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Chapter forty eight - Otres Beach

sunny 31 °C

Day 171: Otres Beach, Cambodia 19/03/12

After deciding last night to move onto Otres Beach - a much quieter, nice looking beach resort just down the coast from Sihanoukville - we pack our stuff and go to book a bus ticket back to Phnom Penh, calling at G'day Mate Australian themed bar and restaurant, for a welcome full English. Walk back to Mick & Craig's and pay the bill. Gemma visits a nearby thrift store with some clothes we no longer want. A full dollar richer, we hail a tuk-tuk and ride to Otres Beach. A quick hunt around for somewhere to stay reveals a real mixed bag of standards. Funnily enough, one of us gets to enter all the really dark, dingy looking places, whilst the other gets to check out the nice, fresh, clean digs. No prizes for guessing who got what...In one rickety lean to I nearly go through the balsa wood floor and stairs as my chiselled frame coupled with the two backpacks approaches maximum weight for the structure.

We find a nice place easily enough and then head for the beach. Quite easily sink a few halves on the beach, get mauled by a puppy and then hunt for an open restaurant, despite it being only eight in the evening. Find somewhere, have some good food, we dance back down the street (I hide when the traffic approaches, leaving Gemma to get crunk on her own), and then get our heads down.

Day 172: Otres Beach, Cambodia 20/03/12

Wake up, head for a beach shack breakfast and then have a fairly uneventful day at the beach. A few games of Uno on the sun loungers and Otres Beach is a million miles from the bawdiness of Sihanoukville just down the coast. We realise we will miss the beach when we leave it, before working out it will be about a week before we next see one. Thailand here we come...

There are lots of children working the beach today, collecting empty cans and bottles, which is sad but the sight of them playing together as the sun set over Koh Rong was one to remember. Some amazing colours to be seen as the boat from our desert island retreat made an appearance. We have dinner at the same beach shack as breakfast and I knock the mojito Gemma orders me across the room without even having a sip of it! D'oh!

Posted by tevs 05:13 Archived in Cambodia Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beaches beach cambodia otres_beach Comments (0)

Chapter thirty eight - Hikkaduwa (part deux)

sunny 30 °C

Day 143: Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka 20/02/2012

Awake at half five to a mysterious knock at the door. Some local guy is looking for the weird Australian guys staying here. Out on the side of the road before 6am, and on the bus for ten past. Meet a guy from Wakefield on his way to Colombo to meet his girlfriend from the airport. Change at Monoragalam for the Colombo bus. On the way to Colombo we pass a National Park, where we see about twenty elephants! A very hot, busy, sweaty journey is made all the better by a local guy telling us about the much quicker, easier route we should have taken to reach our destination.

Change at Colombo for the journey along the coast, which given the length of the day seems to take forever! Twelve hours after leaving, we arrive back in Hikkaduwa, find a half decent room at a decent price and have an early night. We are not sure we wanted to leave Arugam Bay after all!

Day 144: Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka 21/02/2012

After a good(ish) night's sleep (the room is VERY hot due to the faulty, pedestrian paced fan and loud because of the noisy main road) we head for breakfast next door before (sigh) heading for another long, arduous day at the beach. Taking care in the sun (after our last experiences here...) I hire a surfboard for the day and take to the ocean waves, man. My previous two days' experience stand me in good stead and I catch a few waves, managing to stand up and ride to the beach a few times.

We have lunch at a Starbucks rip off called Starbeans, where all the merchandise and cups, plates, etc. has the ripped off Starbucks logo adorned all over it. Gemma has a hot dog and baked beans and a chocolate brownie, which is pretty good. I wait an hour and a half for a 'chicken burger', which I would actually call a 'hot (chicken) ham sandwich'. The guy working there went to school with Malinga and used to play for Hounslow, so he says.

Back in the sea for the afternoon, have dinner at the hotel and an early night.

Day 145: Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka 21/02/2012

Another hot, sweaty, loud night in the room and go for breakfast again next door. Hire a board and head for the sea. Catch a couple of waves and decide to step up to the better waves near the big boys that can actually surf. Turns out to be a good move, as the better waves are bigger and quicker and I find it easier to hone my skills. I still crash and burn numerous times but also catch a few waves in quick succession. A turtle comes and swims right under the board.

Another tough afternoon spent at the beach. We go for dinner next door where they also show a film at half seven, but the food is average and the volume too low, so we go for a walk along the beach instead, where we piss about for a bit.

Day 146: Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka 22/02/2012

Our third sticky, noisy night in the room. Of course another day at the beach for us - hire a board, surf for a few hours and find the whole experience more frustrating than golf even, at times feeling I have really nailed the tekkers, at other times feeling like I am getting nowhere with the whole thing. Find the hardest thing of all paddling back out when there is a set of waves coming in - keep getting knocked backwards despite learning to dive under the waves and take pretty much ten minutes longer than every other surfer to get back out to the break point. See a huge green/blue fish under the board and two turtles. Gemma meanwhile is having a torrid time lying in the sun reading her book.

A quiet night, head to the cashpoint and pop our heads round the door of a tattoo studio...

Day 147: Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka 23/02/2012

Last day on the beach for this leg of the journey. Cue sad faces all round. A crap fan and nearby party has resulted in a poor night's sleep but this is rectified by yet another breakfast next door. We hire a surfboard again and I take Gemma for a lesson (being the surf pro I am). This, perhaps predictably, does not go particularly well - Gemma is not overly fond of being thrashed around by the waves, I am no Mister Myagi on the teaching front.

Gemma goes and does what she does best on the beach, leaving me to have a good morning's surfing. I am a lot more confident and catch some good waves. However, I still struggle a bit with the whole paddling out thing...Spend the afternoon in the sea after lunch and as it gets later and later, I search for the elusive 'one more wave', which does not come. Oh well, learning to surf has been fun and should see us in good stead for some of the other surfer spots we plan on visiting.

The rest of the evening sees us doing something that could see me grounded for life, as we go for a tattoo...

Posted by tevs 21:51 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged beach surfing sri_lanka hikkaduwa Comments (0)

Chapter thirty seven - Arugam Bay

sunny 31 °C

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!

Posted by tevs 05:40 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged wildlife beach sri_lanka arugam_bay Comments (0)

Chapter thirty three - Unatuwuna

sunny 28 °C

Day 128: Unatuwuna, Sri Lanka 05/02/2012

We have breakfast at the place that we stayed, which takes over an hour to turn up. Get a tuk-tuk to Unatuwuna, the next town/resort over, which is lauded in the book as THE place to go for backpackers and independent travellers blah blah blah. We arrive and soon find a really good room (2 double rooms, a huge bathroom and a kitchen/balcony area) that we are able to negotiate a price of about 8 quid a night for. Bargain.

Our sunburn is causing us some serious grief today so we head to the beach to see what is around. The beach is very busy, with lots of bars and hotels on it and is also quite small. Lots of families and people on package hols it seems, not so much of the rough and ready backpacker scene we had been told to expect by the Rough Guide.

Have a drink at a beachside cafe and some sea turtles come and swim right in front of us. Skype, pick up a takeaway and have a nice evening on the balcony of curry and pasta, cards, uno, books and bed.

Day 129: Unatuwuna, Sri Lanka 06/02/2012

Wake up this morning and we are both really struggling with sunburn. Generally feel a bit shitty and both have coldsores. Kids, this is the cost of not looking after yourself in the sun. Let this be a lesson to you! I walk to the chemist and get some stuff to help us. Pick up a load of fresh fruit for breakfast and we spend the morning reading on the balcony. Get the laundry done at a place with a resident British guy. He is about 60, has tats and piercings aplenty, long hair and lives there for six months a year. Quite a life!

Another takeaway dinner and another quiet evening on the balcony.

Day 130: Unatuwuna, Sri Lanka 07/02/2012

Wake up still sore from the sunburn. Lips and skin seem to be worsening. Argh.

Go for a walk. Lunch at the 'Roti shop', which is nice but a bit overpriced. Walk down to the baker van we saw drive past earlier and have some treats. The town is heaving with locals today due to it being full moon. Another lazy afternoon, a bit of time online (we learn that Gemma's mum and sister are coming to see us in Thailand) and have another cheap, good meal on the balcony.

Posted by tevs 04:06 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged beach sri_lanka sunburn unatuwuna Comments (0)

Chapter thirty one - Hikkaduwa

sunny 31 °C

Day 124: Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka 01/02/2012

Another good night's sleep aided by the Lion lager and we are ready to leave Colombo and head for some sun, sand and surf. Gemma washes her hair (I know!), whilst I head for some directions on how to get to the place we have our eye on next. We eventually catch the right bus with the help of some friendly locals and find that the Sri Lankan bus system is infinitely less stressful than India's, with smaller crowds and a chilled out atmosphere.

An easy two hour journey sees us arrive in Hikkaduwa, a town which seems half surfer orientated, half more upmarket hotel resorts. Find a cheap room for the night across the road from the beach and head out for the beach after booking a couple of nights here. We grab some lunch and a couple of drinks on the beach (again a bit more expensive than we were expecting) and then have a quick dip in the crystal blue waters of the Indian Ocean. After a quick shower, we take our now customary long Sri Lankan walk. We pop our head into a couple of other hotels/guesthouses that make us wish a) we had got off the bus/walked a bit further down the road b) booked only one night at our place. Oh well. Have dinner at one of these other places (very good) and the old man is a bit of a charmer, though he does tell us some heart wrenching tsunami tales.

Day 125: Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka 02/02/2012

Up early (7am) for our day on the beach and learning to surf. We stop for a quick breakfast at the side of the road, which sees us get some quality doorstop toast. We hire a board for the day from a guy who tells us he is too drunk to do anything but does point us to a board he claims is ideal for beginners. Hit the water. Hard. Repeatedly as it turns out. It is hard work and we both get a little bit hurt (Gemma is hit on the head by the board first time in the water) but I eventually manage to stand up about four or five times over the course of the (very long) day, so some progress is made.

We leave the beach at around 6pm and the two (now lobster red) British travellers head back down the road, sore, knackered and with highly sensitive skin. Shower and dinner from the barbecue tuk-tuk, where the chef is stood at the roadside in his full chef's whites. The fish and chicken are excellent and after a couple of games of cards we have a very early night (9.30).

Day 126: Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka 03/02/2012

Well after yesterday's efforts and early night we are up and ready to try again at about half past seven. Both a bit pink and sore we vow to give the sun a little more respect today. Breakfast is the same as yesterday and we go to hire a board from the same drunk guy. He tries to give us the same board as before but we would like a smaller, lighter one. Which he apparently doesn't have. We manage to hire a beauty from the place next door for about the same price and the much smaller, lighter board is far easier to control and I find myself able to stand and ride a few waves pretty much straight away. Still crash a few times but the young Ukrainian guy next to me in the water (a dead ringer for one of the Klitschko brothers) asks me to teach him so I must be doing something right!

After lunch, Gemma resumes her position in the shade and I go back in the water. I am nowhere near as successful as I was in the morning but I put this down to fatigue, dehydration, loss of concentration, the wax coming off the board and pretty much any other excuse I can think of that I think sounds feasible.

Knackered again and after another barbecue dinner we play cards with the other English guy at the hostel and have another early night, glistening in our new aloe vera gel.

Posted by tevs 03:02 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged beach surfing sri_lanka hikkaduwa Comments (0)

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