Today we awoke to go on our 12 km cycle ride with Chameera Cycles through the Paddy fields and lagoon. The price was $16 US dollars each which seemed like a bargain and with the great reviews on Trip advisor well worth a try. The villa staff had organised for two Tuk Tuk’s to take us to the meeting point – cheap at only 200 Rupee each or around $2 a Tuk tuk. A short wait for an Indian couple to return after having their breakfast at a nearby location, helmets on and then off we went. The ride was not too onerous at all and the stops frequent.The guide was very informative and there was even a person bringing up the rear who took photos every now and again that apparently will be sent to us by email.
Stops that were made included:-
• Visiting the gates of the lagoon which regulate the amount of sea water that comes into the freshwater area. This is important for the creatures that live there and also the mangrove environment
• A stop at the house of a villager who collects the crabs in the lagoon by stabbing their shell with a pointy spear which enables him to pick them up but does not kill them. These crabs are then sold to local restaurants for around $12 kg. Always don’t like seeing crabs bound but still alive but I’m not trying to live off a few crab sales each day so really can’t be too particular about it
• A roadside stall to sample the coconuts (yep none of us are a fan of coconut milk no matter how many times we sample it) and also some corn which was cooking in the pot and looked great but was really starchy and not sweet at all. Quite a contrast to our sweet corn at home and whilst filling not something that you’d look forward to eating. Such a disappointment given the lovely yellow colour of each cob.
• A local textile making factory which uses old traditional methods to weave cotton to make things such as quilt covers, tablecloths and serviettes and stitch soft toys. The people there have been working in this building doing the same thing for the past thirty years. On a good month they make $120 – probably what one tablecloth will sell for once all the people along the chain have taken their cut. Standing there watching this, kinda made you think of all of the people in the world working in places like this being paid almost nothing for a skill that is dying, and the rich people of the world who are taking advantage of it. Somehow doesn’t seem right and yet we still go to places like K Mart and demand cheap items. We did our bit by buying $170 worth of items with the money going directly to the people in the factory. Not much for us but an awful lot for them.
• Our last stop was a Buddhist temple and school for Monks. The cycle company came complete with beautiful wrap around attire for us girls in order to hide our legs and then up we went numerous stairs to the top of the mountain – what is it with these Buddhists and their love of uphill locations! At the top of the mountain under rocks was the temple complete with another lying down Buddha although this one was covered by a sheer fabric curtain and we were told that it was not good to look it in the eye. Not sure exactly why but the curtain remained in position.
We arrived back at Chameera cycles base around three hours after we left. It was incredibly hot by this stage but the cold towels, water and bananas were a welcome sight and very much appreciated. This activity was one of the cheapest we have done but really outstanding value for money with everything thought of. A great way to spend a few hours around this area.
A tuk tuk ride then took us back to the Sun and Sea for a bite to eat. Yep that’s right one tuk tuk. The driver convinced us that four people would fit in his tuk tuk and whilst he was fundamentally right, there’s no way that would be seen as legal in Australia but did make for a laugh. The pizzas and garlic breads that were ordered were very enjoyable – traditional base done in a pizza oven, topped off with a game of Uno whilst waiting to the backdrop of a Sri Lankan beach.
A short walk took us back to the house to drop off the purchases. Then us three girls hopped on another tuk tuk headed for Sanctuary Spa in what was to be a two hour marathon, all in event, but turned out to be an hour Deep Tissue massage as the instructions got lost in translation. Still for $99 for the three of us not a bad deal including massaging stomachs full of pizza and a butt hammering for Claire as apparently her butt was very tight! I didn’t have the same problem.
Now Sanctuary Spa is kind of in the shopping strip which is not huge but is big enough to have a little fun. A quick top up at the ATM lead up to a Souvenir shop where an old man tried valiantly to sell us everything in the store but ended up doing a sale of 10 fridge magnets. Still I guess something is better than nothing. We then heard a noise that is common in Sri Lanka – we would call it the Mr Whippy noise but it is a Tuk Tuk that goes around selling all manner of items. Previously we have noticed them selling electrical fans cos hey that’s how you’d buy them, right? In this instance though it was the bread man…yep the old fashioned home delivery bread man. Now the bread looked alright and he had stopped outside a jewellery shop where some rolls were being brought by the shop keeper. We enquired as to how much the bread was and was told that it as $1.00. Now Jen has brought over some Vegemite, special request by Philip and so the purchase of bread seemed like a good deal. We purchased two loaves and the jeweller enquired as to whether we would like them cut. We thought he was taking them to a slicing machine. Oh no, he took them back into his jewellery store, laid out some newspaper on his bench and proceeded to slice the bread in large slices ( actually squashing the bread but the experience was so funny that we let him go ahead and finish slicing the loaf).
Armed with the addition of two bread loaves (one sliced!) and also two pairs of earrings that well we just had to buy, we proceeded to continue our shopping expedition; taking a short cut through a house that had a sign up saying ‘Short cut to the beach – only for foreigners’ – we think this may have been because there was a damn vicious dog, who was on a chain inside the house who maybe liked to eat foreigners, other than that we’re not sure why.
The short cut came out at a location where a lady was selling ‘happy pants’ Claire had been looking for a pair and this lady was desperate to sell us some. After a few quick try on changes in what was her little shop box (yep the shop was a tiny rectangular box just big enough to stand in) a couple of pairs were purchased – one for Claire and one for Jen for the grand sum of $7.50 each. A little further up the road, we discovered a much larger store not only selling happy pants and other clothing but able to make to measure using a veritable treasure trove of fabric. With some orders put in and the lady apologising for needing to charge $10 instead of $8.50 to cover the production costs, we continued walking along the street, making our next stop at the juice bar where some very tasty concoctions were made up along with some friendly banter from the young shop keeper who has ‘a lot of family in Melbourne (seems a common thread that people want out if they can get it!)
So with our bags filled and a few laughs been had along the way, we caught a tuk tuk back to the villa where Philip had spent the afternoon swimming, updating the blog, going through photos and generally enjoying the ‘serenity’ of the place. This was further highlighted by the chef setting the table and serving us a really enjoyable and tasty pesto pasta and Sri Lankan fried chicken for a total cost of $62 in ingredients. Not only was it really nice but we didn’t have to go out, wait or wash up so a win all around.
Tomorrow we were going to go out whale watching but this is all booked out so going to go on the 7th. Therefore a relaxing day at this stage. Maybe another massage and a trip down to the ‘happy pants’ store as Philip is keen to explore his own ‘happy pants’ purchase. Whilst there were a number of highlights today, it will be the people that we have met that will be remembered – the bread man, jeweller, happy pants seller, juice man, tuk tuk drivers, masseuse and souvenir sellers. People are what make a place and the Sri Lankans are mighty friendly people.