When we initially considered our passage from Thailand straight to the Maldives, it was ignoring the geographic fact, that a “detour” through Galle, Sri Lanka, was actually not a detour at all, but a sheer 5-nautical mile dent in an otherwise two-segment route that bended around Sri Lanka’s southern tip, and on which Galle was a trivial waypoint.
Add to that a forming mutiny within the younger crew, who, after ten days at sea, demanded we stopped to give them a break from sailing, plus the insistance from our friends on WOLO that the cheap curries, easy tuktuk, bus and train rides, and historic old town were worth a visit, and the decision was made to spoil ourselves with a brief stopover in the country, which every tourist would have avoided the year before, for fear of being caught in an overly mediatic civil unrest.
Anchored during the night on the south-eastern edge of the harbour, tucked behind a small cape where waves crashed against the rocks nearby, prejudices were quickly debunked in the morning when we woke up to a lush scenery of dark green jungle dotted with palm trees, a sparkling white pagoda perched on a hill, and white-skin silhouettes bathing in a secluded beach emerging from the trees. Far from the miserable country where everyone has suffered badly from an unprecedented economic crisis that had been depicted by the international media.
We were having a dip in the emerald green water, when around 11am, a call on the radio instructed us that Obelix, along with Adelante and Pegase III, who had arrived the same night, could make their way to the “marina”, a square little basin dredged at the back of the commercial port. There, we were welcomed by WOLO who had saved us a spot alongside their boat, the basin having reached capacity with a dozen other boats waiting for a weather window to continue their westward journey. A blessing considering the unfortunate setup of the place which would make any sailor cringe at the thought of their lines being chafed against the rough edges of the concrete piers.
Clearance formalities were expedited the same day with visas already applied for online by dad, thanks dad, and the agent visiting us and taking care of all the paperwork once duly signed and stamped by Thomas. I was also explained by the temporary resident yachties how with laundry fees calculated per item and not per kg, I was better off washing all underwear and small items myself and leave only linens and towels under the care of the local mafia to arrange their cleaning. Eager not to waste any second and with the energy of the freshly arrived in a new country (similar to NRE for those who know what I mean), I set out to do our laundry at the toilet block hidden at the end of a dirt path. There I met Clara, from Black Duck, who was doing the same, and time flew by as I washed away our pile of soiled undies and T-shirts while chatting profusely, as if I hadn’t seen another human being for ten days.
That night, the German and Austrian party invited us to meet them at Orange Kitchen, a restaurant overlooking the beach, to watch the sunset for dinner. The monsoon had decided otherwise, and we had to shelter from the rain under a bus stop and a couple of trees before reaching destination, but what a treat not to have to cook, and discover new dishes and flavours.
While in Galle, since there was no way to cruise around, we thought we would partake in land-based activities for a change, like a train ride to the capital city Columbo, or the mountains in Ella or Kandie, and of course a visit to a tea plantation which felt like a compulsory experience in the land of tea and spices. At dinner, one couple convinced me to go to the nearest national park to see the elephants too, which seemed like a marvellous idea. That was before we realised what lay in front of us was the perfect surf beach for beginners, only a few minute walking distance from the boat. So, the next morning we went on a surfing mission with Lucy and Mathia, who had never surfed before, and that set the tone of our short visit to Sri Lanka! We would stay in the vicinity of Galle, visiting whatever worthy site within bus or tuktuk distance, but surfing it would be. Because not very often can you park your boat comfortably next to a surf beach. In fact, this was the first time in that trip, our surfboard got taken out for a ride! Exactly the activity we all yearned for, you know, activity as being active. Not waiting for a boat to sail itself across an ocean. Not another one of these tourism “activities” which are far too often passive experiences and should therefore be called “passivities”. Like watching temples, or people, or animals or things just be or do their things, no, get up and do OUR thing.
In the five days spent in Galle, we went surfing (and slacklining) three or four times and sure we missed out on all the other natural wonders that Sri Lanka had to offer (but not the tea plantation and cinnamon “factory”, more in another post), but boy did we have a ball!
For more on our Sri Lanka visit, check out Obelix Odyssey’s Episode 13 video: coming soon.