After looking into things a bit, we decided to head down from Negombo to Hikkaduwa for New Year, via Colombo. To get down the coast from Negombo, we decided to take the train, picking a nice and early one from the closest station to us (Kattuwa). Even though we had checked and double checked the train times the day before, we obviously got it wrong (or our train just did not turn up, or something), but we were waiting for a good hour and half – nothing a spot of cards couldn’t remedy.
We reached Colombo, and had another wait of about 2 hours this time, before boarding what could possibly be the world’s sweatiest train, rammed full of all sorts of people. The train was meant to take about 2 hours, but nothing goes to plan in Asia (or so I have discovered so far) so over 3 hours later we got off the train with lots of other westerners who descend on Hikkaduwa for surfing and New Years partying.
On the surface Hikkaduwa is a nice surfy, seaside town, but after years of tourism it has become very busy with Russians (they’re everywhere, I swear!) and Brits looking to get in the water and generally fail at trying to surf – this provided some amusement on the beach; watching guys strutting down the sand with their newly acquired surf boards, eyeing the ocean, looking for the perfect break, only to get in the water and flounder around in the shallows trying to gain some form of balance on their board, every now and then getting destroyed by one of the powerful waves.
Our stay in Hikkaduwa was tarnished a bit by the onset of some dodgy rash I developed from the long day of travelling down from Negombo. After some Googling I determined it was Prickly Heat – this is what you get when you are a sweaty bastard (like me) and are stuck on a train with hundreds of other people in a T-shirt that felt (and probably looked) like it had been underwater. So, I had to avoid the sun for a few days, shit times! Nevertheless, the evenings still provided some good entertainment, with New Year on the beach being a massive highlight!
Lots of the bars along the beach were pretty ram-a-jam, and drinks prices had been hiked up (I expected nothing less), I had never had a New Year on the beach before and it was fucking excellent! Fireworks everywhere, drunk / disgraceful westerners, sober locals laughing at the drunk westerners, decent music, and lots of rum! At midnight, the whole beach lit up with fireworks, they could literally pop up from anywhere, and almost every local kid had his pockets jam packed with his own fireworks (homemade, I am guessing, because they were budget as fuck), and they were more than happy to set them off anywhere and everywhere – Soph and I had to keep our wits about us (sort of – after a few more rums I decided it would be a good idea to just get involved, so joined the kids setting off some of their fireworks – much to their amusement!). We both don’t really remember getting back to our guesthouse – so I assume we had a good end to the night…
During the last few days my sketchy prickly plague has gone down so I ventured out to explore some of the local towns. We rented a bike, drove down the coast to Galle and checked out the old Dutch Fort there, and drove further round to Unawatuna beach, which was really nice – much quieter than Hikkaduwa, which was good for me. Galle is pretty horrible to drive in, especially at night and getting caught in a heavy downpour. Most other places I have been in Sri Lanka so far seem pretty calm compared to Galle, where every bus driver is a massive asshole (that’s the same in every country though, I suppose), and unlike other towns – where there seems to be some order, people literally couldn’t give a shit about rules of the road. And yesterday, we went and hopped on a bus over to Ambalangoda (aftr failing to get the train times right again), a small fishing town up the coast which is famous for mask making. The masks were really cool to be honest, and the stories that each set of masks were used for were hilarious. After amusing ourselves at the mask museum, we took a walk in the blistering heat down towards the beach and stumbled across The Green Lion Turtle Project – a charity group I used to work with. Although it was closed there was a guy next door who was really sound and told me a bit about the area and the project. The beach the project lies on is immaculate and the best looking beach I have seen since being in Zanzibar!
Anyway, that’s the story so far. Not masses going on due to my prickly plague, but I am now sat waiting for a train from Hikkaduwa to Matara (got the times wrong again…ridiculous! – don’t put a time on the board if the train doesn’t run on some days – I am just going to ask next time), and then we are hopefully getting a bus to Tangalle, which will be a our next stop for a few nights before going to Yala National Park for a short 1 day safari.
Photos to follow later…