Whales – and a plastic bag or two

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Can you see a whale here? No, I can’t either but Ray swears there’s one in here somewhere!
Knowing that we’re coming home soon, sadly, we’ve been trying to cram a lot into our last few days so I’ve not had time to do much writing,

So, an update on our whale watching trip, first of all. We decided to go from Mirissa with Raja and the Whales rather than risk using one of the locals not known for their conservation policies – apparently they get too close and scare the whales off.

So, a desperately early start – we were up at 4:30, leaving here at 5:30 to arrive at 6:30 for a 7:00am sailing. We’d planned to stay overnight in Mirissa but no chance! All the hotels and guest houses we fancied were full so an early start it had to be – something I’m well known for being really bad at!

The boat had an upper and lower level and we got there just in time to take a lower level seat – the upper deck was already completely taken. And I’m so glad we didn’t find room because – well, you’ll see.

Rajeesh (Raja) the captain, gave us a talk about safety and what he hoped would happen then we headed out. The sea seemed relatively calm at first and I was enjoying the cool sea breezes after the heat of Hikkaduwa but, it soon picked up and before long, a number of people started being ill. Plastic bags were handed out but I was fine.
We went further out – it got rougher – and rougher. Ray (who suffers from “vertigo” an imbalance problem of the middle ear) was in his element and we slowed to watch a huge manta ray swimming close to the boat. At which point, for some reason, I started to feel ill.

We went out into deep waters, sailing close to colossal tankers as more and more people grabbed plastic bags and so did I. Soon whales were sighted! Great excitement but where was I looking? Into the inside of a plastic bag. Ray saw loads of different kinds of whales and all I managed was to raise my head once and see two blue whales about 100 metres away. The crew were encouraging me to stand up and look – but I simply couldn’t.

I must have looked pretty bad because, although loads of people were being ill (they actually ran out of plastic bags!) Raja had my hand firmly grasped and was pumping a pressure point in my wrist for all he was worth whilst checking my pulse. Having an attractive young fishing captain holding your hand could have been a highlight but hey, the inside of that plastic bag was all I could think about.

They served loads of food on the boat – fruit, biscuits cake – all went past me lots of times. But did they really have to serve friend eggs? The smell really isn’t that good when you’re feeling foul. None the less, Ray tucked into his happily sitting next to me – until I told him to go away and eat somewhere else!

Raja kept saying “Right, we’re heading back” and then we’d spot another whale so we stayed a bit longer, and a bit longer. I sweat the whole whale population might have been out there that morning but I saw nothing more than two humped backs and a flip of tail!

Finally, heading back properly, we came across the biggest pod of dolphins I’ve ever seen – there were hundreds of them all around us. But I couldn’t even get to the side of the boat to look – all I really saw was their disturbance on the surface of the water.

Back on dry land at last I headed for a loo – there was a big queue but they all took one look at me and stood aside! I think I’ll watch my whales on t.v. in future!

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An abrupt ending

Sadly, our tour will be coming to an end rather sooner than expected. We’ve had a family bereavement and will, therefore, be returning to cold and grey England rather sooner than we wanted. Probably next Sunday or Monday.

There’ll be a few more posts before then though as we’re doing a whistlestop tour of some of the places we were hoping to see – so watch this space and I’ll tell you about the whale watching later.

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A prawn for lunch

Yes, A prawn for lunch – but more on him later.

Yesterday Ray and I went into Hikkaduwa with Manhel. She was off to do the shopping as usual but we were heading for a massage!

Now I’ve had many massages over the years – indeed I’ve been referred to as a massage tart because if it’s on offer, I’ll always be the first to volunteer. This one though was a little different.

For a start, Ray and I were in a room together. We were both stripped to the waist with a curtain between us – not to hide us from each other but to hide the male masseur from the site of my naked flesh. I was in the capable hands of a lady who clearly knew what she was doing as, face down, oil was poured – and I do mean poured – all over my legs.

It rapidly became apparent that she was setting the pace and that our massages were synchronised. Whatever she did to me was happening in exactly the same way and at the same time as it happened to Ray. My toes and feet were pulled and slapped at exactly the same time Ray’s were pulled and slapped. Pretty much everything was covered and I’d have had trouble explaining if there was something I didn’t want done as the lady concerned had almost no English at all.

We both finished by having oil poured over our heads and a thorough head massage took place. An amazing feeling but one that leaves you looking distinctly messy! I did get one thing then that Ray couldn’t have – she pulled my hair. She took small bundles of hair and pulled them, quite hard. Obviously something to do with getting the scalp tingling, it felt brilliant but Ray’s got such a short crop there was nothing for the masseur to get hold of.

We oozed our way out of the Ayuverdic centre and downstairs to pay £15.00 each for a good hour’s massage session! Brilliant. We’ll both be back for more.

We then ambled down the road to “The Cool Spot”, rated by Lonely Planet as a good restaurant in Hikkaduwa. We’d been before and the guy in charge remembered Ray as they quickly got onto the subject of cricket….. some time later we were allowed to look at the menu.

We fancied some fish and so two large trays of fish were brought for us to choose from and there, taking up most of one of the trays were four humungous prawns. I’ve eaten very large king prawns before but these were Hannibal, Charlemagne, Henry VIII and Queen Victoria all rolled into one prawn!

They were, apparently, giant river prawns. My camera is playing up, unfortunately so I’m not happy with the photos but take a look at this site and scroll down until you see the one on the man’s hand.http://texasfishingforum.com/forums/ubbthreads.php/topics/4614720/1 (not sure why the only decent picture is something to do with fishing in Texas but still).

Who could resist? We had one each plus three normal sized prawns each, just for comparison, together with a lassi for me, beer for him, a bottle of water, salad, chips, garlic bread and Watalapan (pudding, delicious!) for less than £15.00 in total. Absolutely wonderful.

And how did he taste, my megalithic prawn? Well, very prawny, slightly chewier than a normal prawn and quite delicious. Now, what to try next?

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A bit more on Galle

All the fish is, apparently freshly caught that morning.

All the fish is, apparently freshly caught that morning.

It’s a few days since we visited Galle but I’ve looked back and don’t think I did it justice. Add to which, I hadn’t downloaded the photos when I first wrote.

We drove to Galle from Hikkaduwa by tuk-tuk which was an experience in itself. A drive all along the coast showed us just how built up the whole coastal region has become and clearly, these are prime sites for some amazing villas and classy looking hotels.  Just outside Galle itself we passed a modern looking building which, we’re told, is where all the international cricket teams stay when they’re playing at the Galle ground.

We passed a very busy Galle station on our left and then onto an amazing roundabout where no one seemed to have right of way. Across to the right and down a short road was the entrance to the fort itself. Along the road outside the fort were the fish sellers displaying their catch in the sunshine for all to choose.

Needless to say, we didn’t stop and buy but moved through the gate into the fort itself. It was an amazing site. Little lanes criss-crossed between the walls of the fort itself and there were numerous old houses and churches, built or modified by the various invaders in the past.

We went into one or two – I’ll try and find some pictures of these and post them later – then we went to the lighthouse and walked along the wall itself. Stunning views out to sea! Heading off around the side, still in our tuk-tuk we took in a beautiful old colonial hotel. I slipped in to use their loo and found a party of about 8 English women sitting together having what looked like a reading group session! I wonder whether they all lived close by?

We went to the museum of marine history which was interesting – I told you about that earlier, I think but probably the highlight for Ray was to go to the highest point in the fort and look down on the Galle Cricket Ground. I can’t think why, one patch of green looks much like any other to me.

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Possibly why we’re here?

Waiting to get back into the sea

Sometimes I think I need a camera that works underwater. But then, if I had one would I remember to take it with me? Would I be quick enough to get it working in time? And would I be so busy looking down the lens I’d fail to appreciate what I was looking at.

Yesterday we went swimming at the bay here in Hikkaduwa. It’s something we do most days but yesterday was special.

I’ve started wearing goggles so I can swim underwater and see the fish – I can’t cope with a full face mask like Ray does for when he goes snorkling. I  pop under, blowing bubbles madly out of my nose and for a short while enjoy the sites of the seabed. I know you divers out there will think I’m pathetic but you’ve not had your nose broken three times. Blocking my nose just puts me in a panic. Anyway…

There I was bubbling away when Ray waved for me to come over. I went further out on to the reef area than I’d ever done before to see a HUGE turtle! Ray and a  couple of others were there before me and one man was handfeeding the turtle with waterweed. He (or maybe it was a she) was magnificent and I kept popping under, bubbling away and having a good look. Suddently there he was swimming towards me – I stayed quite still (well, as still as you can with the Indian Ocean’s waves pushing you about) and he swam past me, brushing me with his flpper as he went.

There is something about swimming with big sea creatures that is really special and he’ll stay with me as a highlight of this holiday for a long while. If I’d had an underwater camera, I’d have a picture to show you. But it all happened so quickly I might have missed him!

The fish were pretty fabulous too by the way! PS The babies in the photo were smaller than my hand – they’re waiting to go back in the sea. The guy I swam with was about the same size as a small child!

 

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Lazy day in a hammock!

Yes, we have a hammock! It was only put up yesterday, ten days after we arrived even though we were told it was here already.

After breakfast today we went down to town to the bank by tuk-tuk. It took ages and sterling travellers cheques seemed to cause some consternation.

From there we went to the Ayuverdic clinic where the doctor checked out our bites and gave us some anti-itch oil. We didn’t put it on ourselves though, oh no, we’ve got far too lazy for that! Ray had a whole body massage (literally head to toe) and I had a foot and leg massage (my third so far!). Both of us were “finished off” with the anti itch oil and then given a bottle to take away with us.  It seems to be helping but that could just be because we’re so laid back we’ve forgotten how to feel itchy.

Needless to say we were exhausted qfter that and Ray collapsed on the bed whilst I collapsed in the hammock. Rocking gently in the shade was a lovely way to spend the afternoon.  I’d like to say I was rocking between two coconut palms but actually, it’s had to be put between two pillars of the terrace at the front of the house. I lay there and could at least see the coconut palms!

When we eventually woke up we had supper that was various vegetable curries and a fried fish.

I’ve always said I’ve never found a fish I didn’t like to eat – well, now I have. I’m really not at all sure what it is and Manel isn’t able to tell me. Suffice to say it’s one we hope not to have again. It looks like small tuna but the flavour is really quite unpleasant. When I find out what it is, I’ll let you know.

Right, enough for tonight. There is a HUGE, H..U..G..E.. bug in the living room and I want to get to bed before it spots me and thinks I’m its dinner!

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A day out in Galle

We had a great day out yesterday. We accidentally found ourselves a tour guide the day before – he picked us up in his tuk tuk when we wanted a lift back to the house after I’d had an Ayuverdic massage (about which more later). When we asked him how much he said “As you wish”!! Most of the drivers as for more than the going rate – which we know because we’ve got Manel, our cook who has told us no more than 150 rupees. I offered that he agreed. On our way back he told us he was a registered tour guide and we asked him how much to take us to Galle for the day. Again he said “As you wish” but we said no, come on, how much for the whole day. He said 3,000/- (about £15) and we said we’d talk about it.

When we got in, we looked him up and, sure enough, he is indeed a registered guide – and there aren’t that many of them. So when we worked out the logistics of a tuk tuk to the station from here, plus the cost of the train and then tuk tuk’s around Galle (and on to Unawatwna beach) we decided to go with him and I’m glad we did because we had a great day. We went around the fort, Ray did some shopping (a new shirt and tee shirt), we went to a number of museums, had lunch, saw the turtles and he had a head, neck and shoulder massage!! We got through about £50 – rather more than we expected but hey, it was a good day. He was especially pleased to have seen the Galle cricket ground (yawn!).

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Things they don’t tell you about travelling to Sri Lanka

1) The time lapse of five and a half hours is tricky. Leaving the UK at noon, we got here just after 4:00am. Our body clocks were telling us that  it was 10:30 at night and that we ought to be thinking about getting to bed. The Sri Lankan clocks, though were telling us that we should still be in bed, sleeping but thinking about breakfast very shortly!

A better time to fly from the UK, I think, would be fairly late in the evening. You could then sleep through much of the flight; wake up on Sri Lankan time for a late “breakfast” then keep going until you have an early night in Sri Lanka.

2) Whatever you pack, it probably won’t be cool enough – well, certainly it won’t be on the coast (we haven’t been up to the hills yet, it may be different there). Long sleeved tee shirts, long trousers (even at night) are all far too warm.

3) And forget make-up too! It’s so humid that it will just drip off you. Get your eyelashes dyed instead, it makes life much easier.

4) Peaceful is a relative term. We’re in the tropics, it’s a jungle and therefore there are noisy birds and animals screeching all the time. And some of the smallest animals are the noisiest – the tiny squirrel like “Lena” makes an unbelievable racket! As for birds or mice in the attack, how about mongoose? They’re big and clumsy as they bumble about on the roof as you’re trying to sleep!

5) Don’t assume stray dogs are really strays. That animal lying in the middle of the road, forcing traffic to go around it (and they do!) is probably someone’s pet. They go home at night and people seem to just let them wander during the day.

6) The “dry” season isn’t that dry! It can and does still rain and humidity is like a warm wet blanket the minute you step out from the air conditioning. No air conditioning? That’s a mistake! I hope you’ve got a fan, at least! If you want to sleep in any degree of comfort at night, you’re going to need it. And as for washing, you’ll want to wash all the stuff you’ve sweatted into all day, especially when it’s impregnated with sun cream and anti-mosquito repellent – but it may not dry quickly, in spite of the heat. It’s just too damp so bring plenty of spare knickers!

7) Those pesky mosquitos aren’t only a problem at night. They can get you any time of day, especially if you go near dark, dank foliage (they even hide under beds!!) Even “Jungle Formula” isn’t enough to deter the most determined of these bugs. Start taking anti-histamine before you even leave the UK so it’s in your system to help counter the itch. Oh, and bring plenty of anti-mosquito products with you.

8) Perfume – forget it! Apparently it attracts the bugs even more and that’s the last thing you’re going to want. Reconcile yourself to the gentle lemony whiff of Citronella for the duration of your stay. It brings a completely new dimension to unisex perfumes.

 

 

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Sri Lanka – in the beginning

Everyone told me I should write  a blog about our travels and I missed out on doing it in Spain so here I go, starting in Sri Lanka.

Just a few days after we arrived here I was really worried Ray (the other half) would want to go home. It’s supposed to be a quiet place, here in our house in the jungle but the noise can be overwhelming at times.

I wouldn’t mind the animals but our neighbours leave a lot to be desired. We were woken at about 5:30 the other morning with what sounded like shouting in our bedroom followed by a radio on at full volume! The garden of the neighbour’s house backs onto our bedroom wall and they use their outside space for everything, it seems. Add to this the fact that Ray wasn’t feeling too well and I really thought he was going to want to head home. Fortunately he’s now changing his mind.

In spite of everything, I’m really enjoying it here – everything being (aside from the 5:30/6:00am starts) the humungous mosquito bites and the sunburn. There is something very strange and more than usually foreign about this place. You really have to relax and  go with the flow.  </p

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