Arrived, safe and sound and reasonably sane after 36 hours or so of travel. I took some dramamine on the second flight and conked out for six hours or so, which I sorely needed. Watched a movie, Finding Neverland
, and otherwise pretty much read Wicked
, which I am getting very close to finishing. Uneventful flight. Decent food.
The airport went smoothly as well, with a driver from the hotel picking me up and all my luggage arriving intact. I was a bit nervous about one item I'd checked -- a wheelchair, which I'm bringing for my great-aunt, on my father's instructions. But it came through fine, and it's down at the hotel bell desk now, and someone should be coming by to pick it up. So all's well.
The hotel is lovely, gracious and charming, and they even greeted me on check-in with a server bearing a glass of juice. Lovely.
Karina wasn't in the room when I arrived (it turned out later that she'd thought I was arriving around 8, instead of 5:30), so I took a nice hot shower and changed into something less grubby than my travel clothes, and then took my bok down to the restaurant to read for a bit. Had some more juice, fresh-squeezed mango, which bears no resemblance to normal canned mango juice. Yummy. Also some devilled chicken, which was supposed to be a snack, but came with rice and would easily serve as a small meal. Rupees 500 or so for all of that, which works out to about $5. Staying at the nice hotels isn't the cheap way to do Sri Lanka, but it's certainly insanely more affordable than buying similar stuff at a similar hotel in London! :-)
Karina did find me there -- so good to see her! Amazingly, it's been at least three years since the last time we saw each other, which feels a bit unreal. We talk often enough (and long enough) that I certainly feel like we're in close touch. She got a drink and we hung out there for a bit, then went on to dinner. She had heard good things about the Thai restaurant at the TransAsia Hotel, but when we went there, their menu was not so appealing on the vegetarian options. So we went to their Chinese restaurant instead, Long Feng, which was yummy. Particularly noteworthy was the salt-and-pepper vegetables -- prepared just like salt-and-pepper shrimp, but with an assortment of veggies instead, and really yummy. And I really liked my dessert, mango pudding in a ginger sauce -- the pudding was light and barely sweet, the chopped mangoes adorning it were somewhat sweeter, and the light ginger sauce was the sweetest component -- but with a serious ginger kick, due to the chopped candied ginger that served as its base. Yum.
So far, we'd been good little tourists. Then, around 9:30 or so, things took a small turn. On returning to the hotel, we changed in sandals/flip-flops, and went for a walk. The hotel is at one end of Galle Face Green, which essentially comes in three parts. There's the long stretch of beach itself. Then there's a stone wall, about six feet high, and at the top of that wall there's a long concrete walkway, about 800 meters if our guidebook is to be trusted, bordered by little food stands, mostly empty, every few yards. And then past the food stands, there's the green itself, a long, fairly wide, strip of grassy parkland. All very nice, yes? Karina and I walked down the long concrete walkway, one eye on the sea, talking, trying to ignore all the single guys hanging out by the various stands (a few of which were open). They mostly didn't talk to us, but they did look, and a few made comments along the "Hey, baby" line. We were wishing we were walking on the beach instead, but with no way down to it. And then, and then, we go to the end, and there were stone steps leading down.
So of course, we went down, just to put our feet in the water. We had no intentions of doing anything so foolish as to walk back along the beach. It was fairly dark down there -- some of the lights from above was cast down, but there were a few feet, just by the stone wall, that was shadowed in serious darkness. And then there were the waves. But there was actually quite a broad stretch of sand between the darkness and the water, so somehow we ended up starting back across. I was fairly sure that I had seen stairs somewhere near our hotel's end of the beach, so we probably could just come up then, not having to turn around and go all the way back.
We walked pleasantly enough for a while, getting our feet when we chose. Then the waves started to come a bit higher, splashing our calves, so that we had to pull our skirts up a bit to keep them from getting wet. Then a surprise wave snuck past us and managed to get our skirts wet anyway, the bottom edge at least. And we kept walking and walking, still not sure if there'd be stairs at the other end.
Partway there, when the rising tide has nudged us closer and closer to the dark shadows under the wall, we got a nasty shock -- loud kissy noises coming out of the darkness. Two men were there, and we just kept walking past them. It was fine, no actual problems, but gave me a bit of an adrenaline rush. The water kept rising, now regularly splashing us to our knees, coming in with more energy, more force. And then an even bigger wave got us wet to our thighs, and the bottom of my dress was now drenched, clinging to my legs, and it was still fun, but fun in that scary kind of way, where you know you're being a little more risky than is wise.
Eventually, we found a stone staircase going up. We tried going past it, hoping there'd be another closer to our hotel, because there were two guys standing on the steps. But a little further on the sand turned rocky, making it easy to suddenly lose your footing, especially when a big wave slammed into your legs, throwing you off balance. So we turned back to the staircase and came up, ignoring the guys standing at the top, watching us and our wet skirts. We walked on, past them and all the others, until we were finally back at our hotel. Then we sat out in the garden, watching the waves get higher and fiercer, realizing that if we were still out there, we might well get pulled off our feet and out to sea.
We can both swim, of course. And there probably wasn't an undercurrent just waiting to yank us away. But the sign did say that the beach wasn't safe for swimming, so it's really just as well that we got out when we did.
It was really a very minor escapade, in the grand scheme of things. It was still early enough that there were lots of people around to hear us if we yelled -- even some women. We were never in any real danger from the waves. Mostly, it just felt good, the cool water splashing against our skin in the warm night. A little adventure, the perfect way to start off the trip.
Don't tell my parents, okay? :-)