• Josh Oldridge

11. Elderly Sri Lankan men and sunglasses

Updated: Apr 19

Home away from home again. I absolutely love it at Spindrift. On the way to the bus station in Hikkaduwa to get back to Weligama, an elderly Sri Lankan guy with neat, combed hair hopped off his bicycle as he passed. In a town full of tourists, apparently something about me had caught his eye. As per, I was asked which country I’m from. When I told him England he started repeatedly saying something about an address. I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. But he was smiling. Then he took out his wallet and opened it and gave me a scrap of paper with his house and street name on, along with his name. “You send me,” he said. I nodded. He got back on his bike and waved me goodbye. If anyone can help me at all with what went on or what I’m supposed to do or send to this man, please don't worry about getting in touch, as I 'lost' the piece of paper immediately.


Side note: everywhere in Sri Lanka has fish tanks. Not sure if it's some weird status thing. Weligama train station has 5 in a row even though literally nobody stops to look at them.

The bus was, as usual, frantic, and we passed the tourist hotspots Galle and Unawatuna at break neck speed, blurring vision of the big concrete condos and hotels standing and in the process of being erected around these beautiful towns. The music was pumping and something was playing on the bus TV at the front. People stood in the aisles were being flung around by the quick and severe manoeuvres and it was mid-afternoon; the hottest part of the day. For the white-haired Sri Lankan bloke sat next to me, these conditions were ideal for a nap. Gradually his spiky face nestled in against my shoulder and, not wanting to be rude, there it remained for half an hour when, eventually, after seats became free at Galle, I shrugged it off. Still, pretty cute. After these two incidents with old Sri Lankan men I’m changing which deodorant I use.


Perfect post-surf snack: chocomilk and 'Real Temptation' biscuits, which are, in fact, quite dry and only a little tempting.

There’s a bit of a Cornwall connection here at the hostel at the moment. Jake, Jo, and Chris all hail from the county I’ve come to love, and a Swiss girl, Annika, also recognised Falmouth on my university football team t-shirt (only clean tee left), having spent time there surfing and living in her van. It’s been a strange but not so strange coincidence. Feels special to have a group of people all from that small portion of the UK in this small town in Sri Lanka, but then what with both being havens for surfing, it’s not all that surprising. They’re better surfers than I am. Chris used to compete, and visited Weligama eight years ago during his time in the Marines, when this tourist town was just a town without the beachfront main road which is constantly busy now, and when Weligama sported just two hostels. Yesterday morning we took an early tuk-tuk ride out to Plantations, the reef break in nearby Midigama I checked out during my previous stay but didn’t fancy when there. Again it didn’t look great, so we went to Lazies – two reef breaks, one a left-hander and one a right. Since I had recent painful confirmation that my left-hand surfing leaves lots to be desired, I paddled over to the right. But it was bigger than I was used to, even if not too brutal, and I struggled to get to grips with the wave. I caught myself one nice ride and then jumped in a tuk-tuk back to familiar ground – well, water – the safety of Weligama, where I had an hour-long session and got lots of decent waves. Who ever said travelling was about being adventurous?


On that note, it’s so nice, after staying in a bunch of places with shit WiFi, to be back in Spindrift, where I can finally check on things I don’t need to concern myself with … like watching the goals from recent Sheffield Wednesday defeats and Brexit. After all these years of constant headlines on the latter, it’s really nice to be well away from it during it’s happening. Of course Sri Lankans don’t need to care much, so it’s not discussed, and backpackers have too many amazing stories of travels or plans to visit places like Bali, India, and Africa to let the conversation slide into Brexit talk. It’s honestly quite refreshing. Though a few of us have spoken about it briefly in the hostel and are a little apprehensive over what could happen in the coming months when we arrive back on British soil. But then, any apprehensions are resolved by the best remedy for most things: a cup of tea and a surf. Or, something a few people at the hostel do before an evening session, which is dubbed a ‘NASA nap’ apparently. When you need to focus, instead of having a coffee or a nap, they do both: drink a strong brew quickly and then going straight to bed for twenty minutes before the coffee kicks in. Upon waking, you're hit with a double shot of energy – from the sleep and the caffeine – inducing a high level of concentration. I tried it a few weeks back. But, what with my poor sleeping pattern, I could only do the coffee bit, and when I tried to surf I just got a dry mouth and a headache and had to come out after less than half an hour.


As well as the surfing being great, another great thing happened two days ago: I snapped my sunglasses! No sarcasm meant here. I was on my way into the hostel and simply removed them as normal from my head and one of the arms just shattered. Could be the fault of the sunglasses; ones my mum bought me, most probably only costing a couple of quid or so (sorry if that’s incorrect, Mum … and no offence), but the most probable cause of the damage was my wide head. Anyway, Charlotte from the hostel was quick to heal the wounds in emphatic fashion. She offered me a pair someone had left at the hostel over a year back, and they are real (or brilliant fake) Ray-Bans. Naturally, the first thing I did was go to a café and order a latte to stand beside my new sunglasses whilst I stared broodingly out to sea to look candid.

But that’s not really me, staring out to sea. I prefer to be in it. This morning I stayed in for two-and-a-half hours it was so lovely. Rising at dawn and surfing in the quiet, gentle waves as the sun comes up over palms at the fringes of Weligama Bay is still the best part of this trip, especially when doing this with some mates from the hostel. My favourite part of surfing is not being on the wave itself, though it’s amazing, nor the serene buzz you get afterwards, but that moment when you feel the wave start to take you. You’re still lying on the board, but have done the paddling work to keep pace with the wave, and have adjusted your body position and arched your back as necessary, and you know you have it. It’s that anticipation of how it will play out. Long ride, short, quick, gentle. It could even close out if you've read it wrong. But that moment is just beautiful. I’m not going to even try to describe the feeling. Sometimes there is no point trying to describe them, they should just be left to be as they are. All I’ll say is everyone should give this amazing sport a try if they are able to.

#nofilter #notevensurehowtousefiltersonmyphone #donthaveinstagram

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