With a week to spare I had to decide where I wanted to go. I narrowed it down to three choices: Trincomalee, Jaffna, and Kalpitiya. It is off season on the East coast (Trincomalee) and Jaffna was getting mixed reviews since it was hardest hit by the recent war and due to it being so remote, I was a bit nervous about traveling there alone, so that left Kalpitiya. With kite surfing, Dolphins, and scuba diving, I thought it would be a nice, relaxing end to my time in Sri Lanka.
When the usual Buddha buses were now Jesus buses, I knew I was in different territory. When I got off the Jesus bus, I was immediately followed by a tuk tuk driver that just wouldn’t leave me alone. Finally I said fine, I’ll go with you (and pay 10x more than I would have taking another bus). Sensing my frustration, he stopped at the wine shop (that sadly doesn’t really sell wine) to let me pick up a cold beer for the road. He seemed disappointed that I only bought one small can – maybe because along the way he tried to invite himself to stay at my guesthouse for the 3 nights I was there and maybe if I had drank more I would have said yes?? Ya, no.
Upon arriving at my guesthouse, I witnessed the manager berating a couple of guests for thinking his 1200 rupee BBQ chicken dinner was too expensive. Having also just arrived, they wanted to see what else there was. The manager told them that if they didn’t decide right then, then no dinner for them. I mouthed “what a dick” to them and they agreed and declined the chicken dinner. I asked how much for a veg dinner and he said I could pay what I thought it was worth. He went on to complain about being short staffed and having to do everything himself. He told me his wife had died of cancer and that he became an alcoholic but then his friend bought this place and let him run it. I felt empathy for him but looking at my very dirty bathroom, he obviously wasn’t doing everything.
I checked out the beach, which was pleasantly non-touristy but also very windy and strewn with plastic and dead fish from the local fisherman’s nets. I could see all the kite surfers down the beach at donkey point (which I assume was named because there are actually lots of wild donkeys here) and decided that maybe I wouldn’t try a new sport that I would likely never do again anyway. I wanted to dive the next day but the one PADI certified dive center was a 20-minute drive south. Like everything else in Kalpitiya, it cost twice as much as the rest of Sri Lanka and they didn’t have space for the next morning either, so I said I’d come the day after instead.
I spent that evening reading on the porch of my overpriced, yet not that nice, not even on the beach cabana being swarmed by the most annoying tiny little flies. Dolphin watching didn’t interest me either, so with nothing to do the next day, I just planned to visit the beach and hang out on my porch. Thankfully I had just started a good book, so that was okay.
When I asked the manager how much a tuk tuk would be to get me to the dive shop the next morning, I was told 1000 rupees (it should have been no more than 300) – that’s when I snapped. You can say it was the rupee that broke the donkey’s back. I told him that I’d like to leave a day early and he said no refunds for the money I already paid for the room.
After breakfast, I went to the beach before the winds picked up and did a cost-benefit analysis of my decision to leave and decided that it was worth giving up $35USD for my happiness. On my way back I came upon a lone, skinny puppy looking for food. I had seen a mother dog with full milk bags earlier, so I picked up the pup and started to look for her mum. Within minutes the pup was asleep in my arms. I finally found the rest of the litter and a male dog that seemed to have adopted them. I put her down and tried to walk away but all 6 of them followed me out into the road. I stayed and played with them for a long while and finally 3 of them ran off into a yard, but the little one I had been holding stuck with me along with a litter mate and the male dog. I finally just sat on the side of the road and the two pups fell asleep at my feet. That’s when I got up and ran and cried and couldn’t stop crying. I felt so guilty.
And then while back reading on my porch, I heard a tiny little mew of a kitten. Just beside my cabana was a very young kitten just looking at me – of course I had to pick her up. I tucked her into my lap and continued to read. She started nursing on my hand, then had a bath and fell asleep. I asked the manager if I could give her some milk and he said no, that she’d just keep coming back. Also the resident dog, one that the manager rescued from the street (he’s not all bad), kept trying to attack the kitten so I handed her over to some passing Brits.
Whenever I left my guesthouse, I’d run into the pups. That little one that I’d grown attached to had also become attached to me and she always followed me and I also had to try to lose her, which just broke my heart more and more. And then the kitten came back too. Because I’m not going straight home I can’t really be picking up strays at this point in my trip and the kittens and puppies are actually the better off animals. That didn’t stop me from contacting an animal relocation service though. Unfortunately the cost to ship that puppy home was $5000USD. It’s just not practical. A western couple that live in Sri Lanka were also playing with the pups one time. They are considering getting a pup, so I begged them to take the skinny one. All I can do now is hope.
That evening I had planned to go elsewhere for dinner, but now all of a sudden the manager was all nice and said that he told me I could eat dinner there for free (he did not), but sure I’ll eat for free. Maybe he thought I’d stay but no, my mind was made up.
The next morning the wee kitten was sleeping on my porch sofa. Oh my heart. Before the manager saw her, I had to take her away from the guesthouse and went to the beach to try and find her some fish. Sadly the beach dogs are very territorial and the kitten was terrified. I ended up leaving her with my pup and as luck would have it, they were curious and distracted by each other, so I was able to make a clean break. I still tear up thinking about them and wonder if I could have done more.
My 8am pre-arranged tuk tuk didn’t show up and I wonder if the manager sabotaged that as its not like them to not show. With the help of some westerners on the street I got another one but now I was already 45 mins behind schedule. My “free” breakfast hadn’t been ready before I left and the samosas I bought the day before were covered in ants, so off I went with no food and no water. When I got to the bus station I had to choose between the rustic public bus and a nice a/c bus. I asked which one was faster and did not get a clear answer. With a 4 hour journey ahead of me, I chose the a/c bus. Wrong choice. That one sat there for an hour waiting to be filled up as I watched 3 local buses leave. Normally I wouldn’t care but I had a train to catch and now I was certain I would miss it. My “hanger” and my emotional past few days got the better of me and I had a total meltdown. I was done with this country and I wanted to go home! My friends talked me off the ledge (thank god for cheap data plans), I put on some music, and the bus finally got moving. Yes, I missed my train so add another bus and another tuk tuk ride and 11 hours later I was back in Unawatuna.
Although Unawatuna hadn’t been my favorite place, I knew I wanted to dive and this was the closest, good dive location to the airport. There is something comforting coming back to a place that you’ve travelled to before. The guesthouse I’d stayed at when I was there previously had a room for me and once I dropped my bag, I went straight to the dive shop where they were also happy to see me. Within 1/2 hour of my arrival, I was on the back of a scooter and on the way to the wine shop, where they actually had a California Cabernet Sauvignon.
I had two full days there. I knew where all the cheap places to eat were, where the best coffee was, and where to get the cheapest King coconuts. I didn’t need to see any sites, so I just dove and read my book. I did 5 dives there in addition to the 4 I did last time- all at different sites.
The dives weren’t amazing and the dive master was a little too pawsy, but I was just so happy to be there. It was totally worth the excursion. My final day was spent on the beach, which I hadn’t actually done yet in Unawatuna. It was nice and I was in no hurry to get to Negombo (the closest town to the airport) anyway. I had a final veg/cheese roti for lunch and then had a pleasant 2 train journey up to Negombo before heading to Delhi early the next morning.
Sri Lanka was great, but I think I would have been fine with just a 30-day Visa instead of spending that $100USD to extend it a week. I secretly hoped that going to the Maldives would have been easier/cheaper from Sri Lanka, but sadly it wasn’t.