After my first few days in crazy Colombo I was looking forward to a quieter pace of life along the west to south coast of Sri Lanka. I would spend a week in total between Hikkaduwa, Galle and Mirissa. The south coast is easily reachable thanks to the coastal train that runs from Colombo Fort all the way down to Matara. The trains run frequently throughout the day and are extremely cheap making them an attractive option.
The train from Colombo Fort to Hikkaduwa takes two hours; my experience followed on from Colombo’s craziness with a train rammed full of locals and a few travellers thrown into the mix, it was packed from the start yet more and more people seemed to squeeze into the carriages at every stop; how, I am not quiet sure. The heat was intense and the open windows and doors seemed to make little difference. There were even fans swinging along the carriage ceilings. I am not normally one to visibly perspire but even I had sweat running down every part of my body in rivulets. I was more than relieved when the train pulled up at Hikkaduwa train station.
Hikkaduwa has a rugged beauty to it with its wide expanse of beach. The sand is a darker shade of yellow, almost a dirty orange, the ocean rough with huge waves breaking and rolling on to the shore. By night it appears the beach is owned by the numerous stray dogs who wander up and down the coast looking for scraps of food. Mainly guest houses back on to the beach offering travellers cheap accommodation with ocean view rooms, the odd beach bar and restaurant can be found dotted between them, although most seemed closed. Hikkaduwa town has one main street lined with restaurants and convenience stores, along with the odd tourist souvenir shop mainly selling the ever popular elephant pants. This street seems to hardly ever sleep for Sri Lanka’s dare devil buses are always whizzing up and down along with the countless tuk-tuks. Yet despite this Hikkaduwa does have a very relaxed and easy vibe to it and many a traveller has been known to stop here for many a month on end because of its simple and cheap life style.
From Hikkaduwa to Galle I grab a tuk-tuk. My first impression of Galle was what a busy city I have arrived in, with a twinge of disappointment, I knew I had come here for the history of Galle Fort and not for the beaches but this was not what I expected. Actually, in the end Galle was a firm favourite of mine throughout Sri Lanka, but not Galle exactly, but Galle Fort – once you enter through the fort walls it’s like you have been taken to a different place altogether. Galle Fort was built in 1588 by the Portuguese. The fort is in fact a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is clear that the Sri Lankan’s take great care and pride of the area. There is definitely a very European feel to the fort when you wander about, I spent many an hour here ambling up and down the cobbled streets enjoying the beautiful architecture and then admiring the small town from on top of the city walls. You can walk the length of the city walls; on one side you can gaze out to the ocean and on the other you get a great view over the old colonial buildings with their terracotta rooftops. Sitting on top of the city walls is the perfect place to end your day watching the sun set over the ocean.
My next stop was Mirissa and this time I braved the train again for my short half an hour journey. As luck would have it the train was practically empty making the whole experience some what more enjoyable. Sitting by an open window I was actually able to appreciate the scenery that we trundled past. A word of warning though, when you do arrive at Mirissa train station you are basically in the middle of no where and have no choice but to take a tuk-tuk, which also means you are at the mercy of the hands of tuk-tuk drivers as to what fare they wish to charge!
Mirissa is a beautiful beach town with a long, rolling expanse of beach. Palms trees line the coast along with many beach bars and restaurants that spill out onto the yellow sand. By day there is a very quiet pace of life, travellers laze about soaking up the sun and normally take refuge from the midday sun underneath a hanging palm. At the far end of Mirissa beach where the Parrot Rock Bridge juts out into the sea there is a little bay where the turquoise ocean is beautifully calm allowing you to take a quiet dip and a little swim to cool yourself down. As the sun sets the beach restaurants spill out further across the sand and a hive of activity starts as their catch of the day are displayed proudly hoping to attract the tourists…