Monday, September 4, 2017

Galle to Tangalle Adventures--8/31--9/1

My Pedlar’s Inn Hostel was located in the middle of the Fort area where there are over 400 historic buildings.  The 2004 Tsunami did little to damage the buildings here where many of them had been built in the 1600’s by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British.  Turns out that the Dutch had built an effective storm drainage system that worked well to flush out the ravages of the Boxing Day 2004 tsunami.

I walked along the walls along with many other tourists including Flag Rock, the Lighthouse, and the various Bastions. 

Lighthouse and Mosque from rooftop cafe

Lighthouse along fort wall.

Flag Rock

Beach below Lighthouse.

Dutch Hospital--now full of restaurants and boutiques.

View toward Flag Rock

 View toward Neptune Bastion

 Cobbled street scene

There were a number of museums and mansions I visited including the Maritime Museum, National Museum, Dutch Hospital—-now filled with shops and restaurants—and the Historical Mansion—-I would later meet Fatima at the train station who’s family has owned this mansion for generations.  Very few cars attempt driving down these newly cobbled streets, but the many tuk-tuks were not dissuaded.  Most of the eating places here catered to us tourists so the prices were generally fairly high, and the food was good.

I ended up being the only one on the top level and it later became quite a show place for a tremendous rain, lightning and thunder storm half way through the night.  I got a short video clip of its power.  By morning the streets were dry except for some occasional mud puddles in the parking lot areas. 

I had my first Sri Lanka breakfast with rotti, fish curry, coconut sambol, and a big French press pot of coffee at the Ocean View cafe.  It was outstanding.

On the way out of the fort to the train station, I passed the clock tower which they say has kept time well for hundreds of years.

After checking out a few more streets and buildings, I made my way to the Galle train station for a trip to the end of the railroad at Matara on the 9:20 train for just 80 Rupees.  I got there early and saw a murder of crows walking the platform like they owned the place.  Perhaps they thought a woman seated near me wearing a full length burka was somehow a kindred spirit.  She tried repeatedly to shoo them away with little success.  I told her that they must have fancied her as their leader.

She introduced herself as Fatima, and said that she had finished visiting relatives in Galle and she, her Mom and grandmother were returning to Weligama where she was a 21 year old medical student who wanted to specialize in obstetrics.  It turns out that she had stayed at the Historical Mansion---her family’s place for generations. I told her I had visited this interesting place jammed with artifacts going back the the Portuguese and Dutch times.  She told me that she was the youngest of three girls and that her father worked in Colombo and only came home on the weekends.  She said that about 70% of Sri Lankan's are Buddhist, 12% Hindus, and 10% are Muslims, with the remainder Christians and other religions.

She was very curious about my travels to many countries and said that she would like to travel.   I gave her my card so she could check out my travel blog.  I told her of a friend from Australia who was a dentist who combined her profession with travel to countries who sorely needed dental care.  I told her that once she became a Doctor, she may want to do that as well with Doctors Without Borders or other NGOs.

I just had to ask her if she ever goes out without the full burka.  She said no, that her mother wanted her to wear if all the time when out.  I told her she was probably very beautiful and that her mother didn’t want her to get distracted from her studies.  She said, but you don’t know if I am pretty.  I said, your mother does though. She has never dated and has just been in group gatherings.

I asked her how she goes swimming and she said she could not swim and just waded in the water.  I told her she should learn to swim for it may save her life sometime and besides it was fun.

The train then came in and I got in the 2nd class unreserved and they got in their 3rd class unreserved carriage.  We said our goodbyes. 

This time there were plenty of seats.  Just as my train to Matara left the station, two French tourists realized that they gotten on the wrong train since they wanted to go to Colombo.  One of the passengers translated for them to the conductor so he was able to get them off at the next stop and return to Galle.

It turned out that the passenger who assisted the couple, works for Intrepid Travel in sales in Sri Lanka.  I get the Intrepid Travel emails advertising various trips with their various levels of “comfort”.  We discussed some of the places he has visited and would like to visit and I did the same.  He was traveling with his wife from India as a celebration of their first wedding anniversary. 

Other than Machu Picchu trips, Intrepid Travel’s popular trip was their Morocco trips.  I told him I will consider that.

After disembarking from the Matara train station, I walked about a 1/2 mile to the bus station, but before I boarded the bus to Tangalle, I took a short detour to see the big Buddhist complex on an island just off the coastline where I walked across a pedestrian suspension bridge.

Buddhist stupa between the train and bus stations.

 Matara Bus Station

Suspension Bridge to the Buddhist temple Parey Dewa.

After giving a small donation, I received a blessing from a young monk who also tied a string around my right arm symbolizing safe journeys.

When I returned to the bus station I quickly found the queue for the bus to Tangalle which cost 67 rupees.  I got a seat and went through the same drill of waiting until the bus was full and then some with many standing.  It was only a 36km trip, but took a long time with frequent stops along the way as we skirted the coastline to Tangalle.

I thought this would be a safe journey in this bus because of the five lighted Buddhas and large picture of the Buddha at the front of the bus.

We pulled into the bus station and was immediately surrounded by Tuk-Tuk drivers wanted to take me to their “brother-friend-families’ guest houses.  I had the LP map and I thought I knew where to find the guest house area along the beach was, but I was mistaken. After walking about a mile, I turned around and got a ride from a Tuk-tuk driver who got me back down to the beach
road I was looking for.  Of course his “brother” ran the guest house we stopped at so I checkedout the Coco Palms Beach Hotel and decided to stay here for 4 days at 2000 Rupees per night—about $13USD.  It was just about 100 yards from the beach and was fan cooled with hot water—not that I needed it since the cold was so warm and refreshing.

I would later explore Tangalle and their relatively empty beaches.

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