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We wave down a bus; heavy on the breaks, he overshoots the stop by a length or two and we scramble on as the hail of horns signals the traffic behind adjusting its course. Bound for Mirissa, another coastal town but quieter, our guide book suggesting it to be reminiscent of Unawatuna some fifteen years ago. Divided into three bays, the first and most northerly is the biggest, with deck chairs and parasols decorated in the hotel's livery
Half an hour meandering round the bays, over land and past stands offering whale spotting tours, we find ourselves at our new abode. Our host shows us around and as we look over the sun bleached fence at the bottom of the garden, he points out a turtle nearby feeding on sea-grass growing on the rocks. Later on we take a walk around the head land and up to a small temple where a middle aged lady with thin wire framed glasses is gathering green leaves in her colourful sari.
Our room is no more than twenty paces from the sand and in between is a lawn of rough grasses, plants and coconut palms. We drift of to sleep that night under the protection of our mosquito net with the sound of waves drowning out the whir of the fan above.
Relaxing into the slower pace of Merissa we break up the day with pineapple juices and walks on the beach, stopping on the way back to negotiate the rental of a surf board. A young family three doors down seem keen that I am shown the ropes by their son, who has grown up surfing. I agree that I will return in the morning for my first lesson.
A little surprised that the younger of the two brothers greets me in the morning saying that he will soon be ready and offers me breakfast with an encouraging grin
After drinking the coconut water and splitting the nut for the soft jelly-like flesh, we head out on the boards that were surely designed for a 40 kg twelve year old rather than a 80kg oaf. Already feeling a little inadequate as the nipper glides out over the water, towards the breaking waves; the feeling intensifies as I witness wave after wave of local expertise. Meanwhile I lumber around on my toothpick consoling myself with a couple of rides and enjoying the panoramic views of rainforest meeting beach.
A couple more lazy days and a few more home cooked curries and we're off further south to Tangalle. Much preferring to try the highly rated rail service over the sometimes hair-raising bus service, we have to wait for that pleasure as the Sri Lankan rail terminates at Matara, fifty kilometres short of our destination. We change buses at Matara and catch one bound for Tangalle just as it creeps away. With our packs on board we are committed to the overcrowded bus for an hour of standing, swaying, jossiling and manouvering, Lee catching a break as a seat frees, only for the bus to draw into the terminal half a mile down the road :-)