Day 36-38/ Mirissa, Sri Lanka

Today I was heading back to the coast for the final stretch of my Sri Lankan trip. I had booked a taxi transfer, again being roughly a 2.5 hour journey from Udawalawae to Mirissa. This time the car was older but at least it had air conditioning. I did my sleep trick to help combat car sickness. Thank god the trains run along the coast back up to Colombo after this. Along the way, my driver made a few stops for fuel and snacks. At one stop he had also bought me something to eat. Straight away a feeling of dread washed over me as I really didn’t want to accept this lovely gesture but knew I would really offend him if I didn’t. He had purchased a vegetarian roti but It was spicy hot. He had also bought me a drink…. a chocolate milk drink…..mmmmm spicy food and milk is EXACTLY what a car sick person needs!! The more I tried to politely eat, the burn in my mouth grew more intense which then had to be dosed with my milk drink. I was trying to figure out whether or not I had reached the stage of having to dive into my day pack to retrieve my plastic sick bag which I was carrying with me, especially when I was in India in case things went south so to speak.

I arrived at the Hangover Hostel in Mirissa mid afternoon. After enjoying the property so much in Ella I figured I would give this one a go to. I was staying in a 4 bed female dorm. It turns out the “season” had just finished in Mirissa, so it was a bit quiet, but turned out there was only 2 of us in the dorm for my stay. The cold air con room was exactly what I needed for an hour or two lay down to recover from my road trip.

Once I felt a bit more refreshed, I decided to go exploring. I was a bit confused of my location as the description said the hostel was a beach side hostel but to me it looked like we were on a main road. I toddled up 30 meters from the front and there spread in front of me was a beautiful beach. I made my way onto it and discovered restaurants/cafes/bars spread along with tables and chairs in the sand, sun lounges and palm trees. I had found a heavenly spot and I was thrilled about spending the next 3 nights here. I picked a cafe and ordered the usual “I don’t feel well dish” of finger chips (french fries for those who haven’t been following the whole blog!) and a cold coke. I sat on the beach watching the waves roll in. Once I finished my snack, I hurried back to my room to throw on some beach clothes and headed back to claim a sun lounger. I tentatively headed into the water. I am always so paranoid about heading into the ocean alone. What if I am drowning and no one see’s me? I stayed where I could stand. The water was so warm. I was knocked over a few times and was rolled around in shallows for a bit before I decided that was enough fun for one day.

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I headed back to the room where my room-mate was in. Her name was Madeline and she was from South Africa. As we started chatting, I realised I had not spoken to a native English speaker since saying goodbye to Amanda and Ryno in Nepal! It was so good to be able to speak faster than I had been and not have to worry if the other person is understanding you and keeping up! She invited me to go for a beer in the communal area of the hostel. We got to know one of the hostel workers, another South African guy called Damien, as well as a few French travellers, Hugo and Adrien. We unfortunately could not purchase any alcohol in the hostel or in the whole of Mirissa itself. There had been an incident a few weeks ago involving some of the local “beach boys” as they are referred to, sexually harassing some female European tourists. There was a brawl and a couple of European men ended up in hospital. The event went viral and the government was quite embarrassed and started to enforced the liquor license laws. Most establishments with the exception of three from a hundred or so, did not have a license and therefore could no longer sell alcoholic beverages. So next thing I know, me and my new found friend Maddy, were in a tuk tuk heading over to the next town to go to the “wine shop”. I had never done a tuk tuk bottle O run before! When we got there, it was a little shop, serving through the window. There was a crowd of Sri Lankan men, and then us 2 white chicks. Maddy stocked up on beers and I left with a small bottle of Sri Lankan white rum. I did spot on my way out on the top shelf a bottle of Passion Pop. I was certainly not feeling that home sick nor nostalgic enough to purchase it!

After a few drinks and getting to know some of the other guests, the discussion of food and dinner came around. Four of us, Maddy, Hugo and a guy from the Netherlands, went in search for a particular roti place that was highly recommended. It was down a few dark back streets, but it was a cute little alfresco dining area attached to some guest houses. We had ordered our food and Hugo had befriended a Canadian man with a ukulele. He was a bit of an ‘out there’ type of fellow who had just spent a few months in Goa, India. He joined us and started to sing songs for us that had written. It was so hard not to giggle as they sounded a bit like a Wiggles soundtrack. It was also one of those moments where you sort of take a step back and reflect on the moment while you are in it, here I was, in Sri Lanka, out to dinner with a bunch of strangers who I met a few hours earlier feeling like friends while some nutter serenades us. This is what travel is all about!

Back at the hostel, the music was turned up and the beer pong was set up. It was going to be a party night. The boys were getting loud and serious about the game rules. Who knew there were so many variations of ways to play beer pong? I thought you just had to get the ball in the cup! Maddy and I went to the less serious table and found less serious opponents. I think they were from Italy and the game was close but unfortunately we lost by just one cup! We watched the “serious” table until they finished. By about midnight, I was ready for bed. It had been such a long day as I had done the safari in the morning (last blog post). Plus the conversations were getting into the deep rambling drunk crap that I just didn’t have the attention span for!

The next morning I slept in while Maddy went surfing with the boys. There was a massive morning thunderstorm. When I emerged from the room, I set my self up in the common area to work on my blog and have some lunch. I then retreated back to the room to watch a movie. By the afternoon the others had returned. We went up to the deck that over looked the ocean for some quiet time. Hugo and Maddy did some yoga, and I relaxed with a drink and my kindle. Then Hugo suggested we should go for a swim at the beach. It was nice to be able to get out a bit deeper in the ocean, except I didn’t make it over a massive wave and was swept away and dumped. I then retreated back to the shallows. Soon the others came and joined me. We watched the sunset over the palm trees, another pinch me moment. Maddy and I giggled as we felt we were being naughty being in the water at dusk as this is something we both would never dare do in Australia or South Africa due to sharks. With the water being so warm, we stayed in until after dark.

After we had gone back and had showers, we set out to find tonight’s dinner. We headed towards the back streets we took the night before and came across what looked to us like a makeshift restaurant. It had a small outdoor kitchen, some picnic benches and a pool table. Out the front a silver tray displaying todays caught seafood. We had a look at what they were preparing for other patrons and it smelt amazing, so we picked out a small whole tuna and some squid. The owner was a large local lady who was full of warmth and hospitality. She also does the cooking. She came to take our order on how we wanted the seafood and side dishes. We were trying to communicate that we wanted the seafood with just some simple vegetables on the side, the conversation went like this;

Maddy: ‘Can we please have just plain vegetables with that?’
Big Momma ; ‘Yes, you want curry vegetables’
Maddy; ‘ No, no, not curry just plain vegetables’
Big Momma; ‘like salad?’
Me; ‘No, vegetables…. But with nothing on them’
Big Momma; ‘I don’t understand what you want……’
All three of us ; ‘yeah curry vegetables sound fine’

We managed to squeeze in a few games of pool before the food arrived. I surprised myself at being able to hold my own on the pool table. I credit that to the many nights spent at the pool hall in Perth when I was a teenager.

When the food arrived I was so glad we said yes to the curry vegetables because the side dishes tasted amazing. One of them had jackfruit used through it, which was my favourite, along with a coconut chilli spread I put on my squid. She made some fresh roti which I used to mop up all the different curry sauces. This was hands down the best meal I had in Sri Lanka. In hindsight I wish I had 1 more day in Mirissa as this lady conducted cooking classes and I wish I had done one. If you’re in Mirissa, go visit “Roti Shop”.

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Back at the hostel, Damien had finished his shift for the night, so we went and sat up on the deck, having a few drinks while the boys smoked like chimneys. In humid environments I really don’t mind being around smokers as the smoke keeps the mosquitos away! We turned in around 11pm for an early night. I did find myself just after midnight, under the covers with my phone and headphones in, trying to watch the Eurovision song contest first Semi final. I think I got about 8 acts in when my phone played up!

I have been trying to take advantage of new opportunities by saying yes to inventions. So when Hugo and Maddy invited me to go surfing with them and Damien, I said yes! As we were getting ready, there was a huge crack of thunder, I looked at Maddy nervously. But this didn’t deter me. Nor did the pelting rain! It was a 10 minute tuk tuk ride to the surf beach and we were all drenched by the time we arrived. I was picturing the experience to be paddling out to the back of the breaks and sitting out there on my board as the others would ride in, but they convinced me to take a surf lesson. The others picked their boards and wished me luck as they set off. Now I am under no illusion that I am fit enough to really be surfing or standing up for that matter. It is extremely difficult for someone of my size to jump up into a standing position, the instructor was teaching me how to go from the lying position to my knees and then hopefully stand up on the board instead of trying pop up to my feet straight away. The first time I over balanced, then I was at least getting to my knees. At one stage the bloody board nose dived straight away and I ended up drinking half the beach! But I was so proud of myself when I was starting to get from being on two knees, to one knee and one foot out in front. I could feel the power of the wave under my foot and I knew it was a taste of what surfing felt like.

The boys were going to be in the water for a while so Maddy and I went for a walk to get some cool drinks and tiger balm. We had been bitten by sandflies and she was coming up in welts. Afterwards her and Hugo went to lunch whilst myself and Damien went back to the hostel. He had to work the afternoon shift and I wanted a shower to get rid of all the sand I had accumulated in my bating suit. That is one this about this hostel, you have to ignore and accept that sand will be everywhere. Once fresh and salt free,I took my kindle to the beach and found a spot that served beer. A cold beer on the beach, I was a happy chappy. Another happy chappy was the guy at the next table. I noticed a few ‘couples’ that consisted of a local and not so bad looking Sri Lankan guy and an older Caucasian lady. It was the reverse of South East Asia with the older men and the younger Asian ladies. I tried to eves drop, she was talking rubbish that he was clearly not interested in as he was more pre occupied kissing her hand and trying to get her to focus on him and not “good conversation”! Having had enough of their display, I discovered that I was craving some afternoon cake. I knew of a little place that was advertising brownies and ice cream, so I made my way there and that’s exactly what I had. I think I baffled them a little with not wanting anything else. It was so yummy and gooey, it was exactly what the indulgent doctor ordered!

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That night, dinner companions consisted of Maddy, Hugo and Adrien. We walked along towards the end the beach to a restaurant with chairs and tables in the sand and fairy lights in the trees. It was beautiful. We chatted away over cocktails and an amazing meal of chilli garlic pasta dish. It was simple but delicious. The highlight of the evening though was this adorable little puppy frolicking on the sand. Wandering dogs are not an uncommon sight in Sri Lanka. This little guy was only a few weeks old, he was so tiny and had that new puppy smell. Myself and Hugo had cuddles with the little guy. I nicknamed him Lanka. Our animal interactions did not stop there. Back on the deck at the hostel, Adrien had made friends with a small lizard. It was quite amusing as when he put his hands together for the lizard to cross, he wouldn’t, yet when he would say “jump” in French, the lizard would jump. It was hours of entertainment for the slightly intoxicated crowd!

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Adrien, Hugo, Myself and Maddy
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Hugo and ‘Lanka’

They next morning I had an early start. A tuk tuk was waiting at 6am to take me to the harbour to go out on a boat for whale watching. I got a nice spot near the railings so I could dangle my feet over and look out to the horizon. We were given hot tea and coffee as well as a sandwich and a bottle of water. We headed out to the open seas. It would have been 20 minutes in and we spotted our first whale. It was pretty cool when their tails came out of the water. We spotted quite a few, but after chasing the third whale around to get a closer look, Skye was done. I was getting sea sick. I hadn’t wanted to take my strong motion sickness tablets as they seem to make me really drowsy. So I laid down on the deck and closed my eyes. As I was laying there, I felt the tiniest of hands on my forehead. It was a baby on her mother’s lap and she was resting her hand on my head. It actually felt so relaxing and I didn’t want the mother to notice and move it, nor did I want to sound like a weirdo by bringing it to her attention to leave it there. After the cruise had finished I found a tuk tuk to take me back along the way. Having to go past the fishing boats nearly made me throw up. I went back and laid down for a bit before having to check out.

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Departing the harbour
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All smiles at the start.

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Our first whale!!

Whilst I was packing up my things I heard a bit of commotion outside. I then heard some loud bangs. I peered out my door to see the common area filled with local people and kitchen equipment. I asked Damien what was going on. What was happening was that the government were pulling down all the establishments that were technically illegally built on the beach on land that the government owned. This was also in response the bad event that happened a few weeks earlier. This was a surreal thing that was happening as these places, especially the one across the road from the hostel, had been operating for more than 15 years without a problem until now. They basically had 2 hours to get everything they owned out before a bull dozer came in and destroyed it. There was ovens, benches, tables and chairs lining the main road. People everywhere looking confused and desperate. I went for a walk to get some water and money out of the ATM and the parking lot next to the cafe was packed with military men and women, all armed with guns. We perched ourselves on the deck as we watched the chaos beneath us unfold. It was heartbreaking as I noticed a bunch of women crying. Their lively hood was being torn down in front of them and there was nothing they, or anyone else could do. This was seriously going to affect Mirissa, and I was grateful that I got to spend the last couple of days in the now ‘old Mirissa’.

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Locals trying to salvage what they could before the bull dozers move in.
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Military presence
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Distraught women
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Ripping down the 15 year old establishment

I had been questioning whether or not I wanted to spend some more time in Mirissa with my new found friends, but this event was so sad and really put a dampener on the ‘vibe’. I was also a little be worried about all of the police and military presence whether things might turn violent. It was definitely time for me to move on to Unawatuna.

army

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