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Judy and David’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 13 Jan 2016

MapMonday 11th January
We awoke very aware that today we would move on to Unawatuna, our last stop on our 129 day journey. It feels strange to think that after only 2 more sleeps we will be heading back to Wokingham. We are both SO excited about seeing all our family and friends again.
We have heard from Florence that snow is forecast on the day we return, so we hope this does not disrupt our journey home. In the meantime we will make the most of the glorious sunshine and beach in Unawatuna.
"Ayubowan" is the traditional form of greeting / leave taking in Sri Lanka which wishes its receiver peace and a long prosperous and healthy life.
We made a point of seeking out Darashn a young man who stands outside the grounds of the resort on the beach touting for business. He organises tours to various national parks but with mixed success over recent weeks he informed us. We have become quite fond of him over the past three days as he clearly spends a lot of time, shading under a coconut tree, trying to make a living, and we often stop to chat with him. Now.....standing under a coconut tree on a beach in sunshine, may sound pretty good if standing in cold and rain in Wokingham, but he has very little else in his life and yet he has bags of potential.
We also said "Ayubowan" to Aruna from housekeeping who we had also grown fond of.
After checking out of the hotel Darashn introduced us to his friend Tilanka who would be driving us to Unawatuna. It was a Toyota minibus, at least a hundred years old but nevertheless a step up from the Toyota we arrived in!
The journey was 3 hours long and another harem scarem ride on the roads of Sri Lanka. We are amazed that we have not seen any road traffic accidents. The driving is positively dangerous and solid double white lines, brows of hills, and blind bends, do not deter overtaking at speed...sometimes 3 abreast!! Drivers seem to think that all they need to do is sound their horn and this gives them the right to drive however they like. Added to which....many of the cars don't have seat belts fitted in the back. Scary!!
Tilanka speaks limited English but wanted to engage us in conversation as he likes to practice the language. (Shame he feels he has to turn round to talk to us and thus taking his eyes completely off the road)!!
He kept us informed of sights along the way. He pointed out a temple in Dondra and let us know there were 2 elephants kept there, which are considered sacred in the Buddhist religion. We stopped to see them, but we were distressed to see the elephants chained by one leg and not looking very healthy.
Arrived in Unawatuna amazingly in one piece.
We went for a stroll along the beach which is beautiful, but much more touristy than Ranna Beach, Tangalle. There are many restaurants dotted along the beach and little lanes just behind the beach which are buzzing with colourful shops, cafes and Tuk Tuks all vying for custom.

Tuesday 12th January
In counting down mode now!! One more sleep and then off to Colombo Airport for the long flight home.
We caught the bus to Galle to look round the Fort which other travellers told us we should not miss.
We've mentioned the traffic and driving before - the bus drivers must be the worst drivers of all!! Great to talk to locals, but the bus hardly stops to let people on and off let alone bothers about other road users! Today David feels sure he felt the bus nudge a scooter up its jacksie during the course of the ten minute journey!
We arrived in the centre of Galle and asked a couple of Sri Lankan's directions to the Fort. It was as though we were talking gobbledy-bleep-.
In the end we asked a couple of tourists for help and they were able to point us in the right direction with no problems at all!
Lesson learned for today....when lost in Sri Lanka - ask a tourist!
On the way to the Fort we were accosted by a chap purporting to be a chef at our hotel in Unawatuna. He told us he had a sick wife in the local hospital in Galle and wanted to borrow money which he would return to us at 5pm when he was back on duty. Yeah yeah!!
We offered him 100 rupees but he said he wanted more. He smelt of alcohol, and as most tourists stay in hotels in Unawatuna, we have a sneaky feeling he was pulling a fast one. We said goodbye and he went on his way.
The Fort area was initially built around the harbour by the Portugese in 1589. In 1640 the Dutch took Galle and destroyed most traces of the Portugese buildings. Although later the British took Galle from the Dutch, they extended rather than destroyed any of the the old buildings.
Today, you can still walk around the fort walls and admire the old buildings which are architecturally pleasing.
In 2004 the Tsunami hit Galle's new town badly and many people were killed. In contrast the solid walls of the fort meant that damage was fairly limited in the old quarter.
We enjoyed wandering around the labyrinth of narrow streets for a couple of hours. It was clean and the roads were well maintained....quite a contrast to much of the Sri Lanka that we have experienced.
We stopped at the old Dutch Hospital, which is now a beautiful conversion overlooking the sea, of designer shops, posh restaurants and cafes.
Whilst there we were lucky enough to see a giant turtle out at sea.
Another hair raising bus ride took us back to Unawatuna and we returned to the lane to book a car to drop us at Colombo airport tomorrow.
The booking system felt a bit hit and miss, so fingers crossed a driver turns up for us tomorrow!!

Wednesday 13th January
Awoke realising our next night's sleep will be in our own bed in Wokingham tomorrow, after a very long journey, which will take us to Singapore to connect with our flight to Heathrow.
We went for a last walk along the beach and the lanes before preparing for the journey home.
We have really enjoyed our short stay in Sri Lanka and have met many lovely lovely people here. The Sri Lankan people love the British, and they are very positive about the amount of aid that the Labour government gave Sri Lanka following the Tsunami of 2004.
The countryside and beaches are stunning.
At times we have struggled with the obvious lack of infrastructure, poverty and exceptionally poor living standards that we have seen along the way.
We have felt frustrated with the fact that, while people make sterling efforts to keep their own homes clean and tidy, much of the public areas appear rubbish strewn and dirty.
We have been amazed at how most families are personally very clean, and we marvel at how they manage this without running hot water or electricity in many cases.
We have noticed that most of the schools have a white school uniform and this always looks clean and white!! How some families manage it- God only knows!!
The contrast with our own fortunate lives is stark.

We will offer a final blog when we are back in Wokingham - thanks for sticking with us!
For those of you who don't know...we rose to number three in the Planet Ranger "most visits" chart for the last month - we want to thank all our fans, all the people back stage, our director, producer, script writer, and others too numerous to mention, not forgetting of course our mothers and fathers who made this all possible!!!!
Seriously though, thank you.
We've really enjoyed writing this together along the way. There have been difficulties with wifi when we've wondered whether we would be able to continue; uploading photos has been a mission at times when we've only been able to do one at a time etc.
However we are so pleased that we stuck with it and look forward to reading it at our leisure.
We are hoping to download the blog into book form and together with the photos and all the messages, it will be a lovely reminder for us in the years to come, of our "time on the road".