After another relaxing day at Unawatuna Beach, we discover – by going to the train station in Weligama – that our plan of taking the train back to Colombo won’t be an option, because the one we wanted to take doesn’t transport bicycles, which is understandable considering the crowds jammed into each and every train. We book a driver instead and quickly whizz across a newly finished, eerily empty Southern Highway, no honking, swerving or Sri Lankan-style driving until we exit its empty lanes and promptly get stuck in the stand-still traffic and general craziness on the streets of Colombo.
In 3 1/2 hours we’re back at the Gateway Hotel Airport Garden where we’re warmly welcomed like heroes by the staff, and immensely relieved to find our large carton bike boxes waiting for us in the storage room. We’re different people now, changed by the sights and experiences we’ve had the privilege of having during the past 25 days. Our eyes now see the hotel and the country in a much warmer, kinder light.
Christof boxes the bicycles for the flight, and we spend the rest of the afternoon lazing around the hotel pool; the breezeless sweltering heat vibrates around us, thick with the sounds of the construction crew working from sunup to sundown on the new waterside highway just beyond the pool. A last Sri Lankan supper of kottu roti (vegetable pancakes) an item not on the menu at this – flash – hotel, but which one of the chefs happily prepares specially for Christof.
The next day we arrive at the airport, which is only 10 minutes from the hotel, early for our 14:00 flight, checking our belongings through to Bangkok without complications.
Goodbye Sri Lanka! !
Country of aromatic mild teas, of beautiful long-haired women protected from the sun by umbrellas, of friendly open-hearted people, of children in white school uniforms, of barefoot men in sarongs, of ladies in saris and sparkly sandals, of families sitting crowded onto one moped seat, of orange clad monks and Muslims in traditional garb,
of giant golden Buddhas, of temples and stupas, of hot humid weather, of crazy drivers, of ancient diesel buses and honking trucks, of tuk tuk’s and safari jeeps, of luxurious jungles alive with elephants and tigers, iguanas and crocodiles, of colorful tropical birds, of chattering monkeys, of whales and exotic fish, of thin, wooden fishing boats and polefishers, of dogs and cows lying in the middle of the road, of laundry drying on lines, bushes, grass and barbed wired fences, of corrugated-tin-roofed huts, of rice paddies and tea plantations, of coconut and banana, papaya and mango trees, of rice and curry, string hoppers and kottu roti, of spices, gardens and Ayurveda masseurs, of crowded shops, of golden beaches and blue green-water, of all this and much much more. Goodbye Sri Lanka!