Chris Stout

Sri Lanka Blog Departure /Arrival

As most readers of this blog will know, these travel plans were a long time coming to fruition.  The last hurried and repeated admission into hospital was the writing on the wall that the opportunity to try a drier climate was becoming essential. Suitably pumped full of steroids, antibiotics and nebs, I was declared fit enough to travel accompanied by a suitcase full of drugs.

I did manage a fantastic two weeks in the run up to last Saturday’s flight.  Thanks so much to all those who made the parting so sweet and my head is still full of the wonderful music and the laughter and the shared time with some pretty special people.  What great memories I am taking with me.   It sorts of wraps around you like a comforter.  You are sad because of who and what you are leaving behind, but the warmth and good wishes I am taking with me gives me the impetus to look for some more of the same albeit thousands of miles away.

I had an 8 am appointment for the final part of a root canal treatment a few days before travelling.  Dear friend was picking me up  at 8 am and driving me to Cork for the appointment which had dragged on since May, my being to sick or in hospital unable to make the second half of the treatment.  I know I don’t have a great record of being sensible!  I had people coming to the house for different things the night before the appointment and any sane being would have gone to bed early.   I did intend to but was invited by Catriona McKay and Chris Stout along to a house they were staying in.   I managed to escape my house around 9 pm and armed with cake and booze joined the party in the kitchen. Aren’t all the best parties in the kitchen?  The music was sublime and these warm welcoming people made leaving difficult.  But I left after midnight and got to bed around 1 am.

My friend picked me up around 6 am and we chatted all the way to Cork.  I was wrecked by the time the orthodontist settled me in the chair. It was an hour and a half appointment and I made his day when I woke myself up snoring loudly during the root canal treatment.  A first for him.

Serendipity played its part a couple of days later and I have the best person I can think of staying in my house whilst I am away.

Everything does work out in time – I am a great believer in that – and so it proved again.

The Sri Lankan airlines flight from Heathrow was full to capacity, full of people returning or visiting home but many adventurous young people travelling to this country which is opening up as a major travel destination.

The air hostesses’ turquoise sari style uniforms are styled on the peacock and much simpler and more practical than wearing an authentic sari.   The uniform comes in three pieces and it is Kandy styled, with the overlap pleats dropping from the waist.  The part of the skirt which normally wraps around, folds over and even has a concealed pocket which the delightful air hostess demonstrated to me.  They are so happy with this uniform, simple, beautiful and practical.

A Canadian lady, Renata, sat in the window seat alongside me.  (Since the emergency landing in Darwin, I have to have an aisle seat.)   Renata was travelling to Colombo to do charitable work.  She worked for a Montreal pharmaceutical company and had dropped into Colombo for one day last year with her husband whilst on a cruise.  She was keen to find out more about this fascinating country and jumped at the opportunity to work here.  She is here for three weeks, not in the capacity we usually think of charity work, but working to support and enhance the tourism industry.  Her company has given her one and a half weeks off and the other one and a half weeks Renata has taken as unpaid leave.

The air on arrival at Bandaranaike International airport brought memories back of when my late friend Maureen and I arrived in Singapore in 1999 –  just like walking into a sauna.   The airport employee who helped me through the intricacies of security and immigration was courtesy personified and within minutes of meeting me was advising me to visit an authentic and genuine Ayurvedic centre as he had been cured of asthma through Ayurvedic medicine.   He called me a porter – a necessity as I had a handbag like a rucksack, a laptop, a large carry on suitcase and two suitcases in the hold – I shall leave clothes, hairdryer, electric toothbrush etc etc out here for the next time I come.  I always start out with great intentions of travelling light but have never once managed it.   The great thing about calling a porter here is that you know exactly what you should pay the porter because they each wear a vest with a specific number of rupees printed on it.

Soon I was handed over to family and we were making our way through the busy, but not yet mad, Sunday afternoon traffic in Colombo.

But mad was to come the following day.