It was going to be a great day. The plan was to wake up early go and pick up the car by ten and be down on the coast in Ahangama by 1.30 to meet Greg, Cook, Mounty and Sarah who are visiting from the UK. We’d then have lunch, find somewhere to stay and go for evening surf. It was all so well planed out. I had payment ready to take to Rent-A-Car and an a/c minibus taking me to the garage in the morning.

I was primed and ready to go, packed and just waiting for the minivan to arrive. I found out it was running 15 min late but that was OK as I’d be down there by 2ish.

The guy who came and picked me up was one of the slowest drivers in Sri Lanka it took about 1hr to get to the rental place. Eventually we got there and I was breaking sweat. I wanted to get in the water after my taster earlier in the week and had really whetted my appetite for some decent size waves.

Once I arrived I need to pay the deposit in cash! I thought I might be able to pay by card. No problem, I thought, I would pop round to the cash machine (the rental man was even going to give me a lift!). I opened up my wallet to get the cash out and find my card and it wasn’t here!

I looked again, tipped open my wallet on the mans desk and madly flicked thought the oyster cards, gym membership, an old Uni card from 2003, my PADI open water card, and an Abbey card! Phew, that got the heart pumping, then I saw it expired in 2009 and my current card was nowhere to be seen!

I freaked! Adi saw my shock and horror and got Abbey on the phone for me. I was just about to cancel but then I realised I must have left it in the machine! So I postponed the cancellation and ‘raced’ back assisted by the ‘speedy’ driver in the minivan with me spitting in his ear about how slow he was going…

Of course it wasn’t there and the machine had probably eaten it. I went round asking various people I’d visited the day before if they seen it or if it had been handed in. I was really clutching at straws!

So I phoned Abbely and cancelled it. So without a card in Sri Lanka for more than two weeks! The helpful Abbey take 14 days to send it to my house and wouldn’t send it out to SL! I turned to the only person you can when you’re in real trouble and need bailing out: my mother.

I gave her the lowdown and how I wanted to hit the coast for a surf, how I would miss my friends because they only were staying for 10 days. Understanding as she is we sorted a Weston Union payment out to me here. Luckily they were open. But because of the time difference, I had to wait until  UK 8.30am (SL 2pm). I was now running really late.

Luckily the minivan man was busy so I called my tuk tuk friend and he shipped me over to get the car. On the way he gave me an insight into the Sri Lankan highway code. I thought before this point that all the hooters and indicating/ flashing was just hot headedness, but no:

  • Flashing your head lights means you can pass / I’m over taking /go, do what you wanted to do! It’s a split decision you have to kind of take a chance.
  • Hooting once is a warning to anything that is moving in a 30m radius, be it cyclists, dogs
  • A longer toot is also ‘I’m overtaking’
  • Two toots is sometimes give way but can also mean I’m overtaking,  pull in.
  • A long sound of the horn is you’re passing by and you’re angry no matter what.
  • Indicating left can mean you can overtake / I’m turning left /I’m turning wide to turn right.
  • Indicating right can mean I’m turning right / don’t overtake
  • Paired with a flash, indicating right lets oncoming traffic know that I’m over taking be aware. Give way and pull in to the side of the road because I’m coming ready or not!
  • Hazards means I’m coming through no matter what!

In the end, we made it to the rental place at about 4.30 to be greated by Little Ruby! The smallest car I’ve ever seen but still it had tinted windows and air conditioning!!

This beast, a Suzuki Maruti of 800cc was going to help me cruise down the coast.

Bear in mind the lesson that I’d just received about the road etiquette, I was then following my tuk tuk driver that I’d been using for almost 3 weeks back to the hotel to pickup the board and bags.

We came to a junction and he pulled to the right, and I saw a withered brown hand extend from his little three wheeler and I came to realise he had no break lights, head light or indicators! After his diligent teaching, he just used his hands and I’d been riding in this death trap all over Colombo! So his signalling which he didn’t tell me about was hand up and down means slow down, waving means right or left turn! Easy!

He guided me back to the Mount Livinia and I loaded up and drove down in the dark being overtaken but the biggest, fastest buses. Unlike normal buses that run in a straight line, these ran diagonally over the two lane road, making it very scary for cars to be overtaken by them. You almost have to pull in to the ditch to let them pass…

I eventually managed to drive down to some random restaurant on the south coast weretje guys were having supper.

After the day I had and the trip down, seeing every one in this country was very strange. Faces that I recognise from home in a different location really struck me. It was like seeing family members that I’d not seen for several years! We sat and drank some lions and I rabbited about what I’d been doing for the last few weeks in a way a man on a deserted island would do if he has not seen a soul for the last 8 years. They couldn’t shut me up. It was so great to see them!

I found a room near their hotel for £4 a night called the Solar Bar and Restaurant. Apul the owner made me very welcome at his guesthouse.

We made arranged meet to get up and meet a 5.45 and get in the water for morning surf. I couldn’t wait!