Mirissa from the sea.
Went down south, and boy things have changed. Firstly, Mirissa is the new Unawatuna, Unawatuna is the new Hikkaduwa, and Hikkaduwa is, like, Mount Lavinia. There is also a thick and nasty coat of smog from Kalutara to Panadura. My poor old car overheated after the Expressway and broke down in Weligama. Met a lovely mechanic who gave me a bill for like Rs. 200, which I respectfully overpaid. Limped back up the old Galle Road, stopping every 50k to rest the car and look around.
Once upon a time during the war years the south was both nearby and relatively untouched. There was coral in Hikkaduwa, beachfront in Una and Mirissa was relatively untouched. With rising temperature and tsunami, the coral has been bleached or smashed. Construction and tsunami have eroded the Una beach, and Mirissa is now bumping. What has happened is that Colombo keeps expanding south, and the untouched beaches keep moving down.
We stayed in Matara, for example. There Polhena beach is packed with locals, because it’s relatively shallow. Despite being surrounded by water, many Sri Lankans cannot swim. For many others, a swimsuit is whatever you came to the beach in, be it jeans, sari or burqa. Hence shallow is best.
If you can doggy-paddle, however, there are (relatively) untouched beaches still around. Sairam Bay (which I mention because you’ll never find it) is a lovely aqua space where the sand drops off aggressively, but where there are no rips or other dangers, so long as you can tread water or float. The place, however, seems to have been semi-colonized. There were two houses built by foreigners and I think I saw one of the men kissing a beach boy. I dunno. The place is so generally unfound, however, that we stumbled upon someone taking dump in the water. He just looked up dumbfounded with his naked bum half in a shallow cove.
I’m told this isn’t new, but in Mirissa I was the only Sri Lankan in what felt like miles. The place is full of tourists, mostly Russian. Our group included people from Brazil, France, and Iran, so I guess Sri Lankans were a minority there as well. Unawatuna on 31st night was the same. The beach was full of tourists, next demographically would be beach boys, and then locals. This is different and I guess good.
I spoke to a guesthouse keeper in Weligama, however, where the car broke down. He said the place had been broken into and that crime was becoming a problem, and that the tourist police couldn’t really keep up. As things change, there needs to be more security in the south as well. The tragic and horrifying slaying of a British tourist in Tangalle had better be a low water mark, that can never happen again, or be tolerated now, especially by spoiled political sons.
My trips was safe and quite friendly, though. The mechanic was a saint, even calling me today to see how things were going. His name is Dixon and if you’re ever in car trouble down the Southern coast please look him up, Weligama, about 2km before the town, on the hill above the Caltex sign. His number is 776189909. When we were heading from Matara to Unawatuna on the 31st we also met another great Southern, Chandana I think he was. Like six of us were trying to catch a bus towards Una and having little luck. The Iranian flagged down a Maruti, which I thought was mad, but the charming young man gave us all a ride. We tried to pay him but he wouldn’t accept anything, just wished us a happy new year and went his way down to Galle.
We got a lot of that. People were very friendly and nice. Everything in Sri Lanka is changing faster than I can process it. I hope the people down south get a bit richer, but I hope the southern hospitality doesn’t change.