Sand Down the Shorts in Sri Lanka
Before we set out for Sri Lanka my Mom, in conversation with one of my many sisters, referred to our destination as Ceylon. Of course, everyone breathed a sign of resignation and hoped the anachronistic error would quickly be forgotten. However, having purchased two cricket shirts in Sri Lanka, both carry the name Ceylon on the advert for Dilnah Tea (“Ceylon’s Finest”) so maybe she wasn’t so wrong after all. Call it what you will, we enjoyed a wonderful week there and if you’re prepared to press “read more” then you’ll be exposed to a host of the finest photos and a few pages of relatively sedentary and benign scribbling.
It has to be said that you can travel to some wonderful exotic places only to be let down by the odd problem. I suppose the most upmarket holiday we ever took was to Gangga Island in Indonesia, a truly wonderful experience, but one that was let down by slicks of rubbish in the sea and on the beach. It takes a great effort to find something to condemn in Hikkaduwa, a resort and fishing town in south-west Sri Lanka; it really was very, very nice.
The sea was a little rough to enter, fine by me; I was only upended once, although Andrea claimed to have been smashed into the sand by exuberant crashing waves on at least four occasions. It could be a gritty experience both entering and exiting the waters, but once you were through the surf the playful waves made swimming fun.
The beach was stunningly beautiful, remarkably clean and, although we did hear comments that it could be better, it stacked up against nearly all of our experiences in the last few years. Not only was it clean, it was also wide, consisting of beautiful fine sand, thus the properties on the sea front did not appear threatened by the aggression of the waves.
There’ll be a little more about this latter as, quite obviously, this area was subject to considerable damage in the tsunami of Christmas 2004.
It was also interesting to share the beach with grazing cows and their best mates, the egrets. The egret, both the lesser and the greater, are very common round here. There were only a few sea birds, so the egret performed beach cleanup duties. They could also be found in the paddy fields and, in place of pigeons on the cricket pitches, annoying batsmen and umpires alike.
The symbiotic relationship between the egret and the cow, so developed just outside our temporary abode, was wonderful; the relationship between iguana and humans fortunately occurred much further down the beach and we only chanced on it due to a fluke whilst taking a shortcut though somebody’s back garden.
Each of the pair of iguana was huge. We both mistook them for monitor lizards to start with, even though we were less than five metres away. Andrea heard a scratching noise and we turned to watch them ascend a vertical wall as they moved away from the bins in which they appeared to have been feasting on scraps. You can get a good idea of this beast’s size from the bricks it is clinging to; also the water pipe gives a sense of scale. The only iguana I’ve come across that was larger than these two was on Montserrat whilst playing golf with John and Sally. For your interest I had to chip my second shot over the giant lizard to get onto the green.
The fact they could walk up a vertical surface, considering their bulk, was astonishing, you can see from the second shot the length of their claws but they must have weighed in at the same as a fully grown corgi. I’ve no idea if iguanas are ever aggressive, but you wouldn’t want to meet this pair on a dark night, particularly in the alley we were in.
Having just checked this out, the first website I encountered showed wounds inflicted by iguana and they’re quite nasty. The link appears on the last page of this blog, but if you get a bit queasy about blood, please don’t go there! Apparently they also carry salmonella and a bite can lead to serious infections.
Having said all this, I guess watching the pair of iguana climbing the wall was one of the high points of our trip!
So there was a little wildlife; when you’re on a paradisiacal beach you don’t worry too much about the odd cow, bird, reptile or fish! Really, this beach and the water were so beautiful it’s not surprising other forms of life want to share it. Towards the north of the beach, the direction of this photo, the number of hotels increases and the beach becomes more crowded; at the southern end it is blissfully quiet. There’s a section below that deals with the local fishermen and it seems the waters are pretty much teaming with life, something you might expect when you consider this part of Sri Lanka forms the mainland spur that dips furthest south into the Indian Ocean.