Now that I have recovered from our return trip from Matara I can fill everyone in on the details.
Like many of our trips this one was planned pretty much at the last minute.
There was a communication breakdown with our driver. We had planned on taking the train south but he thought we had agreed on taking the bus. We were waiting for him at 6:45AM but he ended up picking us up at around 7:20AM.
He took us to the bus terminal which is a crowded, noisy and somewhat confusing affair upon initial appearance but starts making sense as you walk around. There are different terminals and signs that show the destination and the class of bus, normal or semi-luxury or a little of both, normal with a/c.
Our driver took us to the "semi-luxury" bus to Matara. Semi-luxury pretty much means there is air conditioning and no bench seats.
Because there is no under bus storage for luggage we had to pay for an extra seat to put our bags. All together 890 Rupees, about $8.50
We left the bus terminal and the bus conductor stands in the door saying "Matara, Matara, Matara" to announce to potential passengers where the bus was going. On our journey south the bus would slow down as it approached a bus stop and the conductor would announce "Matara, Matara, Matara". If someone wanted to get on the bus they pretty much had to run to get onboard as the bus never did stop at the bus stops.
Somewhere around the halfway point the bus did stop for everyone to have a break.
Back on the bus and after traveling for a few minutes there is a loud clanking sound coming from the left rear of the bus, I thought we had a flat. The bus pulled over and the conductor gets out as well as a few passengers. We then hear "BAM BAM BAM", it sounds like a hammer hitting something on the bus. Everyone gets on and we start traveling for maybe a minute when the noise returns. A little bit more banging, back on the road and the noise never returned.
A little further down the road the air conditioning broke and we had to open the windows, fortunately the weather was mild.
A little further down the road and "BANG", flap, flap, flap, yes this time we had a flat.
They changed the totally bald tire that had gone flat with a totally bald spare tire. Pretty quickly actually.
We are back on the road. I do have to mention that a few times along the road I saw my life flash before my eyes as dump trucks and other buses from the other direction barely miss our bus on the narrow road.
We eventually made it to our destination much to our relief.