The journey took us 40 minutes and was twice the price of the 3 hour drive from the airport. So I call that "swings and roundabouts". Perhaps it would have been cheaper if they had let me pay for the curtain damages.
Weligama and Mirissa
This leg of the journey was going to be rest and relaxation. We had been on the go constantly so decided to take a few days to catch our breath and this was the ideal spot. From the bedroom you can see the sun set on the horizon. I used to spend my evening watching the sun go down while bobbing up and down in the waves. Never too old to splash about in the water, forgotten what fun it was to just mess about, no skill required. Should add that this beautiful white sandy beach was pretty much ours so no point in showing off my sychronised swimming strokes. The location was perfect with just a few guests staying in the hotel. I noticed that there were a number of young people staying there. They would spend their days sitting in the garden overlooking the beach. Maybe go for a little swim before lunch and then at about 6 pm they would disappear. I eventually figured out that many of these travellers were remote working. When it was 6 pm in Sri Lanka the work day was just starting back in England, where most of them seemed to be from, I couldn’t help but admire them and envy their fortune. The perfect way to explore asia is with a reasonable european income. The euro or dollar go a long way here and cash is King!
Sunset in Weligama
Finding a Tailor
Our hotel lay just feet from the beach but it is approximately an 8 minute drive from the town centre. So if we wished to explore we needed to hire a tuk tuk and this always entailed a vastly shifting price point. We booked a taxi through the Grab app which cost 180 Sri Lankan rupees in an air-conditioned car with windows and doors. When we went to make the return journey we were asked for 300 rupees from a windowless, doorless vehicle with as much finesse as a ride-on lawnmower. I really put my haggling skills to work and mostly got the price point I wanted. We needed to go to the town to get some laundry done. In our travels we had discovered that the hotels charge by the item which can very quickly run to big numbers. But the laundries will charge by the kilo usually around 2 to 3 dollars for a wash, dry and fold. So, we have taken to organising our laundry whenever we plan to stay in one place for more than 3 days. A quick google search brought us to a little side alley off the main street in Mirissa. The reviews had been mostly good with only one complaint that the clothes hadn’t been washed but rather kicked around the shop aggressively (you could see the foot prints in the pictures he posted). This appeared to be the worst transgression. Perhaps the big USA underwear brought out the dark side of the worker being asked to wash them, we shall never know. There were only one or two complaints of clothes going missing. So off we went hoping for the best, honestly if they had asked I might have paid them to loose some of my wardrobe, it really was starting to look sad. Realising how much I wanted to upgrade my wardrobe I decided to check out local tailors. I had been told by everyone that tailoring was so cheap. So again I did the google search for tailors and found a few. After sifting through the many reviews I decided on one who had over 200 reviews and only 1 bad review. It was really bad but I decided that it was possibly just some disgruntled shopper who could get the price down to Primark levels. We moved from the laundry and made our way down a number of side streets. We were heading deeper and deeper into suburbia and people were starting to stare which led me to believe we were lost and lost we were! We flagged down a tuk tuk which brought us up and down every by-way but still could not find the tailor. At this point we decided to call and see if we could get direction to the shop but the shop had closed pre-covid. The lady who answered told us she was working from home so we handed the phone to our driver and he brought us to the location. From the street we could see a neglected garden and what looked from the outside as an abandoned building. The taxi driver told us to go in and that we were at the destination but I honestly thought we were going to be mugged. I negotiated with the driver to wait which he was happy to do. I had every intention of running out the house if anything seemed amiss. The madness was thinking of going into a house where things might be amiss! The house was very dark and had a cluster of cats, some on the floor and others on every available seat. The entrance porch had bolts of material from floor to ceiling, so I started to feel a little more confident that we may be in the right place. I was invited to sit down on the couch occupied by the cats which were not asked to move. I obliged rather than cause offense to any cat lovers but hugged close to the arm of the chair. Trying my best not to draw attention to my nervousness around cats. ‘Cat’ I can do but gangs of them pushes the boundaries of tolerance. Thankfully, after establishing what I was looking for I was asked to stand to be measured and no one ever moved as quick as me in that moment. Measurements taken I was then asked to pick out the material I wanted from the large selection on the porch. We were leaving in three days and I was assured that everything would be ready. I returned to the hotel glad to be shut of the cats.
Róisín always seemed to find those out of the way places which required a mile walk in the dark, my nerves would be fried by the time we got there. But in fairness the food was always exceptional and a beer or two would always take the edge off the return journey. Transport would always quote 300 rupees and I would always say “Ah Lads, will you get real. I want local prices not tourists prices”. They would drop to 200 but I would do a Maggi on it and say the lady’s not for moving. Róisín used to get really embarrassed and we became a bit of a double act, me being bad cop and Róisín good cop. I think they used to take pity on her as she would always end up calling me back saying they had changed their minds and were now willing to take 100 rupees.
Whale Watching in Mirissa
One of the great adventures of this trip was the early morning whale watching trip we booked. We were required to be up at 5:30 am so as to be at the pier for 6 am. These early morning trips really kill me it makes a great day out feel like work but I reassure myself that I can sleep on the boat. I have become a dab hand at sleeping upright, between cars, buses, and ferries nothing daunts me. We arrive at the pier to find there are hundreds going out. This is one of the big tourist attractions in the area and I am assured the crowds are small compared to pre-Covid days. This is also another one of those locations where each man helps his neighbour so that not all boats go out on the same days. There isn’t that dog eat dog competition that is so familiar with everyone vying for the same few tourists. They take turns so that everyone has a few shackles to take home at the end of each week. In this instance its fair to say crisis has brought out the best in these people. We are hammered onto the boat, no social distancing here. Only about 6 of the 20 or so boats docked here will go out today. When we are all packed in off we head on the high seas chasing the illusive whales. We are bouncing around n the waves for about 2 hours before we see some dolphins. The dolphins start to chase the boat and weave over and back in front of us. This is enough for me, dolphins are such fun creatures just don’t get that feeling from whales. There’s a Russian guy just in front of me and he starts making noises like I dolphin. He’s leaning out over the side of the boat making those whop whop and click click noises I believe he believed the dolphins understood him. Six hours we floated around and not a whale to be seen anywhere. The captain gave us a choice of either heading back to port or we could head up the coastline to enjoy the views as a compensation for the no show whales. Amazingly, everyone with the exception of an American couple voted to head back to port. The American couple were ignored as everyone on the boat could see the added value being offered in a jaunt up the coast and back. Personally I don’t care it has been a beautiful morning looking at the scenery and taking in that beautiful sea air. I have travelled enough in Asia to say at this point in my trip that everything is an ‘ish’ time and I like it. Constant time keeping really wears you down. I appreciate that time schedules for work are a particular matter but we are on holidays, I do believe we have to be that bit more flexible. But clearly the Americans are always on the clock and of those I have met there are few exceptions. Just in case anyone is wondering they had no pressing engagements that precluded them from the extended boat trip at no extra charge. So off we went up the coast with our happy Russian friends, our scowling Americans and of course the Irish contingent of the “I’m easy, no bother” brigade. Suddenly, there is a buzz of excitement spreading through the crew and the captain sends a guy to climb up a flag pole to survey the horizon. Jack Sparrow would have envied the moves of this guy as he shielded his eyes from the sun while holding onto the pole with ankles and one hand. He points out into the ocean indicating that there was a Whale there. Now, we are talking one whale and what he is describing is a change in the texture of the water which indicated that a whale was under the water rather than visibly on top. He also knows that we have no chance of even seeing a glimpse of this creature if we are focused on the specific location. By now there are around 10 boats loaded with upwards of 100 passengers. The passengers on the boat all move toward one side of the boat to get a better view (if any) of the elusive whale when the captain starts roaring for everyone to sit down fearing the boat might capsize. Thankfully everyone followed the instruction, returned to the seats where they stood in anticipation of the majestic whale. It was a whale but not your blue orca or basking or even a great white. The little fellow we and all the other boats were chasing was a sperm whale, one of the smaller varieties of whale in the ocean and honestly not much bigger than a dolphin. But contract complete, I as well as many others on the boat saw the tail end of the whale so we could now return to shore and back to the hotel for some R&R.
Dolphins in Mirissa
Final Day in Mirissa
My dressmaker contacted me the day following my visit. They were wondering if I had a pair of trousers I particularly liked and they would copy the design. They even offered to come to the hotel and collect the pants which I felt was above and beyond but happy that I didn't have to haggle another fare to town which was by now beyond a joke. We were leaving the next day so I needed and received reassurance that the clothing would be ready by the time of our departure and that they would deliver them to our hotel before our departure. They arrived not long after and took the trousers with promises to return prior to checkout the next day. That sorted, Róisín and I headed out for the evening with a detour by the laundry on our way. The laundry seemed a bit chaotic. It didn't add confidence that we looked through the contents of everyone’s washing to find our own. We nearly left one bag behind as it was only by chance that I spotted a familiar pattern in another bag on the way out of the shop. The reviews did say they lose stuff so figured we had headed that demon off. Dinner complete. Tuck tuk haggled. And we returned to our hotel to pack our belongs for the journey to Tissamaharama the next day. It was easy packing as most of our clothes were packed, ironed and folded from the laundry.
My tailor returned as promised just before we were leaving. I had intended to try everything on but our taxi was waiting and we just didn't have the time. Besides she was a lovely lady I couldn’t see her cheating me. Paid the lady and thanked everyone for looking after us, hotel staff included and off we went to our next destination.
Hi, I'm Olive and I am the writer of this blog. I am traveling the world with my 22 year old daughter, Róisín, who has just graduated University. I wanted to document this journey because it is unusual for a woman of 58 years old to go on adventure that most students do on a gap year. I will try to share my insights into this epic journey with you along the way and maybe inspire more people my age to go on these crazy adventures too.