Daytripping Galle and Diving Hikkaduwa

The Serendib Chronicles – Day 3

31 Oct10, Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka

Early at 9am, made the way down to Blue Deep Dive. Hikkaduwa boasts at least 12 dive sites, with a few easily accessible wrecks. The tourist season is not yet in full swing, so there was only an Austrian couple diving that morning. Diving season on the western coast runs from November to April, so the waters were just clearing and hopefully visibility would be good.

Two dives in the day (rather dear at 25 euro each), the second dive with just me going out for the dive. The first was Goda Gala, current was strong, highlight was probably the barracudas and the squid. I couldn’t really see because the mask took in water incessantly. Second dive at the Cave, an 8 to 15m depth dive, was much better, because it offered the opportunity to do some nudibranch spotting, a favourite of mine.

One personal highlight was the Rotti joint which I came across in between dives. Just across the dive shop, off the main street in a little nook, lies the tastiest vegetable rotti. Rotti, resembles the Singaporean roti prata, except the Sri Lankan version is way spicier and hence a real treat if one can take the spiciness. I ordered 2 at first, but finished by lunch with 4 after repeated orders. It was that good.

Galle, a 30 min bus ride from Hikkaduwa, is a UNESCO heritage site, a former dutch fort built in the 17th century. Walking along the circumference of the fort, overlooking the Indian Ocean, was pretty surreal. It was also a Sunday evening, so throngs of locals and their families were having picnics, evening strolls, with kids dreaming to be the next Sanath Jayasuriya playing the odd cricket game, a national obsession here.

CS Count = 2 (finding that rotti shop, and the chance introduction to the local rotti!)

Ayurvedic Massages and No. 3 haircuts

The Serendib Chronicles – D2
30th Oct10, Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka

Left for brunch at 10am, walking northwards along busy Galle Road, which cuts through Hikkaduwa, towards the administrative end of the town. Found ourselves in the local rice and curry joint, where we had our dish (130 Rp) of rice, dhal, black pepper fish, potato spicy curry and a spicy sweet grated coconut mix. First taste of Sri Lankan rice and curry. Each side dish leaves a different taste in the mouth, which blends together to create an irresistible mix.

Back down, finally caught up with W and a friend she met, Shane. These two came up from Mirissa after a few days of relaxation there. Visited a local barber, to add to my collection of haircuts from unlikely places. It was a pretty decent cut too.

Went back for a nap (Why Not?) before being woken up by W to view the local lad fishing out on the stilts just in front of our guesthouse. The sight of these men on stilts is unique to the southern coastline of Sri Lanka, and I was earlier bemoaning the fact that I didn’t have a chance to get to see these guys. And there right in front of me was one. Granted, he was bare-bodied and in three-quarter khakis. But he was the real deal, doing actual fishing. And not those who dress up and pose atop the stilts for tourist dollars from pictures. Serendipity =)

Also, tried out the ayurvedic full body massage (1500 Rp, A came a day later an had one for 100 Rp elsewhere, but ours told us he “was the real deal”) 1 hour, 3 types of body oil, 1 type of facial oil, and a sprinkling of sandalwood oil on the face later, I was done.

Dinner was buttered prawns (600 Rp) after which I told myself that for the rest of my stay in Lanka, I would only have local cuisine, which I find delicious!.
CSC = 1 (stilt fisherman found outside my guesthouse)

Introducing Sri Lanka

The Serendib Chronicles – Day 1
29th Oct 10, Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka

The Cathay Pacific flight arrived into Colombo airport at 10.40pm. After deliberating for a bit, I decided not to overnight in Colombo. Instead, we will take the public bus down to Hikkaduwa through the night, where W will meet us from Mirissa.

The free shuttle service goes 2km to the airport bus station, from which service 187 takes you to Bastian Mwatha station in Colombo. The only problem is at 12.30am, the bus (which normally waits till full before moving off) doesn’t look like its going anywhere anytime soon. So, not wanting to wait 2 hours at the deserted bus station, we decided to take a three-wheeler (henceforth called tuk-tuk for simplicity’s sake) after some bargaining(1200 Rp) to Colombo. The Sri Lankans are a nice lot. Not too pushy. Yes they will ask you for a tuktuk or propose some other offer for you, but if you decline firmly, they won’t persist. And they always have a smile for you no matter what the outcome.

Tuk tuk ride. Braving the nightime draft, along the coastal road. Of particular interest are the local policemen standing guard in the middle and at the roadside every 500 meters or so. At 1am in the night!

Bastian Mwatha by night. The only late night service in operation seems to be the Colombo – Matara line. We would need to drop off at Hikkaduwa along the way (160 Rp on the tix, we paid 350 Rp for two, don’t ask me why). The bus interchange itself must have been very busy in the day. In the night however, the sundry shops and eateries by the wayside are open, yes. But that’s about it. The other bus service queues were empty. Only at the Colombo – Matara service was there a queue. We waited in the queue for 2 buses to load up before our turn to board. The bus stopped whenever there were passengers, and even though we left Colombo all seated, by the time we exited Colombo City, it was a “sardines in a can” situation. How I managed to sleep under the circumstances, during the 2 to 3 hour bus ride, in a crowded bus with Sri Lankan music blaring through the speakers, is beyond me. Also, I realised much later that clergy, meaning the monks, get the front seats in the bus reserved for them.

Reached Hikkaduwa around 4am, walked south along the coastal Galle Road to the budget place “Why Not? Guesthouse” which stood out, because the name just screams out “Pick me!”. 1200 Rp for the cheaper rooms on the ground level.