There is nothing quite like waking up in a new undiscovered country. Our family had the recent privilege of spending Christmas and New Year in unchartered territory and while we were very excited about our holiday, this turned into apprehension just before the onset of our holiday( I will explain that later), back to great excitement, totally exhaustion and finally total relaxation!
About four months ago our family and our closest friends decided to plan a trip to Sri Lanka for our Christmas getaway, we ummed and ahhed about the trip for sometime before finally making up our minds, then came the choice of destination within the country and soon realized that that choice will be made for us based on where we could find accommodation as we had left it rather late to book the self catering villa we wanted. Between three of us we must have emailed at least twenty to thirty places, who either where booked out or where double our budget. Finally we booked our villa in Galle and we relaxed thinking all would be ok, well we were wrong, about a week later the agent called us to say that we had been quoted the wrong rates and the booking was actually double the price and they needed us to pay the difference immediately. Needless to say we cancelled that booking swiftly and carried on with our hunt for family friendly accommodation. Out of desperation, at this point, I came across a beautiful hotel resort in the North East of the country. It was a stunning property and I promptly booked the rooms and we finally shelved our search. Not once in that time did it occur to me to do a bit of research on the difficulty of the location, the weather during that period or the history of the location. Everyone said it was peak season and it would be fantastic.
About a month before our trip, we started to think about the logistics, we had two toddlers under the age of three travelling with us as well, so we needed to be precise. It was at this point that we realized that the hotel that we were staying at and the airport where practically on the other side of the country from each other which meant that we would need to take a taxi across the country. I thought the best thing to do was to arrange an airport transfer through the hotel which was pretty easy to do and we were all good to go.
Three days before our trip, we got a call from our travel agent to tell us that the rate that we had booked our hotel did not include local government taxes and that the prices would change, not drastically but it would effect the budget. At this point we had to grin and bear the additional cost and get on with it. The next day my hubby gave me a call and asked if I had checked the weather report or the news regarding the weather in Passikudah, where we were staying, at this point I was in no mood for anymore surprises and quickly logged on to check it all out, only to find out that the area was having unprecedented rainfall and many of the roads used to get to the hotel had been closed due to landslides and flooding… oh no! Might just add that in the days to follow over 30 thousand people where displaced due to the floods and landslides.
All parties involved quickly convened and it was suggested that we contact the hotel to find out the current situation and their reply to us was that instead of the normal 5 hour drive to the hotel it was now going to take around 8 hours and all the domestic airports had been closed due to the rainfall therefore we could not take a connecting flight either. The hotel was really matter or fact about the rainfall and assured us that everything would be ok. So off we went to prepare ourselves for the flood of the centaury, little did we know that we weren’t actually too far off in our assumption. Finally the day of our departure was upon us, the kids were packed, the adults were stocked and we were finally about to be on the way when I realize that there was a problem with one of the plane tickets, my poor hubbies name was wrong on the tickets, it was booked under the name everyone called him and not as in his passport… and we where back to panic stations! Thankfully with a bit of elbow grease (Well done Warren), two hours later everything was sorted out and we were actually about to board the plane!
We had a rather uneventful (thankfully) flight and soon we touched down in Colombo, it was 4 am local time and the kids had very little sleep but where so excited about having being on a plane that they were actually a pleasure. So off we went to find our taxi guy who was waiting for us at the arrival lounge, it was easy enough to find him but apparently the driver was having a few personal problems so we had to wait about an hour before we left. In the middle of all of this we asked the taxi operator about the recent floods and rainfall in the north of the country and he had no idea what we where talking about so we thought that there may have been a slight exaggeration to the international news and we were feeling a bit better about our journey to come. It later transpired that the problem with the driver was that they couldn’t find one who was willing to drive to Passikudah due to the state of the roads and the rainfall and the one driver who was willing wife had just gone into labour! Thankfully we only found this out one the way though, and we where finally one they way. We had made the wise decision to travel with the car seats and this was a god sent because, oh my goodness, the driving on the roads were a complete NIGHTMARE!!
Im a nervous passenger at the best of times and this was no different! For the first part of our trip most of us dozed and caught a bit of sleep but I was wide awake watching the carnage of the roads ahead of me. Tiny one lane roads sometimes turned into four lane roads when our driver was dodging tuk tuks, cattle, people and potholes. At times I closed my eyes and braised for impact as another larger bus or construction vehicle came barreling at us. Thankfully the kids where as good as gold through the journey. Due to the recent road closure our driver had to become creative in his approach to getting us to our destination. The last town that had a bit of civilization that was saw was Dambula and after that we went, what we South Africans call, Bundu Bashing! At times there were actually no roads to follow, we where driving on dirt tracks that had trees growing in the middle of them. And, oh my goodness, did it rain! I have never seen rain in this form before, it literally bucketed down and I finally understood the saying!
Amongst all of this we were able to see the beauty of the country side and we were pleasantly surprised to see how clean the places actually were. There was very little rubbish lying around and the greenery was just amazing! Although I will admit by our eighth hour into our road trip it did start to wear off and soon there was a serious sense of homour failure in the bus!
Before I go on though, there was one sticking point though; the toilets! OMG! Most of the time there actually were none available and we had to preform some Bear Grills style bathroom runs for the kids and the once that were available where the hole in the ground kind that were dark and oppressive. I grew up as a farm girl but there is one thing that I don’t do well is a gross toilet, I would far rather find a quiet bush somewhere and get on with my business, which is rather difficult to do in the rain while trying to wield an umbrella at the same time.
Our bus trip soon entered into its ninth hour and the kids started to become restless, all I can say is thank goodness for my galaxy tablet, it saved us a lot of tears on that trip, we were tired and desperately needed showers and in the distance loomed the small town of Passikudah, after seven bends and a few false starts we finally caught sight of our home for the next eleven days; the Amaya Beach Resort. Never have I been in a vehicle where the relief to finally be at our destination be so palpable. And as we poured out of the bus and into fresh air, I fought to fight the instinct to get on my knees and kiss the solid ground underneath my feet. We were quickly ushered into our hotel rooms by the hotel Guest Relations Manager and we stepped into the comfort of 5 star luxury and slowly the nightmare journey faded into oblivion until we remembered that we had to make the same journey back in eleven days!