As we flew into Colombo, any fears or nerves I had previously had dissipated. The excitement grew in my heart and Rick's as well and we no longer could sleep, but watched in anticipation, for the Indian Ocean and the small country that three of our friends had told us so much about! It was a cloudy day, but we continued to plaster ourselves to the window and also to the on-flight viewing TV - a very intriguing device on Sri Lankan airlines, which allows you to watch a frontward or downward view of the plane as you take-off, during flight and also at landing. Then all of a sudden, the clouds lifted and the Indian Ocean and the shoreline of India came into complete view. Nothing and no one can prepare you for this experience and what it feels like. The Indian Ocean was such a beautiful sight - so clear and such a beautiful colour of blue. Then came the time to begin our descent to the Sri Lankan Airport. All of a sudden we were flying over Sri Lanka - we were at the place God spoke and showed us we would be. I have never seen so many palm trees...there were forests of them! We then landed at the airport and once at our gate, proceeded out of the plane, inside the airport and started towards customs, after we joined the rest of the team.
We got to customs, showed our passports and cards and went through quickly. We then rushed to baggage claim to retrieve our luggage, especially our carry-ons, which had a lot of electronics in them. After about half an hour, we were somewhat dismayed and relieved in both senses of the word. The team luggage which was supposedly transferred automatically in London, had been and arrived safely. Our luggage which had been retrieved at London and rechecked, along with our carry-on luggage, was nowhere to be found. When we first asked about it, the people in Sri Lanka spoke with London and they said that there was no record of our luggage in London, so it must have been on the plane.
Thank goodness we had Dan with us, as if not, I'm sure we still would not be in Sri Lanka! Dan wouldn't leave the lost baggage area until they gave him a reference number and file for his missing luggage, gave the next times for arriving flights from London and gave him a phone number where he could contact them, so that we could know when the next plane came in and get down to the airport ASAP to claim the luggage. He also proceeded to make sure that each member of our team was helped immediately. This process took almost 4 hours - so we arrived in Colombo at 7:30 but didn't actually leave the airport until after 11am. We drove to Negombo, to stay at a hotel where previous teams had stayed. Having had friends stay there, we had seen pictures and heard stories of it!
We arrived at lunchtime after being in planes and airports for approximately 40 hours for MR. Cinder and I. Dan took immediate control of making sure the team was taken care of. They seated us and gave us each a 1L bottle of water and a glass of freshly squeezed fruit juice. Then they got our rooms ready and began preparing lunch. We went to our rooms and rested for an hour and then came down and had our first Sri Lankan meal on Sri Lankan soil. Then we went out to purchase toiletries and some type of clothing, so that we would have something to change into, once we showered.
You definitely come face-to-face with Sri Lanka and differences in culture right at the airport. Porters are immediately there to take your bags, hoping for a tip in return. But is you tip one person, then you would have more around you, also asking for help. I have trouble with this, as I don't like to not help someone or be forceful with them, especially as a visitor in their country. Before lunch, I went for a walk on the beach - the sand is beautiful and the beaches literally go forever, as Sri Lanka is the country which is completely surrounded by beaches. It was a cool experience to be by the ocean and see the pull of the waves, especially with it being so rough and wavy. Once back to the hotel for lunch, I immediately had a lady trying to peddle a variety of items, despite mwasn'tying I wasn't interested. We also had another one later on as well. We found didn't if you didn't make eye contact with them, you were usually left alone. Our next experience with this was while shopping for clothes.
The sales people sometimes come across as not wanting to take no for an answer, but for many of them, it's their livelihood for their families. I understood their persistance and respected it as well. In many cases the jewelry and leather work is something they make themselves. They are proud of their workmanship and would love dearly for you to own a piece of it and essentially, their country.