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Published: January 21st 2014
I'm not much of a beach bum, but I do like a good swim, pristine sands and crystal-clear water every now and then. Hence I go to Mirissa. I take the train from Galle and kind of hint to some locals where I'm going, hoping they will let me know when we're there. After an hour and a bit, an older man tells me 'Mirissa, Mirissa', but I can't see a station or platform, before I realise I'm looking at the wrong side and the platform is so short it can't be seen outside our carriage. I fall-jump off the train and walk into the wrong direction, until some tuk tuk-drivers point me out the right way.
Accomodation is easily found inside a family's home. I drop my bags to take a stroll on the beach, crossing the busy main road to get there. Unlike on the train, I'm not the only foreigner here. Scores of Western tourists hang out, drink beer, swim and snorkel. I seem to be the only individual traveller at the beach. All I see is families, couples and groups of couples (is there anything duller than going on a beach holiday as a couple with
other couples?). What these people don't want to see is single guys walking around in their territory when they're holidaying. To the parents, I could be a potential pervert who wants to molest their kids, and the blokes think I'm here to leer at their bikinied girlfriends. Why would anybody go on a holiday alone, anyway? Makes you already suspicious.
Tropical country equals tropical fruit, so I buy a coconut at a small beach stall for 50 rupees (0.30€) and a slice of watermelon from the back of a pick-up along the main road. There, I also find a cheap eatery, where I order a coconut and honey-roti. The humble banana pancake makes an appearance on their menu as well. Am I in Southeast Asia or has the banana pancake-trail been expanded? Maybe it even originated here in the 70s without anybody noticing. After I pay my bill, the roti shop-lady pulls me aside, looks left and right and says under her breath, with conspiracy in her voice: "Come back later for whale watching, only 3000 rupees", nodding affirmatively and winking at me.
The cafés that line the beach are overpriced, but I take advantage of their Happy
A cold Lion lager
It's quite decent
Hour for a cold Lion Lager. I discover that many Russians are out and about, mostly couples. In accordance with tradition and stereotype, the women are somewhere between pretty and smoking hot, while their partners range from "that poor guy, look at his mug" to "what gulag did you escape from?" Some of the latter take pictures of their girlfriends lolling about in the sand and water, trying to look sexy and raunchy.
I go bodysurfing and experience the highest waves of my life. A particularly big one crashes right in front of me, with droplets of water bouncing off the surface and whipping me like lashings. I'm amazed at the sheer force of nature and try not to die underwater. It's all good fun and makes me wish I lived near the ocean.
I get up very early and walk to the harbour for the whale watching, where I learn that a tuk tuk would have picked me up for free. I booked with Raja and the Whales, who seem to have built up a very good reputation with travellers. The price is a bit dearer than with most of the other companies,
but they really go out of their way to make it worth it. Onboard, you get a welcome tea or coffee plus ginger biscuits. Later, breakfast is served, which consists of an omelette sandwich or fried eggs with toast. Finally, all passengers get a platter of fruit, served on posh plates. The ship boys hand out small bottles of water and seasick pills.
Meanwhile, our boat scours the water for blue whales, which have made the Indian Ocean around Mirissa a regular port of call. What they can't guarantee are actual whale sightings, which is only logical. Raja, who is busy captaining the boat and providing play-by-play-commentary, says we get 50% of our money back if we don't see any whales. He stresses that some whales have been killed by illegal whalers last years and points out Iceland, Norway and Japan as the three nations who still hunt and kill whales.
A few hours go by without anything really happening, and I notice I'm not the only one dozing off every now and then. The deckhands are concentrating hard on trying to spot anything in the water, but all we get are small boats with local fishermen waving
at us. After a while, we come across dolphins, a lot of them, in fact. They are doing their dolphin-thing, trying to look all easy-going and athletic at the same time. I hear a French girl saying "That is so beautiful, look at them!", but all I can think off is "Get out of the way, you jerks! Fuck you, dolphins, I hate you!" Unsurprisingly, I've seen more than my fair share of dolphins in the last 10+ years of travelling. What I haven't see are blue whales, and it appears as though today this is not going to change.
Just before we head back towards Mirissa, all of a sudden somebody spots something in the water. The cameras are being worked frantically, and Raja lets us know it's two Bryde's whales. They surface maybe four times for one or two seconds. We can kind of see them during those intervals, but I'm sure nobody on the boat gets any sort of decent picture. I conclude they must be two of Raja's mates in whale costumes. Raja looks happy, we've seen whales, so he doesn't have to give refunds. I feel a bit gypped. And angry at those backstabbing
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