Day 13: Saturday 16 September - Koggala - Galle – Ahungalia - Bentota

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September 16th 2017
Published: September 21st 2017
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Day 13: Saturday 16 September - Koggala - Galle – Ahungalia - Bentota

This morning we drove to Galle to explore the city including the lighthouse and the Old Town. We also visit the UNESCO World Heritage listed Dutch Fort, the largest intact Dutch fort in Asia. Within the ramparts and stonewalls of Galle Fort outstanding buildings remain.

From the ramparts, we could see a river inlet which was where the major tsunami destruction occurred as the area was rather low. The water flowed on the cricket ground which was next to the river. Thousands were killed in the city alone. The cricket ground is known as the Galle International Stadium, which is considered to be one of the most picturesque cricket grounds in the world. As the ground, which was severely damaged by the tsunami, it was rebuilt and test matches resumed there on 18 December 2007.We learned that Shane Warne came to the Koggala Cricket Ground to financially assist the cricket club to recover from the tsunami.

There was a match of cricket being played between South Africa and Sri Lanka. It was the preliminary finals of the Asian College Competition. Australia had been knocked out during the first semi finals.

Galle was known as Gimhathiththa (although Ibn Batuta in the 14th century refers to it as Qali) before the arrival of the Portugese in the 16th century, when it was the main port on the island. Galle reached the height of its development in the 18th century, during the Dutch colonial period. It is the best example of a fortified city built by the Portugese in South and Southeast Asia, showing the interaction between Portuguese architectural styles and native traditions. The city was extensively fortified by the Dutch during the 17th century from 1649 onwards.

Cinnamon was exported from Sri Lanka as early as 1400 BC, and as the root of the word itself is Hebrew, Galle may have been a main entry point for the spice. Galle had been a prominent seaport long before western rule in the country.

The modern history of Galle starts in 1502, when a small fleet of Portuguese ships, on their way to the Maldives, were blown off course by a storm. Realising that the king resided in Kotte close to Colombo, the captain proceeded there after a brief stop in Galle.

In 1640, the Portuguese were forced to surrender to the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch built the present fort in 1663. They built a fortified solid granite wall and three bastions, known as "Sun", "Moon" and "Star".

After the British took over the country from the Dutch in 1796, the British preserved the fort unchanged and used it as the administrative centre of the district.

Our next adventure was a boat cruise leaving from Ahungalia. This river had 100s of islands in it, including an island where the family produced cinnamon. The young daughter of the family demonstrated the high labor required to make cinnamon sticks. The family lived a simple life from a packed-mud house.

The day was beautiful, motoring in a boat under an 8hp outboard. We even went through 2 mangrove caves which was a new experience for us. There were several islands with only Buddhas and shrines. Another few islands were joined together by very basic bridges that we had to duck down while we went under them.

After the boat cruise, we then continued driving to Bentota for our overnight stop.

Bentota is approximately 65 kilometres south of Colombo and 56 kilometres (35 mi) north of Galle. Bentota is situated on the southern bank of the Bentota River mouth. The name of the town is derived from a mythical story which claims a demon named 'Bem' ruled the tota or river bank.

Bentota is a tourist attraction, with a local airport and a handful of world-class hotels. It is a destination for watersports. Bentota is famous for its toddy production, an alcoholic beverage made out of coconut nectar. It also has a turtle hatchery, located on Induruwa beach.

Before arriving at Bentota, we visited the Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery - located 11 km south of Bentota, is a community based turtle hatchery and turtle watching project set up by the Turtle Conservation Project (TCP) in association with the Wildlife Department of Sri Lanka.

The Hatchery has an albino turtle which occurs 1:2 million times. This turtle will not be released. There were a couple of other turtles that were deformed or missing flippers, which will never be released also. The hatchery is also home to Sri Lanka’s pioneering sea turtle conservation project, established in 1981 to protect Sri Lanka’s turtles. Here we learnt about the dangers Sea Turtles face and how the Sea Turtle Centre program aims to protect sea turtle eggs and increase hatching rates.

We stayed at Rockside Beach Resort which was excellent.

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