Sri Lanka… at last

Well, all our trips and flights are now booked up until early February. Everything is now paid for with the exception of the Bhutan trip and that’s going through as I type this.

After a day spent sorting all this out, we returned to the hotel, gathered our bags and taxi’d to the airport. Our thanks to the staff of the Hotel Pearl who were very helpful during our short stay in Mumbai.

The airport was chaos. As seems typical in Asia, the airport queues began outside as passports and ticket bookings were checked. Once inside we were faced with three queues for the first x-ray machines. Soon we realised that we had three queues for two x-ray machines as one of them was reserved for rich British Airways passengers.

Of course, we were in one of the two queues that became a single one at the end. Then, as we neared the machine – finally – it broke down. So now we had three queues going into one machine. Argh,

Eventually, we pushed our hold baggage through the machine and they didn’t spot the kilotons of terrorist weaponry I had stuffed inside my Don’t Panic towel. A small sticker was put on the zipper of my rucksack (which promptly fell off – I had to put it on myself to seal the luggage properly) and we stood in the Sri Lankan Air queue to et our boarding passes.

Another member of staff threw a fit as our bags didn’t have security strapping wrapped round them and was insisting we go back through the x-ray section. No …ing way. We pointed to the stickers and remained stubborn. After checking with a security guard he shrugged and walked off.

Armed with our passes, we went through immigration and I got my passport stamped with yet another “exit” smudge. We then had to go round the back of the baggage drop and identify our bags before they were finally shunted off for loading onto the plane.

And that wasn’t the end of it. Our carry-on baggage was gone through by hand as we boarded the plane. Blimey. I’m not one to complain about security – and I’m sure there must have been a reason for the increase – but this is by far the most I have ever seen before a flight. Still, the staff were friendly and almost apologetic. Job well done.

Neither of us managed any sleep on the plane. “Dinner” was served at around 4:30am which really messed with our body clocks. Decent food but just entirely the wrong time of day to be eating it, unless we’d been out on the beer. Which we hadn’t.

On schedule, we landed in Sri Lanka at around 6am, filed through immigration, got another new smudge each and waited for Indy’s parents to appear. Mala and Gilbert surfaced just before 7:00 having made a stupidly early start to meet us, and drove us to their home via the supermarket. Hey, who knew there were so many types of rice? There’s more to see in new countries than just the people and buildings! Shops are always worth a gawp.

When we arrived at their rather nice pad, I was somewhat rude and collapsed. In fairness, I’d not slept in almost 24 hours apart from a brief snooze in the car.

At around 3pm I awoke to see that Hans had also zonked out in the other bed and we shook off the cobwebs and re-introduced ourselves to our kind hosts. They in turn introduced us to Nigel, a friend of theirs who drives a tuk-tuk and who would be happy to take us pretty much anywhere while we’re in immediate the area.

We’ve settled on some plans for the next few days, so Nigel helped us action them – checking out train times, making some phone calls, trawling the internet for places to stay and taking us to *cough* KFC. Hey, my record still stands at having had at least one in every country I’ve visited on the trip!

Our rough plans, then, are as follows:

Tomorrow we set off for the coast where we’re dive, swim, muck about and see in the new year. On the 1st, we’ll head back up to Colombo where we’ll meet Mala and Gilbert (and possibly some other people Hans knows) for the new year elephant parade. On the 2nd, our hosts will drive us to the highlands via an elephant orphanage (Mala has adopted one of the infants) and we’ll stay there one night, before moving on further inland for another day and once again returning to Colombo. On our last full day or day-and-a-half (dependent on when we return), Nigel will take us around the sights – temples, the zoo, museum and so on.

And then the airport and a mid-evening flight to Trevandrum.

It wasn’t until we got here that we realised that seven days probably wasn’t actually enough. But with halk of India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal to fit in before the end of February we really are on a tight schedule!

We had a rather delicious home-cooked supper before I tried to fix Mala’s broadband (I think the problem’s at the company’s end) and realising that the grit I had in my eyes was imaginary. I was just so flipping tired.

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