Shaking off the inevitable hangover, much like a dog shaking itself dry after a paddle in the stream, I headed back over to the visa department of the Indian High Commission. Got all my forms filled out, new photos taken (I lost the ones I got in London somehow – since they require oversized 2” x 2” pics and they cost me £1.75 EACH, this annoyed me no end). Then I headed over to Carl’s place of work to meet Nilan Jayawardana, the General Manager of McLarens Shipping Ltd. After a chat and a cup of tea, we resolved to find a clever way of getting me to India without me having to swim. Only, as always, it’s not up to Nilan, it’s up to the parent company in Taiwan who don’t know me from Adam. But hope springs eternal.
There’s ship that leaves a week on Friday which goes to Mumbai which looks promising. But then I realised: Mumbai! Oh s—, I didn’t specify Mumbai as a possible port of entry. Jeepers! Chennai, Cochin, Tuticorin yeah, but not Mumbai!
QUICK!! SHREDDER! TAKE ME TO THE TECHNODROME!!!
I raced back to the Indian High Commission and begged them to give me my application form back. They said I’d have to re-apply tomorrow AND PAY THE FEE AGAIN.
But, hang on, it’s not part of the form, it’s just handwritten, on a piece of paper, a note for the attaché.
Okay – what’s your reference number, have you got your receipt?
Yeah, it’s just here in my copy of Lonely Planet… THAT I’VE JUST REALISED I’VE LEFT IN CARL’S OFFICE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF TOWN. Erm… when do you close?
In ten minutes, sir.
Oh, hang on: we found it anyway. Don’t get too many applications from flame-haired wonders from Liverpool, you know (he didn’t really say that last bit).
Gimme gimme gimme [I scrawl “AND MUMBAI” on my list of possible ports of entry].
I headed back to Carl’s office, sneaked in (he had gone home for the day) and retrieved my Sri Lanka Lonely Planet and that infernal visa receipt. Another tuk-tuk to the bus station and then the slow bus back to Negombo. That night I returned to the Rodeo Pub for the first time in six weeks (it feels like longer) reclaimed my old spot at the bar and watched the West Indies fight an epic Twenty-20 battle against England, with the Windies the deserved winners. It’s the Twenty-20 World Cup here in Sri Lanka at the mo, a fun time to be around. Lots of people gathered around TV sets in shop windows. It’s nice, I like it.
Friday started butt-crack-of-dawn-early with me taking the bus back to Colombo. Newly furnished with my bank statements I rucked up to the Madagascan Consulate for take two. Only one problem: they now wanted proof of an onward flight. I walked out of the consulate and screamed at the sky. The consulate would be closed by the time I booked a flight, printed out the eticket and then cancelled it (hoping for a full refund). Groan. So I headed over to the shopping mall next to the Cinnamon Grand hotel to sponge off the free wifi. I spent the afternoon sending out a copious number of emails to all and sundry, pretty much begging to be allowed on a ship going to India in the next week. By the end of the day I had no replies, so I gathered my stuff together and set off on the 2 hour journey to Unawatuna. It took 5 hours.
Being an idiot, I forgot where I was supposed to get off the local bus in order to catch the express bus down to Una, the one that takes the brand spanking new motorway. So instead I found myself getting thrown around like a rag doll (these drivers are MANIACS) crammed into the slow bus along the old coast road. With it being Friday night and tomorrow being a full moon ‘Poya’ day, everyone was keen to get home and the buses were full to the brim. If I said it was a slog it would be an understatement, but hey – it just makes the beer taste better once you get there.