Sunday, February 08, 2009

Sri Lanka

After we checked out of Thailand, we stopped at the Similan Islands which are 60 miles west off shore of Phuket.
The Similan Islands are known for crystal clear water and good coral for snorkeling and diving. The water was very clear, but the coral has not recovered from the “Coral Bleaching” that occurred during El Niño in 1998. At that time, the surface water temperatures exceeded 32 degrees Celsius which killed the zooxanthellae algae which gives coral it’s colour. This happened in many places in South East Asia and the coral may take decades to recover. Although the coral was not very colorful, the fish were fabulous and the highlight of my snorkeling was seeing a purple octopus.
The morning we planned to leave the Similan Islands, I woke up with an ear ache. We have an extensive first aid kit on board complete with anti-biotics so we decided to start the medication and continue on our way to the Maldives instead of back-tracking a day to Phuket to see a doctor. Unfortunately, the anti-biotics we had were not ideal for an ear infection so as the days progressed, so did the infection and excruciating pain. It also threw off my balance and made me nauseous so Steve did all the work for the majority of the 11 day passage. Now he knows what it is like to be a solo sailor.
After 5 days of anti-biotics, there was some improvement but my ear was still painful. I emailed my family through the SSB radio and they relayed my problem to doctors. After considering their input, Steve and I decided we would have to make an emergency stop in Sri Lanka which was still 4 days away.
We had originally decided not to stop in Sri Lanka due to the political turmoil with the Tamil Tigers creating havoc in the North and East of the country. We arrived in Galle which is on the South West tip of Sri Lanka (as far away from the fighting as possible.) None the less, we were greeted by the Navy boat with a machine gun mounted on the bow. After being cleared by the navy, they lead us into the harbour past two manned gun towers. Then we were approached by the Port Authority boat (which also had a machine gun mounted on its bow) which led us to the pier where we were to tie up. Once we checked in with the authorities (customs, immigration, health), I left the compound on foot to seek out a doctor. I had to go past a check point with, again, more machine guns.
The doctor was fabulous. She was trained in the UK and spoke English and the appointment only cost 300 Rupee ($3 Cdn). She thought the ear drum was perforated so she referred me to a specialist. The specialist only came in after 6:00 so I had to return to the hospital at night. When I was waiting for my appointment, jammed in a waiting room, standing room only with 50 local people, including 2 monks, the power went off. I didn’t like the idea of being the only foreigner in the pitch black room and I was thinking of my line of defense when the lights came back on. Whew!
When the doctor arrived, he chose to see me first even though I was actually #25 in line. I thought the Monk was going to have a fit. I think he could work on his serenity training a bit. The specialist was also trained in the UK and seemed more interested in talking to a foreigner than taking a look at my ear. Eventually he got around to it and declared it was in fact not perforated and with the correct anti-biotics, I would be fine in a few days.
While we were in Sri Lanka, Stephen lost a filling out of his tooth. We counted ourselves lucky to be in civilization and he was able to see a Dentist and get a filling the same day. We also decided to take a day for sight-seeing and visited a Buddhist temple built into the rocks, an old Dutch fort and a tea plantation.
After 3 days, we checked out of the country and felt relieved to have all the guns behind us. In spite of all the military presence, the Sri Lankan people were wonderful and we enjoyed our short stay.


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