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Published: December 27th 2013
Lalith has some competition in the title of favourite tuk tuk driver. Prasad, from Dickwella, may overtake him. He took me to the big Buddha on Christmas Day and suggested that he take me the way to Unawatuna, not quite a 2 hour drive. Since he didn't drive like a lunatic, and also because he was so genuinely nice, I thought this sounded like a great idea. So, after a sombre start to the day with one minute's silence in memory of those lost in the tsunami, we were off.
We stopped off at a few interesting places. I think Prasad was thirsty himself, so he stopped and bought some King Coconut for us both - they are sold on the roadside all over Sri Lanka and are a deliciously refreshing drink, not to mention very good for you. We also called in at a turtle hatchery, a conservation project to try to save turtles eggs from being poached, as well as taking the obligatory photos of the famous Sri Lankan stilt fishermen. I'm not sure these days that they catch much other than rupees. They certainly were more focused on the camera action on the beach as opposed to
what was happening in the water. We also passed many more beautiful beaches and I was particularly taken with Mirissa, wishing I had time to stay there too.
But my destination was Unawatuna, a ubiquitous touristy beach town, which wouldn't be out of place at any similar traveller locations I've been to in Bali, Belize, Thailand or Mexico....you get the drift. It's a lovely beach, shaped like a horseshoe, however the beach strip itself is very narrow. It's also packed with people, much like Bondi, if Bondi were crammed full with Russians. It has everything you could want for, as long as you were needing gem workshops and jewellers, wood carvers, t-shirts and cocktails. It is a familiar scene.
I am staying in a gorgeous little villa, set back from the beach and away from the hustle and bustle. This was music to my ears, because, well, there wouldn't be music in my ears, being away from the beach nightclubs. It is however at the foot of one of the town's Buddhist temples, which seems to pump out its own brand of music every day for a couple of hours. Why it's so loud and blaring I'll never
know - maybe it's for those who couldn't get there for work, or maybe it's a gentle reminder for those too lazy to go about where they should be. I didn't mind it for the most part, and sitting in the garden reading, writing, sipping tea, I got used to the sound of the Buddhist music and chanting. My only regret is that the quality of the speakers could've been better. I never quite got used to the sporadic bursts of static.
My villa is set in a lush tropical garden, so morning time I am woken by a chorus of birds. Sitting in the living room I can just hear the sound of the ocean. There are also some resident dogs, one in particular (Tekla) has attached himself to me, and as I write this he is sitting on my feet. It's a really peaceful spot. Well, peaceful if the monkeys aren't disturbing you. This afternoon there were three scampering up and down the trees, over the roof and back to the tree that they started from. Then another guest came outside and was eating some fruit and the cheeky monkey quite brazenly came up onto the veranda
and moved towards her to steal it. I shooed it away and she retreated inside.
This morning I walked up the little hill at the end of one of the beaches where there's a stupa and a large Buddha. There's lovely views back down to Unawatuna, and beyond, up the rocky coastline. I then walked a bit further, on to Jungle Beach, which although secluded and far away from busy Unawatuna strip, was also a popular spot.
On the way I passed a guesthouse and met the owner, Lakshan. We got to chatting and he was very excited to hear I was from New Zealand, as he says it's his favourite country. He was incredibly knowledgeable about it, because he listens to Radio New Zealand, so could talk knowledgeably about cities, places and well known politicians dating all the way back to Rob Muldoon. He took me up to the back of his property and we scampered through the jungle to his rocky viewpoint over the sea. He made me promise to come back later in my stay to watch the sunset from there. It will be beautiful I am sure.
While there are things to do
while here, a few walks, some temples to visit, most people come here to relax and lounge by the beach. And that's pretty much how I'm planning to entertain myself over the next couple of days. Already I am warming to the joys of the beach, followed by some mooching about in cafes eavesdropping on nearby conversations (not that I understand much Russian, which is largely what the conversations seemed to be in, or German or French).
Then I'll finish my day with a massage. Not a bad way to pass the time. How beautiful it is to do nothing and then to rest afterward - Spanish proverb
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