Negombo, Sri Lanka
Finally, we were on our merry!
A mid-day flight meant no stressful morning (we even had time for a café breakfast) and plenty of time to do the oh-so-important liquorice* shopping at the airport. Yes, one can get the good stuff in Finland as well, but we’d rather be sure. Salty liquorice is, for reasons unknown, frowned upon outside of the Nordic Countries.
Flee or flight?
The connecting flight i Helsinki was easy as, but worries begun to arise regarding the next one: Not only did we only have 35 minutes layover originally (between landing and boarding starting, that is, so in reality some 60-70 minutes), but our flight from Helsinki was delayed some half hour, most of which we didn’t manage to catch up.
Dashing through the aisles, speeding along the tracks, with constant bursts of “Sorry!””, “Connecting flight!”, “Scuse me!” “Thanks” and so forth, we managed to be at our connecting gate around 20 minutes after our previous plane touched ground. That must be some kind of a record, at least for economy class passengers?
So, eventually we made it to our first destination: Negombo, a beach town more or less grown together with the northern parts of Sri Lanka’s capital of Colombo.
Tired from being on the road for some 20 hours, we nevertheless took a stroll in the neighbourhood, mostly in order to find the dive centre we had booked for the day after, but also to find, in no particular order, SIM-cards, flip-flops, beer and sunscreen.
Eventually, the waiter poured us some, though, revealing the fizzy hoppy goodness inside.
We found most, and purchased some. However, this was election day, which, in Sri Lanka, means that beer cannot be served.
Before our meal the waiter brought a tea pot and two cups. Thinking that it was just a Lankese custom, big with the tea as they are, we let the pot rest for a go, awaiting our meal. Eventually, the waiter poured us some, though, revealing the fizzy hoppy goodness inside. Clever concealment, barkeep!**
Diving Miss Daisy
The first dive site was some 50 minutes boat ride from the shore, and with joint effort we pushed the boat into the waves and set off. It was Caroline’s first dive in quite some time, so the presence of a dive master was a soothing and welcome one. Despite the heavy rain during the evening and the night before, visibility was real good, and the reef was full of marine life; lots of starfish, corals, lobster antennae, and apparently a turtle. We missed the last one though, because we had to ascend a bit earlier than the rest of the group. That was no loss, though, as a school of big yellow and grey fish was curious about the three humansized creatures floating in mid-water, so they circled us for five minutes straight. Awesome safety stop!
The second dive was shallower and one reef closer to the shore, making it much more susceptible to the outswoop of silt. Visibility was low, and the reef considerably less teeming. However, I brought my brand new camera, supposedly waterproof to 20 metres. This was only a 13 metre dive, though, so I took the risk, and the camera made it back, fully armed and operational.
Morays and octopi*** hid in the caverns, and was caught, rather unconvincingly, on the sensor.
After a yummy lunch of grilled mullet, fresh from the sea, we set off to finish what we had started regarding buying the essentials****, before meeting our surprisingly small and eutophone tour group and going for group dinner at a place that presumably hadn’t heard about the tea trick.
What a day! Or should I say two days? Or three.
Just after noon time Friday we took a plane that would take us to Helsinki. We had had our preflight drinks. And we had bought some liquorice (Never leave home without the black salty gold) which meant that we were properly prepared for anything that might occur.
In Helsinki we would catch the second plane and then we would arrive at the last transit airport Bangkok. I was slightly concerned that we had not enough time to be able to make that last transfer… But so far so good, we thought in Stockholm. Little did we know that Finnair had decided to delay the flight with some 20 minutes. It was rather sweet of them to make sure that some transfer passenger would be able to board the plane. But for us it was a disaster. We basically had 15 minutes to leave the plane, run through safety controls and board the next and last plane….
But the movies were plentiful and Martin is a delightful company so the long and uncomfortable journey didn’t feel as long as it should. Although the gentleman in front of me reclining his seat from takeoff to landing did not do his part to ensure a happy trip.
But we arrived at our destination safe, sound and very happy. Time to do some sightseeing and some dive prepping. (Also we checked in at a very quaint two room hotel in downtown Negombo which we would discover is situated right between a mosque and a church. No sleeping in).
At the dive centre we found this lovely restaurant. Of course we had to check the local quisine. I had Kotthi rotti, a Sri Lankesian streetfood which is shredded pancakes, refried with sliced veg. Add some pulled protein and we have a home run.
As it was the presidential Election Day, nobody were allowed to serve alcohol. So we had Sri Lankesian pure silver tea. Beer served in a ginormous tea kettle. Love the way rules are bent in this country.
Sunday we had two dives. One magical with plenty of fish, sea slugs and other interesting submarine fauna. Second dive though, wasn’t as magical. We were closer to land and with that the silt were denser and we had crap visibility. Also we lost our group.
But my dive buddy extraordinaire and I didn’t loose each other so we proceeded according to safety regulations of searching for the others for a minute and when unsuccessful, do a controlled ascent with a safety stop. Our fearless divemaster found us in the mid of our safety stop and kept us close by for the rest of the dive. Especially me. I did not need to use a single muscle because he swam for the both of us. Martin he trusted to be able to swim by himself.
Then we had the best grilled fresh fish imaginable for lunch. Which very much made up for the old (probably Sri Lanka’s oldest, leanest and meanest) mutton curry I had for our meet and greet dinner. Yes, we have met up with our tour members and tomorrow we start our journey for real.
*) Salty of course. Sweet liquorice can be found worldwide, and we did bring some ammonium chloride powder to spice up what we buy en-route, but Nothing Compares….
**) It was beer, for clarification. Beer served in a tea pot.
***) It was actually just one octopus, but I like its plural form. Octopi.
****) Including, we had come to realise, an adapter. None of the so called universal adapters and chargers seem to recognise the Lankian weird three-pronged outlet as part of the universe.