Taking a red-eye flight from Zurich via Doha to Colombo I was exhausted, but was thrilled to be back in Sri Lanka for the second time.
One big difference I noticed between my last visit in 2010 and this time was that I had to pay USD25 for a tourist visa this time. Yet, what was still the same as my last visit was the weather; it was hot and sticky. There must've been a downpour just before I arrived here as I saw the ground wet and the sky was grey. I smelt something tropical in the air. The heat as well as the humidity revived my whole body.
The reason why I re-visited Sri Lanka this time was partly because I wanted to surf the east coast of Ceylon island again, and I also wanted to apply for a visa to India while in Sri Lanka.
The below are some of the things that I did or happened to me during my stay in Sri Lanka this time;
1. Reunion with Rod & Priscila
It's been almost 10 months since I last saw Rod and Priscila, a Brazilian couple who I travelled and surfed with in El Salvador, La Antigua and southern Mexico in the late 2011.
Both Rod and Priscila looked as good as before. They travelled through Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia and a couple of other countries in SE Asia for the past several months, and we were reunited here in Sri Lanka.
It was fantastic to see them again, and Priscila's English improved a lot now. She was able to keep up with us in all conversations without any problems. The only emerging concern was that Rod seemed to hurt his back badly a few days ago and he could barely walk by himself....
2. How to Get to Arugam Bay
Due to Rod's severe back pain, they decided to spend a few more days in Negombo while I left for Arugam Bay by myself.
I had no intention to travel by train and bus to Arugam Bay via Baticaloa like what I did in August 2010. Nevertheless, means of transport from Colombo (or Negombo) to A-Bay were limited. The following are some of the means to get there (As of September 2012);
Option 1. Private taxi (At least USD120 ~ 130)
Option 2. Direct bus to Pottuvil (about USD10)
Option 3. 3rd class train & local bus via Badulla (about USD7)
I could have chosen the 2nd option, but could not get any information about a bus running from Colombo to Pottuvil for my departure date. I somehow chose the 3rd option AGAIN!, but not via Baticaloa anymore.
The reason for choosing the 3rd class train was because all the 1st class seats were sold out. Many people also told me that there was no difference between the 2nd class and the 3rd class. Therefore, I bought the cheapest one.
The photo below shows the inside of the 3rd class carriage. No luxury and it was deadly cold when the train ran through the mountains at night.
Here are the details of how I travelled by the 3rd option:
1) Caught a tuk-tuk at 16:30 from my hotel in Negombo to go to Negombo's train station (cost: LKR200)
2) Took a train at 17:00 in Negombo for Colombo Fort station (cost: LKR40)
3) Took an overnight train at Colombo Fort at 20:00 for Badulla. My 3rd class carriage was packed with all Sri Lankans. I must have been the only foreigner then (cost: LKR280)
4) Arrived in Badulla at 7:00 and walked about 1km from the train station to the bus terminal of Badulla by dragging my backpack and my bulky 6'3ft board-bag.
5) Took a local bus to Monaragala (cost: LKR100)
6) Changed to another local bus in Monaragala for Arugam Bay. This bus-ride was longer than expected and it took almost three hours to Arugam Bay (cost: LKR200)
7) Arrived in Arugam Bay around 15:00. I was so sweaty and exhausted.
By summing up all the fares from Negombo to Arugam Bay, it only cost me LKR820.00 (about USD6.00). Super-cheap and no train conductor or bus driver asked me for extra charge on my board-bag this time. However, this whole trip was quite hectic and I wouldn't do it again.
3. Surfing A-Bay
Despite the fact that it was nearly the end of the main season for surfing around the east coast of Sri Lanka, there was no flat-day here.
On average days waves were about 3 ~ 4ft on sets with occasional bombs at the Point in Arugam Bay. The wind tended to blow light offshore or cross-shore and turned onshore or strong cross-shore by midday. The water was warm and clear. No wet-suit was needed.
I found waves here quite similar to those in Punta Roca, El Salvador, although Arugam Bay seemed to me a bit softer and more sectioning than in Punta Roca. I didn't take any good photos of waves this time, but they were more or less the same as my last visit. So you can just visit my past article here for some images of the bay.
The only problem of Arugam Bay is the number of guys and girls out there. I won't specify any particular nationalities in this article, but some of them were real beginners or intermediates with no surf-etiquette at all. A shame!
I stayed in Beach Hut during my last visit in 2010, but I didn't like the atmosphere there this time. Instead, I found a reasonable guesthouse called Arne's Place. It was located much closer to the Point than Beach Hut, so that I only stayed two nights in Beach Hut and quickly moved into Arne's Place.
The above photo shows Chris and Cathy, a couple from Australia who I met at Beach Hut. They were renting a car for themselves, and they and I one day went to Whiskey Point for surfing. We had no high expectation at all as it was late in the afternoon, windy and high-tides.
Waves at Whiskey Point were tiny, but looked playful with offshore winds. Chris and I paddled out there as quickly as we could. And we actually had quite a few fun waves then.
4. Surf Injury
After surfing the Point in Arugam Bay for a few days in a row, on this particular morning the very first wave that I caught shut down right after I took off. It was a solid 5ft set-wave, and luckily it didn't suck me over. I just jumped off my board with a lot of formies then.
What happened to me over the next few seconds was so vivid; I actually jumped right in front of my board. And as I was going to submerge ahead of my board, my Firewire Hellfire was concurrently "hell-firing" towards me with no brakes. As a result, the menacing super-pointy nose of my Hellfire struck at just above my left temple like a clean gun-shot.
I somehow thought that it was just a casual hit and blindly believed that I would be able to continue surfing (it was my very first wave of the day, you know). However, the wound quickly became swollen and very bloody. I decided to come in after catching two more waves....
My travel-insurance had already expired by this time. However, very fortunately, there was a British guy staying at Arne's Place. His name was Chris and he was a general practitioner working in Australia. I explained my incident to him, and then he gave me some non-antiseptic cream and told me to put it over the wound.
The whole left part of my head became swollen overnight, bigger than yesterday and I couldn't sleep much.
I spoke with Chris again and he gave me some of his antibiotic tablets which I swallowed right away. Nothing too serious, but it was better for me to take precautions as I had no valid travel-insurance and I was in the tropical climate.
How lucky was I to have a proper doctor at this remote place in Sri Lanka?!
The photo below shows (from right) Chris's Chinese girlfriend Jane, Chris, Rod and Priscila. We had a lovely dinner together. Jane cooked fried rice and I cooked yummy Tuna fillets.
Jane and Chris loved drinking. One night they and I had Arak, a local brewed alcohol (possibly made of coconut). And I nearly passed out an hour later!
After all, I pondered how things went wrong in the water and I reached this conclusion:
The nose of my surfboard was deadly pointy and I had been planning to cut it off to make it rounder and safer for myself and for other guys, but I never did. Additionally, I broke my own rule - do not catch the very first set-wave, observe it and analyze how it breaks. In the end the menacing nose of my board wasn't only to blame. It was my sheer negligence and over-confidence in the water. Keep in mind, Esky - Neptune is always mightier than us (I actually went back out for surfing two days after this incident, though.)
5. Sri Lankan Rotis
I never tried these Rotis during my last stay in Arugam Bay.
As the photo below shows; The triangle Roti had some spicy vegetables inside. It was quite hot but good curry flavor. Whereas, the rolled one had some coconuts with a banana inside. It was sweet, and I absolutely loved it!
The best of all was that both of them cost less than a dollar. So cheeeeeeaaaaap!
6. Back to Colombo (and Negombo)
This time I took a private taxi to go back to Negombo with Rod, Priscila, Chris, Jane, one other Brazilian surfer and one Japanese surfer from Saitama.
It was LKR20,000 for seven of us (about USD22 for each) and it took us just over 8 hours to Negombo with a couple of stops for lunch and snack on our way.
This private taxi wasn't cheap, but drove us straight to Negombo and I didn't have to squeeze my ass on a tiny seat in a rusty local bus nor did I have to haggle the fare with any greedy Sri Lankan drivers.
Negombo is located north of Colombo and is where I stayed this time simply because it's nicer and quieter than Colombo. It seemed to me that there was nothing interesting in Colombo, but I still had to go there in order to apply for my Indian visa.
Downtown Colombo was extremely busy with lots of people, cars, buses, tuk-tuks along with noise and air-pollution. I even started coughing a bit while I was strolling around. One good thing, however, was that many Sri Lankan people were very friendly and smiling a lot. This was something that I didn't really notice during my last visit here in 2010. It may be because of the fact that this time I came straight to Sri Lanka from Europe where people would hardly smile at a stranger on the streets.
7. Applying for Indian Visa
I once thought about applying for a tourist visa for India while I was in Europe, but the application fee was so high (more than EUR70). Whereas, I only had to pay LKR1065 here (only about USD8.00). So lucky to travel with a Japanese passport!
The following is a list of things that I needed in order to apply for my Indian visa;
* My passport (Of course!)
* A print of my online application form
* A copy of my passport
* Two photos of my face with white background
* Fees (Varies depending on your nationalities)
You must visit the website of Indian Visa Centre of Sri Lanka and fill out the online application before you show up at the IVAC in Colombo or in Kandy.
While Priscila, Rod and I waited for our visas to be issued, we went to see an Indian movie called "Heroin" at Majestic Cineplex on Galle Road in Colombo. The ticket was LKR400 and it was freezing inside the cinema.
Although the story was so predictable and very soap-opera, I really enjoyed this film with one break in the middle of the movie-play. Funny! It was also a good little introduction of India (?) to me.
Now I'm ready for India. Bring it on!!!
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