Despite thinking we had reached the climax of our tour, the next day we spent snorkelling around a tiny uninhabited island that was, though sadly heaving with tourists, surprisingly abundant in vibrant coral and lively sea creatures. We floated in the tropical waters all morning till the salt stung our eyes and the backs of our legs were pink with sunlight. Wind whipping hair around my head we returned to the shore bumping on the uneven water.
We spent the ensuing days lounging on the the beach and dining by the water. The ‘hotel’ was suboptimal and we all decided that home stays were actually the preferred option. We had our only hotel meal in Trinco and in comparison to the lively little local beach eateries it was bland and characterless in both its cuisine and atmosphere. I found myself grateful that we had not decided on a hole experience for our trip knowing we would have missed so much of the experience of Sri Lanka and all it has to offer. Hotel experience differ so little from country to country that we may have just as well been in the South of France, Abu Dhabi or almost any other warm country.
Our last drive with Lachmal was melancholy knowing we would very likely never see him again yet the coast road on which we travelled to Arugam Bay was breathtaking.
It was a good indication of all that was to come.
The laid back surf vibe of Arugam Bay was first demonstrated to us as we turned up to our reserved rooms to find that they had been given away to a group of German backpackers. Consequently we spent the next four hours in a tuk-tuk darting up side streets searching for a room for five at nine o’clock in the evening in the packed resort.
The morning woke with the relentless heaving of the sea on sand. My feet whispered on the wooden floors as I stealthily carried my trainers to the door past my slumbering brothers. Waking my mother was a more arduous challenge. She reluctantly padded along beside me as we skirted the waves while my music hollered motivation in my head.
The south side of the beach was home to the surfers waiting on boards for the rolling waves to carry them along the shore. Wearing rash vests and lugging the boards under arms or balancing preciously on heads, they migrated to tip of the sand.
The days were spent melting in the sun in the region somewhere between sleep and conscious thought, perfecting the art of relaxation. Life slowed. This microcosm lived at a different pace to the rest of the world. Days began early in the surf, and slowly sauntered towards the evening where the nightlife hummed, not in the conventional hard partying but in lazy nights watching the horizon with a cocktail in hand and Bob Marley echoing across the sands.
Learning to surf occupied us for days from jumping from stomach to feet on the sand, to paddling back and forth to be taken by the wave at exactly the right moment. The instructors would spend hours joking with each other in between chatting to us and telling us when to paddle. Constantly adjusting our position on the board to balance, lifting feet out of the water and heads up watching for the ridge in the distance we waited for the command to “stand up!”. I was living and breathing the surf, quite literally some days where the sand would shift beneath your feet and the water would turn you like a bowling pin ‘till the floor rose to meet you again and gravity was restored so you could blow out the salt water that filled sinuses, mouth, eyes and ears.
Having decided my skin was saturated with sun I picked a shady hammock and collapsed with Dostoyevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’, not a typical holiday read. When the heat stared to subside and the scratching sound of insects began I went into my room just meters from the sand and took a long cool shower.
We ventured out to find a restaurant wandering along the small road that the resort was formed along. Finding a large busy beach hut we crowded in and seated ourselves along benches either side of the table. Cards were dealt and the menu arrived flung by a darting waiter with dreadlocks who quickly delivered great platefuls of salad, fish and fries. My salad was peppered with mango and papaya and acted as a bed for a large fillet of salmon. It was ambrosial.