En Route to Sri Lanka

En Route to Sri Lanka


Where the F**k is Qatar...on route to Sri Lanka

I must admit that feels strange to be heading to the airport when I should be waking up for Christmas morning in Canada - I will also admit to a few tears...which I believe are completely justified [post trip note…these were the only tears of the entire trip]. 

 After my first Swiss Christmas celebration the day before (which l loved), MG and I are packed and heading to the airport.  For once, we leave ample time to get to the train and are not sprinting with luggage.  Also, we have figured out the HB connection trick, allowing us to stroll through main station to the airport bound train.  Although a highly rated airline, Qatar Airlines is not part of the Star Alliance group, so we are without Senator perks as we check-in and drop our bags (we agree to check-in online in advances for the flight back and struggle to understand why that didn't occur to us at home).  We make it to the gate, just as the plane is boarding.  When sending Merry Christmas messages to my family in Canada, TH asks if our flight is direct and when I tell her we have a connection in Qatar, she asks..."Where the f**k is Qatar?".   Excellent question - Qatar is the halfway point between Zurich and our destination, Sri Lanka.  It is a 5 hour flight to Qatar where we are shuttled to another terminal for our connecting flight (the Airport was perfectly adequate for our quick visit, but we are told a new 14 billion dollar airport in Qatar is currently under construction).  After a second 5 hour flight from Qatar to Sri Lanka, we arrive in Colombo early morning Sri Lanka time (4.5h ahead of Switzerland and 10.5h ahead of Canada).  We meet our driver and quickly make some adjustments to the itinerary, affecting only nights were we haven't pre-paid our hotel. 

The drive from Colombo to Galle takes most of the day, even though we take the new Southern Expressway for part of the journey.  We make several stops along the way.  First, we have a tasty treat, from a young, king coconut – I like the juice, and I try, but don’t love, the slippery “fruit”.  


This is the first of many stalls to come - tiny stalls line the streets in almost every town selling coconuts, bananas and other local fruit.  Our second stop is at a turtle conservatory where baby turtles hatch daily.  The hope is that this sustains the turtle population as tiny turtles are often gobbled up by birds and fish or human egg-poachers (apparently turtle eggs make delish omelets).  Our Lonely Planet guide, however, suggests that the hatcheries may do more harm than good, as they limit the natural nutrition, immune system and "magnetic imprint" compelling the female turtles to return to the place they were born to lay eggs.  


It is a short stop and we are on the way again. 
Our next stop is at a herbal spice garden, where our guide shows us various herbal plants and describes the benefits. It is interesting, but the benefits described are rather exaggerated (unless we are too skeptical and it actually is possible to remove tattoos, moles, wrinkles along with diabetes, cancer, back issues and even paralysis with creams and oils).  MG has as patch of hair removed from his leg with a herbal cream and we both receive a somewhat painful quickie facial-back massage combo.  Then we make our rookie mistake of the trip - we buy tea and vanilla oil which is super expensive (relatively) and only do the currency conversion math when we are back in the car.  Later we stop for lunch and a short motor boat tour of the west coast wetlands (where we stop at both a temple and cinnamon farm…not a bad way to spend a sunny afternoon in December (interesting fact...more than 85% of the world's cinnamon is produced in Sri Lanka).

Sleepy, both from jet-lag and the long car ride, we are happy to arrive in Galle in the late afternoon.  Our hotel, Deco on 44, is cute and centrally located within the Fort walls.  The old city of Galle exists within a 36 hectare fort, built by the Dutch in 1663 and is now recognized as a Unesco World Heritage Site.  We drop our bags and quickly head out to enjoy the last little bit of daylight (and the prime picture taking light of the early evening).   While the fort walls may be old, the city is very much alive with shops, cafes and boutique hotels.  We roam the streets and later, from high atop the fort walls, we watch the sunset and listen to the waves crash against the shore.  It is pretty  spectacular and surprisingly peaceful, although there are many others - tourists and locals alike - enjoying the same sunset.  


Each group has found their own tiny spot along the wall to sit, chatting quietly, and watching as the sun disappears into the water [post trip note – this remains one of my favourite moments of the entire trip].  Later, our restaurant of choice is already full, so we grab dinner of curry and rice (our first of many!!) at Heritage Cafe, a restaurant with an courtyard garden near the hotel. 

After a quickie hot shower, we are both asleep as soon as we turn out the lights...it is 9pm.