Hikkaduwa, where proportion takes a holiday
Trip Start Jun 15, 2011
149Trip End Jun 15, 2012
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On Sunday we moved up the coast from Unawatuna to Hikkaduwa. The drive took us about forty minutes, but the two beaches could not have been more different. I had read about the reef here, and I looked at the surf report that showed a three foot swell along this coast that would hit that day. It was a small swell, but it would allow me to check out the reef when the waves came in bite-sized morsels. But when we arrived the swell was pushing double overhead waves onto the coast and erupting on the reef with a force that scared the hell out of me, as I stood there quaking a quarter of a mile away. On the reef were a half dozen guys rising and falling with the surging swell, only occasionally one would frantically paddle over the brink, pressure a bottom turn and then speed along a vertical wall, only to have to turn towards shore as the wave outraced him. Then he would begin the frightening ordeal of battling back out through the remainder of the set to start it all over again. I decided that this reef, with this swell, was beyond my ability as a surfer. This wave would turn me inside out and pull my arms and legs off. If this is a three foot Sri Lankan swell, I'd hate to encounter a three foot Sri Lankan crocodile.
Just a few days ago while I was idly avoiding spending time with my kids, I started searching the internet for a place to stay in Hikkaduwa
Our bungalow sits at the end of the beach, a fifteen minute walk from the magical reef I will probably never surf. Of course, all the locals say the reef is only 100 meters down the beach. I did a calculation and determined that if it takes me fifteen minutes to walk 100 meters, then I am seven inches tall. The waves pound a steep shoreline in front of our bungalow with the same ferocity as they attack the reef, so I have prohibited my kids from getting too far out in the water. We found a beach break down the coast that isn’t too bad, and Mason and I rent some boogie boards in the afternoons and go out for a couple of hours to ride the waves closer to shore. There is usually a lot of current running, and a pronounced rip tide at one point along the beach, so I purposely got us into the rip a couple of times and showed Mason how to swim out of it on his own and back to shore without too much of a panic. We watched as people routinely got swept out past the largest waves in that rip, and at one point we watched a local guy on a surfboard paddle out and pull a group of them back in to safety. He is the closest thing that Hikkaduwa has to a lifeguard
Right next door sits a restaurant on the sand attached to a tidy three story guest house. Since it is only twenty feet away (American feet, not Sri Lankan feet) and costs less than fifteen dollars to feed us all, we have made it a regular stop in the Becker Sri Lankan dining tour. The place is run by a smiling lady with a perpetually bobbing head, and she jabbers good-naturedly about excursions we can take that she can arrange for us for outrageous prices while she brings us platters of food we didn’t order. Sometimes we get plates of unordered substances that look vaguely edible, and we will sometimes dip our forks in to give them a shot before sending them back, and find that they are damned good. In this manner we have tried all new styles of Sri Lankan food that we would never have ordered on purpose.
Since we arrived in Sri Lanka we have eaten in perhaps twenty restaurants, and have not yet found a bad one. The curries in my opinion are better than in Thailand (and I love Thai curry) and all the fried dishes: fried rice, fried noodles, etc. are cooked lightly with oil to make them taste almost baked. Since the country is so rich with natural spices, they use them everywhere to compensate for the lack of grease. Of all the ethnic food we have eaten in the 18 or so countries we have visited, including France, Italy and Morocco, Sri Lankan food is the best we’ve had. All of us except Mason, who eats nothing but cheese sandwiches. The first meal he had was so spicy that he ran around the restaurant flapping his arms and speaking in tongues. 'Mild' in Sri Lanka is just a matter of proportion like everything else here, I think it means 'won't melt your head'.