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  • Writer's pictureJosh Oldridge

4. Parrots and online shopping

Updated: Mar 9, 2020

I’m consistently having some of the best surfs I’ve ever had. While for some people travelling is about never having two days the same and moving around as much as possible, I’ve developed something of a routine here. It starts every day at 5.30am with an alarm I have to switch off as quickly as possible so as not to disturb sleeping roommates. Then I get changed as quietly as I can before heading downstairs, gobbling a handful of shortbread biscuits, and heading to a surf shack, Freedom Surf, which I’ve arrived at each day so far just before sunrise. Today Daniel, a friend from the hostel, and I were the first people out in the water. We managed to each get in a handful of satisfying ten- or fifteen-second right-handers before the sun got up and the masses poured into the ocean. Surfed until 8am, as every day, before heading back to the hostel to recover with the eggs, fresh fruit, and sugary black tea they provide each morning. It's a very happy and healthy start to the day.

Man with a van; Sri Lanka style.

But there is an argument that the surf is too good. Yesterday I enjoyed it so much that I carried on for a good hour after starting to feel a chaffing, from the board, against the inside of my thighs. Near the end of the session I could barely sit on my board it hurt so much. I dropped it off at Freedom and toddled home (okay it’s not home, but I wrote that without thinking … this hostel has that effect) with my legs shaking and with wide steps as though I had a sea urchin stuck in my arse. Then, after a stinging shower, it really flared up. Luckily one of the German girls from the hostel left a bottle of aloe vera moisturiser in our shared bathroom, so I’ve been heaping that on since. By all accounts I possibly shouldn’t be surfing. Yeah. Fat chance. In fact, yesterday was so good that immediately after drying off I went downstairs and booked two extra nights here. It’s a really great hostel and Weligama, though certainly touristy, is not as much so as Mirissa. So I cancelled my two nights there, which was due to begin tomorrow; though not just because of the place. Thinking I might want some time alone after five nights here, I had a guesthouse booked for Mirissa. But the people here are great and there is plenty of room and time to find your own space during the day. I don’t really want to leave, even if, due to the rash, I’m currently only able to surf once in the day for the moment.

Hurts like nettle stings.

I did buy new boardshorts yesterday to offset the development of the rash – or, I should say, my first pair of boardshorts. To explain: I’ve never been much of an online shopper. Firstly, my feet are really bulbous – like two bricks at the end of my legs – so I can never ever buy footwear online. Second, I don’t like the faff. Free deliveries are amazing, but I prefer to get it right straight away, and I also feel like this way of shopping might put more delivery vehicles on the roads (could be wrong on that, please don’t hate me if I am, but it seems to make sense). After returning from spending new year in Scotland, I realised that with only four days until the flight out I had no boardshorts. I tried a local sportswear shop but, as is understandable, they didn't have any, since it would not be profitable to try to sell boardshorts in winter in Castleford. Having read on someone’s blog somewhere that boardshorts are difficult to get hold of in Weligama, I went home and had to look … online. I checked all my good-fitting shorts for waist size and ordered a pair from Decathlon. They arrived two days before the flight and they were too bloody small. After a bit of panic and some strong tea, I plucked up the courage to try again. I went on a different website and paid for express delivery and decided to go for two pairs, just in case one didn’t fit. They arrived the morning I was heading to London the day before the flight. The box came with biodegradable tape, which I liked, and when I unpacked it the shorts looked good. Problem is, one pair was way too big and the other was not a pair of boardshorts but just normal swimming shorts. Great. Fifty-five quid for one pair of not-even boardshorts. I was so angry that I had to sit and eat a bowl of soup in silence. After that, I decided to take the pair of new swim shorts because at least they fitted. The other two I wrapped up in little packages which I took a ridiculous amount of pleasure in making as neat as possible. I kind of didn’t want to part with those return packages; they’re perhaps the proudest things I’ve ever produced. But I used plastic Sellotape since it was all I had – rendering the thoughtful biodegradable tape on the second delivery completely redundant – and then, with a few spare minutes after loading the car for my train out, I decided to check Weligama on Google Maps for shops which might sell boardshorts, just in case the blog was wrong. I discovered that there were two surf shops within 500 metres of my hostel.

Upstairs in the hostel. This is where everyone comes to chill and I like to write. Here, though, it's only user is a sleeping dog on the top sofa bit.

Just hanging out ... LMFAO.

So, after using those swim shorts and acquiring a decent rash for my troubles, I went yesterday to one of the Weligama surf shops and did my first bit of bartering (aside from on tuk-tuk journeys). I found a pair of nice long ones which fitted perfectly and asked for their price. I was told 4,000 rupees. That was almost £20 equivalent. I suggested 2,000 but the way she rolled her eyes and looked away told me to shove it. I aimed at 2,500. At this point the lady seemed to completely lose interest in me. She went to serve another Westerner who might be more reasonable. I made to leave. Just as I was about to push open the door, a calculator was thrust in my face. A different lady from the shop was holding it. She pumped the number 3000 into the calculator and showed it to me. “Just for you,” she said. It was still most probably over the odds, in relative prices, at just over a tenner, but I needed them, and I was still pretty proud of my awkward attempt at reducing the price. I handed over the money. These shorts are much better for surfing than my swim shorts, and they’re long enough to cover the rashes when I’m sat on the board to avoid further chaffing. Moral of the story: NEVER READ BLOGS.

Such a colourful currency. #balling.

What I’d saved was a green 1,000 rupee note, which has a parrot on the front; just like those one can watch daily as they fly from palm to palm squawking all over town. I met up with Daniel and another friend and immediately went out to exchange that saved note for a hearty portion of good Sri Lankan grub (with lots of change, mind). These meals not only bring sustenance, but a few light-hearted laughs; some of the misspellings by locals on English menus and advertisements are endearing and make me snicker. I’ve included photos of some highlights from the place we went to for kottu. Speaking of which, it's coming up to that time again now. Sincere thanks to everyone for reading. Now I'm off to eat my own body weight in rice.

(Clockwise from top left: Buffalo curd and 'coconut trickle', anyone?; Just 22 years experience ... not good enough; (That bottom left section in red) No skip!; Busy afternoon/evening session at Weligama; Around town; Post-surf coffee with a view.)

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