I’m having a Dorothy moment. One when you’re not quite sure how you got to be where you are. One where the reality is so different from what you expected or what you had been experiencing. It’s one of those times in your life where you recognise that this is special – and you’re glad you’re able to acknowledge it at the time, and not just reflect on it later.

Through the good fortune of a network of friends in New York, I got in touch with Glen Terry when I first arrived in Sri Lanka, and to finish my time here am fully ensconced in Udekki, on the West Coast, about 2 1/2 hours north of Colombo.

Aroos drove me from Kandy Thursday morning, the 140 km trip taking about 3 hours – which was a good time apparently! There was not much traffic on the road because of the New Year holiday – but there were plenty of police out and about – and we were stopped twice! As Aroos said, ‘These police, they are making a lot of money today for the holiday!’ That’s when I learnt that the speed limit in Sri Lanka is 70 km/h. Most of the time there is no hope of going that fast! But once we got through a number of small towns and villages that seemed to have no distinct boundaries but all just merged together, we managed to get up to about 70, slowing down frequently for the buses and tuk-tuks, before then rapidly overtaking them!

We stopped for tea at a hotel in a small town. Now, a hotel in Sri Lanka is not a place where accommodation is offered, but is more like a tea stand, or a cafe. The little, men-only, grimy place we stopped at, was pleased to serve us. And then all the men proceeded to stare at me! It wasn’t menacing at all, although after a while it became a little disconcerting! Whether it was because I ordered my tea without milk or sugar (a rarity here!) or whether it was because a ‘white’ woman had never stopped at their hotel before – I’m not sure! At one stage, one older man sat across from me and stared and laughed! I burst out laughing too! The guy making tea, with only his piercing black eyes showing above the counter, stared and stared. I tried to outstare him but couldn’t do it! He won hands down!

Onwards, and closer to the coast. As we neared the power station, Glen helped us with phone calls and messages to navigate the turns and tracks to get to the Alankuda beach. Stepping out of the car to a lovely welcome, a cold drink, and a villa with a view of the sea and the pool! No visible neighbours, no noise other than the sea lapping the beach, ahhh! I recovered from the trip over a bountiful seafood lunch on the verandah, and wondered how exactly did I end up here?! And when I am I supposed to be leaving again?!

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