Rocky and I stayed at ‘Way of the Bay’, lovely family run cabanas right in the heart of Arugam Bay. When I picked up Rocky from the local nursery on the Thursday they told me Friday was a holiday so no nursery till Monday, there goes my Friday morning yoga. So I decided to take him to the pool at the hotel next door, only to arrive and be told the pool was closed for cleaning for a couple of days…! So the next option was the hotel across the road which turned out well as it was a lovely pool on the beach. We played there all morning, Rocky had the time of his life and made a few friends around the pool too. One of our fears on this trip has been pool/water safety, none of the pools here are gated like they are in Australia, and with the amount of time we’re spending around water we wanted some kind of flotation device he could wear to keep him safe and to put our minds at ease a bit. So we’d bought with us from Australia the Zoggs swim vest which was like a padded cropped top which zipped up at the back, he looked like a little Michelin man. He screamed and cried when we put it on him, he’s been going to swim lessons since he was around 10 weeks old and he’s never been in the water with anything like that on. He’s been taught to paddle his arms, and he certainly couldn’t do that very well with the vest on, and we still had to hold onto him in the water, we were in two minds and trying to way up safety over him learning to swim properly. It definitely won’t be long till he can swim, but this was going to slow up the process for sure. Then I saw a kid with arm bands on. Maybe they would work better. So I ditched the $50 swim vest and bought a pair of arm bands for around $1.50. He was a little unsure at first, but as soon as he hit the water he was away! Paddling and kicking without me holding on, and actually swimming! Then he’d be in and out of the water and toddling around the edge of the pool, and I felt ok about it! I certainly won’t get complacent, and I’ll still always be close to him, I know the dangers, and I also know that his new found confidence in the water isn’t necessarily a good thing, I’ll make sure I give him time in the water without them so that he understands the difference, but I’ve heard enough horror stories about how quickly things can happen. He’s definitely not going to sink to the bottom with these on.
Every full moon in Sri Lanka they have a holiday (I know, right?!), it’s called Poya and it’s a big deal from what I can gather. On Sunday we headed to the beach and it was jam packed full of locals, they were in their element standing in the water right where the waves were breaking on the shore, being knocked over and rolling around belly laughing with sheer joy. Rocky and I sat on the beach and watched with the locals. And as soon as we sat down Rocky started to get attention, ‘hello baby’ they’d say, and they’d pat his head and pinch his cheeks (everyone does that to him here, I’m not sure why). Then the phones came out, taking photos and selfies with him, and soon we were surrounded. Then all of a sudden a lady plonked her baby on my lap, so I had Rocky on one knee and a (not so willing) baby on the other knee, before I could look up through the glare of the sun she was part of the crowd again and I had no idea whose baby I had! Rocky gave the baby a hug and the baby pulled Rockys hair, more photos were taken and the crowd seemed to get bigger. I put my bag on my shoulder as a hint we were on the move and eventually someone took the baby from me. We said our goodbyes and made our way through the crowds off the beach.
As the days passed we started to feel like part of the family at our accommodation, the owner lives there with his wife and two sons and his daughters were also there visiting. They couldn’t do enough for us, giving us a tuk tuk ride to the local town to run errands and even taking us to get Rocky a new haircut. Rocky absolutely loved playing football in the yard with the boys and took a big shine to both of them.
In the meantime, Ian had been on the south coast viewing houses and villas and getting to know the area. We knew the season started in September so hopefully we were in a position to get in early and find somewhere amazing.
Rocky and I made the 6 hour car journey to Weligama on the Tuesday, it was a tiny car with only room for the car seat and me in the back. The driver and co-driver in the front, and a language barrier between us. I timed it so that we left at midday, right on Rockys nap time, and luckily he slept for the first two hours. And no word of a lie within about 30 seconds of him waking there was an elephant on the road ahead of us. Amazing.
We drove past very slowly as it was about 4 feet from Rockys window, I’m not sure if he understood the amazement of what was going on, but he did make elephant sounds and throw his arm up in the air like a trunk for the next hour.
It was never going to be a relaxing trip on Sri Lankan roads, drivers constantly beep their horns and overtaking like they own the road, and buses charge along doing the same, even if there’s traffic coming the other way. I told our driver to slow down a couple of times but the erratic braking and swerving around cows and tuk tuks didn’t stop. The roads were windy for the last couple of hours of the journey, and the driver didn’t slow down that much for corners either. We were 45 minutes from Weligama and Rocky was suitably mesmerised by peppa pig on the ipad when the cornering got too much and Rocky threw up all over himself in his car seat. Great. ‘Ok stop!’ I said and we pulled over. I stripped his clothes off and scooped up what I could with wet wipes. I’d been using his pillow to rest my head so I took the pillow case off and put it on the car seat… Rocky wasn’t convinced, and I’m not sure I’d want to sit where I’d just puked either, but he didn’t have a choice. I told the driver to take it easy (which lasted about 10 minutes) and we soldiered on. We arrived just before 6 and went for a family swim at the pool.
For the next 5 days we searched and searched for a place. It was a lot harder than we thought to find long term accommodation. There was no way we could’ve done it online before we got here. It’s all about making contacts and speaking to everyone you meet, from tuk tuk drivers to hotel managers. I put a shout out on a local Facebook page for a nanny or nursery and accommodation. Nannys are hard to come by it would seem, and the kids at the nurserys seem to be a little older, also the nurserys are closed now until September. Lots of people responded about accommodation but nothing seemed quite right, too small, or no kitchen, or a little more ‘rustic’ than what we were looking for!
Luckily we found a lovely nanny, the only one that responded to the ad. She came to look after Rocky from 8am-12pm so that we could go and look at houses. Ian had made some good contacts who had set up viewings for us, and had also met a reliable tuk tuk driver to take us from place to place. We saw everything from rustic to absolute luxury, but price, location and house all had to align and it hadn’t quite happened. On day 6 of feeling like we were searching for a unicorn we pulled up outside a villa and knew pretty quickly it was the one we were going to take. And the next day, exactly one month after we left Australia, we moved in.