The South Coast, Sri Lanka - 28 April to 2 May 2012


Advertisement
Sri Lanka's flag
Asia » Sri Lanka » Southern Province » Galle
May 10th 2012
Published: May 22nd 2012
Edit Blog Post

Today we were going to have a tour of Sri Lankan ‘police stations’ before we continued our journey - yes really!!! We had to go back to the local police station at Hungama to collect a copy of our statement which we had given to the police the night before.



On arrival we were greeted by the same Officer we had seen previously and after some ‘conversation’ between Jaywa and him they marched off with Paul to meet the Officer in Charge. Whilst I was waiting for Paul to return (hopefully he would not get locked in the cells) quite a few families were waiting to be seen by the Officer in Charge. A couple of young lads were sitting quietly with their father - not sure what they had been up to - they were only about 10 so surely could not be too bad....... In the police compound a chap was sweeping around a small temple with a large Buddha which seemed quite out of place here, a colourful Copperheaded Bee Eater was perched on a bush nearby it all seemed so strange. At the entrance to the reception area several dogs were waiting, hopefully for hand outs and a door mat had the word ‘welcome’ written across it but the letters were facing outwards instead of inwards - that makes sense I suppose as its probably better to be leaving than arriving!



Paul returned and said they were going to provide us with a copy of our statement but they did not have a photocopier. Therefore we had to wait whilst they typed up our statement in Sinhala on a ‘manual’ typewriter (did not know they still existed). We could hear the loud clicking in the back room near the small cells that Paul had seen when he went through. It took ages which is not surprising as there are sixteen vowels and forty-two consonants in the Sinhala alphabet, but finally the document was produced - not that we could understand a word of it but Jaywa gave us a brief translation which seemed about right! They said they would fax it to the police station at Matara which would ‘investigate our case’ which they could not do in Hungama, obviously not under their jurisdiction and then asked us for some rupees to send the fax! I was amazed they had a fax machine as we only saw the one manual typewriter whilst we waited - no computers or copiers but obviously a fax machine somewhere behind the scenes. We left heading for our next destination - Matara Police Station.



We travelled on to Matara along the coast which had many guesthouses on the outskirts of the town. Accommodation was available everywhere with signs advertising their prices - you could get a room for 400 rupees about £2 per night....... We finally located the Police Station which was in the centre of the town and completely different to the one at Hungama- it was a complete ‘hive of activity’. We were told to sit down in a room bursting with about 25 people, police officers were taking statements around small classroom sized desks, some were taking fingerprints of a group of young lads and mothers and babies were also sat talking to the officers - the noise was immense. It was quite daunting being in amongst all the hustle an bustle and not understanding a word of what was going on. Finally they called us through to another room and asked us a few questions, apparently no-one at the police station speaks English and Jaywa said they do all their training in Sinhalese which he was not impressed by but at the end of the day we were in Sri Lanka not the UK....... They had received the fax from the other station we had visited earlier and said they would investigate our case and contact us at our hotel if they had any news. After shaking hands with the Officer in Charge we left - our tour of police stations complete - we hoped.



We continued to our destination passing through rural villages with paddy fields, coconut plantations and traditional vegetable farming fields along the way. We had seen so much farming all around the south coast with workers knee deep in mud using hand ploughs, it looked a very tough life but the stalls on the sides of the road showed an abundance of fresh produce. Many farmers had dual purpose fields in that they grow rice in the rainy season and other vegetables when there is less rain and therefore get quite a few different crops from one field.



We finally arrived in Marissa where we were staying for three days in the hope of seeing Whales that frequent these waters. Mirissa is the best place to see whales and dolphins in Sri Lanka. In the warm Indian ocean you can see Blue whales, Sperm whales, Fin whales, sometimes Killer whales, and Common dolphins, Bottlenose dolphins, Spinner dolphins, Risso's dolphins and Striped dolphins. As well as turtles and various fish species, like Bluefin tuna and flying fish.

We arrived at our hotel which was right next to a beautiful beach but the reception was not like other hotels, no welcome drink or any welcome come to think of it......... Our room was also quite basic - once we saw the pink mosquito net I think that did it and the room looked out over the restaurant (noisy) oh well we do want to see the whales and we have our own net! We moved to a slightly better room further away from the restaurant and set out for a walk along the beach - the hotel obviously did not have to worry about attracting customers as the location was probably the main reason people came here and of course the whales.



We had a visit from Jaywa who said he had heard back from the Police and they had contacted the jeweller who had accepted our credit card. They had informed the police that the person using our card was a local lad, about 20 years old. He told them that he was studying in England (hence the UK credit card) and that he wanted to buy presents for his family. They asked him for his Sri Lankan ID but he said that he did not have it with him but gave them a number and an address. The police found out that this was false, so looks like the guy has got away with it - although the police said they would investigate further...............Jaywa said that the jeweller should have asked to see his ID though........



Problems aside we slept well and were up early the next morning for our Whale Watching trip. We travelled to the harbour by local tuk tuk (these are quite comfortable and travel well down the narrow lanes). When we got to the boat the skipper said he was not going out as the weather was bad and even the fishermen were not going out....... We were really disappointed particularly as our tuk tuk had just left and there was not any more around. The harbour was busy with fishermen selling freshly caught fish and all around on the floor were buckets and boxes of fish including about a dozen large rays just laying on the harbour floor so we wandered around for a while.



We decided we would walk back to the hotel but as we were doing so a motorbike stopped and a local chap started chatting to Jaywa. He said that his boat was going out so we turned to walk back to the harbour and a few minutes later he had sent another tuk tuk to pick us up and take us to his boat on the harbour. The weather looked OK to us so hopefully it would be alright but I was a little worried that the fishermen were not going out though! Jaywa said sometimes the skippers say they are not going because of lack of numbers and make ‘weather’ their excuse!

We were joined by eight others and boarded a small boat with a crew of two and set off out of the harbour. The sea was very rough as soon as we left the shelter of the harbour and many of the other passengers starting being sea sick but luckily we were both fine. Obviously got our sea legs now after our experiences on the Barrier Reef in Australia last year........ After a very bone jarring journey of about two and half hours we spotted a huge pod of dolphins and followed them for a while before continuing on to look for whales. But our luck was not in as we did not spot one - which was a big disappointment - all we saw were several flying fish and a few birds. We cruised back to the harbour and as we did so we noticed that a few fishermen were venturing out, hopefully their journey would yield more than ours!



When we got back to the harbour we thought we would not like to do that again in a hurry as we ached all over...... However the skipper said we could go again tomorrow as we had not seen any whales - ‘should we’...... were undecided as five hours on bumpy seas is not much fun, but he did say it would be ‘free’ and we thought perhaps we may be in luck tomorrow.......what would you have done?



So the next morning we were up early yet again and proceeded to the harbour. Jaywa was not coming this time as he was going to go to the police station to see if there was any more news on our stolen credit card case. He has taken the theft quite personally and was affronted that a fellow countryman could do it.

So we set off in search of whales again and the seas were much calmer than the day before which was good news all around. Before long we spotted a huge pod of dolphins flying across the sea at great speed, there were literally hundreds of them jumping over the waves - we hoped this was a good omen. We continued and suddenly were cruising amongst huge container ships many heading for the port at Colombo - they looked so big against our little whale boat....... Strategically located at the center of the Indian ocean close to the main sea route from the Far East and Australia to Europe and America, Colombo is a major port of call for more than 30 main lines including almost all the top container carriers. Apparently most of the larger container carriers do not call on the Indian, Pakistan and Bangladesh ports because they do not have sufficient depth and adequate port facilities to handle such vessels so Colombo is a really busy port and here we were amongst them........



Then at last the crew spotted a whale in the distance and set off at speed to find it. As they approached they slowed right down and turned the engines off and we waited quietly for it to surface. Ten minutes later and right in front of us this huge body appeared it was massive and such an amazing sight in the vast ocean but it quickly disappeared into the deep again. The crew said we were really lucky as it was a Blue Whale which we were not expecting to see as Sperm Whales are more the norm here, so a Blue Whale was a real bonus. These enormous mammals eat tiny organisms, like plankton and krill which they sieve trough baleen and apparently are also the noisiest known animals on the planet. They live in pods (small groups) and we were lucky enough to see three or four come up to the surface. They are blue/grey in colour, have two blowholes and a thick layer of blubber and are huge at 30 metres (98ft) in length although we could not tell the size as we only saw a small part of them as they surfaced around our boat. It was amazing watching these huge sprays of water come out from their blowholes but quite tricky to get a good photograph. We returned to the harbour very elated - it was so worth going back the second time as its not every day you get to see the largest known animal to have ever existed.



Next day we moved on to our final hotel in Sri Lanka and on the way we were hoping to see ‘Stilt Fisherman’ which the area was famous for. In fact these anglers do not perch on stilts but sit on crossbars tied to forked branches of trees planted in the sea bed. Jaywa said that the ‘season’ for the fisherman had ended but there would be ‘artificial’ fishermen. We actually thought he actually meant ‘artificial’ but what he meant was, real people looking for money from tourists taking their photograph. Not actually fishermen but locals after money who just perched themselves on the stilts - awaiting handouts...... In any event the sea was so rough that even these ‘artificial’ fishermen were at rest that day - however you can get an idea of what they look like from the photograph in the blog. This was taken from a picture on the wall of our very first hotel in Sri Lanka!!!



We travelled on to our last destination located in Unawatuna which was a small seaside town with accommodation and bars spread out along the beach. Our hotel was set back from the beach and was a colonial looking hotel set in cooling gardens covered in palm trees and plants which was lovely but also a haven for mosquitoes! Again we had a problem with our room which was located right next to the reception (in fact just a few steps) so we asked for a 'better' room and were shown several and chose one with a little balcony overlooking the gardens and pool much brighter than the first one but obviously cost more although we think we got a good deal. The reception staff were friendly and even gave us some lovely Lotus flowers for our room - a smile goes a long way (see photo) perhaps they just wanted to get rid of us....



We visited the Fort of Galle, a large Portuguese and Dutch Fort in which the central city is contained which was nearby. Galle (pronounced Gawl) is known as one of the most beautiful forts in all of South East Asia. It is a busy port town and there is a thriving neighbourhood within the fort walls. As soon as you passed through the Fort Gate (just wide enough for our car) it was like being transported back to a bygone colonial era, a maze of shops and little streets and old colonial buildings - an amazing place to visit.

From the huge ramparts of the Fort you had a good view of the Cricket Ground, Galle International Stadium, rebuilt after the tsunami with Test Matches resumed there in December 2007. You could easily watch the match from the ramparts which I expect many do. Luckily there was not a match on so I did not lose Paul!

We visited the Dutch Reformed Church, built by a Dutch Army officer at the site of a previous Portuguese church and completed in 1754. It was notable for there being no pillars inside the building, the weight of the roof was just supported by the walls.

Galle is famous for its lace and you will not get far before some old lady tries to sell you some as we found out, they appear from nowhere holding out huge beautiful tablecloths for you to buy (shame we have not got a home at the moment). We walked along the sea walls and the very atmospheric town for a while but it was so hot we soon retreated to our air conditioned car.



We did enjoy our visit it was a very interesting place to wander around. Apparently some scholars believe Galle to be the “Tarhish” of the Old Testament, to which King Solomon sent his merchant Vessels, and to which Jonah fled from the Lord. The whole area was steeped in so much history a really special place to visit in Sri Lanka.



Back at our hotel we decided to walk to the beach and got soaked trying to cross some rocks to continue along the shoreline as the waves came crashing into the rocks at the ‘wrong time’. The movement of the sea is quite bizarre as one minute you are a long way from the sea and suddenly a wave brings the water much further in. It was a lovely semi circular beach with little restaurants/bars all the way around and at the end on a rocky headland was a beautiful white-washed Stupa. It reminded us of the beautiful Stupa in Anuradhapura which shone so brightly in the blue sky but this one was so much smaller.



That evening at out hotel the Chef put out a selection of fish for us to choose our dinner, the food and service was amazing from this little colonial hotel, so much better than the larger ones we had stayed in. It was our last evening in Sri Lanka - could not believe that 30 days had gone past so quickly.....



We have been lucky to see such a diverse range of wildlife in their nature habitat including; Elephants, Leopards, Water Buffalo, Wild Boar, Dolphins, Turtles not to mention the magnificent Blue Whale. As the elephant is the largest animal on the land so is the whale the largest in the sea so we have been lucky enough to see both on this visit to the tiny island of Sri Lanka.



We have also seen over 60 different bird species including; the Copper Headed & Paradise Bee Eaters, Flycatchers, Babblers, Barbets, Hornbills, Kites, Eagles, Kingfishers, Koels, Minivers, Munias, Orioles, Pipits, Robins, Spoonbills, Storks, Swamphens, White Eye Orientals, Weavers and Woodpeckers to name a few.



So its time to say goodbye to this beautiful island which is so diverse and we will remember it for its beautiful scenery and friendly people. On the downside though, (everywhere has its bad points) we did not like the poverty, the rubbish jumped everywhere, the dogs, although not wild there were hundreds of dogs living on the streets, they slept on the main roads and Jaywa was constantly swerving to avoid them and of course the mosquitos which seemed to find me everywhere.......



We were still along way off from the airport and Jaywa said that we would have to go on the coast road as our tour company did not pay for the new motorway. We asked how much it was and it was only a few pounds so told him that we would pay it. In the end it saved us a couple of hours of jarred bones although the road is not finished and therefore we still had to come off to get to the airport. On the way the streets were busy with people buying little lanterns to celebrate Vesak Day, an annual holiday observed traditionally by practicing Buddhists in Sri Lanka. As we passed through the towns prisoners were building pandals, which are set up during the Vesak festival, with illuminated panels illustrating the life of the Buddha. Vesak is considered as both a religious and cultural festival in Sri Lanka and is celebrated on the day of the full moon in May and is one of the biggest days of the year in the Buddhist calendar and is also celebrated by Buddhists all over the world.



To end this blog of Sri Lanka we would like to say a big thank you to our guide, Jaywa who ensured that we saw the best of his country and we will take away so many pleasant memories. Jaywa was looking forward to Vesak Day when he was going to give Alms which is a sign of sharing joy and peace with other people - he certainly shared some with us.



We are moving on to Australia via Singapore tomorrow - maybe we will see you there.


Additional photos below
Photos: 19, Displayed: 19


Advertisement



18th October 2012

liked yr blog on Souh Coast! How would it be possible to contact yr guide Jaywa? We are planning a trip in january to Sri Llanka. We would like to travel with a guide instead of doing a tourist tour..... Look forward to yr reply, kind regards Gerda

Tot: 0.079s; Tpl: 0.017s; cc: 11; qc: 25; dbt: 0.0393s; 1; m:domysql w:travelblog (10.17.0.13); sld: 1; ; mem: 1.2mb