A Travellerspoint blog

February 2018

Sydney - Canberra - Friday, 9 February 2018

Via Murrays Bus

sunny 35 °C

We both had a good night's sleep. It is really lovely to be able to drink and use tap water to clean your teeth! The small things we take for granted.

We are booked on the 10.30 am Murray's bus from the Sydney International Airport to Canberra. I purposely chose the later time (and a flexible ticket), just in case we were a bit jet lagged and wanted to sleep in, but we didn't and from the breakfast room, I could see the Murray's bus booking clerk checking people off for the 8.30 am bus.

After breakfast, I went over and asked her if there was room for us on the 9.30 am bus - yes - so I went back to our room, closed the bags, checked out and wandered over to where the bus leaves from, at about 9 am. It is important to get there early (if you want to sit together) as there are a lot of "singles" on the bus and the seats are quickly taken. What a stressful job the bus booking clerk had!! People coming at her from all sides - some with tickets, some with not, some speaking English, some not - and it was only 9am! I'd hate to see her by the end of the day!

We boarded the bus for the three hour drive to Canberra and as is usual with me, I fell asleep as soon as the bus started and woke up as we were passing Goulburn, about an hour's drive from Canberra. As this was our first time catching the bus to Sydney Airport and back, I was interested in Phil's comments. "Well, what do you think about the bus?", I asked. "It's okay", he said. "Now you have turned me into a bus person!" (whatever that is!) Anyway, I think he liked the convenience of it and we will do it again.

The country side is brown and dead and it's very hot when we arrive in Canberra - 35 degrees - dry heat. We phoned for an "Uber" (we are getting very good at this now) and arrived home at about 1 pm to find everything just as we had left it, but a few plants had not survived the extreme summer temperatures.

Now to the unpacking and washing and day dreaming about a wonderful two weeks in Sri Lanka with a great group of travelling companions.

A couple of weeks after we arrived home, this arrived from Scenic. What a shame we are both on strict diets after two week's in Sri Lanka of excessive eating and drinking!
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Posted by gaddingabout 15:55 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Colombo - Singapore - Sydney - Thursday, 8 February 2018

Flying home

sunny 27 °C

Business Class - Singapore Airlines

As Phil, Elizabeth and I were all travelling Business Class, we spent two hours in the Singapore Airlines lounge at Colombo. It was very small and pretty basic but at least there was somewhere to go. None of us felt like eating or drinking because we had just come from our Farewell Dinner. We boarded on time and waved to Sharon and John, Yvonne and Daryl and Philippa and Terry who were waiting to board in the Economy section.

It is about a three and a half hour flight from Colombo to Singapore and I slept all the way. We arrived in Singapore at about 7.20 am and said goodbye to Yvonne and Daryl as they are spending a few days in Singapore with their family. Philippa and Terry are also staying in Singapore for about three days, but we didn't even see them when we got off the plane, so we didn't get to say goodbye to them.

We only had a two hour stop over in Singapore which gave us time to go to the Silver Krys Lounge and have some breakfast and clean our teeth. There is nothing like clean teeth!

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The flight to Sydney took about seven and half hours and Phil and I slept for the first few hours and then watched a couple of movies. I watched "Me Before You" and cried and cried! I was worried about the mascara running! Elizabeth also watched it and cried too. We had both read the book and loved it. I also watched "What Maisie Knew" and loved it. It was very poignant.

Phil slept so well on this flight that he missed brunch and that's a first!

We landed in Sydney at about 8.30 pm, collected our bags, passed through Customs okay. He didn't even want to see our wooden items. We just had to describe them to him. He was a bit slack. We could have told him anything and he would have believed us.

Kissed Elizabeth and Sharon and John goodbye and then headed to Rydges Airport hotel which is very conveniently located just within walking distance across the road from arrivals. Checked in, and went to the restaurant for a light snack before bed. Almost back to normality. Travelling home to Canberra tomorrow morning. Where have the last two weeks gone?

Posted by gaddingabout 03:52 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Colombo - Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Farewell Dinner - then transfer to the airport for the flight home

sunny 30 °C

Had a bit of trouble going to sleep last night because Phil had ABC 666 Canberra on his phone and it was 5.30 am in Canberra on the phone and only midnight here in Sri Lanka. It was very wierd.

It is very hot and humid. We had a lazy morning as we are free to pack until noon whereupon we will be going out for lunch. Breakfast was taken outside, under an umbrella, and it was getting quite warm. Daryl is not well. Tired and gastro so he is in his room sleeping. Yvonne came to breakfast alone. Just as we were finishing breakfast, who should walk through the door but Carole and Vince Shokman, who we travelled with through North West Rajastan in 2013. What a wonderful surprise. We spent a while bringing each other up to date.

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We repacked our bags ready for the long flight home and then hopped on the bus and were taken to lunch at the Barefoot Garden Cafe. We could choose anything on the menu which was good, because most of us chose a light snack, rather than the three course lunches we have been having. It was also outdoors and was quite warm, even though there were plenty of overhead fans. I had a smoked salmon and cream cheese baguette and Phil had a dips and bread plate.

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After we finished lunch, we were sitting at our two tables and the manager mouthed to himself "People, please go". He wanted to use the table for others. He didn't realise I had seen him. When I told Didier, he said I should have said to the Manager, "Yes, we're going!" Rude bugger. We were 16 people who had just had lunch in his establishment.

Didier photo bombing my photo of the ocean!

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We then went to the museum and were given two hours there, but we finished in about an hour. It was really hot in the museum and it would have taken too long to read everything, so we just walked through, looking and pausing to read sometime. It certainly has some nice pieces.

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While we were having a coffee and waiting for everyone to assemble, Phil started talking to a lovely Chinese girl and she was giggling and then her friends arrived and we were having a great chat. We all thought she was about 18, but she was actually 28!

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Back to Tintagel for an hour or so, to do some final packing and get ready for our farewell dinner. We said goodbye to Carole as Vince wasn't back yet and just as we were boarding the bus, Vince arrived back at the hotel with his brother, after visiting the local cemetery, looking for relations graves. We said goodbye to him and headed off.

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We went to the Gallery Bar in Paradise Road for our Farewell Dinner. It was very dimly lit and quite atmospheric but quite humid, even though they had all the overhead ceiling fans going.

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The meal and the wine were very nice but all too soon the time came to change into our travelling home clothes and we headed off in the bus to the airport, dropping Didier, Viv and Bruce at one hotel, Ron and Eddie; and Phyl and Greg at Tintagel.
Dudley came with us to the airport and it took about 45 minutes to get there. We had to pass through security at the front door of the airport, all bags xrayed and twice again when we were inside but we all got through okay. I had to have my carry on checked and it was a piece of costume jewellery that is a big hunk of metal that had them worried. We all had a body pat down and the girl who did me didn't leave any area untouched! Now waiting to board our flight that leaves at 12.40 am.

Our travelling companions from the last two weeks.

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Phyl and Yvonne

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Phil and Elizabeth

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Phyl and Greg

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Viv and Bruce

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Ron and Eddie

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John and Sharon

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Philippa and Terry

Other photos from our Farewell Dinner.

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Posted by gaddingabout 03:41 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

Bentota - Colombo - Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Lunch at the Ministry of Crab and then return to Colombo

sunny 30 °C

Hotel - Paradise Road Tintagel Colombo, 65 Rosmead Place, Colombo - Room No South East Royal Suite

I had the earliest night on tour last night and yet I had trouble getting out of bed this morning. We were down at breakfast early and there weren't many people there. The orange juice was awful - it tasted like watered down cordial. The papaya and black currant weren't much better. The porridge was semilina which was a bit runny, the scrambled eggs were runny so I opted for French toast which was very hard to cut. I couldn't resist a photo of the Doughnut Board.

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We did some shopping in the hotel shop and as a few of us were in reception early, we were taken across the other side to the waiting bus.

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Didier had to make sure we were on time on the road to Colombo today because we have a lunch booking at very famous Ministry of Crab and if you are 10 minutes late, they give away your table. But we had time to do some sight seeing along the way. Then The Ministry of Crab phoned Didier to put our booking back half an hour, so we had even longer to site see along the way.

Colombo was once the capital of Sri Lanka and it is now the Administrative Capital. The new capital is Kotte. Colombo has a population of approximately 2 million - 700,000 live in the city and the rest are in the suburbs. Colombo is now the commercial capital. This is the new Parliament House.

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This is a monument to all the people killed in this area by the tsunami. All their names are written on these walls. But driving through this area, you would hardly think that such a devastating tsunami had come through here only a few years ago.

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This is the Bandanaranke International Conference Centre. The guard was very happy for us to walk inside the gate and take a photo.

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The Independence Memorial Hall was quite spectacular with murals around the inside of Buddha's life and other important things that have happened in Sri Lanka. It was very cool in there, with a lovely breeze blowing, so we were all happy to stay in there for a while. It is really hot and humid and some of the group are feeling it. One instruction -DON'T SIT ON THE LIONS!

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We drove down a few streets which contained embassies and high commissions. We were thrilled to glimpse the Australian High Commission which is painted a lovely shade of battleship grey.

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Buddhas everywhere and the traffic is getting really bad so we don't have time to wander through the fruit and vege market, instead we start to head back to The Ministry of Crab for lunch. We don't want to lose our booking and this is a MUST EAT place.

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We hop off the bus and walk into a courtyard of an old Dutch hospital from 1681. It is just beautiful and as we learned later from Mark Forbes, it has been restored and a bill has been passed in Parliament that all these old buildings have to be restored - no more pulling down. The lunch was so much fun - messy but fun. We had prawn curry, teriyaki chicken, chilli crab, rice, mixed vegetables and chocolate crumble pudding. All just yum, yum, yum and a lovely iced tea soda. Very refreshing on a hot, humid Colombo day. Even the butter had a crab imprinted on it!

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After lunch, Phil, Greg and Elizabeth went back to the hotel while the rest of us went on a walking tour of the old colonial buildings in Colombo with Mark Forbes. There was a lovely breeze and we all enjoyed hearing about the history of some of these old buildings. And what was even better, we finished with a G&T at the Grand Oriental Hotel. We had a lovely view of the city from the fourth floor where we had our drink. This was the hotel where all the "beautiful people" of another era stayed.

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We arrived at Tintagel, the former home of the old Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. He was shot on the front steps here. A few years later, his wife became the first female PM of Sri Lanka and then even later, their daughter became the first female President of Sri Lanka. We are in one Royal Suite and Elizabeth is in the other - because we are Emerald people. We have several rooms and a huge combined balcony at the front of the building. It is really nice.

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Viv and Bruce, Elizabeth, Sharon and John and Didier went to the Shangri la hotel for a Sri Lankan meal while the rest of us went to the Colombo Cricket Club CAFE for dinner. Big mistake. I thought we would be going to the REAL Colombo Cricket Club for a night of cricket nostalgia but no, it was just a cafe with good cricket memoriblia on the walls but nothing like the dining room of the Colombo Cricket Club! We were in the Australian section upstairs and there was a "Shane Warne" corner.

The meal was just awful. A Ceasar salad with limp lettuce; then Phyl had curried prawns that were too spicy to eat and the rest of us had a mixed grill that consisted of dry steak, dry chicken, bacon, sausage, liver, mashed potato and potato chips. It was awful. Then dessert was ice cream with fruit salad. All in all, a terrible evening. There was a huge storm in the middle of it all and when we came downstairs to leave, it was flooded because part of the roof is open. What a night!

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I was glad to get into bed.

Posted by gaddingabout 04:24 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

Galle - Bentota - Monday, 5 February 2018

Drive to Bentota and cruise along the Madu River and visit an turtle preservation farm

sunny 30 °C

Hotel - Centara Ceysands, Aluthgama - Mathugama Road, Bentota - Room No 1101

I had crunchy granola for breakfast this morning and it was just superb. Much better than trying to get my eggs cooked perfectly.

Before we left Galle, Sharon and I went for a stroll down the street. The guy was selling papayas.

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We hadn't gone very far when these ladies called us into their school to have a look. It was a Montessori school, badly in need of refurbishment but nevertheless, they showed us through and pointed out the posters in English and how they teach the children to count. It was a holiday so unfortunately there were no children there. But there was a lovely photo on the wall of them in their school uniforms. These families may be poor but they can always seem to find the money to buy school uniforms for their children. The ladies asked us to sign the visitors' book and kept pointing at the donation box, saying how poor they were. Sharon made a small donation but I didn't have any money on me. We hurried out of there just in time to join the others who had started to walk to the bus.

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We were hoping the Dutch Reform Church might open early (it opens at 9am) because our tour guide had spoken about it yesterday and we were curious to see inside, but it was not to be and so we boarded the bus with a couple of interesting stops along the way.

This is the Galle Cricket Club and Dudley said that Shane Warne had his biggest score here. I'm not sure if he meant wickets or runs, however, I do know that the Shane Warne Foundation donated a lot of money to the restoration of this ground after the tsunami. My husband has clarified Dudley's statement. Shane Warne (Australian spin bowler) took his 500th wicket at that ground.

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We are now in the area where the tsunami hit on Boxing Day (26 December 2004). Fourteen years later (I can't believe it has been that long), there is little evidence of a tsunami. This momument was built by the Japanese after the tsunami.

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After about 45 minutes we arrived at Madu River for our boat cruise. It is very hot and sticky so a cruise on the river might cool us down. This time we have life jackets, and after squeezing into them, we walk down a board walk through the mangroves to the pontoon where our boat is tied up. Dudley says that champagne corks are made from the mangrove roots. I thought they were still made from cork. Will have to check that.

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We boarded the boat which was a feat in inself. Some of us aren't too agile and Ron is totally blind (but he seems to cope much better than the rest of us!) Finally we were all squashed into the boat - three abreast. Perhaps it would have been better to have two boats as I believe that some people in the middle couldn't take any photos at all. After we passed under a couple of bridges, we could have the canopy up which made it a lot cooler.

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We went ashore at a cinnamon farm where we saw another short demonstration of how they make cinnamon sticks. It was good for Viv, Bruce and Terry to see this because they did different activites from us yesterday. The young guy also demonstrated how to weave a palm leaf. He made it look very easy but I'm sure it's not. Most of us bought some cinnamon then hopped back in the boat and cruised back to the pontoon where we had just as much trouble getting out of the boat! It is hot and sticky.

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Back in the bus, heading for Bentota and we stopped at a turtle preservation farm, right on the beach. It is the most idyllic spot.

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The owner of the farm buys the turtle eggs for thirty rupees each and then buries them in the sand and puts a marker stating the date they were buried. When they hatch out, they are placed in a small tank until the next lot hatch out and then the older ones are released into the ocean. They have a 10 per cent success rate, whereas if it all happened naturally, only one per cent survive. We felt an egg and then were allowed to hold the babies. It was pretty special.

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There are a couple of bigger ones in ponds there too. One has a very deformed shell and I got to hold him. Gee, he was very heavy. There was also an albino turtle there too who would not survive in the wild. We all took turns in holding them. We had to pay 500 widgets to enter the farm but Didier said that in his next tour, it will be included. This one was SO heavy and was not very happy about being picked up.

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This photo is entitled "Life's a Beach".

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And this one - "It's a dog's life".

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Back on the bus for the 45 minute drive to our hotel for the night, Centara Ceysands. We had to catch a boat across to the hotel. It appears to be on an island but the ocean is on the other side. Didier did say that check in wasn't until 3 pm, so we went in for a late buffet lunch and at about 2.30 pm, wandered down to reception to see how they were going with the check-ins. Half our group were given a room, but five of us had to wait until 3.05 pm before our rooms were ready. Didier wasn't very happy but there is nothing much you can do, they are ready when they are ready.

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Centara is a huge resort. Our room is just that - a room with a bed and a shower, though we do have a balcony overlooking the river and the town. After the fabulous boutique hotels we have become acustomed to on this trip, I am glad we are only staying one night in this one.

Sharon and John went back on the boat over to the town to have a wander around. They caught the boat when we were still waiting to be allocated our room! We decided to go for a swim. The pool area is HUGE. We found some lie lows and towels and hopped in the pool. It was warm. We then walked through the hedge onto the beach and went for a swim in the Indian Ocean. It was the warmest ocean I have ever swum in. I would have liked to stay in longer, but there was only one other man in there too, I didn't feel very safe and there was no one else on the beach either. So we went back to the pool just as it was starting to rain so we had the pool to ourselves. This seems to be the pattern lately - stinking hot in the morning and then an afternoon shower to cool it down.

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This is the view from our balcony.

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We went down for dinner early so we could check out the hotel shops. There are a couple with quite nice things in them. We checked with John and Sharon if they wanted to sell us any rupees but they had spent most of theirs when then went into town this afternoon. Tomorrow morning I will go back and buy three wooden monkeys dangling off each other. They are quite nice and the only things I have seen worth buying in Sri Lanka.

Didier was amazed that we had been swimming in the ocean. He asked the people at reception about swimming in the ocean and they said not to do it as it is too rough. Gosh! they don't know what rough is. Just try surfing at the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia and you will find out what rough is. The waves were so mild that you hardly felt them touching you.

We had dinner in the cafe where we had lunch. There was much the same food there but I always call those places "feeding time at the zoo" but I was pleasantly surprised. The people were well dressed and it wasn't a "free for all". Most of them are Europeans, I think.

Early night tonight. Off to Colombo tomorrow. Our trip is almost over. It has gone so fast.

Posted by gaddingabout 07:52 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

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