This morning, as Storm Angus battered the South of England, the weather in North Yorkshire was equally cold, wet and very windy. It felt like a very good day to be leaving the UK and flying to Sri Lanka.
The drive down to Heathrow airport was wet, but mercifully uneventful. Once we’d deposited our car at the long-term parking place, a short shuttle bus drive brought us to Terminal 3, where we joined a long queue for the Sri Lanka Airways check-in desk.
By the time we’d successfully fed our suitcases to the black hole, negotiated two adjacent seats so that Tracey and I could be toggevva, and passed through security without setting off any alarms, we only had about an hour to wait before jumping through our final hoop, into a large aeroplane. By the mystery that is time, our flight would start at approximately 9pm, and ten and a half hours later, arrive in Sri Lanka at just gone 1pm on Tuesday (to save you worrying about the maths; Sri Lanka is five and a half hours ahead of the UK).
I’m not a fan of long haul flights. Cattle Class means being squashed into a very small seat, where you basically rub shoulders and legs with your neighbour. This shouldn’t be a problem providing everybody behaves themselves; alas, I was sat next to a bloke who had no concept of personal space, and frequently treated me to his left elbow. If this wasn’t bad enough, something was going on with his left leg. Maybe it was his way of avoiding Deep Vein Thrombosis, or maybe he just had hyperactive legs; either way, I swear his left leg had a life of its very own, annoyingly bouncing up and down ten to the dozen for the majority of the flight. I had Tracey to my left, who had the aisle to her left, and I’d loaded up our tablets with movies and stuff to watch in the event of the entertainments system being as rubbish as the one earlier in the year, when we flew for 13 hours to Ecuador.
The good news is; the entertainments system wasn’t that bad. The bad news is; the lady who sat ahead of me decided she would be more comfortable if she dropped the seat back. Fine for her… not so good for me. Totally oblivious to the discomfort she was inflicting on me… I hope she had a comfortable few hours lazing back in her seat while I had the entertainments monitor thrust into my face and the space in front of me constricted even further.
I’m not going to rant on about the flight; the food was underwhelming and the loo situation is never good at 37,000 feet. Despite it being a night flight, I don’t think I actually managed to grab any sleep at all; suffice to say I couldn’t get off the plane fast enough when we finally landed (and Tracey wonders why I turn into Mr Grumpy…).
You know when you open the oven to take out a pie or a pizza, and the blast of heat steams up your glasses? That’s what it was like to step out of the terminal at Colombo airport and into the stifling heat of Sri Lanka at just gone midday.
Fortunately, the coach that took us the 45-minute drive to the port was sufficiently air-conditioned.
By the time we’d boarded the Voyager, queued again to check-in, and unloaded our suitcases, both Tracey and myself were well and truly bushed.
One endearing memory of our first evening in Sri Lanka has to be this…
We sat on the upper ‘Promenade’ deck drinking tea, while waiting for the Bistro to open for dinner. One of the young entertainers was singing her pre-dinner set as the light faded and a storm rolled in. And what a storm it was; the rain, when it came, was heavy and persistent, and the thunder and lightning became increasingly intense. We worried about the singer, holding her microphone, plugged into the portable amplifier, surrounded by such a deluge (we were thinking she should at least be wearing rubber gloves and wearing wellies), but she sang on. And as she persisted; the storm raged overhead, punctuating the songs with crashes of thunder that became more and more frequent, and louder; crashes that rattled the ship, one’s bones and everything else. It was, to not put too fine a point on it; quite spectacular.
After dinner, we both fell into a very deep and blissful sleep.