Sri Lanka 4 Badulla-Arugam Bay
Part 1: They Mostly Come Out At Night, Mostly
Badulla, 17th July
We strode out of Badulla station, and I was still for pushing on right through to Arugam Bay.
There was a solitary minibus tout and he offered to drive us for $50. Each.
Llyw quickly shot this down, at which point the fella, who exuded dodginess from every pore, explained why a night time voyage was so expensive-
Apparently, after dusk the road to Arugam bay becomes chock-a-block with insomniac elephants who decide to wander the roads. Hence, travelling there is dangerous.
The price would be less in the morning, although still unfeasibly high.
We’d be spending the night in Badulla.
To get there the five of us, along with luggage and two surfboards piled into a tuk-tuk. It was a little cramped, with people on each other’s laps but sitting in the rickety 3-wheeler I could see why they’re so popular in Asia- cheap to run, quite handy for weaving through traffic and cool in the heat. At the same time you could see why they’d never catch on in Europe- one collision and its game over.
Our hotel was extremely spartan but relief came in the fact that the bed was merely a mattress placed on a concrete slab. I was sure I wouldn’t break this bed. Fairly sure.
We decided to wander into Badulla to find some grub and discovered that the town was a dump, I can only assume that “ulla” means “beyond belief”.
Everything was closed but we found a cheap restaurant where we tried kotti, which was lush, and also the guy working there showed some true class by informing us that we didn’t need to order 5 portions as 4 would suffice. He was not wrong and the four stuffed the five of us completely.
Wandering back to the hotel we passed what was clearly a pimp with his two distressingly young employees.
I couldn’t wait to get out of this pit, I didn’t care what kind of elephant horde we’d have to weave through.
Part 2: Journey’s End
Badulla-Arugam Bay, 18th July
Badulla was infinitely improved by dawn.
Opening the door to the balcony we discovered that the dark empty space of the previous night had been replaced by a beautifully captivating view.
An open field stretched across the valley floor, a few horned cattle slowly wandering about munching the cud. The plain stopped abruptly on the far side where the jungle had been restrained. The dense greenery swept up the rest of the valley floor and up the towering hills beyond.
We ate breakfast on the street- painfully spicy rottis and another cup of sweet, milky tea.
The town buzzed with activity and the lack of tourists meant it felt like we were seeing the average everyday life of Sri Lankan people as they hurried to work or shopped for food.
And then, out of place on a stall selling clothes and bandanas a picture of 50 Cent glared out at the world.
The minibus was cramped, the boards took up a lot of room and totally blocked our view out of the left side of the bus, although given the ride to come this was a good thing.
My open window seemed to only serve as a funnel, directing all of the hot, dusty air right into my face.
At a consistent speed our driver thundered along, overtaking and blasting past tuk-tuks and cyclists, weaving along the mountain roads, seemingly oblivious to the sheer drop off the side of the road.
We passed massive tea plantations, moving down through the hills to flatter land until finally we reached the coast and were rewarded with the sight of the blue Indian ocean.
Finally we reached Arugam Bay, a beachfront collections of shacks and hotels, stretching around the bay.
And then we were there, the place that would be our home for the next few weeks- Watermusic.
We were greeted by Simmy (Simona) a toned, tattooed Swiss surfer girl in her late 20s/early 30s with a relaxed demeanour and quick smile. I developed an instant and intense crush on her.
The place was lovely, mere feet from the beach and sea, with palm trees and plants all around our cabin. A delightfully rustic looking one room structure with an adjoining bathroom, which while enclosed was open aired. There was a shaded porch out the front, which is where I would spend a vast amount of time reading and writing, and an upper balcony where we could sleep if we chose to.
I changed quickly and rushed into the sea to refresh myself.
Our hotel is owned by SImmy and her husband, Rolly. They’re both super-cool and relaxed. Along with them and their kids were an assortment of their Swiss friends and their families.
These included the inappropriately named Winnie, a muscled beast of a man who looks terrifying but would prove to be wonderfully warm, friendly and easy-going.
They all look like a surf magazine crossed with a poster about Aryan supremacy- toned, fit, blue eyed specimens with healthy tans that made this red faced, chunky Celt feel a little inadequate.