Tag Archives: mirissa

Last day in Mirissa

Final day involves getting up late again. A habitual breakfast of roti and wood apple lassi. The woman at the food corner seems amazed at this request, telling me that wood apple doesn’t taste nice. She is wrong. Mahesh has a new business idea, and I’m wracking my brains to help him come up with a name and to find a way for him to market himself. Right now he stands behind a coloured umbrella and some tatty boards, meekly saying hi to the scant passerby.

I have a coconut, from the keep the doctor away stall. They have orange ones here, and green. Taste is the same. A dip in these a. It’s overcast, the water slightly cooler. A nice float. I walk to the other end of the bay. It’s here that the surfers hang out. I watch a long haired Sri Lankan with a bob Marley board ride the waves then paddle in. A posse of Japanese with a collection of cameras with long lenses photograph from the grubby scrub of the shore.

I return to poppies for a shower and a doze in the hammock.

My last jaunt to the beach coincides with rain.i take shelter at a reggae themed bar and have a couple of piña coladas made from fresh pineapple and coconut, meanwhile reading Ondaatje’s anil’s ghost. A story of an expat Sri Lankan forensic scientist returning home on a humanitarian mission, which results in the discovery of a re-buried skeleton, evidently the victim of a political killing. The book begins to uncover some of this country’s very murky past.

I spend my last night with mahesh talking through the next venture he has, ie whale watching on his friend’s boat. I create a Facebook page for him show him how to build a network, create an email template. I always seem to be at work!

I manage to wake up at a reasonable hour, with the sunrise annoyingly on my face.

I buy roti from a place I went to last night. The same old guy is there, with his half a mouth of teeth and his purple sarong. His eyes are less bloodshot than last night. Today he doesn’t ask me if I want any weed. Anyway we chat and ai take his photo. He wants me to send it to him and become my pen friend! His name is angas, 64 ( though I’m not sure about this as his English comprehension ain’t so good), dead wife, and works with his friends at the best roti house in town,he says.

Another wood apple lassi, and it politely refuse a throng of tuk tuk drivers who want to take me to Matara. I stick to my guns and wait for a bus with a Dutch couple. Several sweep past, horns blazing, conductors hanging off the footplate, passengers hanging out of the rear door. Too full to stop. After 10 mins a weligama bus stops and takes us to Matara.

Matara bus station is not very easy to navigate, but at least not full of touts. I find the bus….

Mosquito net

A grimy net hangs from a metal frame around my queen size bed swayed gently by the ceiling fan. its swishing through the air is a noise I have got used to. How have these bugs got inside? Meanwhile the bright green LED abdomens of fire flies pulse and crawl on the outer side of this veil.


After a hour lull in my hammock..it felt like drifting on the sea…I wander the beach at night and grab a cocktail. The tide washing around my table legs. The beach is quite low key, several bars, this one playing goldfrapp, a distant fire swinger. Everything has closed up on the road by about 8 pm.
I don’t feel sleepy and spend several hours changing my possible itinerary again. Sleep until 10.30 in the end. I get a whole fresh pineapple and some folded vegetable roti from a shop on the corner for breakfast. The young guy who runs the place joins me for a chat which goes on for hours.
His name is mahesh, born and bred in mirissa and his home is next door, with his mother, aged grandmother, she of one tooth, and 2 tuk tuk driving brothers. He is 24 and has learntenglish through doing this job. The guest house is newly built and looks ready for a second floor to be added. Mahesh’ dream is to have a place like this as his own. But, he earns around £150 a month. I talk to him about being patient, building himself a reputation, working on his skills. Afterallhe he is the reason I took the room here. He made me feel welcome. We have a long talk about developing economies and that his dream may be short sighted. I can see mirissa being exploited by monied big shots who will buy up, build and homogenise this place, squeezing out the small guys. He and his family should hold onto their land and house. Maybe one day a hotel group will make them an offer too good to refuse. I feel I have deflated him a little. He needs a dream, a we all do.. I’m sure there will always be a place for budget traveller guesthouses anyway. I need them, that’s for sure, and I’m not alone. I and so many others travel to be in places that are precisely different from what we experience at home. But, if money making is the over-riding factor, then he may well have to end up working for some faceless franchised operation that sucks up the local essence, repackages it and spits it out as something sanitised, familiar and profit making.
It becomes afternoon, and I take a walk. Up the steps to a little nondescript temple that shares it’s hill with a radio mast. The view is special. I carry on along the beach westwards, negotiate the narrow beach a nd rocks and find myself on some less visited beaches, lined with beached fishing boats, coconut stalls: a coconut a day keeps the doctor away, says the sign, a guy peddling massage, and a mother cadging cigarettes. I’m looking for the so called lonely beach and don’t know if I actually do find it. The guy in a store back on the road says there is no beach the way I’m heading, at least not a nice one. Opposite his store are the overgrown ruins of a colonial mansion. I cut down some dusty lanes and come out on a beach with a rocky shelf, full of pools and crazy geometric rock formations, lots of little fishes and eels skittering around. To return I climb a grassy hill studded with the ubiquitous palms bearing orange coconuts, back onto the sandy beach and wallow in the water, which surges a little too much to be relaxing. After a 30 minute read I walk back towards mirissa, breaking the walk up with a stop at the craggy outcrop I swam near the day before. This time I feel confident enough to wade out to it and climb up the top for a beautiful view of the bay. I clamber down the side where the crashing waves leave the black rock shimmering. There are scores of crabs scuttling across the rocks. I spend a while attempting to photograph them. Next, a float in the sea as sunset approaches, then I dry off watching another impromptu cricket match by the waters edge, played by local lads. Dinner is curry and rice, but the best thing is a wood apple lassi. New fruit, new flavour. Fab. As I leave for my room rain is in the air. 20 minutes later it comes pouring down. The air smells fresh, earthy, invigorating.

From mount lavinia to mirissa

The local lager, lion, is best avoided in quantities exceeding one bottle. I wake up with that dirty messy cheap alcohol feeling and need my blackout ask to go back to sleep.

Dave and Donna are already up and we walk 15 minutes along the railway track to the station for a one hour wait for the train south. The railway line reveals a myriad of slices of life. Garbage collectors with carts descended upon by crows, cricket practice over the ubiquitous wall crowned with a protective layer of embedded glass shards. The station has a large poster warning against dengue fever. Big noisy dramatic diesel locomotives crawl in and out. Third class is rammed. No traveling on the footplate notices ignored.

We have to rush to clamber aboard. There are no places to sit in second class. By the way a ticket for my four hour journey costs a measly 200 rupees. Standing room only. Some other guys from the hostel are traveling with surf boards which block the aisle between the carriages. People push,better,clamber by. It’s all good natured, even what seems like a heated argument between a family and the ticket inspector. Blind, yes blind, guys with white sticks climb over the accumulated luggage and push past the throngs of standing passengers, selling lottery tickets. Hawkers with baskets on their heads negotiate the train selling bags of nuts, samosas. Fried sand hoppers. Shouting their wares, baskets lined, sometimes made from, old school exercise books. The train smells of piss. The windows are down, the doors are open, it crawls south.

Kids on bikes. Saris on lines. Whole wardrobes washed and laid out to dry by the track. Palm trees, palm trees, glimpses of the sea.

My friends from the hostel all get off at hikkadua. The train begins to empty. Space yo sit and loosen my shoes. The contentious family spread out. The son puts on his cricket cap. Red yellow green. He hangs out of the door, me the opposite one.

At weligama I get off and fal I to the first tuk tuk to get myself to Mirissa.we tour a few guest houses, of varying quality, friendliness and price. I actually settle on the most expensive of the three I see. It is spacious, has a hammock and most importantly the guy is very friendly.

The beach is over the road and lined with bars. There is some kind of crumbling headland that provides protection from the surf, offering up a bay of relatively calm water to float in. This I do for an hour then manage to kick in an early happy hour to drink a mohito and a banana daiquiri with a reggae soundtrack asthenosphere waves lap close to my table legs. Local kids play cricket on the beach. The sun is going down. England is so far away, almost forgotten.