I knew that I’d like Sri Lanka from the moment the immigration officer stamped my passport, after barely a glance, and then gave a huge smile which just spoke welcome to my country. The police and army that surrounded the airport couldn’t have been more helpful. At 4am the ground temperature was twenty four degrees. By 6am I was enjoying an all you can eat Sri Lankan breakfast extravaganza.
From the airport I made a five hour bus joruney to the tiny beach of Midigama. Renowned as having the best breaks on the south coast it has three guest houses and not a lot else. It was there that I met up with Andrew, a surfer from South Africa and Tom and Alex from Brighton. We had all met at varying times in India but most recently in Goa. Ram’s guest house was a treat to behold. Looking out to the breaks and beach it had some of the friendliest owners and workers that I have met so far. Oh and the curry and rice was delicious. It sounds unimaginative but the curry and rice in Sri Lanka is currently beating anything that India can serve up on the food front. There are just so many dishes!!!!
The waves at Midigama are big and not great for beginners not least because of the rocks that are concealed beneath them. You don’t want to be falling off! So instead we surfed for two days, around ten minutes away at Weligama. The beach is not as picturesque, although a lot bigger, however the waves are more consistent and thankfully there is a sandy bottom. On the first day I was genuingly surprised by how quickly we took to it. I stood up a number of times and managed to ride it into the beach which was a fantastic feeling. Come the second day it started so well. Up on the board a lot of times, I was even getting the hang of turning it! And then I changed boards, the waves became less consistent and I started to overthink what I was doing. It became hard work. By the end of the day I was chuffed by the progress made but frustrated at the same time.
It wasn’t all surfing. On the final day in Midigama we took a trip away from the ocean and to the Ayurvedic Medicine Snake Farm. It was a joy to visit not least because it is quite litterally a house with an attached shed where the wonderfully friendly and knowledgable owner keeps his snakes. Extracting the venom has been a job handed down from generation to generation. For the hour we were there the owner heaved out snake after snake to show us. The venomous ones were let loose on the floor whilst the others strung around our necks for us to hold. At one point he brought out two cobras. After putting one away he left the other in a trance with us all stood there. It was surreal seeing such a deadly snake so close and yet it being so unable or unwilling to do anything.
In the afternoon we took a trip over to Unawatuna. Whatever beauty it had was lost when the tsunami hit. Since that moment development took over and the beach has pretty much vanished under resteraunts and bars, many of which have been built on the high tide mark. Fortuantely hidden away over the other side there is a little treasure called Jungle Beach. Although the sea was not perfect we dawned the snorkel gear and went out over to the rocks. I’ve never snorkeled before. No more was that shown than when I was about to give up Alex informed me that I wasn’t putting the goggles over my nose hence why I was drinking so much salt water! From that moment on the journey by the rocks was magic. Although it was murky there were so many fish straight out of the tropical aquariums from home. Shawls of fish bashed into you, it was immenses. Andrew, who we were indebited to for him knowing of this place, explained that exporting these fish is big business in Sri Lanka.
The following day we departed Midigama safe in the kowledge that we would be back there at the end of the trip. We took a chaotic bus journey to Hikkaduwa, a large beach on the souh coast. It was supposed to be the end of the big surf competition however due to poor weather they had posponed it. Thankfully though the trip wasn’t in vain. Hikkaduwa is home to the bar where the Mambo’s brand originated from. There they hosted the most professional party I’ve been to since I’ve been travelling, right on the beach. It was a great night.
It was from there that we left the beach for a while. Instead it was time to head up to the cooler climbs of the hill country.