After spending $25 to get from Unawatuna to Talalla, I wanted to save some money and try the public bus. Thankfully there is a website that shows all the routes, so you pick the one that looks like where you want to go and then head out to the main road bus stop and hail your bus when you see it coming. Sounds easy enough, but the buses drive at insane speeds. So the first bus, I gently waved at and it just kept going. I had no idea how frequently they came, so I stood there with my 12kg backpack, sweat trickling down my back, waiting for my next shot. I have poor eyesight, which really didn’t help, but when I thought I saw my next bus approach, I frantically starting waving my arms- thankfully it was my bus. He slowed down just enough for me to grab onto the back door’s handles and pull myself in. I grabbed a seat at the back feeling quite amused at the parrot decor, Buddhas surrounded by disco lights, and blaring music videos. I have to say one of the best modern technologies for travel is not only smart phones, but google maps. Without wifi, google maps will still track your location and show you how far you are from your destination. I was able to confirm that I was on the correct bus and I knew where I should approximately get off, but then I had a moment of, “how the heck do I get him to stop the bus for me?” Luckily Tangalle has a bus station and that’s where everybody got off. Phew. Bus cost $0.50, tuk tuk to hotel $1.50.
It is much cheaper to stay on the beach in Tangalle than it was on the other 3 beaches, so of course I chose a beachfront guesthouse. It had 4 rooms, two inside and two with outer patios, I was sadly in one of the inside rooms, which was dark and a bit odd smelling. I asked if I could upgrade, but they were full. No problem, it’s warm enough outside. They kindly offered me a coconut and I sat outside with a nice view of the ocean and the smell of nearby rotting fish.
I went for a walk down the beach, which is tough because the waves almost come right up to the properties. If you want to swim, there is quite a drop, so with the waves and the depth, you’d better know how to swim. The part of beach that my guesthouse was on was littered with plastic. I didn’t bother walking the full length, I’d seen enough. I went back to my guesthouse to see about doing an excursion to the rock monastery (mulkirigala raja maha vihara) and/or the turtle hatchery. The turtle hatchery, including tuk tuk there and back was $25, so I declined – I’ve seen it before, so no loss. I decided on the rock monastery for $18 instead.
Since I wasn’t going until later that afternoon, I decided I might as well walk the length of the beach, I could see that it stretched out quite far east. Tangalle is actually made up of several smaller beaches which seem to be separated by large rock walls. I was actually on Medaketiya beach which is just east of Tangalle beach and is, in my opinion, the worst part of the entire long stretch of sand. Where I had originally planned to stay was Marakolliya beach, but after reading about how quiet it was, I thought I might want to be closer to town after being at isolated Talalla. Again, I should have listened to my gut and also chosen the more introverted option. It was absolutely beautiful at that end of the beach. I took my time, picking up seashells along the way. The two things that made me feel a little less sad about not staying on the East end of the beach, is that the ocean is not really swimmable, with big waves and boulders close to shore; the other reason being that I was quite burnt (and leathery) from my stay in Talalla. I never thought I’d say this, but I was done with the beach for awhile. Thankfully when I got back, the guesthouse owner agreed to let me leave a day earlier without a cancellation penalty.
I went to the rock temple, about 40 minutes away and made my offerings to seven reclining Buddhas in a 3rd century temple built on a rock with small caves that act as shrines for the Buddha statues. It was a poya day (full moon) and every poya day is a Buddhist national holiday where practicing Buddhists will visit a temple for religious observances. Needless to say, the temple was quite busy but it was fascinating to be a part of it all and receive blessings with everyone else. That was my one night in Tangalle, which wasn’t too bad after all.
And now more bus travel, this time to Udawalawe National Park. You must do considerable research into which bus(es) to take – don’t just show up and hope someone will helpful. As is the same in India and Nepal, Sri Lankans do not like to give negative answers, so if you ask a question, such as will bus X get me to point Z? You will get the familiar head wobble that can mean yes, maybe, or I don’t know. Take your pick! The universal ‘no’ head turn is not often used here. Anyway, the point is, I researched, took two (correct) buses and safely made it to Udawalawe. Stay tuned for safari adventures!!