Since when we left Gibraltar, the Rally has organised fund-raising events to collect money to help Sri-Lankan families hit by the Tsunami disater; quite obviously, we were expecting to get a friendly welcome, to say the least.
Instead, the first disappointment came even before landfall, when the first boats arriving in port alerted by e-mail that the Navy patrol inspecting all incoming vessels for weapons (…) had been systematically robbing money for a total of several thousand dollars from purses and wallets left too much in sight, and that the scores of officials coming aboard were all requesting “bribes” in the form of sigarettes, beers and even helping themselves from the yachts’ stores of expensive liquors…
The port iteself turned out to be very inconvenient, almost everybody had to use the dinghy to go ashore even in moored to the very high concrete pier, and the noise was appalling, day and night, with all ships keeping their generators running.
As soon as one went out of the port gates, a group of service-providers and tuk-tuk drivers waited for us: many were among the beneficiaries of the Rally-distributed funds, so we were expecting at least to be treated fairly, but we soon discovered that they were all surcharging us, besides insisting to provide themselves (or through their friends) for every good or service we would have liked to choose on our own.
The disappointment continued trhoughout the Bus trip around the country which had been organised by the Rally: the countryside is beautyful, and there are lots of interesting historical sites to be seen, but in all tourist places we were invariably assaulted by all sorts of vendors, all very insisting and asking for inflated prices.
In a country where a Tamil woman must work 8 hours up a hillside, bent to pick up at least 20 Kg of tea leaves to earn the equivalent of 3 Euros, one gets enraged at the wardens of a so-called “elephant orphanage” who insist to take you a picture near a 35-years-old “orphan” (???…) and then ask for a tip in Dollars or Euros!
Sadly, this is also a demonstration of the disasters that western tourists can cause, having obviously spoilt these folks, as we already saw to a slightly lesser extent in Bali: they are obviously poor and it seems right to help them, but we have made a people of beggars out of them.
Speaking of the Tamil problem, obviously terrorism is never to be condoned, but the present situation has been triggered by the discriminatory practices put in place by the Singhalese majority’s politicians against a minority who anyway lives in the country since thousand years: a bit more fairness would have avoided a bloody conflict which is going on since decades.
In the end, most yachts have left ahead of the schedule, bound for the Maldives where we will have a short rest.