general direction with every intention of catching the bus when it comes along. We end up walking miles and find ourselves in the middle of nowhere. We are surrounded by wildlife - see a big lizard, a ferrety water cat thing, a dead snake, some turtles (slippery little things that are a bit camera shy), an eagle and the obligatory monkeys. After watching so much Animal Planet/Discovery channel in India I find myself involuntarily slipping into a South African accent and getting a little jittery around the edge of the murky water...
Get a lift further down the road on the back of a tractor before wandering off the beaten track and watching with horror as the elusive bus rattles past. Missed it! Head back in the direction we came and hitch a lift on the battered pick up truck bus service. Another quality adventure!
More superb food at our digs. Dream of snakes and crocs and all things Steve Irwin-y.
Day 137: Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka 14/02/2012
Happy Valentine's Day to all the romantics, emos and weirdos reading. Whilst sitting down and enjoying a couple of rotis for breakfast, the first thunder and lightning since Goa arrives, bringing with it a torrential downpour of real fat rain. We sit for a couple of hours in the roti shop - endless rounds of tea for me - as we wait for the storm to pass. The owner of the establishment tells us his harrowing tales of the Boxing Day tsunami and that he has been unable to rebuild his business as it was before the event. He then throws a business proposition my way - if I invest and help him rebuild 'I will be manager, you will be boss'. Hmmm, 'a tempter but alas no capital I'm afraid old boy', I say.
It is still raining two hours later (though not as hard) so we decide to leave anyway. We write some postcards. Some time later (it has finally stopped raining!) we take a walk to get some lunch. Glancing nonchalantly down into the drainage channel at the side of the road, I spy one of the camera shy turtles we saw on our pedestrian safari, sitting bold as brass watching the world go by. Naturally, being a wildlife photographer I have forgotten the camera so it is a quick, graceful, flip flop clad sprint back to the room. We needn't have worried - the little hero in a half shell has no intentions of going anywhere in a hurry.
We spend the evening in an internet cafe (tin shack) and take the poor weather as an opportunity to update Unbelievable Trekkers, the epic, award winning blog you may have heard of. Whilst in here, the thunderstorm rears back into life and the noise of the thunder is deafening. At one point there is an almighty clap of thunder overhead and the shack is shaken to its foundations, knocking the power out and giving Gemma a pretty big static shock. The few hours we spend here is the biggest bill the internet guy has ever charged and we doubt he will need to open again for the rest of the month.
Day 138: Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka 15/02/2012
Back once again for breakfast at the roti shop, where again the five year old daughter is running riot, though she is over the moon with the pen we gave her yesterday, sitting drawing at the table next to us. After failing to find the crocodile place on our last excursion out of the town, we decide to give it another go and after discussing the merits of the mystery bus, we commandeer a rickshaw to take us to the town and instead of simply getting off at said town, we embark on a three hour tuk-tuk safari.
The driver takes us on a magical mystery tour of a land far away, into the countryside, which has been flooded by yesterday's storm. At one point, the dirt road is under about a foot of water, covering the vehicle's wheels and making it look like some sort of 007 rickshaw-boat-submarine hybrid. Things then go from the sublime to the ridiculous, with the tuk-tuk getting stuck and both the driver and myself having to scramble furiously with our feet to get through the puddle, resulting in the Bond-mobile suddenly becoming very Fred Flintstone.
The off roading is well worth it though and before long we are seeing crocodiles in the flooded lagoon, as well as some monitor lizards, a huge ferret thing and some incredible birds, including a huge peacock with its feathers out. After our safari we get dropped off at the post office to send our postcards and come across a dead snake. It is very fresh judging by the blood dripping from it and the suppleness of the body. Great photo opportunity.
Go for lunch and spend the rest of the day on the beach, where the sea is a bit murky after the storm.
Day 139: Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka 16/02/2012
After the obligatory banana rotis for breakfast we head to the beach, and though the weather is a bit better than it has been last couple of days it is still a bit cloudy and before long we feel a few raindrops...not damp for long though today. We head back for lunch at the roti shop, where the little girl is causing trouble and is about to get into trouble. As with any family dispute, it is extremely entertaining for the outside observer...
Excellent prawns for dinner, even though we both tried to eat the first ones with the shell on, so engrossed we were in 'Outsourced', an American comedy set in an Indian call centre. We are so uncouth.
Day 140: Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka 17/02/2012
We have a lazy morning and early lunch and then head for the traditional day at the beach, going a lot further down than normal, at the mouth of the lagoon. We think we will move on tomorrow so discuss the options. I swim across the mouth of the lagoon (keeping an eye out for crocs!), which is a strange sensation as it seems like you are swimming in the sea since you are still on the beach but the water is not salty.
On getting back to the room (the 20 second walk to the beach that it is) I borrow a bike off the nice bloke who works there and do a beer run. These go down a bit too easily and before long I am back on the bike to get some more and we have revised our plan to leave in the morning. A good dinner and some tv in the restaurant section tonight. Gemma falls asleep in her chair and falls off, onto the concrete floor, before sitting back up and going back to sleep. I should care more than I do at the time. Sorry.
Day 141: Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka 18/02/2012
Wake up feeling a bit rough after too many Lion Lagers, Gemma with a huge egg on her head where she fell off the chair last night. Cheese, tomato and onion rotis make us feel a little bit better and some fresh air, the sea and a sleep on the beach sees us right as rain again. Tonight they are having a barbecue/party at the hotel tonight so unfortunately, that means the Lion will flow once more.
They do us some great fish at the bbq (even Gemma likes it) and they get a big bonfire and some music going. We play some cards with a cool young Swedish couple and after they go to bed, I am persuaded by the Sri Lankan contingent to get up and dance with them, resulting in pulling some impressive shapes and making some more friends.
Day 142: Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka 19/02/2012
Wake up a little worse for wear for the second time in two days after getting to bed some time after 3am. We go for brunch with the Swedes - they are very nice and even invite us to Stockholm. Me and Seb (Swedish guy) have to get some cash so we get a tuk-tuk up to the town with the ATM. They go to check in to the place we ate for the night and we help them with their bags, which when they get them on, causes them to topple over! Know the feeling, which is why I am lucky Gemma lets me carry both the big backpacks since the weight of one on the front and one on the back balances me out...
Gemma and myself head to the beach for the afternoon, busy as always. We go back, knackered, have tea and pack our stuff, ready to leave in the morning, pay our bills and generally get ready to go. The Sri Lankans have other ideas and with it being a bank holiday tomorrow are having another barbecue party. It takes us a while to get our goodbyes and photos taken with our new friends and we eventually get to bed about half one, ready for our 5.30 start tomorrow!