Three weeks in Sri Lanka, three weeks of…. friendly faces, welcoming hosts, housekeepers and cooks and drivers and tour guides all desperately trying to please. Of fresh fruit for breakfast, coconuts straight from the tree, banana lassi and double straws in every drink. Of hot, humid days and long, ferocious rain showers. With piles of rubbish on the beach and by the road, at the temple and in the rivers. Of roadside stalls selling corn cooked over a fire, snake charmers with cobras and monkeys on leads desperately trying to earn some rupees anyway they can. Steep hills covered in tea plantations, and tea factories perched high on a mountain, stories of poor wages and rich landowners, pungent tea leaves and workers in the terraces. Long, thin stretches of golden sand, beaches that were dirty and beaches that were clean, lined with palm trees, dangerous currents, big waves, small still coves and clear blue shallows. Drivers with crazy systems, horns tooting, overtaking on the bend, tuk tuks weaving in and out, motorbikes appearing from nowhere and everyone knowing exactly where to be to miss the huge, brightly painted buses hurtling by. Monkeys in trees and peacocks calling all day, huge ants and tiny mosquitoes leaving their marks all over, tiny geckos crawling on the wall, bright blue flashes of kingfisher alongside the lakes, pelicans coming home to roost at dusk, and rice fields full of white egrets.
Temples on Poya, no shoes in the caves please, statues of sleeping Buddhas 7 metres long, painted ceilings and watch the monkey! Male drivers, male cooks, male housekeepers and male waiters – are there any women here mum? Sri Lankan curry with cardamon and cinnamon in every mouthful, vegetables and coconut in every combination,and no chicken thank you, I’ve seen the butchers stands at the side of the road with the meat in the full sun all day and I’ll pass please. Surfers and backpackers, couples on honeymoon and ‘Where you from? England? oh London! Have you seen the Queen?’. Roti and dosa , hoppers and sambal, and promises of ‘not spicy’. More water over here please! Swimming with turtles in the shallows, watching elephants from the safari jeep, water buffalo cooling off in the lagoon and everyone desperately looking for leopards. Sun cream, sun burn, where’s the sun gone now, we didn’t come for rain? Busy towns and tiny shops, ladies sewing trousers whilst you wait, curry that takes two hours to arrive, and I’ll give you a good price for that. Busy trains, empty trains, Instagram photos out of train doorways, walking on train tracks, and don’t do this at home! Winding roads to temples perched on mountain tops, orange robes drying on washing lines and monks scrolling smart phones and singing prayers. Fisherman charging more for the photo than they earn from their catch, tea workers spending longer posing for photos than picking leaves, and do you have a few British coins for my daughters school project please?
Incense and flowers, offerings and temples at the side of the road. Ten steps from bed to the pool, with views of beaches or mountains or lush tropical gardens or directly under the flight path – is that our plane? Fresh juice and another cafe, more cards, and lets learn a new game, its still raining. Jump in a Tuk Tuk, hike to the top of a mountain, stroll along the beach, wander the old town, canoe round the lake, can we buy a safari jeep? Paddy fields full of rice, muddy water and men working hard. Another safari, crocodiles, eagles, jungle fowl and more peacocks hiding in tree tops. Another beach, more rubbish, its ok, go through the fence, its clean in front of the hotels. Hot balmy nights and waking at dawn to the birds calling good morning in surround sound, chipmunks popping into to say hello and oh, another gecko on the wall. Sunbathing, another book finished, and the children still in the pool, hold on this feels like a holiday? Milkshakes all round, lets add in pancakes too, its still only a few pound and we have eaten like kings.