25 February 2008

Sri Lanka

Side tied to concrete fishing pier
Galle Inner Harbor
Port of Galle
Sri Lanka

Just over a week we have been in Sri Lanka and we are already talking of living here. Sri Lanka has all we could ask for and more; cheap beer, lots of fresh veggies and fruits, friendly people, nice beaches, plenty of culture, and wonderful teas. But the best part is that it is not crowded with tourists. There are some tourists. After tea exports, tourism is the big money maker here. They are mostly from Germany and the UK. But it is still hard to spot a white face in a crowd.

This past week we have been busy with a few boat projects. We explored the town of Galle. And we took a 3-day 2-night inland trip with our friends Steve and Rene from S/V Shiraz.

The anchorage here in Galle is less than to be desired. Everyday we have had some drama. We finally moved to the concrete fishing pier where we are now nice and secure. It really doesn't matter where you are tied up (floating dock, concrete dock, floating pontoon) because all the spots have drawbacks. It is just something we have gotten used to.

Other than the mooring situation, and the fact the cost to check in is ridiculously high, once you step outside the gates of the Navy compound and immerse yourself in the surroundings, it is a very special place to be and to experience.

There are a group of locals, whom all seem to be related, that help us 'Yachties' out with everything from tours to laundry. Upon our arrival we were assigned to Marlin (who has been working with 'Yachties' for several years) and his cousin Dee Dee. They have escorted us all around town getting us the best prices on everything. They arranged our tour, taken our laundry, shared their Arrack (coconut liquor or local whiskey), and have even had us to their home for traditional Sri Lankan curries. I could go on and on about their excellent services and friendship we have enjoyed during our stay.

We left for our tour on Tuesday morning with Steve, Rene, Dee Dee, and driver Gamini.

Our first stop was the Elephant Orphanage in Pinnawala, where we were just in time to see the elephants go to the river have a bath, a drink, and to cool down. Steve and I got some up close and personal time with a few of them. We were able to feed them bananas and feel their tough, wrinkly, dirt covered skin. A fantastic experience!

Next stop, Kandy, a cultural dance complete with fire walking. And then on to our first hotel... a 100 year old establishment that use to be a private club for the British tea plantation owners.

Wednesday morning we went to the famous Buddhist Tooth Temple where a tooth from one of Buddha's three visits to Sri Lanka is highly regarded and elaborately secured. After being exposed to the practice of Hinduism and Buddhism throughout Southeast Asia I have taken an interest and have been blessed to see so many important temples.

While in Kandy we visited the oldest Wooden Temple as well. There we were blessed with a 'Good Luck' blessing. Rene and I have vowed not to remove our blessed bracelets until we successfully make it through the Red Sea.

We ended the day with one last temple, 'Rock Temple', where the frescos and Buddha statues date back 2100 B.C.

The next day of our tour was to the old fort on top of Sigiriya rock. A climb of 1200 steps gets you to the top. It was built in 1200 B.C atop a stand-alone rock. It is an amazing labyrinth of a fort. This fort opened to the public in the mid 1960's and there is currently much excavating still happening. The true beauty of the rock is the few frescos that have been uncovered. Check out the photos on our Flickr site.

When the Tsunami hit this area in 2004 many lives were lost and the people are still picking up the pieces today. The locals say that the US Navy was the first to arrive and put smiles back on the faces of the children and give hope back to the adults. To this we hear much gratitude.

The town of Galle was hit very hard where many of our new friends lost several of their family members. The people of Galle are happy to have survived such a terrible ordeal. They say it is still difficult to get their children to go to the beach.

Before the Tsunami many had never even heard of the word. Now when an earthquake happens anywhere locals receive text messages and start to head for the hills. It will take many more years to get this area back in shape since people are so poor and the government keeps raising the price of all basic necessities in order to pay for a war.

A few of the cruisers that were here during that period have generously helped with the rebuild of many lives in this area.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) morning we will check out with Immigration and start the 400 mile journey to the northern islands of the Maldives. Of course we will keep you posted and we look forward to hearing from all back home.

One Love

Amy and Tom

No comments: