A good sleep followed bya. Cycle along the main road past Hindu temples, juice shops, cheap samosa stalls and churches to the fish market. Old women crouched by their plastic sheets with tiddlers, men at butcher blocks chopping the larger catch, a cluster of curious men and boys surveying a 70cm ray of some kind. Seems nobody knows what to do with it. Beyond on the beach are sheets of small silver fish laid out to dry under the right sun. By. The shore the small boatsarelandi g their catches and teas of me and old women are shank out the nets. Women and men are gutting and sorting larger fishes further along. Catches are ferried by pairs of men by baskets on poles to the sea edge to be washed. Everyone is working fast and the bosses are circulating and handing out pay.
The town is divided into tourist strip, commercial main road, a market full of fabric shops and residential streets stretching along the canal and shore of the lagoon, larger fishing boats moored here. I see home made nativities of straw, plastic figures and fairy lights at many street corners, some constructed on abandoned boats. I see small boys crossing themselves as they pass the crucifixes at junctions.
Back at Lewis place I have a juice in a place run by a half Filipino family which has a variety of fruits new to me. Must go back there. My dinner cum lunch at Edwin’s restaurant is a very. Good and interesting curry and rice which includes a pineapple and soya korma type affair. I catch up with Dave and Donna on a stretch of the beach near some fancy hotels. The sea is refreshing, the surfs.aps you hard and is bracing. A wedding banquet is being set up on the beach, photos of the bridal pair taken at sun down by some catamarans. Some ponies are ridden by, Russians on sand mobiles drive up and down. We play cricket with some locals in underpants by the waters edge as the sun descends turning into a glowing orange disc, disappearing into cloud just a before it hits the horizon. There are quite a few hawkers with Xl polo shirts,saris, shorts, necklaces. Closer to the road is a guy with a monkey on a chain and a cobra which he offers to tourists to hold. A couple of cocktails later, I’m back at the guesthouse which is deserted. The soundtrack is fire crackers and the roar of the increasing waves.
Reached negombo by bus from Anuradhapura, a local bus described as semi luxury. I don’t really understand that definition. Maybe it was driven faster, maybe because I was able to take luggage with me. Regardless it was crowded with many people standing in the aisle, and hot and airless when crawling through the towns. I closed my eyes and absorbed the sounds and physical sensations. The whirl of the Diesel engine, the rush of the breeze through the open door at the front, the sway and swerve as it cut out then cut in around traffic invisible to me in the thick of the crowd. The bass heavy groove of singhalese dance music. When I shift to the windows seat I can lean out but the air is so hot and the sunlight scorching at midday. I see in the side mirror the face of a moustachioed brightly coloured shirted driver in whom I have trusted my safety.
Negombo is a busy road full of guesthouses and more upmarket hotels, occasional fake xmas trees festooned with lights, and flimsy nativity scenes. There are churches here too. My guest house has Xmas decorations, and a catholic shrine too. There are many options to stay. The first two I look at are dirty, smelly, unpleasant. The third is extravagant and costly. I settle for a family home stay guesthouse at the end of the row on the beach. A curious old woman with 4 teeth constantly milling around. I have at tv, not that I need it, but later watch highlights from yesterday’s premiership. The beach itself is grubby, firework debris and assorted packaging lie around, the tide leaving black rings on the sandy shore.almost immediately my attempt to chill out is disturbed by a hawker opening his bags of necklaces and carved elephants, spreading them out on the sand in front of me and refusing to understand the words ” I don’t want to buy anything”. He finally gets lost, disappointed. I do mangea. Read and a doze. A wind builds and I rouse myself just before sunset, the beach is busier and some groups of locals are playing cricket.
I managed to track down Dave and Donna finally. Having located their guesthouse and got through to the staff who barely spoke any English that I wanted to leave a message, we hol up in the evening to have dinner and beer, trade stories and compare tans.
Back at the guest house is talk to the boss, who calls himself Adrain and for the first time I meet a local who openly criticises the government. He complains about the scarcity and price of protein foods such as cheese and meat, laments the cost of attractions to and thus the negative imapct this has on tourism. He calls the president a war president and even compares his behaviour and publicity ( the images you see everywhere) to sadaam. His friends are in agreement.