SRI LANKA

Trip Start Nov 06, 2013
1
6
9
Trip End Nov 30, 2013


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Flag of Sri Lanka  , Southern Province,
Monday, July 28, 2014

FRANGIPANI, FORTS and FISHERMAN.

BRIEF HISTORY.
Galle and its medieval walled town has been described as 'many shards of precious stones which make this splendid jewel' which is the Fort and its richness of many cultures. The majority of Fort inhabitants are Muslims descended from the early Arab traders, whereas most of Sri Lanka residents are Buddhist overall.
About 160 residents live within the fort walls along a handful of cobble-stoned streets leading to many tiny and winding laneways. It attracts many artists and writers, who all fall in love with the relaxed lifestyle and incredible community.
The Fort was built by the Portuguese in 1588, but heavily fortified by the Dutch in the 17th century with walls of granite, coral and ballast from shipwrecks. There are still remnants of the moat later closed by the British. Two portcullised entry gates have ornamental crests above the imposing archways. The height and width of the walls protected the residents from the 2004 tsunami devastating much of Galle and the International Cricket Stadium (just outside the fort walls). In fact the fort walls give locals the best bird's eye view of any Test Match and we missed the One Day test v South Africa by one day!

GALLE FORT HOTEL. Our little oasis for 4 days before heading out on safari. This is a beautiful little hotel, housed in one of the original Dutch mansions dating back to 1695. It is beautifully furnished from the Dutch/British era including our magnificent mahogany four poster bed with mosquito nets. The hotel has been recently renovated by two Australian guys and the pool of course a recent addition. The garden is exquisitely perfumed with frangipani and lotus flowers, all frequented by butterflies, bees and birds, so a photographer's paradise. The house boys sneak into the rooms at night and cover the beds in frangipani flowers. For the last 24 hours we have had this magnificent place to ourselves.

THE FISH MARKET. Just outside the city walls along the small beach which is Galle harbour.
Huge tuna fish and stalls filled with the day's catch. Fishing boats lined the beach and nets are cleaned as locals catch up with each other as they head home with their bags of fish. One man just grabbed his large pink fish by the tail and headed off.

RAMPART WALKS WITH DIVERS AT SUNSET. We joined the locals and tourists for walks on the city walls, a popular venue for the local Army Base (within the walls) and their 'keep fit' activities, strolling couples and of course school children in their white uniforms disgorging from buses to see the sunset over the lighthouse. An added delight are the professional 'daredevils' who dive from the bastions from a huge height into quite shallow water to huge crowds who are then obliged to give a donation!. Chris has some very good photos mid-dive.

RAMADAN AND EID. The unmistakeable bright white Mosque calls Muslims to prayer at dawn and dusk. We can hear the evocative Muezzin call from our hotel and it is a common sight to see the white robed gentlemen rushing to prayer. As we have been here during Ramadan its difficult not to get caught up with the cycle of fasting and prayer. Today is Eid so huge feasts and a 'holi' day for all Muslims. I'm sure we will see much celebration up on the Fort walls tonight with chjldren flying kites while parents celebrate.
Last night we visited "ROTI MAN' after sunset. We were alerted to the fact that this wonderful gentleman lives down a tiny lane way near our hotel and cooks the best Roti for the locals during Ramadan. At sunset they all line up to take away or eat in ........ rotis plain, filled with eggs, seafood or vegetable. We were keen to visit roti man, and were quickly whisked into the tiny, tiny inner sanctum which was the dining area with a few stools and chairs and where I quickly realiized I was the only female with all these Muslim men, apart from the rather grumpy lady cashier who was busy money counting and obviously complaining to the men. She did however give me a smile later on. They were all so very friendly and soon a huge plate of mixed roti was placed in front of us with small cut out pieces of newspaper for our plates, some rather strange looking dipping sauce in greaseproof paper lining a bowl, followed by a glass of very sweet tea which emerged from an even tinier back room.
The men were all watching us and smiling and Chris suddenly pointed out that I was eating with my left hand (horror of horrors) but in fact this lady here had her 'blue lycra bike glove on her right hand to keep it clean post surgery. (explanation to follow). We couldn't possibly eat it all
so a doggy bag was produced and all for the princely sum of $2 and the experience worth a million!

LYCRA BIKE GLOVE LADY emerged as the perfect way to keep my still sore post surgery hand clean (a plea from our GP who was worried about Sri Lanka so soon after surgery). It has been perfect for discouraging hand shakes (I just put up my blue glove as a salute now) but also a great talking point as everyone wants to know my hand story. One old man seemed to know a bit about carpal tunnel and was sympathetic. It is serving a purpose to keep the hand clean.

STREET ART. This tiny village oozes quirky signs and street art somehow fitting in with countless gem and jewellery stores. I visited a very quirky museum alone and was taken on an 'IKEA' like visit through a maze of passageways from which there was no easy exit but eventually leaving strange artefacts through a gem store to the exit. I thought I would never get out of this enormous maze.

ANIMALS. Horses, cats, dogs and cows roam the streets of the fort and we followed an elderly gentleman one evening who was leading his horse back to stables in a large walled garden. inviting us in while he fed his horses. We have spotted large monitor lizards on the ramparts, and tiny stripy tailed squirrels are plentiful. Naughty monkeys chase crows in the tall trees. There are wonderful stories of goatherds, whose animals shared their tiny family home and years ago there was a pig sty to supply pork to the wealthy Dutch merchants.

JULIET COOMBS and her amazing book 'Around the Fort in 80 lives. This book was mentioned to me on the first morning by Oliver our charming young manager at the hotel. He lent me the hotel copy but we have since bought our own as it is a treasure trove of Fort tales and its inhabitants (this is where we discovered Roti man). The book is exquisitely illustrated with quirky maps by local artists and was introduced at the Annual Galle Literary Festival.
Juliet was a young British Foreign Correspondent and photo-journalist who has also lived in Australia, was sent undercover to Burma then thrust into the middle of post-tsunami Sri Lanka in 2004, reporting on the destruction and tragic loss of lives from within the sanctuary of Galle Fort, which also provided her with a little normality and a decent cup of tea amidst the carnage.
A romance with a local boy from one of the long established families within the fort has led to her marriage and the couple now live permanently within the Fort with their two small sons.
Her husband runs the very quirky Serendipity Arts Cafe, where we dined amongst posters, artworks, second hand books, travel guides and brightly coloured hammocks were for sale, rolled up and hanging from the walls.
It is from Serendipity that we are ACTUALLY meeting Juliet this afternoon. Oliver has arranged for us to do a 'foodie' tour with her (when she is not writing her next book, she takes various walking tours of the Fort). We can't believe our luck that it is Eid today, so she plans to take us on a culinary journey, visiting some Muslim homes so we can watch the women prepare food for the banquets which today 'break the fast'. What a treat is in store firstly to meet her and also share more Fort stories.
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