Arriving in Sri Lanka was fantastic… not the official part though. As Galle is a commercial harbour things are not as easy as we were used to from other places. Everytime we left or entered the harbour area we had to pass the gate and show a copy of the crewlist. In addition to the complicated formalities it is a very dirty place and there is a lot of swell. Hans from ALKYONE was so kind to let us raft up to his boat instead of to the concrete wall and we were very thankful for that.
As soon as you have passed the gate, things were not complicated at all. We decided to go out for dinner and Marlin, a local guy who organizes all kind of services for yachties like laundry, tuktuk tours, sail repairs etc. recommended us a nice restaurant in Unawatuna Beach. So we squeezed in a tuktuk and immediately plunged into the lively evening traffic. There seemed to be a traffic jam and Pahan, our tuktuk driver explained that this was due to a Buddhist procession. Shortly after we saw the parade… it was fantastic. There were elephants and dancers and music between cars and tuktuks. What an exciting welcome to Sri Lanka! The restaurant was located right at the Unawatuna Beach with plenty of space to roam around for Jaël and Amina after being a week on the boat.
Timing worked out very well for Martin. There was still one spare day to visit the beautiful Old Town of Galle together. The following day he left by train to Colombo to catch his flight back to Singapore. We had enjoyed his company and for him it had been a great opportunity to experience an ocean passage.
Pahan, the friendly tuktuk driver showed us a beach bar on Dewata Beach where his sister just lived nearby and worked in the kitchen. This little beach bar became one of our favourite places because of the friendly and relaxed atmosphere and the fantastic beach and waves. André showed Jaël how to surf on the waves with her boogie board and once she got the hang of it she could not get enough. She paddled out with Andrea and Tobias, the oldest of the ALKYONE kids and waited far out for the best waves. Amina needed some help to get out into the right position and a bit of a push to set off but then she surfed very often all the way right onto the beach. We had a lot of fun together with our friends from ALDIVI and ALKYONE.
Every morning at 8.30 the sound of the Sri Lankan anthem rang out of the loudspeakers and all the security guards had to stand in line. The melody often followed me during the day and always will remind me of Sri Lanka. Even the whole passage to Maldives I could not get it out of my head.
Sri Lanka has not only beautiful beaches it also offers a lot to discover on land. So we decided to do a landtrip for a few days. We hired a car with driver to get us and our broken code zero sail to our sailmaker who is based near Colombo. It was nice to see Phil again and he gave us a tour of the whole factory! That was really awsome! We also could pick up our suncover which was custom made to André’s design.
From the sail factory we continued to Kandy. This is a big town set on a plateau surrounded by mountains. It is a very popular town not only because of the beautiful setting by the lake but also because it is home to some sacred Buddhist sites, including the temple of the tooth. We went for a stroll in the city and ate some Kottu Roti, a typical,local dish. You can hear the fast cutting of the roti from far and the sound of it became almost as familiar to us as the national anthem, which was played every morning at 8.30 am in the harbour.
The following day we had to get up early. One of the two owners of the hotel drove us with the tuktuk to Peradeniya station. There was already a lot of traffic and he drove really fast. We did not want to miss our train. Luckily we were there on time! I would highly recommend this train ride from Kandy to Ella to anyone visiting Sri Lanka. It is quite loud as the windows and doors are open, but it is a great way to travel through the country. We met Kenuli, a local girl travelling with her father to a badminton turnament. Jaël explained her how to play UNO and another girl joined too. Amina made friends with a couple from Finnland and André and me enjoyed the stunning views. After about 6.5 hours we arrived in Ella. Ella is located 1041m above sealevel and is surrounded by hills covered with forest and tea plantations.
We stayed in a nice small hotel with a beautiful view on Ella Rock. On our first day in Ella we started with a hike to Little Adam’s peak and then stopped at beautiful 98 acres restaurant. From there we walked to the 9 Arch Bridge and waited for the train to come to shoot some nice pictures from the bridge with the train. The trains do not run that often, so once the train has passed you can walk on the railway all the way back to Ella and that’s what we did. What a wonderful day that was! Back in Ella we went for dinner and unfortunately André’s had bad luck with his choice. He had an awful, sleepless night and was sick for the following two days days.
While André was in bed Jaël, Amina and me took a tuktuk to the Uva Halpewatte Tea Factory. It was fascinating to see how the green tea leaves got transformed into different qualities of Ceylon tea. To stay into the theme we visited the Ella Tea Shop in the afternoon where we could pick tea leaves ourselves and produce our own tea. After having seen the process in the big factory Jaël and Amina could grab a basket and learned now from Lanka which leaves to pick. Afterwards we put the leaves into a dryer and then grinded them with a mortar to start the fermentation. In the end we could taste our self made green tea!
In our hotel there was another family with two children, a little bit younger than ours. The following afternoon we booked some cooking lesson together. That was great. It was just us and no one else so the kids could also help cutting the ingredients. Lanka prepared with us some delicious Sri Lankan curries and coconut rotis. Afterwards we ate all together and also the kids liked it. Such a shame that André still did not feel well enough to join. We even had to postpone our return to Galle by one day.
We had a different driver than the one on the first day. Nihal was extremly friendly and told us a lot of interesting things about the places we passed. He also stopped to let us taste curd with tree honey at one of the stalls where they sold it. I had seen the clay pots already on our journey to Kandy and wondered what it was. It tastes similar to yoghurt and is simply delecious together with tree honey. Nihal’s wife is a kindergarden teacher in Galle and so we arranged a visit in her kindergarden. These are the things that make travelling so special. You meet so many friendly people and get great opportunities to learn about their way of life.
Nihals wife Pinky also loved cooking and was interested to give some cooking classes. So I told Berna and Jutta about my fantastic experience with Lanka’s cooking lessons in Ella and they immediately wanted to join Pinky’s cooking lesson too. We had a great time all together. The kids could get henna tatoos and play in the kindergarden while we were cooking delicious food with Pinky and her mom Renuka.
Nihal also arranged for us a safari in the Udawalawe National park. We slept in a beautiful lodge and got up early to start the safari. It was magical to hear all the birds in the morning. We saw beautiful peacocks, an owl hidden in a tree hole a horde of water buffalos and had to wait a bit until we saw elephants but were rewarded at the end. A whole group of elephants just passed us and we could see them from very close.
After long discussions with our agent and the port authorities we were able to invite the Finnish couple we had met in the train to Ella. We could not really understand why this was so complicated but finally it worked out and Jaana and Pekka could come aboard Mirabella. Amina was very proud to show them around. We also tried to invite Pinky’s kindergarden class to the harbour to show the kids our boats but it did not work out. At least we were able to get the permission for Pinky, Nihal and their son Nikil to visit us. We really enjoyed our time in Sri Lanka and Nihal, Pinky and their beautiful family made us enjoy our stay even more.
Sri Lanka was a beautiful discovery for us. It is not necessarily a destination to visit by boat as there are no anchorages and no good marinas to leave the boat while you explore land. Lucky enough we were a bunch of boats and there was always somebody there to keep an eye on our boat while we were in Ella.
We had to say goodbye to POLARWIND as they headed to India and not to the Maldives. What a fantastic time we had spent together in Sri Lanka. It is always hard to say goodbye to Cruiser friends. You never know if and when you gonna meet again…
We left Galle on the 12th of February and arrived in Uligamo, Maldives on February 16th. Our friends from ALKYONE and ALDIVI had left Galle earlier and were already waiting for us. It was a beautiful arriving. The water in Uligamo are turquoise and crystal clear. There is an incredible variety of colorful fish in all shapes and the water temperature is 29 °C.