Today is the start of our organised tour. A company called Unique Travel (http://www.theuniquetravel.co.uk) has worked with Ella to provide us with a tailor made tour to fit our time scale and our budget – apparently not an easy task when dealing with skin-flints with only six days to spare!
We will have a driver/guide and an air conditioned vehicle to take us to our pre-arranged stops.
Our guide is waiting at 09:00 and introduces himself as Anton. He is a young man, with a mass of curly hair and an enormous smile. He loads our luggage and we leave Galle Fort for what is scheduled to be a long drive to Ratnapura where we will spend the night.
We leave the hustle and bustle of the roads in and around Galle and are soon in the countryside and about to join a major toll road. As we drive onto the deserted road, Anton runs his hand down a string of beads hanging from the rear view mirror and puts the crucifix that hangs from it to his mouth and then crosses himself. We find this a bit alarming in a giggly sort of way and sit back and hope that God’s intervention isn’t required during our trip.
The journey takes less time than scheduled and we arrive at our destination, the Ratnaloka Tourist Hotel (http://www.rathnaloka.com), just before mid-day. It is a very strange place, situated at the end of a very long and rough dirt track, absolutely in the middle of nowhere.
It is huge, with a vast dining and lounge area, but with seemingly no guests.
We are taken to our room which is enormous and very pleasant with a balcony overlooking a tea plantation and lagoon. There are long corridors leading to the rooms and we both think the place has a very strange ambience and rename it “Shining Towers” as there are elements of both The Shining and Fawlty Towers.
We did not have breakfast so go to the restaurant in search of sustenance. We both opt for a sandwich, I choose smoked salmon and Ella chooses bacon and egg. When they arrive we cannot tell which is which, neither has salmon or bacon, but both have eggs! Each sandwich has five layers of filling between six slices of bread and is impossible to eat without deconstructing it. They taste ok, but we are very puzzled by the variety of contents.
We go to sit by the pool and realise that there are some other guests. The pool area is delightful and as soon as we arrive a nice man brings us cushions for the sun beds and swimming towels.
We stay until the sun sinks below the surrounding trees and walk back through the pretty gardens to the hotel.
Dinner is equally odd. We are served an abundance of food, but the waiters hover over us whilst we are eating, I assume so that they can service our every need. It is very off-putting and I feel guilty that I can’t eat the mounds of food that they have provided.
There seems to be about twenty guests in all, one table of Germans, one of Japanese, and the two of us. There is a bar but I only dare have one G&T as we have to get up at 05:00 in the morning for a 06:00 departure.