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Ambalangoda and neighbourhood
21 September 2006
In the morning, our acquaintance is waiting for us at the breakfast table. He gives us a freehand map with all major tourist attractions. He does not want anything in return, not even a free breakfast. We leave at 9 am, stopping off at the Gangatilaka Vihara – the Buddhist shrine where one makes offerings and prays for a safe journey. A local self-appointed guide shows me around the temple, explaining all the rituals, symbols, etc. It is good to know that.

After a morning downpour, air humidity reaches 100% while the temperature at noon is 44°C. At every stop we sweat profusely. When cycling, we feel slightly better because of a cooling breeze. But it does not really matter, we keep on struggling. Just a few more days and we will get used to this climate.
We are still experiencing culture shock, passing countless huts, often made of several dozen boards. We are shocked by people jumping onto moving buses, "no-holds-barred" overtaking and other high-risk manoeuvres.

The traffic is still heavy, but we feel more and more confident with every passing minute. In Ambalangoda, a town famous for mask carving, we purchase a small wooden one. These masks were originally used in traditional Kolam dance. I am glad that we travel by bikes since Lucyna would like to do some more shopping ;-) I admit, though, that these handicrafts are really beautiful.

Farther down the road, we are reminded of the 2004 tsunami. Many destroyed and desolate households, with some shacks here and there. The depressing sight is aggravated by tombstones situated right by the road. On the other hand, thanks to international aid, many buildings are being reconstructed.

At dusk, having cycled 66 km, we reach Hikkaduwa and spend the night in El Dorado Hotel, paying LKR 1600 for an air-conditioned room.