….it’s been an exception here (at Arugam Bay) and we’ve been a bit more sociable and met loads of nice people from all over – Poland, Germany, Israel, UK et al Weirdly enough we…….
It was sad to leave Ella again but Andrew was chomping at the bit to get to Arugam Bay before the (surf) season was well and truly over. So after a last curd and honey we drove out past the Rawana Ella falls and eastwards towards the coast – the temperature climbing as we drove
After we hit Pottuvil a little Muslim town on the coast we drove on through the edge of the Lahugala National Park where we were really lucky to have our own ad hoc safari! First we saw a cobra -when we almost hit it when it reared up at us from the middle of the road, then we saw elephants in the wild -first a mother and calf and then a young but pretty large male. We got out and watched the mother and baby for a while then heard some car hooting down the road -we worked out later it was a truck trying to move the male elephant out of the way -you’d think they’d just wait. Anyway we drove on and pulled over and let him go past. He actually gave us the evil eye and started to walk towards us -maybe thinking we were a funny looking white elephant- which was a bit scary -but he soon veered off and headed into the bush. Fantastic experience- great to see them in the wild.
So -back to A Bay! As arranged before we headed back to stay at Chandrapala Place -a bit of a nightmare to get into but we don’t plan to move the car much for a while. Actually in a supreme act of stupidly we manoeurved the car into its space -through a very narrow gate with just inches on both side to spare- and then realized that we’d forgotten to full up our near empty water tank so had to drive out and start again …doh!!! The nearby water plant is very impressive and state of the art. Built after the tsunami it had a really sophisticated system in place to inject the water with chlorine and fluoride-all courtesy of US Aid.
Once we backed in (again!) and set up camp we were greeted very warmly by the lady of the house. Not hard to see why -when we were last here just a couple of months ago each cabana was occupied -with Israeli surfers – now we had the whole place to ourselves. Whilst this was great for us, guess it’s not so good for her a widow with 4 kids. Now the war is over hopefully more people will venture out here in the non-surfing season -when the sea is better for swimming -but at the moment it’s still fairly quiet when there are no waves and anyway these basic cabanas tend to be more popular with the surfers than more traditional holiday makers who stay in the posher places. It’s a good place though and she’s made an effort to make it nice with shady areas to sit and a couple of good outdoor showers
Feeling rather sorry for her we paid her a little more than she asked us for for parking. Later though she spoilt our feeling of goodwill by charging us 100 rupees for plugging in our fridge to the mains power for just one hour a day. Bumping into the meter man (we rescued him from “our” camp dogs who were defending the vehicle!) we worked out at this rate we were soon paying her bill many times over. Very entrepreneurial!
As ever we swiftly built up a security team of dogs, with one dog making himself particularly useful. Not for the first time we wish we could take him with us..poor thing -there’s a lot of rough beach dogs here and we hear the fights every night -judging by his scars he’s not too good at fighting! Our camp spot also abounds with monkeys and lizards. Thankfully these both keep a reasonable distance!
Revisiting an old haunt -Geckos great spot for breakfast- we had a bit of a shock. The undercover areas down to the beach and the decking which had been lovely for lounging was all gone. We thought at first they’d gone in for some radical refurbishment -but no it’s all by government orders. Apparently a notice has gone around -enforced by the army in bulldozers – that no buildings are to be allowed within 20 metres of the beach. This is a pretty big call and has lead to a lot of destruction. The idea is to create a green belt, but local feeling is that the plan is -now the war is over and this whole area is really ripe to go ahead – that there will be some big government run hotels introduced so the present occupants are being pushed out. Seems very unfair if so – we wondered if the fishermen’s’ shack which go all along the beach front here will also be affected? Even the lookout post out at the surf point -which has a very small café underneath – has had half its deck area broken away -seems crazy it’s certainly not bothering anyone. Watch this space to see what happens I guess.
We’ve got into a nice routine here – Andrew gets up early to surf, I walk down a couple of hours later to join him and walk back along the beach – there are huge lumps of coral dotted up the beach incidentally -breakaways from the reef due to the strength of the 7 foot groundswell. We then go for a swim and sit and read our books -all in all the days trickle away very nicely! A couple of times we took a tuk tuk out to Pottuvil Point -a nearby alternative surf point -to give Andrew a different wave to surf and me a different beach to walk along!
Travelling as we do we don’t often meet up and socialize with other travellers -we’re sort of out of the loop and on the move -but it’s been an exception here and we’ve been a bit more sociable and met loads of nice people from all over – Poland, Germany, Israel, UK et al Weirdly enough we re-met the Polish lady Marta who we met in Diu India (almost 2 years ago apparently OMG!!) Like us she got the bug and is still on the road! Stephan and Sonya in our picture live in Hamburg and have just bought a campervan so they were interested in our vehicle to get ideas -more overlanders -that’s what we like!
Whilst we were here the Rugby Union has been playing and Andrew was very keen to see a few games – we had highlighted the Siam View Hotel (SVH) -a really good restaurant in the middle of town – as being the place with a TV so he was devastated when we rocked up to see a match at 1pm to see that it wasn’t open until evening. Thankfully we were spotted by a staff member and very kindly made welcome to come in and watch the match -a habit we repeated at every game until the last when there was quite a crowd watching -well done New Zealand -though I actually quite wanted the French to win by the end.
The SVH is run by Manfred and his lovely wife Somlak who’s from Rayong Thailand. Manfred is originally from the Isle of Man and he rode here overland on a BMW motor bike back in the late 70s and never left -don’t blame him really! The SVH is a great spot, good music a relaxed vibe and really good food- Somlak is the chef and she cooks great Thai food-my favourite. They have a small menu -just 3 dishes - but it’s all fresh and delicious. Manfred also imports really good home brew – better than the last home brew I tried at Uni which put me off for a couple of decades! SVH won a Daily Telegraph award for the best of British presumably for service to homesick ex-pats! A great spot, for more info and reviews have a look at their Facebook page. Manfred also very kindly offered us free parking with use of a shower at his hotel -but for some reason we feel obligated to our land lady despite her electricity extortion! It’d be a great camp spot for any overlanders though. A Welsh friend of Manfred’s Trevor is out the back in his tent -nice to meet a fellow hardcore traveller -none of this namby pamby hotel room nonsense!
At SVH we were treated to a meal by a local army man – Lieutenant Colonel Keerthi Gunasoma – who is posted in the region and is a friend of Manfreds. Despite Somlak’s food being so good he had actually brought in a great spread of indigenous local food which his cook had prepared for us all to try. It was a bit different than what we’d tried before – delicacies including red rice, water lily rice and a sort of seed paste- which you swallowed whole in small lumps rather than chewing – though I cheated and chewed and it was still fine! An old favourite Biryani tasted slightly different coming as it did wrapped in lotus leaves. A great meal thanks to the Colonel for inviting us.
Manfred is also an IT whiz (amazingly he told us he organized the first IT connection out here by cable from Colombo back in 2003 – and it was excellent coverage as it’d want to be for a cool $1,000 USD per month!) and has worked on a site giving a lot of good info about the area see www.arugam.info,
Another local guest house we really liked was Galaxy Lounge run by Wayne -an Aussie and his Sri Lankan/British wife Sri. We shared a Mediterranean platter here and it was really good. We had a great evening chilling with them and their guests. It was really nice meeting some other Aussie travellers. I’m always told I don’t sound at all Aussie these days -the Aussie twang I acquired whilst down under seems to have totally faded away, just one of life’s chapters! Anyway have a look at Galaxy’s site onwww.galaxysrilanka.com
Sadly we don’t eat out in style like this every day and we’ve been doing a bit of self-catering whilst we can to save funds. Going out to surf a couple of times Andrew ended up spending half an hour helping to launch a fishing boat -heavy work! A couple of times when we saw them return the catch was quite small-just 1 or 2 baskets – though the army (there’s a camp down the beach) still sent soldiers down to collect a few for free for their supper!
A few days on though there was a very good catch (11 tonnes) and Andrew’s help was remembered! On our evening walk we went past the heavily laden boats coming in and it was all systems go, with traditional bullock carts down on the beach being loaded high with fish.
The boat owner Andrew had helped recognized him and insisted we take 3 huge tuna as payment for his help. We gifted the biggest to our land lady and had the other 2 as sashimi -filleting them quickly so they didn’t bleed and eating them raw (to the horror of our landlady “no cook…no cook?” ) dipped in soy sauce -sadly no wasabi. Really nice at first but a bit too much raw fish is somewhat over facing -so the dogs got a real treat when they got to finish off our leavings!
As I write this (Thursday 27 October) we’re still hanging quietly at the camp spot – with our faithful security dog under the car and the surf as background music. Supposedly they’ll be a last surge of surf before the season dies in a few days but for now the conditions are perfect for non-surfers -nice gentle body surfable type waves only.
Andrew has managed to tear a ligament in his knee out in the surf -his first surf injury ever ironically in some of the smallest waves he’s ever surfed! So he is resting up on doctor’s orders and doing a lot of reading (Keith Richard’s autobiography “Life” very good apparently) -fingers crossed he’s better soon.
We head next towards the Yala National Park -the best place in SL to see leopards in the wild allegedly -fingers crossed!