Rollin’ Hard in Unawatuna, Sri Lanka

We’re baking in the sun in Unawatuna, Sri Lanka, a blissed out little beach town straddling the edge of the Indian Ocean oh-way down south. And “straddle” may be putting it generously. Unawatuna was all but wiped out by a mega-tsunami in 2004, and despite the government’s attempts to tighten building regulations and move restaurants and hotels further back from the soft, pliable shoreline, everything was rebuilt literally on the sand. At the moment, I’m sitting on the upper veranda of the Peacock Hotel, and if I took a running leap, I could literally jump into the Indian Ocean. It’d be shallow and I’d probably break something, but still. Lucky I’m not one to take running leaps. At least not indiscriminately.

I’ve got my first sunburn of the trip, which I feel minorly guilty about. I’ve also still got fleas, apparently, because I’m itchy on my arms and stomach and back. But I can’t complain. The water is bluer than the sky, and the sky is bluer than most skies I’ve seen in awhile. The view from Peacock is great.

Photo on 1-14-13 at 9.56 PM

Vendors are passing by with huge baskets of fresh fruits and sarongs and hand-carved Buddha statues and the fishing boats are motoring in and out and everybody’s lying comatose on beach chairs and towels. Emily and I are planning to hike down the beach to a Buddhist temple perched way way out on a nearby peninsula. We’ll probably eat some awesome food, too.

Here’s a journal entry I made yesterday morning on the train out of Colombo.

1/14/2013 – 6:32 a.m. – Train to Unawatuna, Galle

Got up way too early and boarded a southern-bound train out of Colombo. Sounds like a bad song lyric, I know, but then, there are no bad songs. Not really really.

Actually, we’ve no idea if or not said train will deposit us in Unawatuna, as we were given bunk instructions and boarded the wrong train entirely. Picture: six blue-shirted Sri Lankan railway employees crowded around our wrinkled ticket for the first-class 6:55 a.m. train, arguing and gesturing and scratching heads at the whistle blows at 6:25 a.m. and an engine on platform 5 roars to life. As a kind of default, most people around here say “Yes” to anything and everything, so they ushered us aboard on the quick, and as the train rolled out of Fort Station with us in tow, a conductor examined our ticket and shook his head.

“Different train,” he said. “But going same place.”

So. No first class A/C Observatory car for us. Not today. Instead, we’ve dropped out packs in a few empty second-class seats, wiped the early morning sweat from our foreheads, and resigned ourselves to a minorly lesser fate.

“You gotta roll with the punches,” Emily said, which compelled me to belt out a few lyrics from that old Steve Winwood song: “When life is too much, roll with it baby / Don’t stop and lose your touch, oh no baby.” I can’t sing, not really, but I do appreciate Mr. Winwood’s sentiment in a new way since landing in this place.

Today is still good. We’re ambling along at sunrise, the Arabian Sea washing up along an agatey-orange beach just 10 feet to my right, the old metal train fan whipping the stillish and already warm morning air into a pleasant, whirring breeze. Outside the window, the cows chewing and the pigs rifling and the world waking up to its business. Inside the window, the babies gurgling and the children pointing and the young men staring immodestly.

Galle-bound. Maybe.

There are no bad songs.


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