Fred Olsen Cruise - Sri Lanka - Colombo & Galle

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February 10th 2014
Published: February 10th 2014
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COLUMBO – SRI LANKA Thursday 6thFebruary 2014

Got up at 07.00am as we wanted to do our mile around the deck and go to the gym before breakfast – and also see if we could see any whales as Blue Whales are somewhere off the coast of Sri Lanka! There was quite a strong wind whipping the sea up so predictably no joy on the whale front!!

The sea calmed back down by about 9.00am and the wind dropped leaving another scorching hot day and after a lazy day we got to Columbo about 14.30pm. (Docked at Passenger Terminal Ports Authority 19, Chaithya Rd) None of the palava of the Indian Ports and we were able to stroll off the boat at around 15.00pm where we walked into town to negotiate a tuk-tuk for the afternoon. $5 for 1hr seemed a good price (we were later to learn it was $5 per person per hour!!) and we set off in our lamborghini tuk-tuk racing around the streets of Colombo. I was a bit concerned that our driver had a bottle of vodka tucked in the front of his tuk-tuk but he assured me it was just water!!

There wasn’t a huge amount of tourist attractions other thanGangaramaya Hindu temple, a stunning red-and-white Jami-Ul Alfar Mosque, one of Colombo’s most recognizable landmarks and Wolvendale Dutch church where we had a guided tour by the church warden. ( This church is thought to be one of the oldest places of Christian worship on the Island.)

The replica ‘White House’ was good and we had a wander around the park opposite where we saw a group of friendly Sri Lankan girls who, after their initial shyness, were keen to talk to us and have their photos taken!

The highlight for me was going to the beach and seeing about 50 muslem schoolgirls, all dressed head to foot in lavender robes, playing in the sea! We also saw the soldiers taking the flag down and watched the sun set over the sea. Totally beautiful.

GALLE – Sri Lanka Friday 7th February 2014

After the fiasco in Mumbai, I wasn’t too confident when we disembarked the ship at 7.00am to look for Mr Chandana of Tours by Locals that Chris had booked on the internet before we left! Surprise, surprise – no-one was there!!! Walked up to the Port Gate and back in case they hadn’t been allowed on Port premises – no joy! Went into the small Travel Agents actually on the dock and they very kindly let us use the internet to see if there was a phone number (there wasn’t!!) and then suggested we walk to the Main Port Gate 3 (about 1 mile!!) Walked there ….and back and still no sign of our Taxi! As it ws now 8.15 we were just trying to decide what to do when a lad appeared holding a card…Mr Christopher Taylor !!

An extremely apologetic Prabath shook our hands and led us to the taxi where he explained that they had been waiting at the other ship that was in dock (we could see the ‘Rotterdam’ about 2 miles away) and that Mr Chandana was unable to come as he was in Court today! Anyway, he turned out to be a very nice university student who spoke English very well and we made our way, through the traffic out of Colombo, on the Southern Expressway for about 50kms before turning onto the coast road.

Stopped at a roadside stall where Prabath bought us some ‘sugar free’ and some red bananas for us to try as way of an apology for the mess up this morning! The red bananas taste the same as any other banana but are a lot bigger, so that kept us going, as we told him we would not bother stopping for an hour for lunch so that we could make up some time!!

The coast road was far more interesting with its stunning beaches and little tourist resorts. Our first stop was at a Turtle Conservation Park at Ambalangoda (I think!) where it was explained that they collect the eggs from 6 different types of turtles an hatch them out in mounds of sand before transferring them back to the sea. They also cared for the injured, blind, albino and deformed turtles and kept them in tanks where they seemed to be swimming about quite happily! The little 3 day old turtles were really cute and you could pick one up, where it would ‘play dead’ in your hand! The bigger turtles weighed 8kg and were quite heavy to hold but overall an enjoyable experience.

Onto the moonstone mine! Walked up through the cinnamon gardens to a mine shaft where someone demonstrated ‘how they climb down the mine’ and then stood waist deep in water to explain ‘ how the sand is washed off the moonstones’! The ‘factory’ consisted of three people showing how the stone is polished and sanded to reveal the shiny surfaces. Into the shop where I was hoping to buy some gifts but as the cheapest item started at about £100 it was just too expensive for what it was! Sorry girls!!

Carried on along the coast road until we came to a Tsunami Memorial which was where a train had been washed away killing all of the 1000 passengers. All together 50,000 people were killed in Sri Lanka so quite a poignant moment to remember that awful boxing day. All along the coast road were gravestones and cemetaries, so whether these were all Tsunami victims I am not sure.

Stopped briefly at a Buddhist Temple on an island, where are car driver paid a donation as its their custom to do this everytime they pass this particular temple before onwards to Galle.

Galle was better than I expected being a walled town,(That withstood the tsunami) where we could also walk around the walls offering some good views of the town and also the coastline, as well as the famous cricket ground!! Saw the old Dutch Church (closed) before making meeting our driver (who had bought us some rice and omlette for lunch - too spicy for me!!) and driving further around the coast to a Spice Garden!

I think Prabath was getting concerned about us missing our ship ( and me not eating lunch as he also bought some yoghurts for us!!) as we were whisked around the garden and briefly shown coffe beans, aloe vera and various other plants and herbs with medicinal qualities! There was a fascinating plant ( don’t know its name as the guide had moved on!!) but everytime you touched a leaf it closed up instantly! Great fun!! A quick visit to the shop where we declined to buy anything and then back to the car for the drive back through the village ( where we also saw a huge monitor lizard crossing the road!!)

We didn’t have time to visit the White Tea gardens and plantation but as a consolation prize Prabath bought us a selection of fine teas from a Tea Shop which was very kind of him and pointed out the tea plantations to us on our 116km drive along the Southern Expressway back to Colombo, where we arrived back at the ship at 17.15pm and set sail about an hour later. Had a pleasant surprise at dinnertime as we were joined by new dinner companions Stuart and Maureen, who had joined the Cruise at Columbo.

Our next three days are ‘Sea Days’ and I am quite looking forward to the rest!! A full programme of different events but as its still hot and sunny we shall probably spend most of our time reading on the decks, although there is also a Pirate Party on deck with free rum punch, to celebrate the sailing out of the ‘High Risk Pirate Area’! Hopefully I can catch up a bit on the blog but as Internet is 20p a minute its pretty pricey!! Roll on some free wifi!!

Just a quick PS - We found that Tours by Locals had contacted us by email upon our return to the UK, explaining and apologising for all the confusion, and awarded us a $50 refund voucher. Tours by Locals is an excellent concept and is a good way of contributing money into the economy to benefit the customers and the local tour organisers.

Additional photos below
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17th February 2014

Great pics. Sri Lanka looks gorgeous

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