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Sri Lanka

Mirissa photoblog

Two more weeks in paradise.

all seasons in one day 34 °C

Since our last post we are still enjoying waking up to a stunning view every morning.

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The weather on the South coast has been erratic at the least and we have had some huge storms. The thunder is so loud you can feel it booming in your chest and the lightning lights up our whole beach hut. One morning after a particularly bad storm we woke up to severe damage further down the beach where half the sand had been washed away to reveal foundations more than five foot high.

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These have been sporadic however and we have had some days lovely sunshine and others overcast and drizzly. In between this Chelsea had her second surf lesson and did a lot better, standing up most times. Liam went out on his own while Chelsea was having her lesson and the current was super strong again. By the time we had been surfing for an hour we were seriously Knackered and it took two days to recover. We have been surfing since, both on our own and are slowly getting better. We have to wait for good weather because, rainy and its too rough and sunny and we get crozzled by the sun, it has to be dull so we have been going late afternoon when the suns heat dies down. We are hoping to go a few more times before we leave.

Chelsea has enjoyed the appearance of a new puppy next door to our hut that wandered out and then wouldn't leave us alone and sat at the bottom of our steps and didn't want to leave.

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We also heard from our guesthouse that further down the beach is a good snorkel spot as it is calmer so we decided to go on an explore. It is very quiet and we walked a few coves on.

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Right at the end of our beach there is an island that you can wade out to and climb.

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There are sea breaks protecting more upmarket resorts which were covered in crabs.

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On route we picked up a new friend in the form of a dog who started walking with us. She walked with us the whole way and when we finally reached the snorkel spot two coves on we went to explore and she sat and waited. We didn't snorkel as it was too overcast but decided to go back when it was sunnier. On the walk back she was still sat there and she rejoined us for the walk back to Mirissa beach.

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The coves further on are devoid of tourists sunbathing or swimming and there were a lot of friendly locals enjoying the sea. The beach was lined with thin and colourful fishing boats nestled between the palm trees.

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We have also tried bodyboarding as it is very popular on our beach and we have be watching people for weeks.we rented a boad from a nearby guesthouse for 200rs and had a go.

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Chelsea absolutely loved it and we had loads of fun with it, especially when Chelsea caught a huge wave that took her right in and beached her. We will defiantly be doing more bodyboarding before we leave.

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The last few days have been amazing weather and w have enjoyed laying in the sun and swimming. We decided to try our snorkel spot again and walked back down the beach. The beach a few coves on is covered in broken shell and bits of white coral it is beautiful.

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The rental place only had one mask left so we had to take it in turns. There is a sea break so the whole cove has no big waves and is calm and deep.

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Liam went first while Chelsea laid on the sand and waited...... He didn't sea anything except rocks and sand.

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Chelsea went next and Liam swam with her. She saw some sea grass..... and some rocks and sand.

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On the surface however she saw what looked like a dorsal fin to which we both promptly almost pood our pants and ran out. The splashing we made would hundred percent have attracted a shark if there was one but when we got out we saw in two more times and decided it was a big turtle head and Liam went back in to see if he could find it. He didn't see anything new except a big lobster but we had fun and might go back for another try.

On the walk back running around the broken shells and coral were tiny hermit crabs which we enjoyed watching.

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We have around one more week on the beach before we head off to explore more of Sri-Lanka. We are planning on enjoying some more surfing and bodyboarding, swimming and relaxing in the sun.

Posted by Chelsandliam 02:17 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged sri_lanka mirissa Comments (3)

Our week in pictures, Mirissa

all seasons in one day 31 °C

Our first week in our little green house has been lovely and we have thoroughly enjoyed living on the beach.

Our time has been spent playing in the huge waves and relaxing on our balcony. We have acquired some new friends in the form of pesky squirrels. At least twenty a day run through our house and walk around our balcony. It is no problem unless you have food. One managed to eat half of Chelsea's watermelon, chewing through two plastic bags to get to it..... its safe to say Chelsea is no longer friends with our squirrel neighbours.

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At the beginning of the week Liam had his first ever surf lesson. We were taken to the next bay, Welligama for the lesson as it is a safe beginners beach to surf on. It is not too deep and the seabed is sandy. He learned the theory of how to stand up on the beach and then it was time to try it in the sea. He managed to stand up loads of times and is hoping to practice more while we are here for a month and take advantage of the waves on our beach.

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Check out his celebrating on his first successful stand up.

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He really enjoyed it and they took him further out to try some bigger waves half way through the lesson.

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He managed to surf properly a lot of times and can try on his own next time.

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Chelsea went along to watch and thought it looked fun so booked a lesson for later in the week.

Between our sea and sand fun however Liam managed to get bit by a dog, it is only really tiny and you can hardly see the mark but we went to the medical center across the street to be safe and were old to go into Matara the next day for anti-rabies treatment. Matara is the next town on, only around 12km away. We caught the bus to the vaccination center and were shocked by how clean and modern it was. They told us however they do not have the resources for anti-rabies and sent us to the general hospital. This was not a clean, modern hospital but looked like a hospital out of the 1950's. No computers in sight and a ticket system like Argos. The whole place was packed and we were taken to a few different rooms and through what looked like a very confusing system and Liam was given an anti-rabies injection. To his dismay the wound was labeled 'superficial'. We have been twice this week and need to go another 2 more times to finish the treatment. The craziest thing about the whole hospital is the stray dogs inside the anti-rabies area of the hospital just chilling out on the floor. Liam is ok though and on our trips to Matara we have been buying fresh fruit from a friendly man with a stall in town.

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Also in the middle of the beach is the coastguard and at the back the Turtle Conservation project, we previously visited in Rekawa, has six tanks with turtles rescued in them. We have visited several times on our way past to say hello to all the little fellers and we thought it was a bit sad. We were not sure why they were there, as only one seemed to be rescued and the rest looked ok. Also the tanks were not very big and we didn't really think it was fair but we decided to call in at feeding time to find out more. A man from the coastguard was feeding them with small sardines and we were the only people watching. He let us help him feed all the turtles and he obviously cares a lot for them. He explained why they were there and which ones would be going back into the ocean. Only one can't go back and it has to be kept here as it has to have injections several times a week as it is very sick. It has been caught in a net and so has a fin missing and can no longer dive to the bottom so it just floats around. The rest are being looked after and will be released back into the ocean. It was lovely to feed them all and find out about them and we really enjoyed it. there is several green turtles, a hawksbill and an olive ridley.

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Later on in the week it was time for Chelsea's lesson. She learned the theory and then they went straight out to try.

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She fell off a lot....

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and a lot more.....

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and a lot more....

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but eventually after another beach based lesson of how to stand up....

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She stood up!!

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She only grasped the hang of it towards the end of the lesson and as the current was very strong it was difficult so she has to go back in a few days for another lesson free of charge.

Apart from sunning ourselves on the beach, swimming and surfing we have not really done anything. We have enjoyed some amazing seafood and sunsets, giant prawns, a whole barracuda to share, and all different fish, crabs and shellfish. The choice is different everyday depending what they catch and delicious, and fresh.

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There is a small local restaurant in town where Liam can gorge himself on a mountain of curry for breakfast so everyone is happy.

Posted by Chelsandliam 00:54 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged surfing sri_lanka mirissa Comments (2)

Finding our new home in Mirissa

sunny 35 °C

We left Colombo first thing Tuesday morning, and jumped on the local bus again. It was a hell of a long ride back to Mirissa but was worth it when we finally stepped back on to the beach.

We found a room to stay in, dumped our bags and went to look for a place we could call home for a month. We did have something in mind, a little green bungalow on stilts that sits on its own on the western side of the bay. We had seen it the last time we came and thought it would be amazing to stay there. We were not even sure if it was tourist accomodation, or if it was who even owned it. If we managed to find that out we were pretty sure we wouldn't be able to afford it, but if you never ask you never know.

It sits next to a small restaurant and that seemed as good a place as any to ask. Turned out they did own it. Next came the price, normally Rs3000 a night, which is cheaper than we thought but still that is half a days budget for us, it is too much. We asked if they would give a discount as we wanted to stay long term. 'How long?' they asked, when we told them a month the guy looked surprised and then proceeded to think about it for a long time. Finally he said we could stay for the month for RS70000 or £350, less than £12 a day. We could not argue with that. We had to wait until Thursday for it to become unoccupied and we had not seen the inside yet but we left happy.

We past the remainder of Tuesday and Wednesday relaxing on the beach. Cheap, awesome Jumbo prawns were back on the menu and we went straight for them Tuesday night. Wednesday we headed to the local town of Weligama, a 10 minute and 10p bus ride away to restock on cash and supplies that we will need over the coming weeks. We were back by 1 pm and wasted no time crashing onto the beach, baking in the sun before cooling off in the sea.

We were out of our room early this morning, eager to see the inside of the bungalow, hoping it was as nice as the outside, or at least nice enough for us to live in for a month. We had to wait for the previous tenant to depart, and we passed the time with a terrible breakfast and a litre of tea. When we finally got chance to see inside we were more than happy. A four poster bed sits inside a basic but clean room with windows and glass doors that open on to the balcony, the bathroom is the only slight negative, just needs a bit of attention but it is clean and we have easily stayed in worse. There is plenty of storage and the first thing we did was unpack. We have not taken everything out of our bag since the safari in July, it is fair to say there is a certain smell to some of our clothes that have lived in the bottom of our bags for 3 months.

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Our New home on the Beach

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Chelsea on our Balcony

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View from our balcony - look how close we are to the sea!

Posted by Chelsandliam 01:43 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged sri_lanka mirissa Comments (5)

An Update from Colombo

sunny 35 °C

Since Saturday we have been in Colombo. We were sad to leave out beach bum life that has been the previous ten days but with a flight in a weeks time we needed to sort out our Indian Visa.

As always the public bus has been easy, if not cramped and hot, and it only took around 3 hours to do the 100 miles or so along the coastal road. We are having to stay 5km outside of the city centre as the accomodation prices in Colombo are super high. We have managed to get a decent room for RS275O, about £13, and metered tuk-tuks to the center only cost been RS250 - RS400 so it has been fine.

We had to wait until Monday for the visa office to open so had Sunday and what was left of Saturday to look around. Its never fun coming back into the land of car horns, traffic and pollution after so long out of the cities and Colombo was the same. We spent our first day just walking around the area our hotel is in, Colombo is split into districts with Col 1 being the centre, we are in Col 4. It is basically one major road into the centre, with sidestreets and a quieter costal road. We are still close to the see at Colombo but it is by no means pretty. We walked around for a bit, making it around half way to the centre. There is nothing really of any interest where we are, just a working community, there are lot of local eateries and shops, as well as the odd shopping centre. We ate in of the many bakeries/restaurants, we ordered a selection of snacks from a counter full of samosas, pies (curried and normal) an the normal array of things we did not know. When we had had enough of the heat and noise we retired back to our hotel and tried to figure out how we go about getting our Indian Visas.

Sunday we decided to make the most of the full day available to us and go to the centre. Known as the fort we had visions of something similar to Galle, only a little less touristy. Next to the centre is an area called Pettah, described in our Lonely Planet guide as a bustling bazaar, and a interesting place to spend a few hours. We must have been in the wrong area. It was Sunday so not everything was open but all we saw was a severely run down area, full of random shops, mainly selling mobile phones. The fort area was no better, there is a section full of high end hotels like the Hilton and there is a Presidential house which you are not allowed to get with half a mile of without being shot. We wandered around trying to find some things that were mentioned in our guide book but with no avail. We were not having a good time. Thankfully we found a small tea shop that was a little haven. It had possiblly the largest selection of tea known to man, Chelsea ordered a ice tea, made with tea grown in Kandy and Liam ordered one of the sweet spice teas he has come to love, Chelsea loved her ice tea that was served in a jam jar style glass with a handle. We could not resist ordering a 'British Pub' steak and Guinness pie, which was random but delicious and we ended it off with a cake. It was expensive for us, but we needed a little lift after walking the streets. Deciding to end our day on a high we went back to our hotel afterwards.

Today has been mixed. We got up early to be at the India visa office for 9am. We first however, had to find a internet cafe so we could print off the application form you need to fill in online before you go to the office. This was easier said than done, at 8am most were still shut, but we managed to find one. The form is a farce, they might as well ask for a full family history, it is by far the most information we have needed to disclose to get a visa. Once we finally arrived at the visa office we did not even get passed the entrance. A guard checked all our documents and told us our passport photos were no good. The background was not white enough (what?) and the need to be 2 inch x 2 inch, not the standard passport size that every other country requests. Another annoyance but this one did not matter too much, when we asked if we applied for the visa today when will we receive it. We got several answers, nine working days, five working days, one week, until Chelsea asked to go inside and speak to someone official and he confirmed it would be next Monday. Our flight is booked for Saturday. That is the end of that then.

It is our own fault, we should not have left it too late but the problem we had is the India visa starts as soon as it is issued, not when you enter the county, so we did not get it immediately because we would have lost a month without even being in the country. We purposefully left it as late as we could, as we thought like with every other visa it takes 3 working days and even if not you can pay for it to be processed quicker. Not India. They do seem to like to do the whole process differently.

Anyway now we had a new problem, our Sri Lankan visa ends Monday. So we hopped in another tuk tuk and went to the Sri Lankan Department of Immigration to see about a visa extension. This was way simpler. We had to go to the 3rd floor, where the receptionist gives you a form to complete, whats more they accept normal size passport photos, with whitish backgrounds. The form was easy the only problem was we did not have a flight out of the county anymore, but we thought it would be OK. We took the form back, and they asked how long we would like to extend it for. We both looked at each other as we had not even thought about it, and Chelsea on the spot said two months. We were then given a number to wait to have a quick discussion with a immigration controller about the extension. We must have waited around ten minutes and we were ushered into a glass room. The controller took our paperwork and passport off us and immediately asked us about the outward flight issue. For some reason Chelsea then became a nervous wreck, stuttering over her words as she spoke and broke out in a cold sweat like she was guilty of something. Liam managed to explain everything to the controller, that we cannot get out Indian visa until Monday so are applying for extension so we don't overstay. He was happy and signed it off.

More waiting. Our number needed to be called out for us to collect our passports and paperwork at one counter, then go pay at another counter. This time we waited around 30 minutes. We had been granted two months and the fee was around Rs7500 each, £35. Once paid we got a receipt, they took our passports back off us, and we waited again this time for them to be stamped and we collected them at the previous counter. All in all we were in an out within a hour, and we now have a visa for Sri Lanka valid until 7th December.

We think that is the end of India, we will have to save that for another trip. We are not disappointed, we have loved Sri Lanka, especially the beaches so we will head back there, the season is just about changing so the weather will be great. There is also the east and north of the island we have not seen so that is an option. First though tomorrow we are heading back to Mirissa our favorite of the beaches we have been to, and we are talking about holding up there for a month, as now we have the time, and live the proper beach bum life.

Posted by Chelsandliam 02:09 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged sri_lanka colombo Comments (2)

The beach life in Unawatuna

sunny 35 °C

We were sad to leave Mirissa, it has been our favourite beach so far, but we wanted to move on and see more of the coast. Working our way back towards Galle our next step is Unawatuna.

It was easy enough to get there, jump on a public bus that runs along the coast, it took around 30 minutes of crazy driving to get us here, thankfully in one piece no thanks to the psychopathic driver with a death wish. The bus onlys costs 20Rs however so we cant really complain. As usual we had previously looked at places to stay and knew where we wanted to be, so grabbed a tuk tuk to take us to Peacock hotel. It is definitely the nicest hotel we have stayed in in Sri Lanka. We have a bright airy room, complete with (small) four poster bed and balcony overlooking the beautiful Unawatuna bay. All that for a bargain low season price of £7 a night.

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There is one slight negative however, as there are currently some small works being carried out our side of the beach to keep the ever present tide a bay, this means that we can not walk from our hotel to the main area of the beach without having to walk about 3km around via the main road. It's not the end of the world but it is a nuisance.

We have not done much with our four days here, most of our time has been spent relaxing, laying in the sun, reading and walking along the beach. We are a little disappointed by the main beach. Although it looks stunning from our balcony, when you get there you realise how busy it is. There are lots of average restaurants and bars that spill out onto the sand with there tables, chairs and sunbeds, and there are a lot of people, even for low season. We suppose we were just used to our quiet tranquil beach of Mirissa. The sea is turquoise and when sand is not being whipped up by the waves is quite clear in the shallows.

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We have swam at our side of the beach and as we have sat on our balcony, or in the restaurant we have seen three sea turtles, swimming and eating some vegetation about 20 ft away, it is quite unbelievable. We have spent hour watching them surface and dive back down. Getting a photo proved to be difficult and we didn't have the patience for it but see if you can spot him...

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The main reason we have come to Unawatuna however is to go diving again, as it could be our last chance before we get back to the UK. There are a few dive shops to choose from, and we went for one near our hotel that looked professional and had new equipment. We organised the dive for yesterday, and were up and out for 9am eager to get under the water again. There were only three of us diving, us two and a Serbian man on his holidays. We readied our equipment (which we thankfully remembered how to set up) and had a brief about the dive and what we might expect to see. The dive sight was around 15mins off shore and was basically a large underwater rock going down to a maximum depth of 20 metres we would then circle it making our way back up. We jumped in a small motor boat with our equipment and set off.

The sea was immediately more choppy than it looked from shore, and did not improve as we came to the dive site. We geared up while being rocked from side to side and then had to wait for a safe chance to get off the boat. The Serb went first and was immediately surprised by a current, this means we had to wait on the boat until he was sorted, all the time getting hotter and hotter in our wet suits. Thankfully Liam went next backward rolling off the opposite side of the boat out of the way. The current was really strong and we could see why the Serb had being taken by surprise. The lead diver told Liam to descend to 5 metres where the current was less and wait for everyone, so he did following the anchor line to 5 metre and waited, alone, underwater for what was rather too long.

Because of the current the water was quite full of sediment and visibility was poor for the first 8 metre or so. Chelsea had had a hold up waiting for the Serb to sort him self out, then not having enough weights on to descend (we don't know why but she is super buoyant and needs at least 7kilos of weights on top of all the equipment to sink). When she finally got under, and saw the limited visibility, plus being moved around by the current it was just too much for her. She decided not go along with the dive as she did not think she would enjoy it. Liam waited whilst our lead diver tried to talk her through it (underwater, with hand signals) but Chelsea had made up her mind. Once she was safely back on the surface Liam carried on the dive with just the lead diver, the Serb had obviously opted out aswell.

The current decreased a bit as we approached 10-12m and then sediment was less dense so visibility increased, although the water temperature dropped. There was plenty of life around the rock, loads of fish, a lot more than we had seen at any one time in Vietnam. There were lion fish, parrotfish, puffer fish and loads of banner fish. There are lots of fish that Liam does not know the name of, some were really huge, there was a school of silver fish and other darting in and out of the cracks and holes in the rock. You could still feel the current, sweeping you backwards and forwards but everything moved with you, Liam was never taken out of reach of either the rock or the lead diver so was perfectly happy.

Our maximum depth was 20m, and we were under for around 40minutes. Liam really enjoyed the dive although sad he could not have done it with Chelsea. She was sunning her self on the boat we Liam bobbed a shore, she had been sea sick, which we think had been induced by rocking around waiting to get in the water and the heat in the wetsuit, but was fine. We had the option of another dive but decided against it as the visibility was not great so we might as well save the money for if we get another chance some where else.

On our last few days here we managed to find a shortcut to the beach, cutting through a perilous building sight with a shear drop onto a pile of rocks but it saved our legs from walking around. Further down the beach right at the end it is more peaceful. The restaurants and bars are more spaced apart and instead of horrible concrete monstrosities they are little wooden shacks and we have sat and enjoyed mediocre seafood for dinner over candlelight on the sand, petting the many beach dogs.

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We are taking a break from the coast and heading to Colombo there to try and get our Indian visa, if we can not get it for whatever reason, we have decided we will extend our stay in Sri Lanka.

Posted by Chelsandliam 01:25 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged sri_lanka unawatuna Comments (2)

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