Alan and Jean sharing our cruising news with friends, family.

20 July 2015 | Rabi Island Fiji
29 June 2015 | Suva Fiji
18 December 2013 | Auckland
05 December 2013 | Auckland
27 October 2013 | Vavau Tonga
12 September 2013 | Samoa
24 July 2013 | Moorea, Tahiti
19 July 2013 | Papeete
19 June 2013 | Nuka Hiva
02 June 2013 | Pacific Ocean
29 May 2013 | Pacific Ocean
24 May 2013 | Eastern Pacific Ocean
19 May 2013 | Western Pacific Ocean
16 May 2013 | Western Pacific Ocean
13 May 2013 | Isla Isabella
06 May 2013 | Isla Isabella
08 April 2013 | Shelter Bay marina, Colon.
28 March 2013 | Belize
27 March 2013 | Belize
03 March 2013 | Panamarina, Panama

Sri Lanka

26 January 2010 | Galle Harbour
26th January 2010
Galle Harbour, Sri Lanka.

We are nearing the end of our stay in Sri Lanka. During our short stay here we have experienced a country of beautiful scenery and lovely people. Perhaps we have been fortunate to visit now that the civil war is over. Certainly one of the benefits has been that the navy has ceased to depth charge the harbor at regular intervals every night, so a good night's sleep can now be enjoyed. The harbor is still tightly secured and patrolled on water and land by the navy. There is a sandbagged machine gun sentry post just inside the gate which was a bit disconcerting to start with but now we stroll past without a second glance. When we went on our tour inland we knew Tuatara was secure with so many armed personal on security duty. While away we saw empty sentry posts along the roads but we also saw many that are still manned. It is less than a year since the fighting stopped, and with an election today everyone in the military still seems a little nervous or else they don't know what to do with all the soldiers now there is no fighting to occupy them. The general population seems relaxed and happy to be getting on with a normal life. There is an election today, the main talking point is will there be a change of President. Ekka our Tuk Tuk driver says the polls are running at 50/50 so will be a close thing. He thinks the President is the man but many others we talk to want his opposition to win. An Army General is the opposition but I am not sure, if after a war the people were tired of, that they will vote for a General. The country is plastered in posters of a smiling affluent looking President and a few of a uniformed General. The choice between the supposedly corrupt existing President and an Army General has everyone talking politics including the tourists.

A corrupt President should not be a surprise in a country where officials ask for "compliments" (not the verbal kind) or " now something for me" after they have just done their job. We got away quite lightly when we cleared into the country. Customs who have the worst reputation for expecting and taking bottles of liquor or cigarettes asked for nothing from us but the immigration officers asked for a " compliment". The officer who asked for cigarettes decided to settle on a glass of coke after we said he could only have a packet. He wanted the whole carton just for watching his senior officer fill in the forms. The senior officer asked for whisky, he turned down a part bottle of whisky, settling for a glass of it. Whisky and coke, no soda on board, at 9am was a bit hard to watch. We were a bit soft with the Dr who came to fill in the health forms and he got a small bottle of cheap Thai rum which we had bought for the purpose. All this compliment seeking was done politely and the decisions were accepted with good humour. As with many countries everyone adds a little extra to prices for the tourists, we are walking ATM machines. We expect the tuk tuk drivers, veggie sellers and other shop keepers to add on a little, after a little bargaining the price moves to something more acceptable. We know we are still paying a little more than local price, we don't mind as long as we all leave the transaction smiling. As Alan says, its all a game. We did get a little upset when our up to now excellent agent tried to blatantly rip us off. To be fair it was the big boss not the delightful pair we have been dealing with who tried to earn a little extra. We had a parcel sent from NZ to Windsors, the boss decided to change the delivery docket adding $17 to the $45 duty we already had to pay. He didn't realize there was another docket inside with the correct charges. If he had asked for handling charges that would have been fine, but he tried to fool us by changing the docket. After some negotiation we settled on $5 for handling. This has been the one blip in our stay here. But I do have to say the hassle in dealing with an incompetent NZ firm on the North Shore over ordering and sending 4 important small springs, that has taken months, has been more stressful than dealing with anyone here. Our hydraulic steering is quite important to us which I am not sure was fully appreciated in an office in Albany. Part of the order included some o rings, our impression of the firm did not improve when we realized the o rings that came with the springs were incorrect. We have been invoiced and paid duty on the correct o rings but the wrong packet of o rings was actually sent. Luckily the old ones still fit.

On a happier note our 3 day inland tour of a small corner of Sri Lanka was great. We hired a van and driver with Eva and Wolfgang from Sleipnir II. We wound our way east along the coast then turned inland towards the hills and the town of Ella. From Ella we got a train to Nan-ouya where Saara picked us up to continue on to Kandy. A night in Kandy then back to Galle. In Ella we met an English couple who were part way through a 4 week trip in Sri Lanka. I am a little envious of the time they have. They were taking their time and enjoying the sights and people. Sri Lanka would be a great place just to meander through at a relaxed pace. The country has about 20 million people but is not crowded, the few beggars we have encountered have not been overly pushy, the plumbing doesn't smell, the traffic is a bit hectic but as in other asian countries it all works there is no road rage. The scenery is beautiful, the women in the tea plantations giving plenty of opportunity for the typical Sri Lankan photo. Gems and jewellery for reasonable prices after the usual bargaining and of course every type of tea to taste and buy. National park elephants conveniently just inside the fence by the road, good for photos, the fruit stall well placed across the road so we could meet the elephants and our need for a snack.

The train trip from Ella was the highlight, even though there was a little grumbling about getting up at 5.45am to catch the early 6.40am train. We soon realized the early train was a good choice. From the observation car at the back of the train we saw the Sri Lankan day begin. Children in immaculate white school uniforms stepped onto the track as soon as we had passed. Fathers with garden hoes or brief cases walked hand in hand with their children on the way to their day. Teenage girls with long glossy black plaits giggled and waved as we poked our cameras out the window. Mothers were seeing their kids off to school or already at work in the hill side gardens. Every inch of land not lived on was cultivated, tea, tomatoes, cabbages, carrots, beetroot ... almost any vegetable you would want. As we climbed slowly up to 1900 metres the mist melted off the hills and the sun peeked down into the deepest valleys. All too quickly we arrived at Nan-ouya, to our delight the lovely scenery continued on to Kandy through tea plantations and gardens. Before we got to Kandy we visited a tea factory. At Kandy we enjoyed an evening show of traditional dancing and music before heading back for dinner and an internet session at our hotel. We had to be careful to close our room doors and windows as the local monkeys like to sneak in and nip off with whatever they can get hold of. The cool air of Kandy and Ella had us wearing long sleeves and trousers something we hadn't done in a long time. A very pleasant change.

The last morning we spent in Kandy at the Tooth Temple and the Kandy Market. The Tooth Temple houses a sacred tooth of Buddha. The tooth is in a golden casket and three times a day the door to the room it is in, is opened, during a ceremony accompanied by traditional drumming. We managed to arrive at the right time and had a quick glance as we were ushered past along with other tourists and Buddhist devotees. After the market we started on the long trip back to Galle. On the way we passed many electioneering meetings as well as the procession of the flame for the South Asian games. Cricket is the game of choice here, it is almost surprising that other sport is played. Little boys play cricket on any bare patch they can find and in the early evening young men take over the dirt wickets, spinning, diving, swinging. Every tuk tuk driver has a son who is going to play cricket for Sri Lanka. On a visit to Ekka's house he proudly showed us his sons neatly packed cricket bag ready for after school practice.
"Opening batsman and wicket keeper and he will be Captain next year, his batting is very good" said the proud father.

Alan broke a tooth and has had to visit the dentist. The dentist is a professor at the university and trained and worked in UK for many years, also a cricket fan along with every other man here. All he really wanted to talk about was how he fixed a tooth for Stephen Fleming once when the NZ team was in Galle and how Alan was sitting in the same chair as Stephen Fleming. At least we can say we come from the same town as Daniel Vettori, although Stephen Fleming is the one everyone talks about. (Alan broke a tooth on Tuesday morning so went to the dentist in the afternoon and got a temporary crown with the permanent one being fitted this coming Tuesday very quick service and less than half NZ price.) The NZ under 19 team beat Sri Lanka the other day, the locals are a little disappointed but with a typical head wobble they change the subject to how we are liking Sri Lanka. "lovely people, beautiful scenery'' our standard sincere reply brings out the smiles and sometimes they even drop the price a little if we are bargaining for something!

For those looking for a holiday that is something a little different and doesn't have the frenetic pace or huge numbers of people as India but is a similar culture, Sri Lanka is the place to come. Take your time, enjoy the cool tea plantation hills, game parks and numerous world heritage sites, pick up some nice gems....... 10 days is not long enough.

Vessel Name: Tuatara
Vessel Make/Model: Alan Wright 51
Hailing Port: Opua NZ
Crew: Alan and Jean Ward

Sailing in the Pacific

Who: Alan and Jean Ward
Port: Opua NZ