I wake up to watch local snorkling fishermen at work in the dawn sunlight. A spotter goes down and raises his arm when he spots fish. The other four each grab a corner of a square net and swim around the shoal and drag it to their open backed boat and its contents are hauled on board.
After breakfast we are on our way across turquoise coral seas surrounded by darker reefs and the wider blue of the deeper ocean. The Maldives consists of 12 or so atolls. These are separated by channels of open ocean with proper surf. Atolls are like cut off mountain/volcano tops and vary in size but can be up to 10/20 miles across. Around the circumference (a maths’ term) are dotted up to 100 or so islands which vary in size from sandbars which may just protrude above the surface or are hidden underneath & only given away by the turquoise water which covers it and allows the lightness of the coral sands to show through, to small unihabited islands with a few scruffy trees/bushes, to larger inhabited islands that take all of 10 minutes to walk across, where a small village may be rooted in the middle.
On a private sandbar a game of cricket takes place. Is Lords like this? What a grand seat to watch the game from. They kept losing the ball though!!
During the morning we follow a small pod of dolphins.
In the afternoon snorkle 3 giant sting rays are spotted on the sands beneath the boat.
We stop that night beside, you guessed it, another unihabited island! Just peace, quiet and the gentle motion of the boat in a small swell (another nautical term!!).
Well two boats actually, one with 6 people the other with 10, both with crews of four. You’ll see lots of pics of the other boat at sea as it is rather difficult to take photos of own boat in its entirety. For instance here is our sister ship arriving at our first night’s mooring beside an inhabited island called Gulhi on South Male Atoll
My lovely little cabin.
Looking into the galley (sailing term for kitchen!!) from the table where we eat.
Of course we all need masks, snorkles & flippers.
Having spent a day snorkling and cruising & cruising and snorkling, we come up to a sand bank in the middle of nowhere with nothing on it but a very trendy sculpture made of drift wood – 30 paces long! (the sandbank that is). Yes, we drop anchor, snorkle, eat dinner, do some night fishing and watch the sunset before settling down for our second night on the high seas with no sign of land in any direction.
Have snitched these as I did not have an underwater camera and I saw them all.
Line caught tuna & a Jack fish were landed & consumed later in the week.
With no wifi (but surprisingly mobile phone reception in the middle of the Indian ocean many miles from land) this part of the blog is retrospective and all took place last week.
A short flight from Colombo to Male, the capital, takes me to the Maldives. The airport is perched on one island. Immediately outside the airport there are water buses to wizz passengers across the waterways to the main island a bit like a far eastern Venice. A night in a hotel and then a morning to explore the small, bustling centre of this muslim country – fish markets, vegetable markets, stores loaded onto boats from stores, water buses, freight barges, speed boats, luxury cruisers & diving vessels.
Water buses moor up before passengers cram in along with boxes, cases, bundles & crates – oh and the 3 guys who ride their motorbikes down the gang plank and park them at the end of the bus behind the seats.
Then off by water bus to a jetty where we transfer to our boat. The luggage goes first in the inflatable.
Then we set off and cruise for a couple of hours to our first night’s stop.
My last day in this wonderful country. A 30 minute tuk tuk ride to Wagamama? Beach- a palm lined crescent of golden sands facing turquoise seas. Few hours basking & swimming before we choose our fish for lunch-a huge jack fish which was caught 30 minutes earlier, at least 75 cm long, then grilled. Heaven. Owner has a mate who brings over his boat & we go out fishing for am hour. Can’t flag down tuk tuks for return journey so another mate turns up in small van with vast speakers in back. We place plastic chairs in back & it feels like carnival with a sub woofer the size of an oven.
No photos, sorry. Only took small camera. You’ll have to image it all through my words!
But I will leave you with a collection of images that reflect the character of the Sri Lanken people.
Say no more – blue whales & dolphins.
Then to Galle & a walk around this huge Portuguese fort & watching cricket in the old square.
Got to introduce this character. He proudly shows off his tricycle which given him for work he does at the mosque as caretaker and also the voice to call Muslims to prayer every morning. It was made by the Dutch many moons ago.
He is 86!
On the way we met some interesting characters. This guy was boiling up maize & selling fresh mango.
These huge Buddhas were really impressive, carved out of the solid granite of the cliff face.
A golden Buddha looks out to protect the village.
But these guys took the biscuit. What a way to fish!
A wonderful train ride through the tea plantations starts, as with most train journeys, a little bit late.
So when the train is late one goes to the local hostelry for refreshments.
Clientele a bit iffy especially these characters.
The train eventually arrives, over crowded due to new celebrations. Thankfully a few able to get off to allow a bit of space for those getting on. This is most effective method to get your family off.
I’ve always wanted to hang out the open door on one of these crowded local trains. I sat on the doorway and watched the plantations & small stations roll by while chaos ensued behind me.
We arrive at our destination and spoon ourselves onto the platform.
firecrackers and barking dogs,pipes and singing mark the arrival of new year- oh and Mark’s birthday. Things quieten down about three and dawn arrives with only sporadic thunder flash explosions. The lads start a quick game while families prepare breakfast.
At 10.16 fires are lit in homes as the most auspicious time to boil the coconut milk. If it boils over then all will have good luck in the coming yrar. Yes it did and so Mark will.
Hindu families come out to welcome their gods through each village; some are more enthusiastic than others as the proceedings start.
Mark joins in the festivities knowing that this new year & Mark’s birthday coincide with the new moon so there must be a really big bash. Sadly no – in Sri Lanka alcohol cannot be sold on night of full moon. No wonder all look so glum.
In the morning mists a stroll around the lake.
The princess’s bath house
Then into the hills. The tea factory.
Village preparations for the new year. This will house 46 lanterns.
Then through the rains to Adam’s Peak.
But first, following a climb of 1002 steps to the top of the king’s citadel, a drive through spice alley experiencing rural everyday life as we travel.
Someone has to carve & paint all those elephants!
The ‘commercial centre’ of Sri Lanka; or a large market working 24 hours. Lories & vans queue to get in & the boys are there to load up.
A Hindu temple- coming up to New Year! April 14 the every year. How auspicious.
I can’t leave without a Buddhist ceremony- the walk past of Buddha’s tooth
But first a stupa( where would you be without a stupa) and a wonderful temple ruin with Budha overlooking what’s left.
This one is 50 metres high!
Lunch with a local family
And here are the elephants
I like this view with mountains in the background.
This one is carved of solid rock. The flags fly at all Buddhist temples, shrines, stupas. The colours represent aspects of Buddhism. Red represents wisdom – find the others.
A real, live monk!
Behind the white facade are five temple caves each of which is home to 100s of statues and painted Buddhas.
And this big fella looks after it all at the bottom of the hill
Now the rains come & brilliant lightening storm. G&T tonight!
Breakfast by the lake – a cool, glorious morning for us to explore & the local monkey gang to set off on their Triumphs.
Today is all about Buddha arriving imn Sri Lanka. I’ll try get it right!
Having visited the sacred Bo-Tree,2,200 years old we go to Ruvanvalisaya Dagoba stupa- a shrine for monks and the man’s remains.
They clean the plaster dome very three weeks swinging around it on this ladder:
The highest stupa was over 100 metres high although the top is off it now.
To reach Mihintale where the monk Arahath prayed & converted locals you have to climb 1000 odd steps. Here he is at the top in his teaching pose.
Then the pre monsoon storm comes early and a retreat is beaten to the veranda to watch the lightening through the sheets of rain. Oh, accompanied by tea, of course!
Don’t believe all I write on here~yesterday was not Palm Sunday just some Catholicy service and it was a pretty monsoon storm that seems to occur every day during late afternoon.
Anyway, some images from the dried & fresh fish market. You can smell it from the UK!
It’s Sunday in Negumbo. Boys play cricket on the beach as families gather for Palm Sunday service
The lads Show off in Indian Ocean surf until afternoon monsoon rains come along. Only adds to their anticipation. While families pray under umbrellas the boys gather in bars to watch T 20 final against India.
These last two images show rural Uganda & the hustle & bustle of Kampala.