Monday 8 September 2014

Days 145-146: Negombo - A soothing welcome to Sri Lanka

Tuna for sale at Negombo Market
After Delhi, Sri Lanka feels decidedly relaxed.  Traffic seems to move along in lanes, rather than illustrating the word 'chaos'.  Taxi touts offer you their services a couple of times before giving up, rather than a couple of hundred.  Even the rickshaws look subdued.  Either they are red all over or green all over.  They might even be yellow or black all over if they are feeling outre.  But you don't find them vibrating in a frenzy of colour - pink, blue, yellow and green all at once - like an Indian rickshaw.  Is this good or bad?  It's different.  It's also soothing after the manic world of Delhi.

After travelling independently for five months, we have a driver to show us the sights of Sri Lanka - and there are quite some sights to see.  We began at Negombo fish market where thousands of scaled corpses form murals on the sand while square-sailed boats carry more into the bay.

Fish being removed from nets on the beach by the market
Outrigger heading for the lagoon
From the coast, we headed for more tranquil waters, first the lagoon where outriggers passed by, as we watched from the road bridge.
Then we made for the canal system, built during the colonial rule of guess which European power?  (Just think orange.) Once, it was used to transport goods from Negombo inland but nowadays tourist boats motor up and down the tranquil backwaters, looking for kingfishers (of which there are several species) and water monitors.  We saw plenty of both before stopping for a local coconut toddy (note that by this time it was just after mid-day and hence justifiably time for a drink).

We watched a local man climb a precarious set of footholds into the branches of the tree, then navigate a high ropes course between the boughs before returning to the ground with a jug on his back.  The toddy turned out to be quite appealing and we didn't say no to a second glass before returning to our boat.

Back at the coast, we watched the beach plunge steeply into the ocean with what looked like plenty of potential for ripped tides.  Instead of testing the waters, we opted for cocktails followed by a swim in the hotel pool.  A hotel pool?  And cocktails?  Don't we live on pasta and river water, with a layer of fragile canvas over a heads?  Can this really be part of our travels?  Where do all these luxuries come from?

Like I said, Sri Lanka is a soothing place to be!

Toddy-tapper bravely scaling the palm trees
Fishmonger at Negombo market. No messing!
Fishmongers plying their trade
Colourful boats line the shore of the lagoon
Our first sighting of a kingfisher on our trip into the lagoon.
A water monitor lizard hides in the vegetation by the bank
Daily life around the lagoon
The dutch-built canal
Kingfisher waiting its next catch
"Toddy" made from coconut flower. Warm and about 5% alcohol apparently.

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