Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Sri Lanka

Town Bay in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka
My cabin smells like smoke.  That's because my clothes smell like smoke.  That's because I took them to the laundry......well- let me back up.

We are in the beautiful island nation of Sri Lanka!  A true gem in the middle of the Indian Ocean, just between the Andaman Sea and the Lakshadweep Sea.  There was a terrible tsunami here in 2004 (which is never far from anyone's mind) because the island is quite low except for the middle, interior  highlands, with the rim of the island being lined with exquisite, white, soft sand beaches.  It's a year round paradise- east coast in the south west monsoon season and west coast in the northeast monsoon season.  Ayurvedic Spas, Tea Plantations, Buddhist retreats, world class surfing, Blue Whales, Ancient Ruins  and Big Game Reserves draw tourists from all over the world.  Well actually mostly Europeans, Chinese and Russians but they all have expendable income.  English is the common denominator through which most communication takes place, but it amazes me to hear these Sinhalese native speakers talking in Russian, French and Chinese!
Mark at a Mosque in Colombo

We arrived here (Trincomalee) three weeks ago after an awesome seven day passage from Thailand.  Mark (Mash, Masho, Marco), Neal's bro was with us for the passage and took the 3:00 am to 6:00 am (the squall) watch.  Upon arrival we were greeted by the Sri Lankan Navy, then a Pilot boat  and directed to tie up to a barge where our agent, Ravi, escorted a whole host of officials to check us in and check us out!  Turns out the barge was in a Navy base where we had to pass through several layers of security every time we exited or entered.  Being that we are in Northeast Sri Lanka and the war with the Tamil Tigers was only ended (HERE) six years ago, security is still quite tight and there is a high military presence.  We cope.  Just don't try to go anywhere without your passport.....

After settling in, cleaning the layer of salt off of the boat, finding the central market, locating a fast food take out restaurant and organizing security, we three hopped an overnight, air-con, express bus to Colombo in anticipation of Sri Lanka Independence Day with the NEW President (you knew that, right?).  Turns out that the new Pres is all about cutting frivolous spending and funding the poor people so not much of an Independence Day festivity BUT there was an awesome Poya (full moon) holiday parade- full of monks, initiates, shrines, Buddhas, dancers, musicians and elephants!  Every full moon is a holiday in Sri Lanka!  Awesome!  Except that there are NO alcohol sales that day....  From Colombo Mark went to a Buddhist retreat and Neal and I went south to Galle where we stayed inside the walled city and toured the surrounding countryside.  From Galle we took a second class train....no reservations accepted...where we stood for the first three hours, sat facing backwards for the second three hours and I didn't pee for the entire SIX hours to Kandy!  Buddhist Temples, Relics, Botanical Gardens, Ancient Sites and a Safari, where we saw over fifty elephants from the back of our jeep monopolized the next four days tempered by small guest houses run by families trying to make a living off of the new wave of tourism and attempting to please.  Funny how most of these places think nothing of having to step in gecko poop in the middle of the night on the way to the bathroom- or for that matter stepping in gecko poop at any time of the day!
Poya (Full Moon) Day Parade

Sri Lanka is a country where the railroad crossing gates are still operated manually by a family that lives in a small hut RIGHT by the tracks at the crossing bars.  They know exactly when the trains are coming and lower the gate arms so that no tuk- tuk, scooter, truck or most usually a pedestrian, will be smashed by the train.  Unless, of course, you are walking along the track instead of the road as many folks here do.  The median monthly income is $500.00 which translates to $2.00 per hour if you work full time.  There is a beautiful mix of Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims all living together and from our mooring ( next to the barge) we could hear the Muslim Call To Prayer (5:00 am), the Buddhist Meta or morning chant, Hindustani music ( for your enjoyment) all played over the village loud speakers followed by an electronic version of It's A Small World After All played by the bread truck.  Wow, eh?  Just wow.  Life is simple.  Low key.  The people are happy, proud, friendly and very, very helpful.
Indian Cobra Naja Naja About to Get Angry

So after the road trip we had a ton of laundry that needed to be done.  The industry around the bay we are in makes us hesitant to make water here so we sent out our laundry to be washed.  Lo and behold, it came back not only washed, but ironed!  When was the last time you wore ironed underwear???  Interesting part about it all is that the laundry is ironed with an iron (no pun intended) iron.  With a wood fire built inside of it to make it hot.......

Leaving for the Maldives in four days.  More then!

R of Rutea

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