Day 6 – the beach at last: up at 4:30am (again) for the 6:10am express intercity to Mirissa. It’s not really an express train, it goes about 20 mph, but when it’s such a lovely journey who’s counting? You need to do this train ride, it’s amazing. And do it at this time in the morning; as you leave Colombo you have the sea to the right and the sunrise to the left. Three wonderful hours of trundling along inches from the beach, the doors and windows open each side the whole length of the carriage with the breeze pouring in. The journey was the roomiest and most comfortable of the journey so far, so much space I could keep moving seats as the scenery dictated.
I took a lucky guess and hopped off at Weligama as I was fairly sure it was closer to Mirissa than Matara, where the train was headed. I was right. I grabbed a tuk tuk and headed for my accommodation. I turned up in the middle of breakfast (which I hadn’t yet eaten) and sat down to some fruit and omelette, which seems to be standard Sri Lankan breakfast fare in hotels and guest houses.
After a stroll around to give them time to set my room ready I hit the beach in earnest. The beach at Mirissa is beautiful. Fringed with palms and deep blue water with white sand. It’s the first tropical beach I’ve ever visited. I spent the day in and out of the sea, a necessity when it’s 35 degrees and the sun is burning hot.
Although I didn’t indulge, it is easy to see why surfing is so popular here; even on a calm day there are some reasonable sized waves breaking. It makes for quite a tiring swimming experience. There are also numerous whale watching tours available, although it’s worth doing some research to find a reputable one. I had read that these types of tours can change whale migratory patterns as they try to avoid the boats, so I decided I would give it a miss.
I had a break from the sun for a late lunch at No 1 Dewmini Roti Shop (look it up), where I ate most days in Mirissa. The place is rammed morning, noon and night so it’s worth coming either early or late for lunch and dinner to avoid some of the crowds. They do great kottu roti, one of the best things to eat in Sri Lanka. It’s chopped up roti fried with meat and vegetables and egg. Just go easy, because ‘medium’ heat in Sri Lanka is probably a bit hotter than you’re expecting.
Day 7 – more beach: another day of much needed relaxation and a more sociable start to the day. Slightly pink from the sun, despite using up all the aloe vera I could find in my bag the night before, I headed back to the beach for a day in the shade.
For dinner I walked along the beach and discovered that all the cafes and restaurants moved their tables onto the sand for the evening. Each restaurant had laid out its fishy offerings at the front so you could see what was on offer and choose your dinner. I picked myself a butter fish from a boat full of ice and had him simply grilled with some chips and salad. As with everything in Sri Lanka it took its time to make its way to my plate, but it was absolutely delicious and a wonderful experience to sit eating fresh fish by candlelight, right by the sea with the sand under my feet. A lightening storm some way round the coast kept me entertained while I finished my meal and I headed to bed content after a relaxing day and ready to hit the road again.
My accommodation for these two nights was Lemazone Inn, which is almost on the beach (but isn’t right on the front). It was a nice stay, they serve breakfast right outside your room on a terrace in the sun, which is a nice feature, the rooms were large and clean and they have a very reasonable rate for laundry. It was, however, probably a bit more expensive than it needed to be about £60 a night, I think other guest houses in the area were under £30 so it’s probably worth doing some research.
My tips for this leg of the journey:
The equator sun always takes you a bit by surprise when you come from a country where you need to squeeze every bit of vitamin D out of the year. I didn’t get horrifically burned, but any amount of burned is not ideal either for your health, or the practicalities of carrying a heavy back on your shoulders. Ever since this trip I’ve worn a rash vest with an SPF 50 in the sea to protect my shoulders when I’m somewhere with especially strong sun – I’d recommend the same for anyone fair skinned or who would rather not put sun screen on every 30 minutes, because that is what you need to do.
Mosquitoes will bite you through anything, especially if it’s tight and black. I made the mistake of thinking my black leggings were mosquito-proof and I could take a break from the DEET. Wrong. If you wear anything skin tight, especially if it’s dark, you still to give yourself a good mist of DEET or other protection or you’re going to be someone’s dinner.