Monday 01 April 2013 – Unawatuna.
I had another one of those terrible sleepless nights with the inevitable dropping off into a doze around 6:00 and getting an hour of sleep before waking and getting up ready to leave Tangalle. I kinda liked Tangalle, it had a good mix of plush – and not so plush tourism as well as dusty old daily Sri Lankan life. I cannot say the same about my next stop though…
I had breakfast and coffee at the guest house before leaving, a very radical concept given I was about to catch a bus, though in theory it was only a short journey of seventy ish kilometres to my next stop of Unawatuna. I took a tuk-tuk back into town to the main bus stop and got on a bus heading towards Colombo. It was very hot and humid under cloudy skies in the bus station so I spent most of the time standing outside with the wise locals as we waited for departure. I feel entirely secure here in Sri Lanka, there are not many places where I would leave my pack under a seat and my day bag with laptop and camera in it on the seat, while I stood outside. Admittedly I could see my day bag, but in some countries that means nothing at all. In the main the Sri Lankans are an honest people – no one will steal your stuff anyway.
The ride to Unawatuna was the wildest yet, man – we were going so fast, the horn blaring loudly all the way, the bus was absolutely packed and I was stupidly on the inland side so missed seeing all the famous beaches as we screamed through village and town, screeching to a halt to pick up and drop off passengers at seemingly random points. The conductor gave me a couple of minutes notice so I could untangle myself and my possessions from all the people around me and get off the bus without delaying it too long at the stop. This will be my last bus ride in Sri Lanka. I am not sure if I will miss them or not.
I am going to stay in Unawatuna for three nights and then catch a train from nearby Galle to Colombo for my final night in Sri Lanka. I am staying in a hotel, which is by my standards very expensive, at 60NZD a night. I have a massive room, air con, a TV and mini bar. But the wifi sucks – it is always the way. Wifi works great everywhere except my room!
The first thing I did once I had gotten to my room was to flick the air con on and then take a shower to remove the deep sweat from a solid humid day. My room is quite well covered and I thoroughly enjoyed walking around in the cool air in um, not many clothes, as it were – luxury !
I have come to Unawatuna to do two things, to dive in Sri Lanka and to visit the historical fort section of nearby Galle city. Unawatuna is a tourist town on the side of a bay that allows for reasonably safe swimming – unlike other parts of the coast. I took a walk through the single main street of Unawatuna back towards the highway where the main dive shops are. I had a short feeling of good will towards the town, it reminded me a bit of El Nido in the Philippines – a town I have fond (rose tinted maybe ?) memories of. Unawatuna too, is dusty and beach side and touristy and a bit jaded and faded and I kind of liked that.
Though I would not stay here – ever.
This all changed when I had found the dive shop I wanted and booked myself a dive and then headed back up the beach rather than the road. They have completely ruined what would be a nice beach, guesthouses and restaurants and bars litter the narrow beach, in some cases, past the below tide line. It is a scene of unrelenting destruction and I decided there and then I didn’t like Unawatuna anymore. OK, I will admit unrelenting ugliness is a massive exaggeration, but it could be so much more than what it has become and I am sad for Unawatuna.
I walked dejectedly back to my hotel and had a cooling swim in the pool, not being able to face the thought of swimming in the sea. I had another great Skype call with El, maybe the last for a while before I head out on the yacht in a few days time – I will miss her smile and her sort of East London accented voice. I went to bed early feeling a wee bit melancholy.
Unawatuna is definitely the best sounding town name I have been to, so much easier to say than Anuradhapura!