Sri Lanka Day 11 – Unawatuna – Galle

I woke at 6, again at 7, and finally at 8.  I’m enjoying waking up early.  Strolled along the beach to Unawatuna Dive Centre to confirm my participation in the mornings dive, then headed to a cafe with the slowest service in the world for breakfast, looking onto the beach and out to sea.  It was gonna be a lovely day – but the breakfast – weak tea, untoasted bread, fried eggs when I asked for an omelette – was the worst I’ve ever had in my life.

I walked back down the beach to the dive centre, which was now a hive of activity.  A group of girls were doing their PADI Open Water, and I was with a different group heading to Dive Site 16 – which was a wreck dive.  I haven’t done a Wreck Dive since Cuba, Bay of Pigs 2005, so I was looking forward to it, though I was warned by the Divemaster that visibility would only be between 5-10m.  I didn’t care, I needed something to do.

I signed the release form, then looked confused at the tank and BCD that had been placed next to me.  Truth be told, it had been nearly 2 years since my last dive – in Nha Trang in Vietnam – so I had completely forgotten how to fix up the BCD to the tank, which way to twist the handle to get the air running, or anything that I’d learned so well before.  Most dive centres do it for you, but this one obviously doesn’t, and I was frankly quite embarrassed that I couldn’t do it.  One of the divemasters did it for me – too quickly for me to remember how next time.

The boat we were going on was a small speedboat with room for only 6 divers.  There were 5 of us – An Aussie bloke with a huge camera who was doing a ‘private’ dive, a young German couple, me, and the divemaster.

Everything was very laissez-faire – a little too chilled for my liking.  They hadn’t even checked I had a diving licence.  I brought a weight belt on the boat with 5 weights on, and a mask they’d given me.  The 30 minute ride out to the dive point was the rockiest boat ride I’ve ever experienced, as the little boat road up big waves and crashed down on the other side.  I was regretting the beer and wine from the night before, and felt incredibly seasick – which is something I’ve never felt before.

The boat stopped and they dropped anchor.  The sea was rough and it was difficult to put my tank on.  I was last to get out, and I dropped backwards into the choppy waters.  We had to swim to the anchor line, which proved quite difficult, and the German couple couldn’t do it.  I made it, and shimmied down 5 metres to wait.  3 of us then began the descent.

At 20m, through the murky waters emerged the hull of a ship long lost to the forces of the ocean.  We swam around the huge propellers and around the captain’s quarters.  It was an eerie, magnificent site.  There were plenty of fish down there too, but were at times difficult to make out.

At one point, I was down to 50psi.  I switched to the divemasters reserve regulator for a while.  This was an interesting manoeuvre, one I’d never done before, and it was all I could do to swim alongside the chap and keep up with him, lest I lose the regulator.  At over 20m down, you really don’t want to do that.  After a while, I put my own back in again, we swam around a bit more, then began our ascent, putting in the required safety stops.  We emerged, and I felt happy to be back diving.  Maximum depth of the dive was 25m – it was good to be back!

I nearly vomited again going back, but thankfully made it to shore without embarrassing myself.  I paid the $35, and strolled back along the beach where I met Nancy and Catherine again.  I mentioned I was planning on heading to Galle in the afternoon, and they were planning on doing the same.  They suggested a good place for dinner – Indian Hut, so I made up my mind to go there later.

I headed off in a tuk-tuk to Galle, which cost me 300Rs.  Galle is a fantastic old Dutch-colonial-era town, that hasn’t changed a bit since that time.  A fort lines the coastal cliffs, providing fantastic views.  I strolled to the top of the walls, and found lots of locals taking the same stroll.  Couples were courting, games of cricket were being played, groups of friends picnicking.  It all made for a lovely scene – peaceful, the sound of happy chatter and waves crashing against the rocks filling the air.  I thoroughly enjoyed the views and the peace – a nice shot of culture after a few days wallowing on the beaches.  As evening came, I took to the narrow streets and roamed around the quaint shops and houses.  Galle hasn’t taken advantage of its status as a UNESCO World Heritage site at all – no tacky souvenir shops or flashy boutique hotels at all – and its all the better for it.

I had a very interesting chat with an old gentleman – really nice old chap who was very well-informed about the history of Galle.  He invited me into his house, but I politely declined and then regretted doing so.  He was genuine, didn’t want to sell me anything.  He was just very interested in telling me – a British chap – the history of the place.  If only more people were honest like him.  I hate the fact that I don’t trust anyone – but that’s because the place is too full of touts and scam artists.

I went to Indian Hut, and saw Nancy, Catherine, and Catherine’s Sri Lankan boyfriend.  They invited me to join them, an invitation I gladly accepted.  We shared chicken-tikka masala, lamb bhuna and dhal, with garlic naan.  Delicious!  Just like the stuff back home.  In England I mean.

I walked the quiet, dark streets afterwards alone, and stopped for a coffee in the Galle Hotel – very colonial ambiance. Then I hopped into a tuk-tuk and back to Unawatuna. A fine day indeed.

Author: Neil

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