Thursday, February 02, 2017

Our scoop on Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka deserves more time than what we could spare to get a full picture. But from our limited time in southern Galle (7 days) of this island country, this is what we experienced.

The people are extremely friendly and most speak at least a fragment of English which is of course always helpful in getting directions or help finding what you need. Many of the local men still wear the traditional sarongs, fabric wrapped around the waist.

Fuel and provisions are available and the plentiful, cheap tuk tuks are the way to go. For longer distances, the trains are frequent and buses are constantly available to wherever you need to go. Again, very cheap - even Express First Class (avoid the slow ones for long distance!)

Groceries and produce, although not necessarily cheap, are abundant and what limited Western food products you see are definitely expensive.

Around Galle, we would surely recommend seeing the old fort and colonial buildings within, and a visit to the funky, albeit touristy, beach town of Anawatuna for shops and eats. Then there are the gem merchants with either cut stones or jewel settings.

We wished that we had spent more time at Unawatuna. It had a nice beach and lots of skinny winding streets lined with shops of all sorts. It would have been fun to walk around but we ran out of time. However on our last night we did have a nice candlelit meal at the beachfront restaurant.

If a cruiser didn't stop at Sri Lanka, they wouldn't see the more unpleasant features. For example, the strict inner harbour control dictates many procedures. There is more officialdom than anywhere else with numerous department inspections and copious amounts of paperwork to get checked in. It's required to employ 1 of 2 available agent companies to facilitate the process. Ours cost us $300 US for that service. Others paid less with the other agent.

The visiting sailboats are ushered into the innermost part of the harbour and can either Med-moor or tie alongside of the concrete sea wall. The surge made it rough on lines, and for those who tied alongside, there was more than 1 blown bumper. We Med-moored and used our dinghy to get to the sea wall, and at low tide, it was difficult to get from dinghy to top of wall.

Sea Turtle Med-moored in Galle

The water at times was full of debris and no one would use their watermakers here. And there are no water taps on the concrete sea wall for hosing down a salty boat, etc. We were fortunate to arrive during a rainstorm so Sea Turtle was not salty. The only personal shower was pretty rudimentary and a ways away so we just did our usual on-deck solar shower when it was dark out.

Although fuel is available, getting it into your tanks is another matter. First, we had to prepay for an exact amount to be delivered. If we ordered too much, no refund, or too little, it would be extra delivery charge. Of course with a big passage coming up, we wanted to be totally fueled up. We were lucky, or should I say that Jordan is a good estimator, as we had only 5 litres extra of fuel. We put it in a large pail and gave to another boater.

To get the fuel from truck to tank is by a long hose and gravity fed. One's boat's inlet was higher than the truck's outlet so they were in a dilemma on how they were going to do it. We didn't hear the final solution. The problem for us with that system is the shut-off was at the truck, so when we knew our tank was full, we shouted Stop! but to get the hose out of our filler resulted in a lot of spillage.

Water delivery is available and as we were about to order some to top up our tanks, we were hit by a downburst for about an hour and that was more than enough to fill our tanks and jugs.

Second-hand information told us of a boat that ordered water. We don't know how much the boater ordered but a ton was delivered which was way too much for their small vessel. They were not allowed to put the water hose into another boat so they used some to wash their decks and then gave some to a neighbouring boat by using buckets!

What we must say is even though our agent was expensive, they efficiently handled not only the check in and out, but also facilitated the fuel order, delivered us to ATMs and to get a SIM card for our phone, and basically were always on call for any problems or questions.

We found out the hard way that smart phones here are cheaper than the duty free port in Malaysia. A few minutes before checking out of Sri Lanka, our near new cell phone slipped out of Jordan's pocket into the ocean! Oh no! So off to the Mobile Centre with a tuk tuk.

We saw long fishing boats with a wide bottom and narrow top that we had never seen before. It looks like you have to really squish yourself into them.

Unusual style of boat

So to sum the pros and cons, it is a place to rest after a 9-day passage, get fueled up and topped up on things, and see a few highlights, but not the nicest harbour and an expensive check in for just a few days.

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