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ADDITIONS TO THE BLOG as of April 2017: Shamal and her Crew being Mum and Dad are in the Cayman Islands * Should you want to contact us, you can do so by clicking on the Contact Us tab below. * PLEASE subscribe to the Blog, so that new posts are emailed to your inbox.



31 March 2010

Sri Lanka

Hello from Sri Lanka

It is times like we are having at this very moment that one needs a good sense of humour or you could lose your mind through sheer frustration!! As I sit and write this Alec is nearly pulling his hair out. We have a ‘local’ engineer on board who arrived with his tool box – one hammer and a chisel – to do a job for us which really needed an assortment of good tools. Alec is on the phone to the agent explaining the problem, but this bloody fat crow is sitting on the back squawking it’s head off as Alec is talking, and you all no he is a little hard of hearing these days!!  Each time I chase the crow away he comes back with vengeance and squawks even louder, and, he has just been joined by a friend!! Alec can’t hear what is being said, the guy on board with the hammer and chisel has just joined in the conversations yelling in Sinhala – the local language - to Alec from the engine room, and the whole thing is turning into a complete fiasco. Also it is very hot and humid. Problem is that we need this job done. The water maker pump bracket has broken off its mounting from the engine. The two bolts holding it in place have sheered through. There should have been at least four bolts holding it in place. Our local so called engineer was trying to knock out what was left of the bolts instead of unscrewing them so Alec very quickly put a stop to that.
Ten minutes later. The engineer has left – Alec gave him a short sharp shift - and arrangements have been made for us to move over to the work pier first thing Monday morning where there is power we can plug into. The agent has told us we need a permit from the Navy to move anywhere in the Harbour first!!

Last night we had our first look around the town of Galle. It is said to be Sri Lanka’s most historically interesting. Some Historians believe Galle may be the city of Tarshish of Biblical times where King Solomon obtained gems, spiced and peacocks from. There are plenty of gem shops around but one needs to be very careful as there are also plenty of fake gems about. These people seem to operate every type of scam known to man. The old town has not really been looked after which is such a pity as there are many wonderful old buildings, but it is reasonably clean. In 1663 the Dutch built the 36-hectare fort which is now a World Heritage site and today it is the old township. Pity as the New township is in much of the same state of repair. But there is something quite charming about the place. There are none of those sewer smells often associated with this part of the world which makes a welcome change. We went for a walk along the Fort Walls just before sunset and watched the cliff divers. Like most people here they want money for anything they do for you or show you but it really is only a pittance. The people are all very friendly and nothing was too much for our took tuk tuk [ three wheeler ] driver who has also become our local guide. He found us a restaurant and then left us for an hour and a half to have dinner before picking us up and bringing us back to the boat. The dinner was nothing to write home about, in fact quite disappointing, but is only our first meal out so we will see how the food maps out.

Monday 8th March.

We have now been here for 12 days. This place has been so incredibly frustrating when it comes to doing our boat jobs, and yet we have had a look around the local area plus an amazing trip inland to the hill country where the tea is grown. Our trip locally took us to a beach along the coast for a swim one afternoon. It was one of the local surf beaches and Alec and I really enjoyed that, to be told later that a big fat crocodile had been spotted there in the surf sometime earlier!!! Great, thought we had finished with those beasts when we left Australia!! We also visited a lowland tea plantation – didn’t know tea could be grown so close to the coast – a spice garden, where I was totally conned into buying products I really don’t need but the massage was worth it, a wood carving shop and so on. We did these trips while also waiting to do the job on the water maker which became rather drawn out. Last Monday we moved to the work wharf to start work. Again our engineer turned up with no work bag and the Agent then said we must pay US$50 to connect to the power. Another untruth to add to many we were hearing now!! We said no more money was going to be paid out so they left. Alec then started on the job himself. He did go outside and consult our Tuk Tuk driver who took him to an engineering workshop and they came back with the boss. He had a look at the problem but did not like the fact the space was rather cramp and hot to work in but offered to extend the broken bracket once Alec had it off. The long and short of it Alec and I took it off and replaced it once it was modified. Our night at the work wharf turned out to create another problem. The galley hatch window cracked with the surge of the sea pushing SHAMAL against the huge rubber tyres we had to tie up against even though we had all our seven fenders out. That will have to wait till Dubai to be fixed! It has a lovely bit of silver tape over it at the moment.

Our Tuk Tuk driver was really feeling sorry for us with trips back and forth to the workshop and invited us back to his house for dinner one night. It was a wonderful experience and the best food we had the whole time we were there. Another friend of his came and they told us how the tsunami had effected all their lives. Times are still very hard for many, but some of these people are not helping themselves. But in saying that the sickening thing is the Leaders of the country have not used the millions they were given to those who were affected – oh you see the token projects, but they lined their pockets and the people know this. One of the President’s son’s was given a fat sum to build a plush top class Hotel!!

The highlight was the trip into the Hill country. For this trip we hired a driver for the four days and three nights. He took us past his house on the way which was, and is again, right on the coast. The first house was totally washed away with only a concrete pad remaining in the tsunami but his wife and son were safe. Two of my Great Great Grandfathers on my Mum’s side of the family lived in Ceylon back in the 1800’s and one had a coffee plantation, so off we went armed with information my cousin had passed on – thanks Terry – to find out what we could. We headed for the city of Kandy. Only 115km inland and at an altitude of 500m. It took us the whole day to get there as the roads are – interesting! The driving is also interesting with everyone passing on corners as they want to be in front of you all the time. We stopped at a rubber plantation, and everywhere else I wanted to take a photo of. We ate at very ‘local’ places which was fun. Lunch is a plate of “short eats”. This is a selection of patties, pastries, bread rolls, spring rolls etc which are placed in the middle of the table when you sit down. You eat what you want and the bill is added up according to how many are left. I tried not to think about the hands that may have wandered over someone else’s leftovers. It’s times like these I am glad I can’t eat these foods and a plate of spiced rice was just fine thank you.

Kandy is a pretty city built around a manmade lake. We arrived on dusk and by the time we had found a hotel for the night there was no time left to really have a good look around, but our driver did take us to see the Kandy Dance Show which was quite athletic at times as drummers beat out rhythms on double ended drums. The costumes were really worth the visit. One included men’s bare chests covered with necklaces of silver and ivory and bangles of silver worn on the arms and ankles. They have huge silver crown head dresses and huge silver earings. How they moved was quite incredible. After the show Alec and I went for a walk around the lake before going back to our Hotel for a light dinner.

The other main reason for our visit to Kandy was to obtain an Indian visa which is recommended one does here rather than Colombo as the queues are shorter and you are issued with it within 24 hours. So next morning our first stop was to the Assistant Indian High Commission Office. Another interesting experience and extremely frustrating. We waited for an hour and a half before we were even seen and filled in the 4 pages of questions like; what is your Father’s name, Have you visited Pakistan, List all the countries you have visited in the last 10 years!! But the one they could not comprehend was our ‘Hotel’ address while in India. We filled in ‘SHAMAL’ . First they wanted to see our airline docket and when we told them we were taking a boat in that was all too much to comprehend. They were really ‘not knowing’ about this. They made us sit down for another two hours or so then came back saying it would take a week to get a visa as they had to phone Wellington New Zealand. Yea Right !! So we left without a visa and decided it was time to go on our historical family information hunt which saw us visiting first the British Council. Here we met a wonderful woman who became so interested in our project she had us visiting half of Kandy’s historical sites. We gleaned the most information for the old church records and after that things sort of came to a halt. But armed with that information the next morning we ventured higher into the tea growing country where coffee was first planted, but this crop was mostly killed off by a devastating disease so was replaced with tea. We passed through the region of Kothmale where a family member had a plantation. Our friend from the British Council made arrangements for us to visit the Tea Research Institute as her husband worked there and is not open to the public. That was most interesting and he has promis3ed to try and follow up family connections for us. We ended up in the town of Nuwara Eliya which is just beautiful. A place at 1889m so the temperature is just perfect. You can see it was established by the British with its hedges, rose gardens, English country styled houses, an 18-hole golf course, the race course, and the list goes on. From here we visited another Tea Plantation and after a tea tasting session we came away with enough tea to keep us going for quite some time. Also the climate here makes the place perfect for growing vegetables which we stocked up on. I also heard about the local fruit cakes which I got a large slab of for Alec and he says is really good.

The next day was the trip back to Galle. Our driver wanted to return the way we had come but we said no which slightly upset him. But what upset him even more was he learnt we had a couple of bikes onboard and asked if he could have one. When we said NO he was in a huff for the rest of the morning!! But we did arrive safely back at the coast.

Back in Galle we finished off the water maker fitting, gathered a few more supplies and finally said good bye to the new friends we had made, and the grubby Harbour which I was not sad to be leaving and hoisted sails on Wednesday 10th March heading out across the Gulf of Mannar towards India. Paper work all saying our next Port of call is Muscat – Oman!!!! The sad thing about the Galle Harbour is that it is really a Navy and Commercial Port. Cement boats come in and unload twice a month and if the wind is blowing in the wrong direction your boat gets coated in the fine dust. But for those of you who may come this way in the future Sri Lanka is well worth the stop. There is a real charm about the place. Funds were put in place for a new marina in 2008 by the Japanese but there is no sign of it yet. We live in hope!!

So enough from us for this letter.

Love to you all from

The Admiral and The Commander – Yes our Galle paper work as given Alec a promotion!

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