Four Points Road Trip Around Sri Lanka
**This post is still being edited for content and photos**
When preparing our Australian Cricket Tour Of Sri Lanka 2022, along with staying in Hikkaduwa I wanted unique changes, unique add-ons. It is all too easy, as seen with other groups, to always include Sigiriya Rock, Dambulla Cave Temples, Anuradhapura, or Yala National Park!
I have been to all those places many times, and so too many returning to Sri Lanka for their 4th time. So, wanting to create something we have never done, and loving a good road trip, a look at the map showed that it was possible to drive a lap of Sri Lanka, keeping to the coast some 90% of the journey.
We've often visited Dondra Head, the southernmost point of Sri Lanka, but what about the other 3 points, east, north, and west? For our most unique add-on trip, it was decided to drive around Sri Lanka to visit the four furthest points of the mainland, otherwise known as Four Points Road Trip.
After planning this for months with Walkers Tours, starting in Hikkaduwa was not the intention. The last test of every Australian Cricket Tour to Sri Lanka before this was played in Colombo, so the road trip was meant to be Colombo to Colombo. Saying that, everyone on the trip still drove from Colombo to reach Hikkaduwa so that counts.
Starting 3 hours closer to Hambantota, our first night of the trip, meant we didn't have to leave so early. After causal breaky, and check-out, we farewelled those leaving Sri Lanka that night and rolled out at 11am to begin one slow lap of Sri Lanka, over the next 10 days.
When settled on the bus, everyone had 2 seats each except 3 happy couples, whom I believe were happy to share. I’m not sure I would want any more. We lost 14 thanks to ‘government advisory’, which for space was good, but if we had 14 more, we'd have had a bigger bus too. We weren’t driving 12 hours overnight, but everyone could still comfortably kick back as we did our unique lap.
Stopping at the ‘Welcome to Galle’ marker that we passed each day on the way to the cricket, irked Jimmy who shouted. “We’ve only been going 10 bloody minutes!”. Calm down James, there’s much more to come over the next 10 days! Of course, it was only another 20 mins before stopping again at Koggala Air Force Base.
The end of the runway (on the left) and the highway are separated by the railway line to Matara. On the other side of the highway is Aviation Grill where an ageing Russian Tupolev poses as a restaurant, and which sits just behind a short viewing platform. A taller platform would be good for us, but not for inbound aircraft.
What’s interesting about Koggala Air Force Base is that it is home to Eagles Catalina Golf Club. 4 holes on each side of the runway and one across the bottom, parallel to Lake Koggala. For a region so perennially paranoid about securing their armed forces, to have a public golf course at the base, along an active runway no less, is quite staggering. The club name comes from the flying boats that used to land on the lake.
It’s a rather bleak course with no trees or hindrances, except the runway. It is an active airfield so you can’t have too many high-rise obstacles. Wayne and the Mayor of Weipa challenged the course on Day 5 of the second test, proving that you need a short game to keep the ball off the tarmac. Miss-hit a 1 driver and your ball may bounce down the tarmac into Lake Koggala.
Departing the air base, it was originally planned to have lunch at Mirissa Beach where we have stopped before on drives along the coast, but that was only 45mins from Hikkaduwa, 10mins from Koggala, so we continued to Matara, for a roti or two.
During this time, Mr Shanaka, our National Tourist Guide who was with us for the journey, crapped on for 30mins about Europeans settling Sri Lanka, how spices arrived, and which religions were dominant. Interesting for a minute but when you lose track of the accent, it’s hard to keep up.
Mr Shanaka was asked to keep chatter to a minimum. If we had questions we could ask, but all we wanted was for him to point out places of national importance and give us a chance to stop. Reaching Matara, after we passed the Dutch Fort without the option to stop, I had words.
We went back to the Fort after lunch, to find two awesome local cricket matches and a quiet Mr Shanaka from then on. Not completely, but he got the message as we ventured to our first ‘point’, Dondra Head, the southernmost tip of Sri Lanka, 20mins past Matara.
I had been here several times and it is really a nice lighthouse and bay with a large garden of palms, lawns, and Sri Lanka post box indicating where we were. I don’t remember there being a post box, otherwise I'd have encouraged people to post cards from there. I'm guessing they will have been postmarked ‘Dondra Head’.
From here it was just 90mins to Shangri-La Hambantota Golf Resort, via delightful Tangalle Bay. Like many places in Sri Lanka at the moment, what is usually a thumpingly busy beach town was bereft of life. We stopped for a break and photos of the lifeless beach, before going to the hotel.
The Shangri-La was built as part of the Rajapaksa Dynasty whose home is Hambantota District. The bastards built a deep-water port, international airport, 35,000-seat cricket stadium, a 274-room resort, and bid for Commonwealth Games 2018 as part of their grand plan to make Hambantota the centre of Sri Lanka's universe, or more so the centre of their narcissism. We were 18 of 36 people staying in this gorgeously clean, quiet, and well-kept ghost hotel. It is truly spectacular, with all amenities still open.
Exquisite dinner and breakfast included, I could stay 2 weeks before getting bored, even though there is nothing near the hotel except 18 greens, but we didn’t even have 2 nights. This was always a one-night stop on our way to Arugam Bay. We arrived at the resort at 3.00pm, so had time to swim, walk the beach, go the gym, have a spa, or even play 9 holes before dinner or breakfast the following morning.
Today was poya (full moon), which meant no alcohol was served, though you could drink your own. As such, there was no late night at the bar so after a swimmingly good night's sleep for all (I believe), we left the resort at 10am for the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium, 40 mins up the road.
A New Zealand U16 side were touring, and conveniently playing so when our bus turned up to the gates, security let us through. I called Mr Tickets in Colombo and he gave me the venue manager’s name and number, whom I messaged to say we were coming, and Mr Tickets said we could see the venue. When a very officious staff member blocked our path to the gods, I called Mr Manager who OK'd us, and up to the 5th floor we went.
From there it was two flights of stairs to the highest vantage point of any ground in the sub-continent, that I can recall save Hyderabad possibly. For where we were in the country, it is a whopping great venue. There is no population base to see cricket, thus no transport to get here. It is ridiculous that it was built and even more ridiculous that Australia played here. I can’t believe I bothered to come in 2011, but it’s another venue and why we stopped here on our road trip.
Like our Colombo Cricket Ground Tour, longer time was spent here than expected, which meant we were already late to reach Arugam Bay by mid-afternoon, though reall, we weren't in a rush. The plan to stop in Kataragama for fuel, and lunch while Mr Shanaka topped up, meant we drove past Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport; a mandatory stop. People couldn't believe there was a 35,000 seat stadium out here let alone an International Airport.
10mins wandering this Rajapaksa flop, it was back on the bus and onwards to Katargama, where Mr Shanaka went in search of fuel. As a tourist bus, we have written permission to buy fuel from government public bus depots, with advanced notice of arrival.
Incredibly, Kataragama Bus Depot didn’t know we were coming, so wouldn't give us fuel. It comes down to daily allocation. If we don't request fuel, then the depot can divide more between other vehicles, which makes sense. We had enough to reach Arugam Bay where there was no bus depot, but this was not our problem! With two nights in A Bay, Mr Shanaka had all next day to find fuel.
Kataragama is a little town wedged between Yala National Park and Mattala International Airport, close to where the bastard Rajapaksa's live. Of course, it was the Rajapaksa's who approved the railway line extension to Kataragama so the family finally had rail connections to Colombo. Anything else one family needs?
Mr Shanaka didn't find any fuel, but we found some mediocre lunch before we were on our way once again, this time driving between two national parks. This meant a chance of spotting wildlife, perhaps the elusive 'Yala leopard'? It wasn't long before we came to a grinding halt, twice.
Standing on the road in the shade, were elephants having a lazy afternoon. We topped for photos and then carefully crawled past these stellar beasts that were closer to me than Detective Dave sitting two seats along. I love Elephants, and these ad-hoc stops were better than anything I saw in Yala National Park. We could have stayed longer but needed to move on, and cautiously to save fuel.
Not far from the elephant stop, was Budagallena Forest Monastery. It was difficult place to reach, though not far off the road, but we got there only to find it closed to the public. There were a few Buddhist classrooms, stupas, and assorted buildings, but nothing to keep us here for more than 15mins, except turning the bus around.
The bus couldn't get into the car park without ripping off the front bumper because of the steep, very-short driveway, thus needed a 127 point turn to face the right way to leave. A static habit of the trip, was the driver and Mr Shanaka waiting for us to get on, before positioning the bus. It could have been turned around while we wandered the community, instead we all stood by watching the bus zig and zag for 10mins. Pointless time wasted, and not the last time.
We were finally on our way to Arugam Bay, still 97km and 2.5hours drive. It was 3.30pm and Mr Shanka was still trying to get fuel, this time in Monaragala. Mr Shanaka didn't find fuel but we did find Pizza Hut. Not only were the toilets good, it was refreshing to find ice-cream and garlic bread rather than a roti.
The driver had done his best to conserve fuel by coasting in neutral much of the way to this point, but enough was enough. I told Mr Shanaka to 'get on with it'. No more coasting, put the foot down and get us to A Bay.
Doing just that, we reached The Blue Wave Hotel at 5.30pm. The Blue Wave was A Bay’s first 'starred' hotel, and I am not sure it has had much work since. If anything, they need work on their bar.
We have given all hotels and restaurants 5+ hours’ notice to get 50+ beers very cold. Iced. Like Sri Lanka of the past, they just don’t believe it when you say you want 50 beers until you are standing in front of them. And then, cold is not their vocabulary. We arrived to find 9 warm beers in the fridge.
I spent 30 mins packing a kitchen freezer with 40 beers and 10 bags of ice. Give it 5 mins they say. No, give it 20mins at least. They understood the need for a lot more when the 9 beers vanished in under 90 seconds. Under today’s economic climate, no one spends money on stock if they don’t have to. We didn’t force anyone to buy extra beer, but they quickly knew that had to. By the time we left after 2 nights, their fridge was empty.
It had been a while since I was in Arugam Bay, but I tell you it has grown in 11 years. Lots of places are still closed, but there were more people here than anywhere I’d seen on the southwest coast at a time when tourism was at an all-time low. In the high season, with fuel and tourism, this place would be thriving.
There are no high-priced hotels but plenty of 2- & 3-star places to kick back for a few weeks. The beach and water is amazing, and even for one that doesn’t surf, I'd be inclined to have a crack at a few tubes if I had time. Even when the power cut, lamps, lanterns and torches cast a unique glow along the busy main road, giving off a comfortable warmth to this very cool little place.
Our friends Gabby and James' (Cricket Club Café) daughter Emily lives in Arugam Bay, working at the flash Kaffi (café), where you would not know there was an economic downturn. Aside us coming for caffeine, promising Gabby we would, you could not move in the place. It seemed Arugam Bay and Kaffi was the place to flop during C19 restrictions... not that restrictions existed in A Bay.
I have known Emily since before she was born, so it was great to see her after 6 years, now all ‘growed up’, living a youngsters’ east coast surf life. Emily surfs every morning and our young Nick wanted to join her the next morning, if not for crashing down with C19 that night. Woo Hoo, our first Road Trip victim.
After Nick moaned to Emily about spending the last 2 weeks with ‘old people’, his first day in Sri Lanka with ‘young people’ was ‘cancelled for his comeuppance’! Us ‘old people’ had a great day Nick, swimming, walking the point, lazing on the beach, having coffee, lunch, swilling beer and cocktails on the sand, and then going home for a cooling swim before dinner by the pool. #Cough #Cough
Dinner itself wasn't that flash, the chef putting on a buffet. Though serving not a great variety of hot food (two rices but no wet dish to go with it), the chafing dishes were filled with cold water and the little flames underneath weren't lit or kept blowing out. It didn't take long for hot food to go colder than beer. They were struggling, rusty from two years of silence possibly, but they did their best; with a little coaching from yours truly who can't help sticking his nose in.
After 40 great hours in Arugam Bay, we farewelled the ever-hard working guys at The Blue Wave for the short drive to Sangamankanda, the easternmost point of Sri Lanka, where I was truly disappointed with Mr's Shanaka & Walker. They had known for ages we were going there, with time to plan it, ask questions, find access, and do all that was needed to make it as efficient as possible. I had never been here, so relied on their experience to do the job!
When we reached the ‘post box marker’, Mr Shanaka didn’t know where the lighthouse was. Asking directions and being told to go 1km back towards Arugam Bay, we turned off the highway and then crawled a rough road for 2km, before we could go no further, leaving us a 2.2km walk to the beach.
As explained to Mr Shanaka, they should have had safari jeeps waiting for us to get out of the bus at the post box, and drive to Sangamankanda quickly and comfortably. As it was, by the time we reached the lighthouse, everyone was hot, exhausted, no doubt pissed off, with no enthusiasm for the walk back.
Shanaka got on the phone and mustered a delivery van to pick us up, though he had to do two trips. By the time the van came and 9 of us got to the bus, the others were already there. Disgruntled, we rolled back to the highway and the post box where only 12 got out for the commemorative photo, the others remaining in the cool. It was a downer for the endeavour. We did reach the point, but it should have been a lot more enjoyable.
We continued north to Batticaloa for our 'pre-ordered' lunch at Riviera Resort on the water's edge. After a few refreshing Lion Lagers and a wealth of sandwiches, it was a short walk back to the bus, to waste another 10mins. The bus had to reverse up the narrow road, past the junction into where we could turn left and drive forward. Again Mr Shanaka, when we are having lunch, or stopped somewhere, this is when the bus should be positioned to go onwards.
Heading in the right direction, we visited the latest Dutch Fort. Batticaloa Fort was nothing spectacular but knowing what we could have missed in Matara (the cricket matches), we weren’t going to miss another unique sight. There was no cricket and not much fort either. It took 15mins to see what there before we hit the road to Trinco, the former stronghold of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
From the long stop at Sangamankanda, we were behind all day so didn’t reach Trinco until well-after dark, which pissed me like never before. It wasn’t just Sangamankanda or turning the bus around after lunch, but we had to get fuel!
2.5km past the turn off to Trinco, we stopped at Mutur Bus Depot where we were booked for a top-up, yet it still took 30mins. Being booked was one thing but turning up when the depot didn’t expect us to, was something else. Again, unless you are there, Sri Lankans don't believe you're coming. We needed the fuel, and everyone was understanding. It made a long day, longer, and we were finally on our way to Trinco.
Unbeknownst to everyone I was feverishly trying to find another hotel. I learned shortly after we left the bus depot, that Anantamaa Hotel was operating on generator power, yet didn’t have fuel, as per a conversation Mr Shanaka had with the hotel that morning!
Mr Shanaka, Mr Walker, not only is this what you should have known well-before we arrived, but Mr Shanaka if you received such news this morning, why didn’t you tell me? After several messages with Mr Walker asking him to find another hotel, I was assured that they had fuel and the hotel manager promised that no grid-power cuts would effect our 2-night stay.
To compensate the late day, I ordered ‘very cold beer’ to be waiting. After a long drive, the refreshment was well-received. We were given keys and led to our rooms, and then it was to dinner for most. I was too upset by the length of the day and the easily avoidable mishaps to feel like eating, so sat in the lobby having a quiet beer, when the power went out. Waiting 5 seconds for the generator to kick in, it didn’t.
There was no one in reception, so I called the hotel, but no one answered as there was no one at reception. Eventually a lad arrived, and I asked for the manager. He walked off behind the hotel and I sat for 10 mins, before walking off in the same direction. Behind the kitchen I met the manager, who told me the generator was broken. For those that were with me in Lahore a few months earlier, you will know what I mean when I say I had a ‘Marium Moment’.
20mins and 6 calls with Mr Walker, the lights popped on. This was everything I tried to avoid by changing hotels and everything I was promised would not happen. I know Sri Lanka has amazing fuel shortages, but it doesn’t effect every property. There is fuel, available to some and not others, managed better by some and not others; big hotels and big tourism business. Unfair on the little guys, small guesthouses, restaurants, and bars, but it is what it is and without that privilege, we wouldn’t be investing another 10 days in Sri Lanka.
After a long day, trying to find a new hotel, sitting in darkness for 30mins, I was stuffed, but that was no excuse for my 'Marium Moment’. I apologised to the manager, empathising with the situation in Sri Lanka, though it didn’t justify the prolonged blackout. Dinner was still open, and with the dining room now sufficiently cooled, I enjoyed buffet remnants and a few beers with those still cooling off after dinner. An arrack by the pool was the perfect tonic to rest well before a lazy 3-hour drive around Trinco tomorrow afternoon.
A mid-morning walk on the beach with Detective Dave and Constable worked up a thirst, so it was back to the hotel for refreshment by the pool. Trinco had the same hallmarks as Arugam Bay, and one could believe in the high season that this place would rock. Uppuveli beach is beautiful.
Pondering the day, before our afternoon drive, a message from Pedro reminded me Commonwealth War Graves was just around the corner.
Read: Commonwealth War Graves
Leaving the War Graves, we had our remembrance beer and then hopped in the bus. First stop wasTrinco’s original glam hotel. Welcombe Hotel opened in 1942, but is now abandoned. Overlooking the harbour, the platform extending above the entrance, before trees hindered the vista, would have afforded grand views whilst sipping cocktails and tugging Cubans. You can still see the harbour and entrance, just not all of it.
This art-deco hotel designed to look like a cruise ship is in deplorable state, except for the marble compass inlay in the lobby floor, but not beyond repair. One can see potential, but with the number of hotels and resorts along the coast, you would be reluctant to redevelop this hilltop relic, outside town, far from a beach.
The hotel mind you was the highlight as Fort Frederick was nothing flash either, except for nice shaded walks. Military life and wild deer inside this active battalion is more attraction than the fort. It’s not Galle. It’s not Matara. For most, walking up to the temple is the point of visit. For me it was the fresh fruit juice stall outside the temple entrance. The viewing terrace looking out to sea was as a special as the juice.
Your juice is served with fresh fruit on the side. So, my mango and passionfruit juice came with half a mango and a passionfruit. The Mayor of Weipa ordered a mixed fruit juice, which came with full fruit salad, all for the same Rs700 (A$3), so I know what I'll get next time.A slow walk down hill, and back on the bus for the drive home for dinner, arrack and sodas by the pool, and early to bed.
We got off to a bad start in Trinco, but the hotel itself is nice. It’s not 5 stars but would easily be 4 stars, especially if The Blue Wave Arugam Bay can hold that tag. It's a big hotel with just two levels of rooms scattered around large lawns, gardens and the pool. I can see why people could stay here for a few weeks, once the power gets sorted. With many people only staying at hotels and eating at restaurants that have their own power, make sure the genny works!
An early start the next day for what threatened to be the longest drive of the trip, proved to be one of the shortest. We couldn’t stick to the coast as the road was impassable for a bus our size. It was necessary to cut inland, but I really wanted the coast road, especially to see ‘Black Sand Beach’. We did go to a beach that was white, but the water’s edge had a healthy density of black sand which we learned was sold off to Koreans for tech products.
We reached Vavuniya at 12pm for lunch, stopping at a place that had two dining rooms, one Indian and other a Sri Lankan ‘RSL’ of sorts. While most walked into town to find a greasy spoon or roti shop, myself, Meggsie and Timothy went to the RSL, and were served within 15mins. Whereas Emma, Michael and Nicholas went to the Indian restaurant, where they weren’t.
At 1pm, 3 of us hopped on the bus and off we drove to meet the rest down the road, not knowing the 3 were in India. Phones started pinging, and it was Emma asking if we were coming back to get them. From where? Debate ensued, and it was agreed to go back and get them before continuing to Pedro Point, making a stop at infamous Elephant Pass.
Read: Gamini Kularatne
After photos of Elephant Pass Railway Station and Gamini Kularatne, and feeding stray dogs and puppies, we drove to the northernmost point of Sri Lanka, and not before we missed the turn. 3km down the road we shouted, ‘turn the bus around’, with thanks to Google for showing us the way.
It wasn’t too far out of our way, it was another avoidable lengthening of the drive. At least we didn’t have to walk 2.2km to reach the point as the road passed Pedro Point Lighthouse and red postbox landmark. Out of the bus for the photo to prove our point, and 5 mins later we were headed to Jaffna, past what can only be described as traffic.
From the moment we reached Northern Province, ‘life was normal’. There were still fuel lines, but also vehicles and people everywhere. Far be it from us to know why, but there was a definitive change. Arriving at the stunning Jetwing Jaffna for two nights, there was plenty of daylight for an exploratory walk to discover a lot of life on the streets.
Markets were full of food and people, shops were open, greasy spoons open, bookstores, wine shops, rickshaws buzzing around, people and buses lined up at the bus station, and an open saloon. Rs700 for a relaxing late afternoon blade shave and head massage is a solid way to end another great day.
What was more astonishing, was the people looking as if they had not seen a tourist for ages, if at all. We aren’t strangers to Sri Lanka but like us being shocked by the traffic, Jaffnans are shocked by tourists at a time when not too many people are visiting Sri Lanka. So much so, when I went to the closed pharmacy, they opened to sell me 160 pills each of ibuprofen and paracetamol. I love this place. Dinner included once again in a gorgeous dining room and then up to the roof for an evening Arrack and ice for sleep.
Leaving the next day at 2pm to drive around the peninsula, meant the morning was spent walking Jaffna visiting churches and cathedrals, cricket grounds, fish markets, and the Dutch Fort, to which I hitched on a motorbike. That’s how much fuel they have here, enough to drive tourists about free of charge!
The Fort is Sri Lanka’s 2nd largest, behind Galle. Seeing the quality of stonework, ramparts, entrance paths and arches, I thought there’d be life inside, like there is in Galle, but no. Vacant grasslands, a few trees, and internal restorations. Quite a non-event. Considering there is an entry fee, I expected much more, but then, I had no expectation.
Back for 2pm and onto the bus for a slow drive, in every sense. The road out of Jaffna, and along the northwest coast, was deplorable. Like many times along the trip, we had to tell Mr Shanaka to go back, this time to cross the 2km bridge to Karainagar Island. Crossing bridges gets people excited, cameras feverishly captured images of the vast waterway eitherside as we trundled across and back.
If there is value in going slow across potholed roads, it was the ease of stopping when asking for a photo. The number of churches, temples and even cemeteries on what is a largely uninhabited part of the land was remarkable. It came to be that someone was always shouting in passing, ‘Church' Some of these churches were not small, and some not a few hundred metres apart.
One astonishing sight were 14 stations of the Cross. Gold (coloured) statues sitting on plinths, in a beautiful outdoor church, amongst the trees, on the beach. Again, not too many people living locally and not far from the next house of worship. Catholicism here is bigger than Vatican City.
Almost reaching Pedro Point for the second time, we turned right to Jaffna stopping at famous Rio Ice-cream, opposite famous Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil (Hindu Temple), a stop to suit both interests.
The temple is where men must take their shirts off. Many temples require you to cover, but this was the opposite though we did have to wrap our legs with a sarong. Timing was perfect as 10 mins after entering, people lined up to see musicians through small alcoves, begin a prayer service.
After 5 minutes of rhythm, everyone moved to look through another alcove (doorway), and then to another and so forth throughout the service in the temple in which no photos were allowed. Asking Mr Shanaka, he said it was courtesy and nothing to do with offending gods. Thank God, as I got some ripper pics!
With take-away ice-creams in their 1980’s parfait glasses, we reached the hotel, refreshed for imbibing, dined, and into bed for an 8am kick off to arrive in Kalpitiya early afternoon.
Not for the first time, poor conditions meant we couldn’t drive the little used coastal road, instead having to drive back to Vavuniya and on to Anuradhapura before hanging a right to the coast. This meant we could stop at Elephant Pass again, and the monument celebrating the opening of free movement between north and south, following the end of the civil war on January 10, 2009.
This was quite a unique sight, and only 15 mins, before stopping at Kilinochchi Bus Depot for fuel. The depot was 100m off the highway not 5km out of our way. Though having to wait our turn, it wasn’t more than 20mins to pump 45 litres and on we went.
Because we used the highway, we made good time, even with lunch in Anuradhapura, and rolled into the Blue Whale Resort not too far from the westernmost point of mainland Sri Lanka. Checked in, Mr Shanaka went to research the way to save wasting time tomorrow.
Whilst Mr Shanaka was researching, we were swimming and luxuriating in this quiet beach resort, whose staff were thrilled to see us, especially the barkeep who tried to up the beer price to Rs1200. He relented, reduced it to Rs1000, but then kept bringing out free nuts, fries, and other snacks, perhaps all to keep us drinking, which needed no encouragement.
It was too early in the day for me to continue imbibing (after 3 on the bus south) so I went to explore the beach and happened across people digging for cockles in the shallow lagoons and pools, left behind after high tides. 15 family, friends, or colleagues were collecting buckets of these shellfish, either for self-sustenance or seafood restaurant.
I dug one cockle and put it in the bucket. 5 seconds later my cockle was thrown back. No one spoke English so I couldn’t ask why, I just had to accept my cockling was not good enough. Cockle between my legs I walked back, stopping to fish an oyster under the bridge leading to the hotel. Hundreds of oysters clung to the pillars, but without an oyster knife I would not succeed. It was back to the swimming pool, peanuts, fries, and a rubbish bin of ice and beer!
The barkeep had an efficient thought. Rather than walk 30m back and forth from the bar to the pool, he would bring the bar to the pool. Filling a large plastic bin with beer, tipping 5kg of crushed ice over the top, and then topping up with water, meant the staff could sit by the pool serving drinks, and everyone was happy. It is rare to find a Sri Lankan barkeep with such nouse!
Dinner was served from 7pm, and after talking with Mr Shanaka, I learned after visiting the westernmost point tomorrow, we had to pass back by the hotel. So, instead of visiting the point on our way to Negombo, I decided we would go after breakfast. This didn’t please everyone, but emphasised that going after breakfast was a better option. I believe it proved to be.
Leaving at 10am, we could do a casual walk, come back, swim, lunch, and leave at 2pm for the 3 hours’ drive to Negombo, especially not knowing how long the walk would take. I didn’t want to find that Mr Shanaka’s 2-hour walk, was a 4-hour trek. I could see on the map it was not that far, so when Mr Shanaka said 2 hours, I told him it must be 90mins, no more.
We drove the sandy road for barely 1km until the bus could go no further. From there, Mr Shanaka lead the way down the road, before hitting a sandy track toward the coast. I was 100m behind, after stopping for a few photos, when I saw Mr Shanaka walk away from the beach, as we passed a naval outpost.
Knowing the point was just beyond the trees, I went to the guardhouse and was told we could come through to reach the beach. The gate opened and those with me went in. I raced after Mr Shanaka to tell him we could go through here, and he said that when he asked yesterday, he was told he couldn’t.
Like a barkeep that doesn’t believe 50 people will come for beer until 50 people are there, the guard didn’t believe Mr Shanaka when he said Australian Tourists are coming tomorrow. Only when we turned up were we allowed onto the beach, saving a good 15mins walk each direction.
As it was, there was pole waiting for a flag to be flying. There was no post box, but Emma installed one after we took the celebratory photos of our visiting all Four Points of the Sri Lanka mainland. A unique quest, let me tell you!!
Knowing how close we were to the hotel, a few guys walked home along the beach, others all the way along the road, but it was all done by 11am. I believe everyone was happy with that outcome and hopefully much happier than doing it on our way to Negombo.
As planned, back at the hotel we swam, had a few beers, had lunch (ordered straight after breakfast so it was served on time), leaving plenty of time to freshen up, pack, pay, and leave.
For half the guys, today was their last day with flights at midnight. The drive to Regal Reseau Resort only took 2.5hours so by 5pm everyone was on the stunning rooftop with equally stunning infinity pool, overlooking the Indian Ocean. It was, as many reflected, a great hotel to not only stay, but finish the journey. There was a calm, great service, awesome food & drink to the point that I have already penned Regal Reseau for next time.
And saying goodbye, so ends our Four Points Road Trip.
Knowing what I know now I would do it again, but different. Perhaps go the other way but reach Sri Lanka’s actual westernmost point; off-limits Kachchatheevu Island for a start. I would know to stop at Matara Fort. Have jeeps for Sangamankanda. Leave much earlier each day. Have a boat trip from Jaffna, and importantly do the drive before the tour, along every road we want to go, just so I know.
Thank You Everyone. Sri Lanka was amazing, because of you!!