From Ella we are headed to the South Coast and our first destination is Mirissa. To get there it is a four-hour bus ride. It is the tail end of the Tamil New Year holidays and most transportation is still packed. After the train ride where we stood for most of the way, I was feeling anxious about taking the bus. I didn’t want to be in a packed, non air-conditioned bus for four or more hours. We had enquired the day before about taking a taxi and the cost was $125. That was a bit steep, so the bus it was. As luck would have it though, as we were standing at the bus stop, we were offered a taxi ride for only $50. A taxi driver had driven some tourists from Mirrisa to Ella and was willing to go cheap to have customers in the taxi on the way back rather than drive it empty. This is actually quite a common practice and we jumped at the chance.
We spent the next eight nights on the Sri Lankan South Coast, four nights in Mirissa and four nights in Unawatuna. Both places are small tourist villages with great beaches, lots of hotels and lots of restaurants and shops. The South coast was badly hit by the 2004 tsunami, but there is little evidence of that destruction today.
Most days we spent some time relaxing at the oceanside, playing in the waves, reading, and just people watching, it was nice. We also did many walks in the areas but there were no major sites. There were however highlights in both villages.
In Mirissa, one day on the beach, there suddenly was some excitement. Right near where we sat, a nest of baby turtles was just then breaking out of the sand and each baby turtle was struggling to make its way to the water. There were literally dozens of tiny turtles emerging from the hole. It was quite the site to see! A large crowd gathered to cheer them on, and the whole process took nearly an hour.
It was hair removal time again for my lip and chin and I found a place to have it done but unfortunately the only method was by threading. I found it extremely painful. I asked Sanford to take a picture of the process as I wanted to share the photos on my blog, and he took several pictures, but I’m wincing in pain in each and every photo! I decided to share the photos anyways, but I’m sure they won’t convince anyone to try this method.
When in Mirissa, the thing to do is go on a whale watching tour. I was excited to go but our experience was just so-so. Our main complaint was that the crew did not really interact with us. There was no commentary about the crew, where we were heading, what we would see, information about whales, etc. The only real interaction was when one of the crew shouted “come” and pointed to a whale. I actually found the tour somewhat cartoonish. There were seven whale watching boats out that day and when one spotted a whale, usually because you would see water spouting from their blowhole, you would see all the other boats rushing to the same spot. We never actually saw much more than the back of the whale as it swam along the surface for a few moments and then we might or might not see its tale as it would dive down. This went on for about two hours. Sanford did ask what species of whale and the answer was “blue”, nothing else offered. As all this was going on, there were several people seasick and throwing up overboard or into a bag, thankfully we were okay. The other thing that happened was one woman came out of the washroom absolutely horrified. Turns out the toilet exploded upwards like a volcano and she was all wet. I watched as several of the crew were carrying and pouring bucket after bucket of seawater into the toilet. Not sure how that fixed things, but it was usable again after. Anyways for our $25 per person ticket, I did manage to get a few good shots of the backs of blue whales.
Our last evening in Mirissa was spent at one of the beach restaurants where we leisurely enjoyed drinks and dinner and watched the sun go down and the stars come out. I’m living the retirement dream and enjoying every minute of it!
Our next beach destination was Unawatuna, one of Sri Lanka’s most popular resorts. Here we did more of the same; relaxing on the beach, playing in the water, reading, people watching, and going for walks.
While here we both went for a haircut. Sanford encouraged me to cut my hair even shorter than usual and to get rid of my “wings”, the hair covering my ears. I decided to give it a go and although I am quite pleased with my new look, it does take some adjustment.
While in Unawatuna, we took a day trip to Galle, which was only 6 km down the road. Galle is known mainly for its UNESCO-heritage fort district perched on a peninsula on the south end of the town. This fort was first built by the Portugese in 1589, taken over and modified by the Dutch in 1640, and then by the British in 1796. It contains good examples of colonial architecture and fortifications. We spent some time exploring the sites, then enjoyed a nice lunch, a trip to the Maritime Museum and headed back on the bus to Unawatuna.
All in all, the time at the coast was nice. We are now into our final days in Sri Lanka and the next day we would head to our final destination.