‘Maddy, it’s me.’ I hear Cindy’s voice before I hear the gentle knock at the door. I open my eyes and see it is already day, but it must be early, the noises around are still muffled. I get off the bed and shuffle toward the door. I’m still dressed!
‘Morning! Did you have a nice night?’ Cindy beams while strolling in and looking everywhere around the room.
‘Erm, yes. It was okay. What are you looking for?’
‘Are you alone?’ And the look of surprise on her face makes me crack up laughing.
‘Of course I am! I’ve eaten him for breakfast already. Why do you ask?’
‘Maddy Jones, quit joking! Did he come back with you or not?’
‘No.’ I lower my eyes, my expression now a mix of seriousness and sadness. ‘I’m not ready for that yet, Cin.’
She takes my hand, lifts my chin, so I look straight into her eyes. ‘You’ll be okay. Just give yourself time.’
I love the fact that Cindy gets me. I don’t have to explain anything to her.
‘Greg is gone to get the rental car. He will be here soon. Eddie and Polly are all packed and ready. We could all pile in the car early, have brunch in Galle and then they can go off to the airport while we hit the shops. What do you think?’
‘Sounds like a plan! I just need a shower, and I’ll be ready.’ I can see Cindy’s already had hers, her hair is still wet. I get out of my skirt and blouse and jump under the cold jet of water. I needed that!
The sky is a bit grey this morning, but the heat is already suffocating. As we pile the luggage in the car, I see Sanka strolling toward us. How odd.
‘Just wanted to wave you two goodbye. I hope you will come back one day.’ And he shakes hands with Eddie and Polly. Then he walks away, stops just outside the hotel entrance, looks around and then he is gone.
‘How nice of him.’ coos Polly.
I have mixed feelings about his motives, but I keep them to myself.
The road is busy, and the traffic is scary. There are buses, tuk-tuks, scooters, bicycles and cars everywhere. The buses are the most worrying, travelling at the speed of light and blaring their horns. They come right up to you, and then just swerve to overtake, entirely onto the other side of the road, whether there is a bend or not. People are hanging from the doors as if it is the most natural thing to do and the music is deafening. There is no way I will ever go on one of them!
I’m glad I’m not driving so I can enjoy the scenery. Despite the traffic, the place is beautiful. The road follows the coast, and we pass the most amazing white beaches. Coconut trees, loaded with fruit, reach for the sky. A riot of colour flashes at us. Flowers of all types. Most of them I have never seen before. As we drive on, Greg points at the famous fishermen, perched on makeshift sticks in the sea. Some of them are posing as tourist attractions, but a lot of them are actually working and spend hours in the most uncomfortable position I can possibly imagine.
We drive past villages of various sizes. Colourfully dressed women walk along the road holding their umbrellas defiantly against the sun. The odd kid plays through the dirt on the side of the road. Stores of gloriously coloured fruit and vegetables adorn the way. Scattered people sit by the side of the road trying to sell the fish they have just caught. Stray dogs play chicken crossing the road, trying to avoid getting hit. Scores of fish are laid out to dry under the scorching sun, spread on makeshift wooden stalls.
At one point, the railway runs along the road. An overloaded train barrels past. People are sitting and standing on the steps outside the doors. Some of them are also talking on the phone while hanging on to the train with one hand. I start to think we are overkilling it with health and safety regulations back home.
Suddenly, the scene opens to an impressive bay.
‘That’s Galle Fort, over there.’ Greg is pointing towards the far end of the bay. The traffic is getting thicker and so are the blasting horns. With difficulty we reach the old fort, cross the walls at the entrance and park the car.
‘We can walk from here. We have a bit of time to stroll around if you guys are okay with it?’ suggests Greg.
‘I’d love to walk around a bit. We have time anyway, don’t we, Ed?’ Polly looks around as she gets out of the car.
‘Yes, we have plenty of time, love, and I wouldn’t mind stretching my legs for a bit. We’ll soon be stuck in an aeroplane for longer than I care to think.’
We start strolling down the little streets of the old Portuguese fort. The place is a world apart from the typical local scene. No blaring horns, no traffic, bar very few cars and the odd tuk-tuk. The shops are modern and well stocked. The houses have all been built in European style. The imposing walls still stand tall and proud against the strength of the ocean.
It is starting to become excessively hot now, and in tacit agreement, we all pile toward the Dutch Hospital precinct, where all the cosy, modern restaurants are located. We choose the one with a balcony that dominates the bay, and sit outside, enjoying the most amazing view. We can see Jungle Beach and the big temple across the bay. The view is so stunning, there is no need for empty chit-chat, so we just sip our well-deserved drinks in peaceful, companionable silence.