There she blows! (Sri Lankan version Part 1)

It was a funny sense of Déjà vu that I felt, as the boat slipped out of the Mirissa fishing harbour as the sun rose on the southern edge of Sri Lanka. I had the Sixpence None the Richer song in my head again, There she goes, in some psychosomatic flashback to my California trip to see Blue Whales. This trip was totally different though, in more ways than geographical. While the California experience had been purely to see the biggest animal that had ever existed the Mirissa/Unawatune trip was a weekend away with sea, sand, food and good company in equal quantities.

The venue for the weekend was Bishu’s (you can call the gentleman at 0777708880 right after reading this post…trust me it's the best budget place to stay in Una), cunningly disguised as the Unawatuna Bay hotel where a group of 20 of us (well mostly 20) crashed down for a weekend of chilling out and…wait…I already mentioned above what conspired for the weekend. But did I mention chilling out?

After a long trafficky dive down to Unawatune and settling down at Bishu’s, we headed for dinner with Kosala at the Submarine Diving School. I hear they’re pretty good at all things diving related, but I’ll be damned if they don’t have a Michelin starred chef working there. The food was relatively simple, grilled fish, devilled crab, salad and potatoes. The fish however was the most delicate and flavourful I had had in months, the salad was absolutely divine, a million flavours hitting your palette at the same time while the crab was…well spectacular to say the least. To say I took my time and demolished everything on my plate is probably the understatement of the year. Add the beautifully lit crescent bay, the white sands, quietly swishing ocean and the starry night and it was an absolutely perfect night and the best way to start what was to be the perfect weekend.

Saturday may have dawned bright and early in sunny southern Sri Lanka, but since I haven’t slept in since around November 2009, I decided to take a chill pill and stay in bed until the rest of the crew turned up to Bishu’s. Of course I didn’t get to sleep too much as some of the others on the trip came in bright and early from Colombo and roused us for lunch. Might I take a moment here and say the lunch at Bishu’s is absolutely brilliant. I had an interesting opportunity to contrast Unawatune Beach Resort’s sandwiches (supplied for breakfast by a friend) to Bishu’s lunch. The former was tasteless and hugely overpriced at Rs.500 for some sandwiches and soggy fries while the latter was the epitome of delicious Lankan style food. So here’s another tip, avoid UBR if you want value for money, there are much better options out there.

In order to digest our lunch fully, we decided in a fit of enthusiasm to hike to the nearby Jungle Beach and relax in the ocean. On our first 2:1 slope on the way, my enthusiasm waned somewhat, being weighed down by a full stomach and dripping with sweat in the humidity. However getting to Jungle Beach, my enthusiasm was (somewhat) restored. The beach is very pretty and picturesque, turquoise blue and green water, but in usual Sri Lankan fashion, people who come to the beach, tourists and fishermen, seem to have an uncontrollable urge to pollute it and there are plastic bags and other unseemly things lying around.

Jungle Beach

This drawback was however quite easy to forget while relaxing in the bathtub warm waters of the bay. I tried a small snorkeling expedition with a friends mask but it was too ill-fitting to do much with apart from spot a frightened puffer fish and skim the sand in search for small shells, odd pieces of rock and other things that only I would ever find interesting. Despite almost taking out a couple of people with my headstands and flailing legs to keep me under water, I had quite a lot of fun. The snorkeling does appear quite good here though if you can get further out into the bay as can be seen from one of my friend’s pictures here. Note that he didn’t snorkel, just waded in and stuck his waterproof camera underwater to get these fabulous pictures.

Powder Blue Surgeon Fish

It was with regret that we waded out as the sun set and headed back to Bishu’s to dry off, change and head back to the Submarine Diving School for a BBQ they had set up for us. I could wax on about this feast as well, but I’m afraid the culinary enthusiasts amongst my readers (assuming I have any) would hasten to throw themselves out of the nearest window. Suffice to say that I would like to take a moment to thank Kosala, Shirley and the staff of the Submarine Dive School for putting together what was arguably the best BBQ on (and off) the beach I have ever had. 

BBQ in progress

Satiated, replete and all the other adjectives you can think of to imply a full stomach, we took our leave off the warm Unawatune night and retired to bed early with the eager prospect (well not for some) of waking up at 4.30 the next morning to see the largest animal that has ever existed in the world.

To be continued


John said...

I had eager prospects! It's just that my eager prospects like to saty in bed till the sun is actually visible.

I second the the quality of food at the diving school. Take it from a fat man, that stuff was awesome!

Offthebeatentrack said...

And you didn't even have the crab :)