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I was talking to a guest recently who works as a business advisor. When I told him that we pay 15% commission to Booking.com (and similar amounts to Trip Advisor, AirBnB, Agoda and all the rest) for bookings that come through them he was astonished. In any of the sectors he works in that commission rate should be more like 5%, or even less.

Online Travel Agents (OTAs) such as Booking.com have a business model which loads all the costs onto the accommodation providers, offering a free service to people wanting to make bookings. And a damned good service it is too. We are impressed by the design and ease of use of their systems. They certainly know what they’re doing. But how many customers stop to think who is paying for this fantastic service? Or where their money is going?

Being a bit of a data junkie I analysed how life has changed for Jungle Tide in the last few years, in terms of which routes our bookings come from. Back in 2011 over 80% of our bookings came through our own website, mostly people having found us on Trip Advisor and having clicked the link. We pay Trip Advisor a considerable annual fee in order to have a link to our website direct from our listing with them. And they still hit us for another 15% if anyone presses their “book direct” button. But if you’ve visited our listing on Trip Advisor you probably won’t have spotted our link. it’s a tiny icon, overshadowed by dazzling claims from online travel agents that only through them will you get the best deal. Not true! We offer cheaper room rates and better customer service to people who book directly through us – either via e-mail, phone, text or through Free-to-book on our website. Because that way we’re saving 15% by not paying commission to an OTA and it’s only fair to share that saving with our customers.

The figure now for direct bookings through our website is a little over 20%. A similar percentage is down to our own efforts – friends, friends of friends, repeat business, people recommended by former guests. Almost all the rest – well over 50% – comes through Booking.com. Our contact there is very helpful and as an organisation they are highly professional. But we still think 15% is way too much to pay for what is a very small service, no matter how well it is delivered. And, from what we hear, so do a growing number of small guest houses, B&Bs and homestays. Individually we may be microscopic but there are an awful lot of us and if we were all to reward direct bookings the OTAs might have to sit up and take notice.

But I know the mountain we have to climb. Once an organisation – be it Booking.com, or Trip Advisor, or Facebook, or Google – gets to be so good at what it does that people identify the organisation with the product or service (think of Hoover if you want an historic example) the competition is pretty well squeezed out. Market rules cease to apply. And just to make sure there’s no room for competition the giants form “partnerships” with one another. One day a few years ago we took a look at our Trip Advisor listing and were surprised to see a flash across it saying “We cannot find rates for this property”. Since we pay them for a business listing and this includes a link to our website where our rates are clearly displayed this was, we thought, some mistake, so we contacted them. No mistake. The flash was put there because at the time we were not signed up to one of Trip Advisor’s “partners” – Booking.com, Expedia, Agoda and the like. This was, we were told, Trip Advisor’s new policy and we were powerless to change it. So we signed up with Booking.com just so folks could see a price when they looked on Trip Advisor. I think they call it being over a barrel. Since then, Booking.com and Agoda have merged. Well, not merged, they are just owned by the same parent company. So that’s all right then.

So, if you want the best prices and the best customer service, and you would prefer that 15% of your money to go into the local Sri Lankan economy rather than into the pockets of a multinational – or if you’re just feeling a bit rebellious today – BOOK DIRECT!

Thanks for listening.


The road from Kandy to Uduwela village and beyond to Galaha has now been finally repaired and resurfaced – other than a couple of very short stretches of a few metres which are awaiting surfacing but easily passable. The final piece in the jigsaw was the demolition and rebuilding of the bridge in the village which closed direct access to Jungle Tide for a few weeks but was finally reopened on 15th October. During the bridge works we had to arrange shuttles of local tuk-tuks to ferry guests to and from their own transport parked in the square on the other side of the bridge. Luckily it was after the end of our busy season and the guests were all very positive about it.
The last 700 metres of road when you turn off the Kandy-Galaha road remains a private and unsurfaced tea estate road but any vehicle can cope with it (slowly) and all our guests now have to face is five minutes bumpy ride rather than the almost 30 minutes it was a year a so ago.


While my attempts at growing vegetables continue to be abysmal failures, the fruit trees to which I give no attention whatever just carry on cropping in vast quantities, mocking my efforts. There must be a lesson in there somewhere, probably to do with Buddhism. I still can’t get used to trees producing fruit twice or more per year. Lately it’s been mulberries, Chinese guavas and another monster crop of avocados, all of them testing out Sally’s jam-making and my ice-cream-making skills to their limits. The guests appreciate them, though, and so do our volunteers. We had a Trip Adviser review recently, in French, and being lazy I decided to apply Google Translation rather than translate it myself. I was alarmed to read how much our guests had enjoyed “eating the lawyers Sally and Jerry gave us” until I realised that “avocat” is French both for “lawyer” and “avocado”. So if you come a cross that particular review, fear not. We have not descended to cannibalism.


Sinhala and Tamil New Year this year meshed with Easter weekend and a group of us went for a walk in the area around Jungle Tide on Easter Sunday, the day after New Year. Half way round our circular route we heard the strains of amplified music and a great deal of cheering and laughter and shortly afterwards came upon what I can only call a small village fete. Just one of many New Year celebrations across the island. A game of ‘Elephant Eye’ – the local version of ‘Pin the Tail on the Donkey’ – was in progress. An elephant had been crudely drawn on a whiteboard nailed to a tree and children were blindfolded, spun around and given a marker pen to mark where they thought the elephant’s eye should be. As we elderly whiteys hove into view a great cheer went up and a clamour that we might be invited to participate. Since refusal seemed pointless I volunteered to go first. A guy reeking of arrack applied the blindfold and turned me this way and that for an eternity then set me loose in the wrong direction to great mirth. Eventually with a lot of helpful pushes and shoves I made it to the whiteboard. The rest of the group then took their turns.
The New Year festivities went on and on over about four days, mostly involving noisy fireworks day and night. All quiet again now. One of our friends reported seeing an event that involved a tug-of-war between the residents of two homes for the elders – now that I wish I had seen!


A quick update: The final really bad stretch of road – the short hill from the village square where the bus from Kandy terminates, up to the turn-off for Jungle Tide – has now been completely resurfaced and is a joy to drive along. There is still just under 1km of road into the village remaining to be completed but this is not in too bad a state. The final 700m of estate road down to Jungle Tide is not part of the road improvement scheme so will remain slow and a bit bumpy, but all vehicles can get down the track.

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We recently took a trip up to Jaffna and the north of Sri Lanka. I’d never been before – too dangerous during the war and since then we’ve been too preoccupied with getting Jungle Tide running properly to do much exploring. Besides, Sally’s brother Jeremy and nephew Tom who came to see us last month both wanted to go there so we delayed our trip until they could accompany us. What follows is an account of the trip which is also a short extract from the book I’m writing: Broke’n’English – Learning to live in Sri Lanka. Anyone know a literary agent???


There’s not a lot to do in Jaffna. Actually that’s probably not true, it’s just that there’s no information and hardly anyone speaks much English. Or indeed Sinhala, which creates problems when you turn up with a Sinhalese driver who doesn’t speak Tamil. The vestigial tourism industry appears to be run by a mix of NGOs (or former NGO wallahs) and the military, notably the Navy. Sound fellows all, no doubt, but not showing much of a clue about what visitors want or how to drain their pockets for the benefit of the local economy. The famed library, destroyed with its priceless collections at the start of the war and since rebuilt, is open only to its local members most of the time and to ‘visitors’ for an hour or so at the end of the day. The Information Desk was unstaffed when we went. There are several impressive Hindu temples and many good if less impressive churches for visitors who want to engulf themselves in religion, and a large but uninterpreted Dutch fort – like Mannar’s heavily damaged in the recent war even more than it was in the historic past – but I’d seen so many of those that another one held little interest. What did fascinate me was the collection of ruined buildings. All over the north shelled and wrecked homes can be seen with depressing regularity, but in the north’s ‘capital’, Jaffna, there are also the ruins of many civic or religious buildings which were clearly once of huge local importance. One in particular stands opposite the new Jetwing Hotel and the even newer Cargill’s Square shopping complex. It was obviously destroyed some time ago as banyan trees grow up through its walls and foundations. We asked our taxi driver “What is this building?” “Ah, Sir, breaking in problem time” “Yes, we know, but before breaking, what was it used for?” “Sir, Government building” was all we could get from him. I’m not a ghoulish war tourist, but I don’t think I’m the only visitor who would love to know more about these places, and what Jaffna was like before the war. How much would it cost to put up a few signs? A lot less than the cost of the lavish ‘war memorials’, which I’ll come to.

Jaffna may have a proud library but as far as I could discover it possesses not a single bookshop – other than the usual outlets selling school textbooks. There is no local guidebook and no city website. But as noted it does now possess a brand new shopping centre and a Jetwing hotel. The former houses a large and well stocked supermarket so full marks to Messrs Cargill for that, but the rest of the small complex is of limited range. The Jetwing charges Jetwing prices but doesn’t deliver the level of quality one associates with their other hotels and doesn’t even have a swimming pool. The guest house we stayed in was clean and run by a well-meaning and hard-working woman with little English; the rooms were small and dark and the food dull. Two oases we did discover were Morgan’s, a delightful garden bar on Temple Street, and the nearby Mangoes restaurant – fabulous dosas at knockdown prices. But Jaffna is a gem waiting to be unearthed, or maybe unearthed and waiting to be cut and polished.


To the west of Jaffna Sri Lanka peters out in a series of flat islands joined by causeways or ferries. Some have Dutch names (Kayts, Delft), others Tamil names (Punkudutivu, Karaitivu). Up early for the 8am ferry to Delft, the first causeway linking Jaffna to Kayts is a well-surfaced road, presumably rebuilt since the war, flanked in the dawn light by rectangles of prawn and crab nets and traps in the flat calm waters. Jaffna has a reputation for the best crabs – and the best mangoes. Silhouetted fishermen check their traps soundlessly; the tide flows left to right under the causeway making no fuss at all. An honour guard of pelicans, Brahminy kites and spoonbills mans the wooden and concrete posts alongside the causeway. Further out stilts and flamingos go about their business paying us no attention. Once on Kayts, the road becomes potholed and the second causeway, from there out to Punkudutivu and the ferry, is a bumpy old ride with a couple of inches either side separating the van from the briny. But buses somehow do the trip.

They, along with bicycles, motorcycles, tuk-tuks and the occasional car or van congregate at the end of the pier. The eight o’clock ferry is free and is a motorised sardine tin run by the Navy. We were warned we’d have to pay a few rupees on the return journey in a ‘private boat’. Packed into the hold on hard benches we waited for the engines to start and therefore, more importantly, the fans. Even at this early hour it was stifling. The fan nearest to us had a union flag emblazoned on its middle and a notice informing us that it was ‘sponsored by the Delft Society (UK)’ – hard to think of a more niche organisation. A genuine fan club. It was non-operational, having a round-pin plug next to a square pin socket. Perhaps a metaphor for the relationship between the UK and Sri Lanka. A sailor eventually turned up with an adaptor and put us out of our sweaty misery.

On the quay at Delft Sally and I had the same immediate reaction: “Isn’t this like Rottnest?” she said. A year earlier we’d spent a day on that island off Perth and the similarities were surprising and hit us both. It was also a lot like Sark. Perhaps there’s something in the way small islands speak to us, something that connects their visual language and geography irrespective of latitude and climate. Of course there were differences. Delft is built not of pottery as one might wish but it is built of dead coral. Great lumps of it making everything from dry-stone field and garden walls to churches and forts. It doesn’t look anything like anywhere else in Sri Lanka. One piece of coral stands about six feet high and is revered as it is apparently growing by itself. Carved deities, incense burners and coloured cloths sit on and around it. We were taken around the island in a converted pickup truck, stopping to admire a baobab tree; a ruined and atmospheric British hospital with a Dutch pigeon cote in the back garden from a time when the birds were the only form of communication with the mainland; a Buddhist temple dating to the Anaradhapura kingdom when the whole island was for a relatively brief time Buddhist; an indent in the ground looking like a giant footprint said to have been made by Hanuman as he hopped across from India; the nearby remains of a hundred metre long building constructed by the Dutch simply to stable their vast collection of horses, then on to ‘the wilderness’ – a barren seaside plain populated by wild horses descended from the inhabitants of those stables and left behind when the Dutch abandoned Ceylon following its takeover by the British. Some of the horses had elaborately permed manes and looked quite fetching. Perhaps they shopped at the place on our road which advertises ‘bridle wear’.

The whistle-stop tour over, there were still two hours to kill before lunch and the return ferry so they took us to the beach. Small problem: no shade, nowhere to get anything to drink, no changing facilities or toilets. We and a few other hapless tourists moped disconsolately around for a while then asked our drivers to take us back into town, ‘town’ being a relative term on Delft as the only settlement is the size of a small village by the ferry dock. Here we managed to kill the remaining time in a café where no-one spoke any English, then in the other café where we had booked lunch, which was actually rather good. Then off to the jetty to claim first place in the queue and prime seats on the return boat, due to leave at two thirty. A jolly-looking waterfront bar turned out to be exclusively for the Navy. Next to it a building declared itself to be the ‘Naval Sewing Centre’. I’m still trying to work out what might go on in there.

There were a couple of false starts as groups of Sri Lankans pushed past us and on to the jetty. Thinking they were the usual queue-jumpers we tried to race them only to be turned back by the Navy. These were not returning tourists but the WAGs of naval personnel off on a jolly on a gunboat. Among the many boats tied up at the quay in various stages of dereliction and seaworthiness one had attracted my camera’s attention earlier. It was a large open boat whose wheelhouse was an elderly tuk-tuk roped across it towards the stern. A curiosity to photograph was all I’d thought. Until it emerged that this was our return transport. We all clambered aboard and arranged ourselves on the various planks serving as seats. The captain sat sidelong to the action in the tuk-tuk’s driver seat, gazing out to sea and wearing a headset, though whether this was anything to do with running the ship or just his personal in-boat entertainment system I couldn’t be sure. It was equally unclear whether the two guys in the passenger seat behind him were the bosun, first mate, purser or cabin boy, or just his friends, or even the first two passengers to clamber aboard who grabbed the only upholstered seating in the boat. Although thunderclouds menaced in the distance the sea remained obligingly calm and we made it back to Punkudutivu without mishap. I couldn’t remove an imbecilic grin from my face for the whole bizarre trip.


We’d arrived in Jaffna by the relatively little-used coast road from Mannar; stretches of recently applied tarmac frequently interrupted by lengths of dirt-track where a blown-up bridge waited to be replaced and a diversion took us over the river on a few concrete pipes. We returned south on the A9 through the famed Elephant Pass where a long causeway and bridge connects the almost-island of the Jaffna region to the main part of Sri Lanka. Elephant Pass was of great strategic importance during the war and two contrasting memorials stand at either end. To the north is the war memorial itself which tells how former President Mahinda Rajapaksa beat the Tamil Tigers almost single-handedly with just a little help from one of his brothers who happened to be Defence Minister. Oh, and a few words are added about how nice it would be if everyone lived in peace and harmony. I know history is written by the victors but this is a particularly crass example and leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

At the southern end of the causeway, by the new train station, stands a more interesting and more touching memorial. The eye-catching bit is not the statue of the soldier whose self-sacrificial gallantry is commemorated (Corporal Gamini Kularatne) but what stands in front and to one side of it: the rusted and shell-pocked remains of the strange Tamil Tiger vehicle he disabled – a converted armoured bulldozer which, armed and packed with explosives, was trundling towards the strategic army base before Cpl. Kularatne managed to climb aboard and throw a couple of grenades into it, killing himself in the process. The event happened in 1991 but the memorial is of course post-war. It records that the soldier was posthumously awarded Sri Lanka’s equivalent of the Victoria Cross by the President. The President’s name is not recorded, since it was not Rajapaksa.

Chewy as it is for us pacifists to swallow, it is an unfortunate fact that war (or the preparation for imagined future wars) acts as midwife to a lot of technology which may be adapted for more peaceful uses. And that’s true of both conventional warfare – radar and the internet both come to mind – and less conventional conflicts such as the civil war in Sri Lanka, although here it is more likely to be intermediate or alternative technology. There is no doubting the resourcefulness of the Tamil Tigers whatever view one may take of their aims or morality. They had field artillery, a miniature air force, converted bulldozers to tanks as we have seen, and a navy, known as the Sea Tigers. In 2006 the Sea Tigers captured a Jordanian freighter, the Farah III, which had anchored off Mullaitivu with engine trouble. Having conveyed the crew to safety (the LTTE were merciless with their Sri Lankan foes and with Tamils who disagreed with them but had no quarrel with foreigners) they raised the anchor and let the ship run aground, where they systematically stripped it of everything of value (having first nicked its cargo of rice and other goods) to be turned into military hardware. The skeletal remains of the ship stood on the beach for years after the war ended – and feature as the cover photograph of John Gimlette’s wonderful book Elephant Complex. I was very keen to see and explore it but turned up a year too late. What was left of the ship had been sold for salvage and removed. It had become something of a tourist attraction and we were told that the Government was worried that this may lead to it becoming a kind of shrine to the Sea Tigers.

Strange, then, that the Sea Tigers’ dockyard ‘museum’ remains open close by, though it’s hard to find. As museums go it has to be one of the oddest. Head south east down the A35 until you pass a contender for the world’s most tasteless war memorial – a phenomenally ugly and garish erection featuring raised guns flanking the Sri Lankan flag – then look for a red dirt track on the left with a small sign indicating ‘Sea Tiger Museum’. If you then take the correct fork in the road (unsigned but pssst, it’s the one on the right) you emerge into a yard with a lone soldier standing sullenly and wordlessly in a kind of home-made sentry box. Ranged around the edges of a dirt yard the size of a football pitch are the war-damaged remains of what I gather was only a small part of the Tigers’ sea power, ranging from a converted jet ski up to quite sizeable fast launches. This being Sri Lanka I was most disappointed not to find an armoured swan pedalo among them. But it’s the submarines that grab the attention, from one-man jobs not fully submersible to a full-sized vessel under construction when time was called on the Tigers’ war effort. At the far end is a test and launch tank whose gates once led into the ocean. Information is minimal and the soldier speaks no English but even in such an off the beaten track attraction the local nose for a tourist proved to have its usual sensitivity. We’d been there maybe twenty minutes when a lad with a refrigerated box on the back of a small motorcycle rolled up. “Ice cream? You like ice cream?” We did. It was astonishingly hot and the container promised choc ices which we selected. “You have chocolate ice cream?” “Yes, Madam. Chocolate have”. A rummage in the box led to a revision of this statement. “Sorry, only orange have”. “OK, then, five orange ice cream”. Who cares? Anyway, we’d probably have rewarded him for his entrepreneurship if he’d been selling sand. Sadly the ‘orange’ iced lollies were fluorescent pink and tasted abominable. I ate three of the five (I hate waste), we gave one to the soldier and our driver ate his own uncomplainingly.

The end of the war in 2009 took us news-starved foreigners by surprise, but didn’t come as a surprise to Sri Lankans who had been expecting it for months. And stockpiling celebratory fireworks accordingly. Ironically, according to a friend of ours, the photographer Stephen Champion who recorded so much of the horror of the civil war from start to finish, and who therefore should know what he’s on about, the defeat of the LTTE was partly due to their decision to diversify from guerrilla attacks and suicide bombings into full-scale frontal assaults using their home-made military hardware. Taking on the Sri Lankan army in battlefield conditions amounted to a kind of fatal hubris; they could never hope to win a conventional war with unconventional weaponry. International events over which the LTTE had neither control, influence nor even interest, namely 9/11, then led to their being proscribed and demonised as ‘terrorists’ in the west’s ‘war on terror’ and to the drastic reduction of a great part of their foreign arms supplies and their foreign media influence. Defeat was only a matter of time. Though it still took another seven years. And the sheer bloody-mindedness of Rajapaksa who understood correctly that only overwhelming military force would defeat the Tigers and didn’t care who else got hurt or killed in the process.

I never know what to make about the tendency some people have to diminish war. People in Northern Ireland who refer to ‘the troubles’ or in Sri Lanka to ‘problem time’. Is it a reluctance (understandable) to face up to the horrors, or, more positively, an attempt to move on? ‘Problem time’ to me is redolent of something like the washing machine breaking down and flooding the kitchen, not the deaths of thousands. “Now problem all gone, Sir” our Jaffna taxi driver had continued. “Now all good”. Which it clearly is not. But if we pretend things are OK does that increase or decrease the likelihood that they will become so? Answers on a postcard.

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Our Family Garden Room, which is separate from the house, has proved popular as budget accommodation for families with up to four children who can’t afford to take two rooms. But its drawback is that if the kids are too young to be left alone, Mum and Dad can’t spend the evening up at the house and have to sit in the room with their kids with very little space to do anything. So we’ve created a sheltered, covered patio with table, bench and chairs in the front of the room where parents can sit out with a book, a drink or whatever in relative comfort but still close to their children. For this we have to thank our wonderful volunteer David Vacl who has been with us so many times he’s more or less part of the family, along with his Dad Peter who is a builder – and a damned good one, too. They came out from Czech Republic last month to build this for us, and made a great job of it as you can see below. They also made a start on building our new barbecue, which will be continued by other volunteers in the coming months. Thanks guys!

David and Peter Vacl built our new patio.

If you are interested in volunteering at Jungle Tide, or know someone else who is, find us on Workaway or on HelpX. We’d love to hear from you.


We haven’t been back to the UK since we moved here in October 2015 but we’ll be there from June to October this year. We needed a long period to really put our roots down in Sri Lanka and we’ve achieved that, but it now feels like a trip to see familiar faces and places is long overdue. Already our mouths are watering at the prospect of eating and drinking things you can’t get out here. Ale, soft fruits, decent cheese, steak, smoked fish, crumpets. Mmmm! And not being forced to pay stupid prices for goods ranging from wine to couscous. But we’re missing even more the relative efficiency of the UK compared to the frustrations of living in Sri Lanka where no-one seems to have any idea of how to do business and everything takes three times as long to achieve. Or else has to be done immediately – drop all else and see to it. Just being able to plan our days again for four months and to have a reasonable chance that things will happen more or less when you expect, will turn out more or less as you expect, and will cost more or less what you expect will be an unalloyed pleasure.

Yesterday we ventured into Kandy to source materials and hire tools for a small building project at Jungle Tide. We found a large builders’ yard down the old Peradeniya Road which we thought would be just the ticket. But they could only sell us bricks and cement. Their roofing sheets were not what we wanted and they don’t do block paving of any description. They also don’t do tools. They sent us to a place on  the new Peradeniya Road specialising in hard surfacings, and again on the outside it looked just what we were after. Lots of graphics and signs advertising a variety of surfacings. But venturing inside we found they only sell three products, and one of those needs advance ordering and a week before it arrives. Meanwhile, living as we do in the jungle 11km out of Kandy, it costs us around Rs3,000/- a time to get a lorry load of materials transported to our home.  Expensive if you can’t source them all from one place. So then off to our favourite hardware store where they speak good English and stock tools ranging from secateurs to generators and hydraulic pumps, to see what they would charge for hiring out a stone-cutting saw. “Sorry, we do not hire tools”. When asked where we could hire tools we were referred to a place in Pilimathalawa  about ten miles out of Kandy. Luckily I don’t have any hair left to tear out. If someone had the bright idea of opening up a comprehensive B&Q style yard within reach of Kandy they would make an absolute fortune. But good business ideas don’t come easily to most Sri Lankans and huge commercial opportunities go begging.

No doubt four months in wet post-Brexit Britain will cure me of any romantic thoughts and by October I’ll be more than ready to return home to the sunshine, the pol sambols, the soursops and the giant prawns. I just hope I won’t be coming back with unrealistic expectations of builders, accountants, hoteliers or any other Sri Lankan service providers.


Progress with improving the road to Jungle Tide continues, but slowly. Back in June 2016 visitors had to brave 3.5km of rough road to get to us.That is now down to 1.5km. We’re getting there! The scale of the work means that every so often the whole road has to be closed all day and we only get about 24 hours notice, so we do our best to warn guests due to arrive on those days. So far it’s happened only three times in seven months so the chances of disruption are very small. And with any luck all will be complete within the next few months.

Yesterday, though, the road was closed for a different reason. We were heading into Kandy for a lunch party with friends and came across a road block half way down. Some bright spark had decided that it would be a great idea to use the one driveable road from Uduwela into Kandy for a load of rally drivers to do a hill climb time trial event. Only in Sri Lanka would the fun of a bunch of boy racers be considered important enough to prevent several thousand folks from accessing medical facilities, train and bus stations and of course shops and – for those who work on Sundays – employment. We do sometimes despair of living in this island!

We were only inconvenienced  in relation to a social engagement and we got there in the end. And by chance met the person who had been the chief engineer responsible for the recent upgrading of the dramatic ’18 hairpin bends road’ which drops down from the Knuckles Range into Mahiyangama on the eastern plains. The person who originally designed this road in about 1921 was none other than Sally’s grandfather!.


The other day we were returning home in a hired van from a shopping trip to Kandy. Our driver pulled out to overtake a stationary bus which was taking on passengers – he tooted the horn. But the bus just pulled out in front of us as buses tend to (bus drivers think there are no other vehicles on the road). Our driver managed to stop but as the rear of the bus swung out it clipped our van causing minor damage. No-one injured. But naturally our driver wanted to sort things out with the bus driver so he again overtook and pulled up to talk to him. The bus driver got angry and the police turned up. Despite this being a minor incident they arrested both drivers and impounded both vehicles for the rest of the day and most of the next day. We offered to be witnesses in support of our driver but the police told us to go away and wait in the van, which at their insistence was illegally parked. Whereupon another police officer came along and slapped us with a parking ticket despite our explanations. Eventually we were invited into the main Kandy police station which was an eye-opening experience. It felt like being on the set of ‘Life on Mars’ – lots of shouting, officers tapping away on ancient typewriters (not a computer in sight), rusting and twisted metal desks dating from the 1960s by the look of them. The senior officer present managed the trick of being both hard cop and soft cop by turns (presumably they’re short-staffed). We were invited to write witness statements – and encouraged to collude to ensure we were both saying the same thing! Then allowed to go and find a tuk-tuk into which to cram ourselves and our many purchases to struggle back up the mountain to Jungle Tide.

Not a terrible experience I grant you, but taken along with much worse horror stories we’ve heard from friends here it’s more or less decided us that we don’t intend to buy or lease a vehicle and drive ourselves around but will continue to hire.

Yesterday we had an altogether nicer legal experience when we had to go and see a solicitor who a friend had recommended in connection with the lease for Noni’s house. Mr Zair is a very pleasant man whose office is in a tiny, ancient building near the Temple of the Tooth, part of a whole row of legal folks with titles like ‘Notary Public’ and signs drawn back in colonial times by the look of them. Quaint doesn’t begin to describe it, such a contrast to the smart offices of most solicitors in the UK.