Mount Lavinia is a coastal village about 12 KM south from Colombo. After a year in Dhaka, I wanted nothing to do with staying in the city. Starting my trip here was a fantastic reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the capital, any capital for that matter. This is not a quaint little seaside town. There is a main strip with everything you need, and I spied a McDonald's coming in last night. So I woke up, had a coffee and headed straight to McNasties, devoured two McFlurries for breakfast. No guilt, no concerns, no problem! The rest of the menu can reside in a trash can, but McFlurries rule the roost anytime and anywhere. On any given day I would probably choose an Oreo McFlurry over a cold beer. Don't say anything. I might get kicked out of the macho man's club.
After my nutritious breakfast I wanted fresh air, ocean breezes and sand. The beach was a 5 minute was from my Home Stay but now a 20 minute walk from where I was...damn McFlurries coming back to haunt me. Well the walk would do me good. The beach was barren. I mean post apocalyptic empty. Near one end there were a group of dudes pulling what looked like a fishing net so I headed that way.
In April of this, year a terrorist attack in Colombo killed 259 people. Tourism immediately dried up to almost nothing. The Sri Lankan Government had removed all tourist visa fees to encourage tourist back. Lonely Planet named Sri Lanka as the Number One travel destination this year. Regardless, the fear from the terrorist attack must still weigh heavily on everybody's minds.
Restaurant and bar owners were hanging about trying to entice you into their empty places. These places are designed for tourists and sadly the locals do not eat there. Anyways I did find great entertainment from those guys who were pulling in fishing nets from shore. I have never seen this before anywhere. I was chatting with the oldest guy (In the white shirt) and he explained what was happening, and excitedly happy to do it. Impressively, young guys from along the beach who were surfing or just hanging about, would stop and help, Just to help. Naturally I was going to join in but was politely told that it would be inappropriate for a tourist to do this. I did not fight it. "Take pictures and show your friends".
What I thought was one line to a fishing net turned out to be two lines to a huge net. When they pointed out where the buoys where and was quite shocked. This next could easily be a massive net that is used on a large trawler. Ninety minutes later, the first fish of what I thought would be a incredible catch made its floppy appearance. All told I counted about 25 small to mid size fish and one Dolphin fish (not the mammal) that looked to be the size of a large Canadian Salmon. It was a beautiful blue and gold and everyone was celebrating and taking photos. I guess this fish would fetch a nice price at one of the restaurants...with no customers. It was a small but valuable bounty and a community effort.
If you walk around and look past the natural beauty you get smacked in the face with the reality of the place. Entrance to the beach left is restaurants, shops hotels etc. Nothing outrageous but nice. Beach right is all fishing boats that are sitting idle in front of a shanty town the stretches the length of the beach. Now don't mistake this part of the beach as run down and dirty, because it is not. Mount Lavinia beach stretches to Colombo 12 KM away and it is clean and well maintained. Remember, just because they are poor does not mean they a dirty thieves.
I always get the zoos blues. I do not know why I go to any zoo knowing that the end result will be me getting sad/angry and depressed at how we treat animals for money. I had high hopes for The "Nature Reserve" in Mount Lavinia. The reviews were promising and the owners of the Home Stay were all positive and glowing about it.
In the end I would like to free all the animals and take flame thrower to the place. It was a nasty as any other I have been to. Beside keeping animals enclosed in small concrete cages, elephants were chained to posts. Hippos were swimming in fetid pools that were just large enough to cover them if they lay sideways. Moneys putting their hands through bars begging. Food or freedom I am not sure. Large beautiful tigers roaming in circles. Ostriches with no back feathers and you could literally see bones. One lonely seal swimming laboriously. I won't go on. It only deserves a short passage in this post. This is absolutely the last time for me. This bullshit where the animals are "happy and well provided for" is such a sham. I do not care where it is and how beautiful it is. In the end it is a prison for animals and we pay money for the privilege to ogle them. Humans suck.
In the end I regrouped. I watched the sunset with a cold beer and embraced the fact I was in Sri Lanka. The country had endured a brutal 25 year civil war from 1983 to 2009. Forty thousand lives were lost in the Tsunami of 2004 and 259 were killed in the Terrorist attacks in April of 2019. Mixed with these events are various corrupt governments at all levels and you could see how a people would just give up, be mean and nasty. That is not the case. Everywhere the Sri Lankans have been gracious, humble and encouraging. They want to show you the beauty of the country, not the turbulent past. Yes, this has only been the first real day here. However it is everything I read about and heard about.
Sri Lanka, I am happy to be here.