Helen hogged the blog about our fleeting visit to Sri Lanka, and since not
much is happening today (not much wind, flat seas, taking the opportunity to
put some miles behind us by motoring...), I thought I'd turn the clock back
a couple of days and put down some of my thoughts about our touch-and-go
I really like a lot of the local people we met there. There's a few with
tall stories to tell or dodgy gems to sell, but for the most part they're
happy to just have a good spirited chat.
The thing that surprised me the most was how few other western tourists we
saw- probably less than twenty all up. Not that we were looking for them,
but I expected a bigger backpacker presence.
I'd thought that the whole Tamil Tigers thing was in isolated pockets in
northern and eastern parts of the country. We saw a huge military presence.
Admittedly, we were moored in a port next to the local naval base, but I
hadn't seen that many men with guns since... well, probably since going
skiing in Lebanon last year.
The inner harbour has a floating 'gate' across it. It looks like the Navy
move it several times a day, theoretically foiling any unauthorised high
speed entry attempts. When you first arrive, you have to wait outside until
a navy RIB clears you in ("Any guns, high explosives or ordinance to
declare?"), and then leads you in through the correct series of lefts and
rights to clear the barriers.
My parents taught me from a young age to "travel to eat". I put on a few
kilos each time a visit a new country and blame this on my upbringing! We
found the food fantastic. They make dosai in the shape of small bowls
("hoppers"), putting a dollop of curry inside. Another interesting dish is
made from chopped up thin roti bread mixed with vegetables, chicken (or
other meat) and sauces. The chef makes such an act of the chopping, using a
big knife against a metal plate, that you can hear him a good few shops
away. They have a number of varieties of roti parata, some thick, thin,
containing an egg... served with small dishes of fish or chicken curry,
similar to the roti you get in Singapore and Malaysia. I also rediscovered
Buffalo 'Curd'- a slightly acidic yogurt of which I'd consumed great
quantities during a family holiday to Kashmir as a kid. I was amazed that
it comes in 'one use' terracotta pots- evidently cheaper (and more
environmentally friendly!) than plastic.
On our last night we visited the next bay (Unawatuna), where the beach is
lined with cheap hotels and restaurants, right on the beach. It's a bit
upsetting to see the damage from the 2004 tsunami still evident. It's
equally upsetting to see that the hotels have been built back directly on
the beach, albeit some (but by no means all) have sturdy walls incorporated.
I would have liked to have spent another day in Galle. It seemed a shame to
travel such a distance, even if we didn't originally intend to go there, and
not stay a little longer. However after checking the internet weather
forecasts, we decided to leave sooner rather than later, and have some extra
time in Gan, before Helen heads back to Dubai.