Saturday, December 21, 2019


The early morning train to Hikkaduwa cost me 240 Rupees (C.1.75) for the 3-hour journey. Yes, C$1.75 for my train ride. It was a beat-up but comfortable old train that chugged and rattled along with the Indian Ocean on my right the entire trip. My goals for this part of Sri Lanka were simple. Do some diving, get a tan and drink some beer. A man has to have goals.

I found my homestay, The Mango Villa 703, easy enough. The family was incredibly sweet and my private room was off the main house. At $8 a night with direct access to the beach this was going to be just fine. I was hungry so I dropped off my bags, put on my flip flops and heading into town. I found Vernons Guest House which had an oceanfront restaurant and all-day breakfast. I splurged on the big breakfast for 600 Rupees ($4.50 C) and watched the surfers do their thing. Breakfast included a big pot of coffee so I was set for a while. A good start.

Needing to set up my diving schedule it was off to find Poseidon Diving. Over 4 days I did 6 dives, including 4 wreck dives and one deep dive. I wanted to take some photos but after a bit of effort, I decided to focus on diving and enjoying the moments. There were great rock formations, colorful fish, the odd ray and lots of scary barracuda. 

Poseidon was the Greek god of the sea, storms, earthquakes, and horses. It was also the name of a fictional ship that was tossed, overturned and finally sunk. So I have those things to keep my mind occupied while I dove. I was partnered with a Russian named Dimitry, who as it turned out was my partner for all my dives. His English was terrible, but so is my Russian. We just connected by focusing on the dives, helping each other to stay safe and having a post-dive beer. The dive-masters were excellent and professional, the equipment was modern and safe. Overall the entire staff and crew at Poseidon Diving Station were first class all the way. Helpful and friendly. They just kept track of my dives and trusted me to pay at the end. Again, who does that?

For me, it was all about getting in the water and getting more diving experience. I had a nice routine for 3 days. I would get up and walk the 30 minutes to Poseidon. Check-in with Adrianna and get all my gear. I had time for breakfast and coffee, then our diving brief and then our dives. Afterward, I would have a beer with Dimitry and take my time going back to my room. I would find a random place for a cheap lunch, usually Oceanside. I would go to my room and have a solid nap. Wake up, walk the 3 minutes to the beach bar. Drink 3 beer, chat with whomever,  watch the sunset and head back to my room to be in bed by 9. This town is really quiet right now. I am sure there are parties to be found but I had no interest. I will rock on when I get to Mirissa in a few days. Another surf town with a good reputation for nightlife, and by nightlife it means I am home in bed by 11 because of the rock star life that I lead.

Hikkaduwa like all towns along this coast was hammered by the Tsunami. Five KM north is the village of Peraliya which was completely destroyed. It was also where a full train was smashed and 1700 people were killed. The worst train accident in the history of rail travel. There is a memorial to this incident and it stands over the mass grave of over 900 unknown victims.

I found a Tuk Tuk and headed to Peraliya. The driver was interesting and for whatever reason had a huge thumbnail. The longest nail I have ever seen, man or woman "Good for cocaine" he laughed.

At the Tsunami memorial museum, the caretaker was open and friendly and told me her accounts of the day the Tsunami hit. Her two kids, aged 10 and 8 were killed when the first wave dragged them back into the ocean. "The town was OK after the first wave". Then she talked about the second wave and how they survived. She knew her children were lost so they had to save the rest of the family."We watched the animal because animals know". When the sea was pulled back after the first wave the animals started to run, so they ran as well. First-hand accounts from survivors.

She and her husband now run the memorial/museum. It is filled with pictures of the aftermath and these pictures are brutal. She hugged me when I was leaving, said thank you and remember to tell people how much we suffered in 2004. I think the world has forgotten. She smiled but you could see the 15 years of sadness in her eyes.

Down the road is the Buddha statue memorial to the 1700 victims of the Peraliya Train Wreck. Take a few minutes to read about it. Nothing was reported in the Western news that I remember and I was glued to both the TV and online news sites reading about the Tsunami. 

The Memorial is serene and a Monk at the entrance will give you details about both the day and the memorial (for a small donation). I skipped it. Religious donations make my spleen hurt. 

I took a day off from diving and grabbed the bus to Galle. A Dutch fort town 30 minutes down the road. I took the time to visit one of the museums to learn that Sri Lanka, being incredibly valuable, was a colonizer's wet dream. First in 1505 came the Portuguese, 1658 brought the Dutch and 1796 the British. To read a quick historical review, Click Here.  Each turned into a disaster, as can be expected from colonizers. 

The town was a nice enough day trip. The old walled city part of town is the only reason to come to Galle. I liked wandering the streets but like any busy tourist town, the touts come out of every nook and cranny. Promises of "cheap" tours, "let me help you" and "that is too far, I will drive you for a fair price" were a constant nuisance.

My time in the area in and around Hikkaduwa was excellent. The diving was great. The day trips were informative and the people I met were interesting. I do get a bit bored hanging around a beach for hours on end. Don't get me wrong, the Indian Ocean is warm and the swells are close to the beach so just floating in the ocean comfortably enjoyable.

However, the area is filled with Russians and Germans and as I mentioned before they have natural hate for each other. I find the Germans friendly and easy to chat with however the Russians are standoffish and carry an air of arrogance and superiority, for whatever reason. They treat service staff like shit as well. A trust testament to the type of people that they are. Am I generalizing, sure I am? Am I offending someone, who gives a shit? I am told Mirissa is a massive Russian hangout. It was a bit "sketch" not so long ago with Russians trying to take over the way they do, through force and intimidation. However the town and the country fought back, kicking most of the criminal element out, or so it seems. They are never truly gone, are they? I will soon find out.

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