He had helped found the
Golf Club, whose tranquil course you can see above, and whose old
clubhouse remains unchanged, still redolent with the atmosphere of
Victorian times. Grandpa was the Captain of the Club from 1896-1909,
Amateur Golf Champion of Ceylon in 1891. Jeanie and I
were given tea there by the charming Tesira brothers, whose memories went
back to the late twenties, unfortunately not far enough for us; Grandpa
left Ceylon with his wife and baby daughter in 1910.
Because Nuwara Eliya is so
high up in the mountains, all guests are supplied with fat hot water
bottles tucked into their beds at night. After drinking one's coffee in
front of the blazing wood fire in the dining room, it was quite a shock to
walk the long, cold corridors and prepare for bed in rooms which still
lack central heating. But, how it evoked our childhood memories to snuggle
into bed with that comforting warmth after rushing the undressing and
teeth cleaning routines in the icy bathroom!
While I was in Nuwara Eliya
researching Grandpa in the Anglican church I met the Jacobs who run the
Paynter Orphanage for local children, whose parents have abused
them, abandoned them, or who are simply unable to look after them.
They are a delightful group of children, from about 4 to 17 years old, and
despite their traumatic backgrounds, have responded well to the excellent
care of the Jacobs.
It was just after Christmas
when I met them, and they had all been learning carols to sing in public
at various venues. They sang so well and were so earnest in their efforts,
I found it quite hard not to burst into tears. On the right
are Jerome, Ranjit Jacobs & Angeline Jacobs, who is the
general-in-chief /mother to the children and is superbly equipped for this
task, being both firm, loving and an excellent organiser.
Jeanie and I continued our
journey on down to Galle where we were to meet Chris and Steve, with
Carelbi who would be tied up in the military harbour. We all had to have
special permits to enter this zone, and had to show them on entering and
leaving each time.
clearance into Sri Lanka
In the meantime Steve and
Chris had sailed Carelbi from Thailand. The passage had been fast with a
generally strong following wind. However the arrival in Galle was
unpleasant in every way. They arrived at midnight and were prevented from
anchoring off the harbour by the Sri Lankan "Navy" who spoke no English
and became extremely excited, brandishing guns and
shouting. They were forced to anchor where ordered by the
Navy and in the morning found the anchor solidly jammed in amongst very
large rocks. Chris had to put on his Scuba gear and make an
extremely dangerous dive in 15m of muddy water to clear the
chain which was moving constantly with the swell and current.
Having freed the chain,
they anchored off the port and were visited by the Navy for their
official check to ensure no arms or drugs were being carried for the Tamil
Tigers. While an officer kept Chris occupied with forms and questions
the other checked all the lockers and stole $700. They also stole money
from other rally boats and were caught red handed by one of the
continued. They were visited by Customs, Immigration, Port, and
Health personnel, who all came on board with small suitcases or
simply plastic bags, each demanding something - bottles of
whisky, wine, beer, cigarettes.... The customs officer asked how
many bottles of wine we had. When Chris said around 30, bought to last us
all the way back to Europe, the officer said "I take 4!" There
was an argument and he settled on 3. He then noticed 2
bottles of champagne which had been bought specially to
celebrate passing the Somali pirates and our return to Europe. The customs
man then said "I'll take one of those too".
and cutting precious stones
Jeanie, Anders, Fiona,
Chris and I left with the
Blue Water Rally to do an organised tour of Sri Lanka. Our first stop was
to look at the "pole" fishing men on the south coast, where the beach
sloped so gradually that families "own" poles on which they sit and
fish all day long, as the tide sweeps in and out.
We had a bit of a fright
when our jeep, where we sat on open seats in the back, stopped between an
elephant and his herd. He was not happy, and came out onto the path to
menace us to leave. He looks a bit comical because of his Mothers Outing
flowery hat. They apparently pull up grasses and flowers and throw them
over their backs in an effort to keep the sun off and stay cool. His aim
was not too good! However, we respected his duty and moved off, hearts
beating a little fast, I must admit.
On we went to Kandy where
we visited gem and hand-printed silk shops and watched some intricate
local dancing in the evening. The next day we visited the Temple of the
Golden Tooth, where Buddha's tooth is encased in gold in a golden casket
and is a major shrine. Then, on to the Amaya Hotel which looked out onto a
tranquil lake and where we found this lovely "WLE COME" misspelled in
flowers on our bedroom floor!
...and we joined a
"twitcher" walk at 6.30 am the following day. It was a crisp sunny morning
and there were birds all over the place, I became quite enthused and
might just turn into a twitcher in my old age!
On to the Temple of the
Golden Buddha, which is crammed with statues and paintings of
Buddha. For a way of life which professes not to be a religion, there
are an unbelievable number of Buddha representations, many of
Probably my favourite
tourist experience in Sri Lanka ... the visit to the Elephant
Orphanage. They live in a reserve about a 15 minute walk from the river
and are brought down to bathe twice a day. You can sit at your table
eating your lunch and watch these majestic beasts walk down the street and
slowly enter the river below.
Our final stop was Colombo
where Chris and I hoped to track down a bit more detail about Grandpa.
Oddly enough, it was in another Buddhist Temple, that of the Sacred
Elephant, seen below, that we were shown a book in which there was a
couple of paragraphs about his career in the country.
The sacred elephant... very
few Sri Lankan elephants have tusks, just the odd male, and never the
females. Possibly a reason why they have never been threatened with
extinction as they are not poached for their ivory.
While we were in the
temple, Chris and I had a stupa held over our heads and were blessed. We
were given bracelets made of woven threads, which were also blessed, and
were told that they would act as a protection for us.
We wore them until Chris
had passed the pirates off the Somalia coast, and only took them off once
we had reached the Mediterranean. Maybe they worked.
On New Year's Eve, 2008,
Chris and Steve St Paul, a friend from New Zealand, sailed away from
Phuket bound for Sri Lanka while I took a plane to Colombo to meet my
sister Jeanie. We had a plan to research my Campbell grandfather who had
been a tea planter in Ceylon from 1880 until 1910, and to try and
find the children who were born to him before he married my
He had lived in the Nuwara
Eliya district up in the highlands of Sri Lanka, and had been a prominent
citizen in the country during those years.
We stayed at the Hill Club,
which started life in 1876 as an exclusive male club for the tea
planters of Ceylon. Grandpa was President in 1908 and Jeanie is
pointing out his commemorative inscription! Today it is a wonderfully
old-fashioned hotel where the waiters serve dinner with white gloves and
men are not permitted in the dining room without a jacket and tie.
This is a typical tea plantation landscape. All the neat green
parallel lines are tea bushes, and only the new leaves from the tips of
the bushes are picked to make tea. This is mainly done by Tamils who were
brought over from India in the 19th century because it was work
which the Ceylonese themselves did not wish to do. These Tamils are
peaceable people and have no wish to be associated with the Tigers in the
north of Sri Lanka.
The orphanage has farm land attached to the actual buildings and
garden and the children are well supplied with nourishing vegetables and
fruit. They go to the local schools, but it still costs 7,000 rupees (£42)
per month to supply all their other needs such as electricity, clothes,
bedding, meat, staff salaries and so on.
The children playing in their garden, as I was leaving .
Chris visited the orphanage with me after his arrival and we
have offered to try and organise some sponsorship of the children wherever
we can. The Paynter Orphanage is a properly accredited charity and if any
of our friends or family reading this feel they are able to donate a
monthly, or yearly sum to this wonderful organisation, please do contact
us and we will give you the details of how to do so. Financially, life is
very tight for them at the moment, and has probably deteriorated since we
left Sri Lanka.
Chris and Steve mending the genoa in Galle Harbour.
Since each of the
Blue Water boats had paid the agent $200, this extra rip-off was
pretty painful, especially as we had nothing but Muslim countries ahead of
us and little chance of replacing our drink stores.
Because Carelbi was one of the first yachts to clear into Sri
Lanka we had no idea whether it was possible to refuse these demands for
bribes without problems suddenly cropping up which would stop our
papers from being stamped and the crew being allowed into the
country. It was particularly galling, several hours later, to see a notice
at the check point, where we walked in to the harbour,
forbidding all personnel to take bribes of any kind.
We found most Sri Lankans to be honest people, but this initial
experience left the nastiest taste in our minds that we have ever
experienced anywhere, and we found it particularly upsetting that Naval
Officers had been the worst of all the officials involved.
While we were staying in Galle we enjoyed a tuk-tuk
trip to the city where we watched with fascination the ancient art
of lace making.....
We spent a few luxurious days at the Unawatuna Beach Resort where
Chris and Steve unwound after their traumatic experiences. Anders, our
Danish "adopted son", who had already sailed more than 24,000
nautical miles with us on our circumnavigation, joined the boat literally
3 days after becoming a fully-fledged doctor, and was really looking
forward to running the pirate gauntlet!
We then went on to the Yala Elephant National Park where we spent
several fascinating hours watching family groups of elephants, together
with the odd peacock couple.
We left the south coast and headed on up to the mountains to revisit
the tea plantations of Nuwara Eliya, passing through Ella, which has a
stunning view back through the valleys to the distant sea. I couldn't help
wondering how my grandparents had travelled this land over one hundred
years ago, and how long their journeys had taken them.
Chris revisited the Golf Club and the Paynter Orphanage with me, and
had the unusual experience of putting on his tie and jacket for dinner at
the Hill Club, where Milton, the waiter who had looked after Jeanie and
myself so well, was really pleased to see me again and gave Chris and
I a good welcome.
Enchanting little squirrel-type animals played in the trees around
the guests' bungalows....
We found this lovely message on our bed as we returned from supper
that night. The Sri Lankans really know how to cherish their guests, and
we found the levels of service in all the hotels we stayed in to be
excellent, attentive and friendly.
Some of the centuries-old paintings of Buddha in the caves at the
Golden Temple. Although they are painted with natural dyes they have
lasted far better than those which were done in the 20th century
using industrial dyes and which are in really bad condition. These
paintings are not protected in any way, and thousands of people walk
through breathing moist air and looking at them every day.
You can just see a few roguish elephants trying to make a getaway up
the far bank. They get chased by their keepers and gently brought back to
The main Buddha inside the temple, a most resplendent figure...
Just a few of the identical Buddhas in the temple
After the end of our tourist trip I took a taxi to the airport and
flew off to South Africa to visit family and friends whom I had not seen
for several years. As my taxi left Galle and skirted a long beach I
could see Carelbi sailing off to the Maldives, Oman, the pirate coast of
Somalia and Red Sea. It was a really sad moment for me, not being on
board, but I knew that my back could not take the non-stop movement for
such a long time, and, indeed, it was more than two months before I
rejoined everyone in Egypt.