Polluted turtle paradise.

After Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan Sri Lanka seemed more polluted, hectic and the people more pushy. They would approach on the streets and beaches offering tours etc, often so skilfully you didn’t notice at first that they are trying to sell you something. They seem genuine; shaking your hand, smiling, asking questions. Who doesn’t like answering questions about themselves, right? However soon enough you start to spot that hungry-for-tourist-dollars look in their eyes and begin waving them away with a “No” before they reach you and start the with the usual: “Hey, where are you going?

Looking out of the train at a Sri Lankan train station.

After Negombo where the touts offered everything, from gifts to restaurant meals we headed to Kosgoda. Somewhere that is supposed to tourist free, small and quiet. “Galle, Galle, Galle, Galle!” — the conductor shouted at supersonic speed, reminding me of some Latino tune, before the doors closed. Oh, wait, were are no doors, there was however a chanting conductor!

Lush palm trees bending over the platform in the evening.

It took a few hours to get to Kosgoda, with the train stopping periodically to allow people on and off. I got used to trains here pretty much straight away. To their wide iron colonial cabins, the disabled people, beggars, vendors and the adventurous passengers, for whom hanging out the door makes life more fun. The Sri Lankan train can be an educational phenomenon, where all people in the train are part of one social mechanism, without one it would not feel the same. Definitely not without “Galle, Galle, Galle” — a Sri Lankan Scatman John.

Adventurous passengers leaning out of the train as it passes the sea.

Kosgoda is a small beach town, south of the capital, which is famous for turtle hatcheries and not much else. Essentially a kind of zoo, but for turtles, designed by human to prevent turtles from dying out because of the “harsh environment outside”. The turtles emerge from the sea at night to lay eggs in the sand and are sometimes taken by humans or predators to eat.

A remnant from Dutch rule.
Kosgodan train guard.

Similar to Taiwan and Indonesia, Sri Lanka has a problem with stray dogs. But instead of sterilising the dogs and preventing more from being born, humans have decided to invest money in building hatcheries to protect turtle eggs instead. The only protection the animal world currently needs is from humans themselves.

Monk with a german shepherd playing on the beach.

It’s hard to know what is right or wrong, but the truth is that often the turtle eggs don’t stay on the beach, they end up being collected for the hatcheries or for someone’s plate. Which is kind of fucked up because both are money-making businesses. One is legal and supported by the government and tourism, while one is illegal. Protecting turtles by bringing them to hatcheries and then charging tourists to touch the turtles and release them in to sea, while at the same time destroying their natural habitat by permitting beachside real estate development, is just as bad as poaching eggs.

Here comes another tout. Let me guess, he’s come to offer to take me to visit the turtles? An albino turtle? Outstanding. No thanks. Maybe you should clean the beach instead? Might be more useful. Oh I forgot to mention that the beach is polluted in some places. I’m sorry. Yes, it is.