Wednesday 03 April – Unawatuna.
I was up at the crack of dawn this morning, by 7:00 anyway and was down in the restaurant before they started serving breakfast at 7:30! I wanted to make sure I had a reasonable feed to make up for my lack of dinner last night. I had had a very late lunch! Today was diving day and I wanted breakfast fully digested before I hit the water.
I walked round to the dive shop and arrived on time to the usual dive shop scene of vaguely organised chaos. There were a lot of divers going out today, more than I have seen anywhere else on my travels, and it I think more than the dive shop staff could really cope with. Fortunately we split into three groups and even more fortunately I ended up with a group who were primarily English speakers rather than Russian. Usually I am not so lucky! We had a very hurried dive plan brief, were split into buddy pairs and then got our gear sorted. You can see how close the buildings are to the sea…
Our first dive was a thirty metre deep wreck dive on the Rangoon. I don’t know anything about the wreck and disappointingly we were not told anything either. I guess I could google it! The dive was OK at best, visibility was rubbish and the dive master was too quick to move round the skeletal remains of the ships infrastructure, we really did not have time to look at much as we were constantly lost. My dive buddy ran low of air early so it was a short dive – though to the dive plan time I guess.
We started making our way back to the shop to get a second set of tanks when the outboard on the boat stopped dead in the water. It took a while to get started, though there was no need to worry as we were only a kilometre or so from shore and well within cell range. Finally the engine took and we were off again. There were five customers on board and a pretty good group to chat with which was really nice for a change, I have had way to many silent rides on dive boats.
Once we had loaded up with fresh tanks we were off again, I thought we would change boats due to the engine failure but no, same boat and same problem on the way back from this dive. I think it summed up the dive shop for me, shonky!
The second dive was a shallow reef dive. Though there was not a lot of coral or anything much else to see, a few fish and that was about it. Visibility was poor even at ten metres and there was a reasonable wash that made buoyancy awkward and looking into all the small overhangs almost impossible. I was pretty unhappy with it, possibly the worst diving I have had yet, though I was OK, buoyancy and air use were both good, a shame about the dive site.
I was not impressed with the dive shop, as always I don’t name names, it is not their fault the visibility sucked, but I thought our dive master was very average. Having said that, there was a minor incident underwater with one of the other divers and the dive master reacted with utmost professionalism to ensure that diver safety was not compromised. That was at least a good sign.
The other thing I didn’t like was that the staff all smoked in the shop, it is reasonable normal in SE Asia, but I didn’t sit around for a coffee and chat after because the air was thick with stinky smoke. Bad customer service… On the subject of smoking the boat boy threw his cigarette butt into the sea, something I have never seen before, they always put them in a bin on the boat. I think it summed up the shop and probably Unawatuna; little or no respect for the environment that has given them the opportunity to make money.
I walked back along the beach to my hotel at the far end. I had extended my stay here by a night, and just like the place in Tangalle, I had to change room, so my stuff was all moved while I was out diving. The room is nowhere near as good as the last one and I have the noisiest bed I have ever had the misfortune to sleep on, it didn’t just squeak at every movement, it yowled and screamed, a shame as it was quite comfy.
I had a much needed shower and then went down to the restaurant for a late lunch of pizza and beer. It was the best pizza I have had in Sri Lanka by a million miles, very nice – chilli chicken. It was the first chicken I have eaten as well, I have been sticking to a mainly vegetarian diet with the occasional egg, fish or sea food meal. The food has all been good though, I have not had a bad meal in Sri Lanka and have eaten a lot of the ‘short eat’ snacks, curry roles, curry wrapped in roti etc. I will miss them.
I hung out in the restaurant for a bit after the pizza, got a blog post completed and a few emails done, making the most of the wifi while I have it. I went for a short walk in the afternoon before heading back to the beach bar for another G and T or two on the beach while reading my book. Once it was dark I headed back towards my hotel. It was depressing walking past all the deserted and semi-deserted restaurants. I was not particularly hungry, but if I had found a restaurant with the right atmosphere I would have gone in and found a snack to go with a final, or two, G and T. There just was not one, the thought of being alone or joining the other sad lonely bastard sitting there with his or her book was too much. So I went back to my hotel and became the sad lonely bastard there; sitting over a laptop with a G and T.
Though I was not sad or lonely – just alone.