“Good Afternoon Madam, Sir. Please sit in this seat as it is the best view from the carriage. I’m afraid the sound from the TV is gone but I can give you the code to the wifi” said the train conducter.
Weren’t we backpacking? So we splurged on a first class train, it happens. It was only because we had to book it in advance. It was just a bonus that we got an air conditioned seat for the journey from the picturesque Matara station back to Colombo. To be honest, we were about to jump in the luggage/first aid compartment instead as it seemed more fun. And, by the time we reached Galle, we had wished we did. We went from just two people in a whole carriage, to a full carriage consisting of a Beijing tour group. They did not seem as impressed as we were with the scenery. We looked out the window while the waves crashed on the shore just metres below us, while they spent four hours taking photos of themselves on a train in sun visors.
Back in Colombo and we had a few hours wait between trains so moseyed on over to the old Dutch Hospital for happy hour. Time got away from us, so we downed our beverages, threw on our backpacks and ran to the station. There was one problem. In between the pub and the station was a street food stall. So we had to stop and ordered a couple of items that seemed popular with their customers and started running again. We showed our cardboard ticket, got taken to our second, and completely different, first class berths and sat down in a sweat. We made it within two minutes before departure with our street food dinner. But, we had forgotten water. We checked we both had our phones for a worse case scenario before I jumped off the train, ran to the nearest beverage merchant, bought a drink and ran back to the train as it rolled out on its twelve hour journey.
One – Dinner was a bit greasy, so we had to wash our hands in this sink.
It wasn’t long before the rolling and grinding train rocked us to sleep and we woke up a few hours outside our final stop. We chose the only rickshaw driver who didn’t hassle us and asked him to take us to Coconut Beach Lodge, where we had wanted to stay. It was fully booked, so we had to wander the beach in search of alternate accommodation. Our budget restricted our choices and when we heard about a bed in a concrete cylinder for £2.50 each a night at Aqua Beach “Resort”, we reluctantly jumped at the chance.
We organised a trip out to Pigeon Island, which was rated as one of the best snorkelling sites in Sri Lanka. We had heard about the reef sharks that are regular visitors and were hoping to see a few, if we were lucky. As we beached the boat and wandered over to the Northern point of the beach, there were already half a dozen sillohuettes cruising through the water. We waded on in for a swim. As we dipped our masked faces in the water for the first time, a tiny baby shark swam by. It was at this point we were really annoyed as our waterproof camera broke a week earlier.
The visibility was pretty dismal, but it seemed to make the experience better as we would be joined by the sharks from the murky depths out of nowhere. It was great fun until the biggest shark, in the murkiest water almost bumped into Sarah. Both of their reactions were squid-like.
Overall the snorkelling was good considering the cloudy water. We saw plenty of fish, plenty of sharks, including the cute little guys, and on our very last snorkel, a turtle popped up to say “ duuuuude”.
We relaxed back at the beach at Uppaveli with a couple of cold bears and swim in the rolling sea as a cow watched on.
We dropped in to Coconut Beach Lodge for some dinner and a beer as we heard their food was pretty good. We thought it worth while to see of they arranged cooking classes. The three people at the counter unanimously said “Yes”, “No” and “What”.
There was a brief discussion and the result was for us to arrive at 11am the following morning as the boatman knew someone.
At 11 am no one seemed to know what we were on about, but phone calls were made and the trishaw arrived to pick us up. We ended up in a small and cosy family house it the outskirts of town where we were taught the intricacies of Sri Lankan Rice and Curry. And this one was good. It took four hours but the result was delicious. Freshly shaved coconut was squeezed for the milk and cream while fish marinated alongside the simmering dhal topped with it’s sizzling Tarka. We sat out the front eating the rewards of the delicious meal, while the sons and daughters arrived home from school to be immediately called by their friends to go and play. It was the first time Sindhi had ever taught a cooking lesson, but the result was great. Definitely worth trying to organise if you are in the area. Just call Coconut Beach Lodge in advance to book the class. Oh, book a room there too, they are really nice. We didn’t see the rooms but we are certain they were a step up from the cement cylinders we stayed. The cylinders for fun, and I guess a bargain as for that cheap price, you also got bed bugs!