Thursday, 22 July 2010

Beach of a life!

At the end of last week I took a well deserved rest for a weekend of fun, with a random selection of Brits. Last week a couple arrived, Leanne and Steve. We got on well, got hammered the first night and stoned the second. And then the girls showed up! Jo and Amy, 2 ex-pats living in Hong Kong, and Saiorsia, of Irish descent, a recent graduate in chemistry. We all got on like a house on fire, so I wisely called a halt to writing, to enjoy some time to play.I didn’t want to keep myself from enjoying the company, nor to feel crap about not applying myself. Once I found out they were all leaving today, the decision to take a break was made. So now I’m back on track, after a great weekend, with some lovely people. One must maintain a healthy balance to life, mustn’t one? We had a go at skim boarding, played rounder’s, catch and generally buggered about. A few of the staff here commented on the transformation in me, agreeing on the wisdom of having a break and letting my hair down. (Photo: Puffer fish, slowly dying in fresh water - French Garden guesthouse, Uppuveli, Sri Lanka)

I’ve also improved my suntan; spending time socializing on the beach sorted that out. Being honest I’m too bored lying out there in the sun, I can’t be bothered to sit and do nothing, there’s too much I could be doing. Mind you, my legs and arms ache like hell now, after the beach activities. I didn’t join in the fishing trawl; just enjoyed watching the combined might of the four women team, ‘the fit family Austrian.’ It’s unbelievably touching seeing family groups travelling further afield together. This lot are all toting backpacks, even the young lad. He joined us playing rounder’s, at least that way it wasn’t two guys against three women. Out of quite a few of the tourists asked he was the only one who would join in. At the time I thought that was a poor show, on reflection it’s how I would have reacted to strangers asking me if I wanted to join in a ball game. Shame on me! Only time will tell if that realization alters future decisions for such opportunities. (Photo: Aryan supremacy at its best - Uppuveli beach, East coast, Sri Lanka)

Another rethink, the presence of so many police and army here! Being there to sort out problems with two drunks and a Tuktuk, it removed the chance of the possible escalation of an argument. Having gone to town, for a leaving meal, the last three of us found one of the few remaining Tuktuks around town. The driver said 300 rupees, so we got him to agree on 200, and away we went; or so we thought! A huge drunken Sri Lankan got into the front with the driver, and proceeded to shout greetings and declarations of love for the English. It wasn’t nice, loud drunkenness isn’t pleasant to be around, but not a problem. It became apparent the driver was drunk too, he spent half the journey veering over to the wrong side of the road. They spoke together in Tamil a bit, then the giant declares, “so you pay 300 rupees to Uppuveli.” NO, was the resounding reply from all three of us. From that point on, it could easily have gone badly wrong. They were both shouting and insisting we pay 300, my response was to demand they stop and let us off. It was starting to get physical, Steve’s wrist being grabbed as we walked away, money being demanded, 200 rupees there or 300 back to our hotel. I was emphatic, no chance, they were either going to take us all the way for 200, or only get 100. The guy actually threw the 100 on the floor, so we picked it up again and went to walk away. At that point, 2 army guys and about 6 police arrived, seemingly from nowhere, then another couple of police on a motorcycle. It wasn’t long before a sea of assault rifles surrounded us. I didn’t personally think there was any chance of it going wrong for us, from that point. I didn’t harangue the police; I used the most senior one to explain the situation, and also the guy who seemed to have a good grasp of the English language. The big Sri Lankan was well over the top, roaring protests and accusations. They were told to leave us and return to Trinco, as they drove away the giant was leaning out the open doorway, hurling some threat or insult back at us in Tamil. Poor Jo was a bit shaken by the ordeal, she hasn’t had many experiences with gun toting militia; I couldn’t see them getting heavy with tourists who refused to pay a rip-off. (Photos: 1] Fishermen hauling in the catch; 2] Lazy cows - Uppuveli beach, East coast, Sri Lanka)

Indecision still reigns, I still can’t make my mind up where to set off for next. I do believe that a journey is what I need, my own transport for another adventure. Already, my working beach break has allowed me to see that backpacking isn’t what I want. I’ve no intention of trawling the beaches and tourists sites, of whatever country I venture to. Sitting around doing very little for prolonged periods of time is not on the agenda. I want something to get my teeth into; I have so many places I’d like to ride around. So bearing that in mind, I feel I should look closely at my options. South America, Africa or Asia. Presently the prospect of leaving Britain overland is the most inspiring, Africa is the most daunting. As a ride, Africa will be very hard work, the rewards would be immense though. Barring that it leaves an overland trip to Asia, by an unusual route, at least one little travelled. A Chinese woman has recently assured me that foreigners can get permits to use their own transport within China; you no longer have to hire a guide as chaperone. If that proves to be the case, my choice will probably swing towards Russia, Mongolia and China, then keep going round Asia. But I can’t push Africa completely from my mind, even the thoughts of AK47 toting teenagers doesn’t put me off. (Photo: Skim boarding, Steve, Leanne & Aimee - Uppuveli beach, East coast, Sri Lanka)

It isn’t important yet! If I want to get away quickly when I arrive home, I’d be pushed to organize an overland trip. There’s too much paperwork, Carnet’s, Visa’s, insurances, decent maps; they all take time. For some reason I’ve gone off the idea of South America, I can’t explain why! Nothing in particular has put me off. I’m slightly put off by the harsh Latino attitudes to life, by the catholic conservatism, rife all over Latin America, and too much crime and aggression. Personal safety and security would be no worse than Africa, I believe it would actually be an easier trip than Africa. The beauty of overland trips is to use my own bike, equipped and prepared by myself; tried and tested. Having recently completed my rebuild, sparing no expense in upgrading it to full expedition spec, it would be nice to use that. But we shall see, at present I can’t even decide to stay at this beach or try another. (Photo: Local lads dancing to my tunes - French Garden guesthouse,Uppuveli, Sri Lanka)

My observations and blog writing have taken a back seat, they’re lacking the creative edge I believe I had whilst in Cuba. I’m not staying in an all-inclusive, or even a hotel, but it is more of a tourist retreat. The beach is a mix of locals and tourists, but the few hotels here are gaudily lit expanses of western elitism, ablaze with light all night, every night. The smaller hotel, next along the beach from my guesthouse, has started pumping out banging techno every night. It doesn’t disturb my sleep, but I can hear it anywhere outside. Last night here they even bought in a snake charmer, with his performing monkey too; I’m glad to say I was not the only one who refused to participate. It’s been a delightful haven here for nearly four weeks, but it’s time to move on. My petty criticisms are increasing, as are the number of tourists. When I first arrived there were only three other tourists, now dozens line the beach each day. It is nice, but Trincomalee is back on the map, no more war, tsunami is all but forgotten and the Singals are back in business. (Photo: Commemorative tattoo - By Dave's Tattoo's, Bangor, North Wales)

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