It's all in Galle

Trip Start Dec 08, 2007
Trip End Dec 21, 2007

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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Friday, December 21, 2007

I awoke after a crazy dream about car chases and terrorists, must have been all the spicy food. After a shower and packing my bags I had some breakfast and met the taxi driver who was going to escort me for the day. For some reason he seemed slightly out of breath and was stood on a pile of gun toting unconcious terrorists, thinking nothing of it I shook hands and we set off for the airport.

The airport was a hive of activity, and I fought my way through to arrivals and watched everyone else on their flight, and probably the next one too pass by. Eventually they arrived and we said our hellos, exchanged some stories and headed off to find our driver. We promptly made the van our own, after stopping for snacks (original intention was beer, but it's not sold in supermarkets in Sri Lanka, they would probably think it odd that we do, and even have entire shops just devoted to selling it). We put on some music and began the process of gripping the seats like our lives depended on it, this was because it seemed to at the time, looking out of any window all you saw was cars seemingly nanoseconds from colliding with us, yet they all missed. This makes we wonder, are they all fantastic drivers, or terrible ones.

After a 5 hour drive we arrived at our hotel in Unawatuna, just down the road from Galle. We generously tipped the driver (partly for getting us there alive, and partly because he got a speeding fine on the one occasion we got to the speed limit), and went straight to the bar (the room could wait, the bar could not). 

The next day Tim got stung by something weird on the beach (although Rob will beat this later, just another teaser to keep you reading), we decided to leave the beach and found a little restaurant where they were putting up the xmas tree, very bizarre to witness on a beach in 30 degree heat.

That night we set out for what was to turn out to be a legendary (or staggering as Marc would say) night of drinking, unfortunately most of the events are to be kept secret for the safety of those involved. However, the night included Loooooooooooong island iced teas, the anglo Sri Lankan pool championships, a Geordie barman called Gary (mainly responsible for the events, he must have been laughing the next day), playing of many instruments, including a stick of bamboo, singing along to Queen songs, skinny dipping, a short rally drive and finally followed by unconciousness for one unlucky member of our group. Suffice to say we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and I ended the night (as one of the few who could still speak) waking the manager of our resort holding a womans purse and some mans pants, to ask for the spare key as we had lost ours.

The next day we were all a tad shaky, so myself, Marc and Tim headed into Galle for a look at the ground while Rob and Kerry decided for the gentler beach option. We arrived at the ground to find a soldier on the front entrance with a large gun, we politely asked if we could have a wander around the half finished building site in our sandals while the work was going on, and he said "Yeah no problem". Happily the HSE hasn't taken the fun out of life in Sri Lanka yet. We strolled past rubble, piles and sand, JCBs and cement mixers all milling around, there was no way this was going to be ready in time, but each person we spoke to said "Yeah no problem", got to love the optimism.

We then took a gentle stroll around the fort, which is like a little town, a local started telling us about the history and how the fort is the most exclusive place to live in Galle. We suspected he wanted cash but as it turned out he directed us to a nice hotel where he bid us goodbye and turned down the tip we offered him. What a nice man.

After staying in the bar of the swanky hotel for most of the afternoon we Tuk Tuk'ed back (great way to travel), caught up with the others and had a final drink before bed.

After this relatively gentle day we thought some touristy exploring was in order so we took a trip to turtle hatcherys, spice gardens, temples and a boat ride, unfortunately everyone wanted excessive tips (there's me whinging again) but the turtle hatchery was great. We all donated so we could release a turtle into the sea, then raced them. Unfortunately as I didn't win I forgot to did, so I can't announce it here.

With one more day to go before the first day of the cricket, Kerry, Rob and I decided to book a safari the next day, while Tim and Marc were happy to go back to Galle and spend the day drinking in the best hotel on in Galle and spot cricketers (they did quite well but can't remember who they saw).

The safari was excellent, we had a great driver to take us the 4 hours each way and the tour itself was fantastic, loads of elephants and strange birds, a few deer and even a crocodile. All the pics are in a seperate blog entry cos there's loads.

Next it was the big first day, for me it was my first ever cricket match, and it was England v's Sril Lanka! I'd been trying to learn bits about the strange game, and knew we had a player called Freddy Flintoff who liked pedalos and beer, but he was injured so I was pretty scuppered. We arrived in style in a couple of Tuk Tuks, then went to find our seating area, the ground looked no different to when we saw it 2 days before, except the sand piles had been removed and lots of seats (the kind you get in a travelodge conference room or something) had been brought in and were laid out on a hill under a marquee. This is where we met the barmy army crowd and began to join in a few songs. It was kind of like the football crowd chants but with a less aggressive sound, all very good natured and plenty to make you chuckle. A couple and their 2 year old from our resort were there, and the kid (Thomas) began joining in the songs, by the end everyone was singing songs about him!

The bricket started well enough and England got a couple of wickets fairly early on, but then Sri Lanka got down to the batting, and there were no more for the rest of the day. I used the think cricketers had the easiest job in the world, they don't even have to run very far, or often. But it was a blistering hot day, and they were out in the heat for 6 hours or so (except for the breaks for tea and scones no doubt), we'd managed to pace ourselves quite well that day having just a few small beers, and as soon as the cricket finished the skies opened. We headed straight for a nice hotel with a bar and stayed there until the rain stopped, about 5 hours later.

My final day of cricket came (I only saw the first 2 days then headed back to Colombo for my flight home the following day) and it started slowly, no more wickets to be had for a while. After lunch Jimmy, one of the Barmy Army generals I guess, began his one song to rouse the army into full voice. He looks a lot like Jimmy Saville, wearing a George Cross singlet and top hat, carrying a cane with a big flag streaming from it, and starts by saying "Now then now then now then. What we need now is a Barmy Army wicket!" He then launches into a speech chanted by the crowd as he goes along, and it ends up with the whole crowd singing "Michael Vaughan's Barmy Army. Michael Vaughan's Barmy Army. Michael Vaughan's Barmy Army. Michael Vaughan's Barmy Army. Michael Vaughan's Barmy Army. Michael Vaughan's Barmy Army." with constant clapping. Not the most imaginative I know but the idea is that this carries on until England take a wicket (throw the ball into the 3 sticks before the other guy can hit it with the bigger stick, for those with my level of cricket knowledge). Afterwards we were reliably informed by a red handed hoarse sounding fan that this went on for an hour an a half during the first test in Kandy. On this occasion it lasted about half an hour, just as the pain was getting unbearable and it felt like you were pounding already bruised hands together England got their first wicket of the day. Everyone went crazy and ran down to the front to look at the giant screen and see what had happened (I never noticed anything happen, the entire time I was there. These people must have highly trained eyes to watch and understand cricket with no TV help). Lots of singing and dancing ensued, which went on for about 2 minutes, then it erupted again, and England had just taken another wicket! Optimism was high, with not long before the end of the day we thought they might be able to get them all out by the end of play. But Sri Lanka managed to hold out without losing any more, so we went to watch the sun set and went to find a restaurant for dinner.

The next day I said goodbye to my friends and left for the station to get the train back to Colombo where I had managed to book the Galle Face Hotel for my last night. After nearly bankrupting myself with a whole pound to cover the 4 hours journey I found the platform and waited for the train. It was very busy and I realised that I would be standing for the journey back, so I made myself as comfortable and possible and got out a book. I moment later a couple more people got on and I had to shuffle over to make room, then a few more got on, then another one, then a couple of men with giant baskets of prawns.

To my surprise the train set off with people hanging out of the doors, and to my utter amazement it got to quite high speeds with them still hanging out. It slowly dawned on me that this is how they were going to spend the journey and my envy of the people sitting down became pride inmy 1 square foot of standing room at least 3 feet from any door. I did wonder if, when another train was approaching, the driver might toot the horn as a signal for everyone to breathe in so the hangers on could quickly duck inside. But we managed the entire journey without losing anyone, and I'm sure the majority of Sri Lanka were on the train.

I checked into the Galle Face Hotel and took a shower, then wandered around Colombo for a while, a couple of conmen tried a couple of tricks on me that I had seen before (I finally sussed it out on my last day, I'll have to go back some time) so I got rid of them after wasting some of their time (I had nothing to do but they were busy, people don't con themselves you know). Then I passed an English pub so thought I'd stop in an see what Sri Lankans thought an English pub was like, as it turned out it more English than most of the ones back home. Barrels for tables, very dark but cosy, and a giant screen showing the footy. I noticed a menu and from across the room the words "Mixed Grill" leapt out at me, it was a match made in heaven, so I ate it.

I went for my free cocktail (they give you a voucher when you check in) and a couple more drinks, reasoning that I could sleep early if I had a few, and went back to my room for an early night. After being rudely awakened by the polite lady from reception with the wake up call I had asked for (I am a grouch when tired), I showered and stumbled down for my cab to the airport. This was at 4am and began my long journey home, cut to montage scene with eighties music involving planes, trains and automibiles, maybe interpersed with a map with a red line going across it. And before you know it 24 hours later I was back at my flat in Derby.

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starlagurl on

The turtle hatchery sounds awesome. I love your photos too.
Good job!

Louise Brown
TravelPod Community Manager

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