August 27, 2013

Southern Escapades (Part 1)

This trip falls into the category of random, unplanned trips that I've done. We only finally decided to go on Friday evening by which time it was too late to call and inquire about accommodation.

We made a long list of accommodation options spanning three of the little towns on the southern coast for the following morning and another list of things we could do and we were packed and on the road early Saturday. A fully charged iPod, sunglasses, beachwear, Google maps and the trusty Lonely Planet book and we were pretty much set.

Although the Colombo-Galle highway took us away from the scenic coastal drive, the long stretches of smooth, empty highway brought us to Galle in perfect time for a good breakfast in the fort.

I visited Galle last year on my holiday to the country. Galle Fort is a 17th century Dutch fort a bit off the coast, surrounded on three sides by water. The fortified walls contain a little network of cobbled stone streets with cafe's, hotels, little stores, a lighthouse and as we discovered that morning, some interesting graffiti too. I will finish an exclusive Galle Fort post soon.

After walking into a few cafe's to read their amusing signs and menus and their not-so-amusing prices, we finally decided to eat at the tiny Cafe Punto. Our table at the front overlooking the narrow cobbled stone streets was quite a lovely breakfast setting.

Once back on the road with content stomachs, we drove further down to Jungle Beach. As the name suggests, the only way to get to the beach was by walking through a jungle patch which I managed to get through in a skirt. Despite not being that easily accessible, there were still quite a few people there. 

From there we walked up to the Japanese Peace Pagoda. Peace Pagodas are Buddhist stupas built as shrines for peace in places hit by some sort of calamity. It was started by the Japanese monk, Nichidatsu Fujii who put them up all over the world. This one was built as a memorial for the victims of the Tsunami in 2004. 

The blinding white of the shrine against the blue of the ocean was so serene. The view from each tier was beautiful; the jungles, the beaches and Galle Fort in the distance.

We were lucky to find available accommodation with much less hassle than anticipated. But locating the place wasn't as easy. The narrow town roads often disappeared off the map and sometimes Google would place us in the ocean. 

TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet became our helpful companions not just for accommodation, but for all the places we ate at. We ate in Mirissa's highest rated restaurant- No.1 Dewmini Roti Shop. We sat at one of 4 tables in the front garden of a family home. The kitchen opened out onto their front patio. We were waited on by the wife and the grandfather. It was obvious where all the publicity came from with the genuine hospitality and the tasty home cooked savoury and sweet rotis. 

What we did next was what I was least excited about. From the many times I've seen snakes in my grandparent's garden to the one year we lived in snake infested Kerala, I've not been very fond of snakes. 

Here in Mirissa, an Ayurvedic doctor carries on what his grandfather and father did and has a collection of local snakes in his home to harvest venom for the various medicines he uses.

Although a bit excited that I would get a picture with a snake around my neck, the fear quickly overrode that. The hissing of the cobras brought goosebumps which became shivers when he placed the muscular 2m python on my shoulders. I could feel the muscles tighten and in my head I could imagine that mouth opening to swallow me up. 

I was slightly better with the other snakes that weren't around my neck. The green vine snake in particular was quite striking. We wore the common trinket as a bracelet and also held the Sri Lankan flying snake and the Forsten's cat snake.

I stayed far away from the venomous ones- the cobras (even the hissing 2 week old one), the vipers, kraits and the scary looking scorpions and tarantulas.

All said and done, it was an interesting experience. Learnt a lot and can proudly say that I've come a long way from the panic-stricken seven year old in Kerala. Would I carry a snake around my neck again? Probably not. 

Day 1 ended with a short wade on the dark Weligama beach admiring the brightly starry sky.


Priscilla Christo said...

You've come a long way baby! Don't think I'd have been able to be draped with a snake.

Tanisha Christo said...

I did it only for the pictures. :) I'm not as happy as I appear to be.