Musical Guesthouses

Trip Start Jan 16, 2012
Trip End Jul 11, 2012

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Where I stayed
Blue Horizon Guest House
Pastissade Beach

Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Saturday, February 11, 2012

At our first guesthouse in Tangalle we were invited to the owner Sudate's birthday party. Perhaps it was because our room was just upstairs from where the musicians congregated; perhaps we were temporarily part of the family. We had been passed to the care of Sudate from Gina of the Regina Guest House who had received us from Ajith who had received us from Lanka. It was like a family lineage, a kind of biblical begetting.

So after the initial greetings and introductions, we ended up agreeing to stay two nights although we’d truly wanted to go further up the beach where we’d heard it was more remote. As usual, we were won over by the family, especially Sudate’s father, who was most often to be found in the beach side restaurant dressed in collared shirt and trousers, chatting with guests and helping to take meal orders.

Our room was on the second floor, to which level, Sudate’s father said, the tsunami reached. The second wave was the really destructive one, the one that rolled inland for one kilometer before retreating. At least that’s what he was told; he was in Colombo that day. Naturally, many of the survivors were elsewhere that morning. What we heard and saw was the endless rolling in of the surf, waves landing on the beach and always retreating directly after.

Sudate’s birthday was on the Poya holiday, full moon day. After we watched the moon rise silver over the sea from the restaurant, we went into the yard for the birthday music jam. Sudate played tablas, his friends played harmonium and another drum, and every Sri Lankan present sang along. The songs were traditional Sri Lankan, a kind of Indian and Middle Eastern mix, but we and the enthusiastic young French couple could play along with cymbals and other improvised percussion (spoons in a bottle, bottle on bottle, hands on the table). Later a Czech couple joined in and a guitar was added to the mix. In the middle of the evening, a new black SUV pulled up to the gate; a dignitary dressed in white shirt and sarong got out of the car, preceded only by his stomach. He came into the yard while uniformed police stood by on the road. There was handshaking all around, and one of the young men who had been our waiter went to the kitchen to get him a bowl of ice cream. He was the minister of the province and he had donated four musical instruments, including the ones being played tonight, for Sudate’s music school. He stayed about fifteen minutes, then shook all our hands again, got back into the SUV, and departed. More arrack (whiskey made from the flower of the coconut palm tree) was consumed, more music was played, and around midnight, big bowls of rice and curries were laid out on a table for the partiers.

The next day we had to admit that we were not continuing our journey west but rather going to Ganesh Garden, just a walk up the beach. Sudate and his dad looked regretful. Neverthless, we shouldered our packs and set off. The pangs of guilt receded as we neared our next home, making our way past the beach chairs and hammocks and under the palm trees to our cabana with its small verandah and chairs.

Two days passed easily here, and then three. One day we spent an entire afternoon walking the length of the beach as far as we could, to the eastern end of Rekawa Bay, the waves endlessly crashing at our feet. On the way a fisherman persuaded us to look at his morning’s catch; minutes later we were sitting on plastic chairs at a beach shack and feasting on grilled prawns in garlic, ginger, and lime. On the beach in Rekawa Bay a man selling shell necklaces showed us the tracks made the night before by a turtle returning to the sea after laying eggs—it looked like the track of a small tractor, about one metre across. We could see each flipper indentation where the turtle had pushed to slide its flat body over the sand until it met the waves again.

All across the top of the beach were small craters where turtle eggs had been laid. We saw an iguana scrabbling in one, looking for those eggs. The Sri Lanka Turtle Conservation Project is located here, so it is likely that enough eggs will survive and the little turtles will be helped to the sea when the time comes.

Other than walking on the beach, we made good use of the hammocks and beach chairs, took an occasional dip in the crashing ocean, and read, wrote, and dozed. The rolling surf was always in the background and helped make this stop a supremely peaceful and private one.

When we tried to make a booking for a fourth night, we were out of luck—Ganesh Garden cabanas were all booked out. So we drifted even further down the beach for one more night and stayed at the sole cabana owned by Pastissade Beach—at first this seemed a bit of a downgrade, as the cabana sat outside their fences and the neighbouring houses appeared to be unrepaired tsunami victims. It was desolate, and we didn’t feel comfortable when a guy in a sarong chose to sit on our tiny verandah in the afternoon—there were only two chairs, after all. He didn’t seem at all perturbed by our presence—he was sleepy, perhaps under the influence of arrack, or just simple, we don’t know. He eventually left, but wandered by again later, with a smile and a wave. The advantage to this location was the show after sundown—with no lights around the sky was thick with stars. And in the morning, we were totally private for a yoga session (OK, I kept an eye out for Verandah Buddy). And the other advantage was that we were back in a family fold. Upstairs on the small house verandah that served as the "restaurant" were two tables set for guests (for the two guest rooms) and one guy did all the cooking while the kids did homework and watched TV in the adjacent family room.  Although I liked the privacy of being “one guest among many” at Ganesh Garden, the personal touch of the smaller family guesthouses is something special. 
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Marion and Leighan and the lunch team on

Leighan has just returned from an invigorating CFA coordinators' session - the important theme of the session seems quite irrelevant when reading your blog. We want to wish you a Happy Birthday and Happy Valentine's day. Enjoy the day!!

Leighan on

Happy 50th! If you had been here, we may have feted you with a Thomas Haas cake. I am sure you are thinking that you made the wrong choice.....

Antonia on

What a wonderful way to be turning 50 - on another grand adventure! Happy Birthday my old (but young!) friend. I enjoy reading about your travels - thanks for sharing! xox

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