Today, we dropped anchor off the coast of Galle (pronounced ‘Gorl’ – like ‘Gaul’), our second port-stop in Sri Lanka.
As with most tender boat operations, passengers not booked on tours were required to obtain coloured tender tickets from Reception to facilitate an orderly disembarkation. Once the coloured tickets were gone, they would go to open-tender .
Unfortunately, the operation started running late, due to a high swell (no change there then…), which meant that the ship needed repositioning occasionally to make the transfer from ship to tender boat as painless as possible.
As we were not on tour escort duty, there didn’t seem to be much point in rushing about; we had a leisurely breakfast and picked up the very last two tender tickets from Reception and waited for the ‘Red Ticket’ announcement. It came sooner than expected, so we dashed to the cabin to pick up all our stuff.
Within minutes we had all our stuff together and were ready to head for the gangway… except Tracey couldn’t find her cruise card anywhere. We turned the cabin over good and proper, eventually concluding that it was probably lost for good (these things happen), so we grabbed our things and headed for Reception to have them produce another one (they are credit-card sized cards with a magnetic stripe used for all on-board activities and to swipe passengers off the ship). Minutes later, we arrived at the tender station on deck three, having missed the tender by only a couple of minutes.
The officer in charge told us that the next tender would be back in approximately 20 minutes, so we went back to the cabin, and I set the timer on my phone for 15 minutes…
Sadly; I forgot that my phone was still set to silent, and roughly 6 minutes after the alarm had silently gone off, I declared that we should probably make another dash for the gangway immediately…
We got there just in time… to see the tender boat disappearing off into the bay towards shore.
With another 20-minute wait ahead of us, we opted to hang about near the tender station. Time was getting on, and with all-aboard time having been moved to 1:30pm, our time ashore, should we eventually get there, was shrinking by the minute. If we were to miss it again, we might as well not bother at all.
The good news is; roughly 20 minutes later, we boarded the tender boat and 20 minutes after that, we were stood on the small quayside at Galle, with 2 hours of shore leave to do with as we pleased.
After a short conflab, with Tracey consulting Maps.Me on her tablet (a highly recommended app for off-line mapping), we chose to walk along the shore to the fort.
As we walked, we soon realised that it was much further than we had anticipated, and a turnabout, back to the little port town seemed not only imminent, but, in the heat, the more sensible thing to do. On a scale of one to ten, then, how pleased were we when a tuk-tuk pulled up offering us a lift… Using our newly-acquired inside-information regarding what is a proper price to pay for a tuk-tuk ride in Sri Lanka (all thanks to our chance encounter with the lawyer yesterday) the only price we would agreed on for a trip to the fort was $1.
We’re getting used to this tuk-tuk riding lark… but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the craziness of the Sri Lankan roads. To call then madly chaotic would be a gross understatement, and I don’t think I’ve ever really contemplated death quite so frequently. Our driver slipped through spaces between much larger vehicles that really didn’t look like spaces at all, until you were almost through them; horns blared all over the place, pedestrians did their own thing while drivers did theirs, and no-one, miraculously ever seemed to get hurt.
When we finally arrived at the fort, we decided it would be far too great a distance to walk back, and be back at the quayside for last tender at 1:30pm, so we agreed to pay our tuk-tuk man $5 if he’d wait for us and give us a lift back, which he seemed perfectly happy about.
The old fort at Galle turned out to be a very interesting place. We enjoyed a lovely walk along its ramparts, saw lots of birds, and finished up at a point where blokes jump into the sea for money… not today though because the tide wasn’t in far enough. We were happy to jump back into our tuk-tuk (the driver had been keeping a close eye on us the whole time; presumeably watching out for his investment) and be whisked back to the harbour where the last tender boat was waiting to take us back to the ship.
Despite our slow start, the morning had turned out okay. Our tuk-tuk driver let himself down a bit right at the end when he resorted to begging for more money, which we refused, on the grounds that we were already paying him three dollars more than we’d originally agreed.
Tomorrow, we head North, over the Indian Ocean towards our next destination; Chennai, in India.