SRI LANKA

1978

JOURNEY

Ben Oostdam

May 2, Tuesday

(please click to enlarge)
Sjoerd and I had an early , good and cheap self service breakfast on our own hotel floor; it included "hoppers" with a built-in egg. I also spent R 100 on two films. We walked around together for a while, then each went on his own.
[NOTE at time of writing this: I found Sjoerd (or Sjoert)'s last name, Schaafsma, in my journal and Googled tens of Schaafsmas, ending up (for now) sending an E-mail to Sjoert@agt.net to a chess club in Canada - but got an instant undeliverable + contact postmaster message - let's see what's next since I would love to get update on his schooner cruise to Mauritius, etc..]
I went to British Airways and made reservations for a flight to Thailand next Sunday, and a subsequent flight 15 days later to Malaysia. Neither country required visa for visits shorter than a 'fortnight'...and neither did Singapore, my next destination.
Next, I searched a large store for prickly heat powder but had to settle for athlete foot powder; also bought a long roll of poor quality Chinese tape for my tar sample bags, which cost more than R 20. I took a taxi to Oberon, where I chatted with fat Suzy, an enticing masseuse and had a good shoeshine for R 5. I also drank another golden coconut on the way to the KLM/Garuda Airways office, where Joseph gave me a set of forms to apply for a visa for Indonesia.
About noon I was back at the hotel and ordered a car with driver (cheaper than without!!) from Hertz to pick Sjoerd and me up at 13:00. That left enough time for us for a quick beer, and to pack our stuff. I made arrangements with the desk to arrange for them to deliver my passport and visa application to Joseph [NOTE: something one would not or could not do nowadays...] and pick it up later that week; also made reservations for my last night in Colombo before flying on to Bangkok.
The man of Hertz/Quickshows arrived some ten minutes
before 1 pm;
his name was Albert and we first took care of the contract:
R 3 per mile
R 30 for overnight of driver,
for a 1970 Renault 10.

Passing first by Albert's cute house, we drove through what seemed one continuous, European-like suburb to my favorite memory spot of Sri Lanka: the Mount Lavinia Hotel. It was a lot shabbier than on my first and last visit, in 1952, but still reminded me of "The Bridge on the River Kwai" which since that first visit had become my alternative favorite spot, but in Thailand.


Mount Lavinia Hotel
I did recognize the old catamaran
on the beach, which was less crowded
than I anticipated.
I took some pictures and three beach
tar profiles and samples -
yes, there was fresh tar on this
coarse grained, yellowish,
shelly sand,open beach ! ... :



EMP 80502-01 - 75 ft by 6 ft - 025.5 g i.e. 13.9 gm-1
EMP 80502-02 - 90 ft by 6 ft - 107.7 g i.e. 58.9 gm-1
EMP 80502-03 - 65 ft by 6 ft - 069.5 g i.e. 53.5 gm-1



We drove further south along a railroad track, stopped for another coconut,
on our way to the white-domed pagoda of Kalutara :


photograph I took in 1978

photograph by Janith Ranawake, 2008

We saw a man
climbing across
an aerial bridge
from one coconut
tree to another
...
...to tap "toddy" -
which was stored
in large vats and
is the favorite
local "hard" drink.


We also crossed some
strategic sequence of
steel bridge - island
- steel bridge:

Kalutara:
island in the river


On the beach, we saw a catamaran of which the hull
was a tree trunk adze cut and burned to hollow it out.
The width at the top was less than one foot!

By now it was 16:15 and we took 3 profiles across the medium grained yellow sand.
There was a 50cm high scarp along the beach and the water was rather dirty.

EMP 80502-04 - 110 ft by 6 ft - 49.6 g i.e. 27.1 gm-1
EMP 80502-05 - 090 ft by 6 ft - 00.0 g i.e. 0 gm-1
EMP 80502-06 - 120 ft by 6 ft - 00.0 g i.e. 0 gm-1


[NOTE: for the sake of interest, below are two photographs
taken of Kalutara Beach resp. before and after
2004 Indian Ocean tsunami:]


Kalutara Beach, January 1, 2004

Kalutara Beach, December 26, 2004

Driving by several lime plantations and small huts, we reached Bentota well before it became the many five star hotel resort shown in the link. Again, we collected tar along three transects across the wide open medium grained quart sand beach as follows:



EMP 80502-07 - 140 x 6 ft - - 322.0 g i.e.- - 176.0 gm-1
EMP 80502-08 - 145 x 6 ft - - 068.0 g i.e.- - 037.2 gm-1
EMP 80502-09 - 135 x 6 ft - 2,106.4 g i.e.- 1,151.0 gm-1

the unpleasant "jackpot" occurred at the foot of a 2 ft scarp.


We drove on along a beautiful tranquil lagoon with banana and coconut palm plantations, past formerly stately houses (estates) now slowly deteriorating. We passed several oxcarts "


and reached Hikkaduwa after dusk. In the absence of electric light, we were shown - by candle light - our prospective quarters, at # 306 - which address we had found on a scrap of paper torn from some travelbook titled "India on $ 5 a day". The rooms had high ceilings, beds with "klamboos" (mosquito nets), and a small garden looking out (now rather listening out) over the sea. This was also the place where a Dutch girl from Leiden University had lived and produced her thesis dealing with the impact of tourism on Sri Lanka females....
We had to go out for dinner, with Albert as guide. During the long wait, we read old TIME magazines - some still new to Sjoerd... - again, by candle light. Sam produced a nice meal as well as a bottle of arak, all for less than R 30.
We ended up back at the guesthouse taking a primitive shower and washing our stinking clothes. Neither Sjoerd nor I slept very much that night, because of an impressive thunder and lightning storm combined with an invasion of insects and followed by rain. My last journal entry of the day is probably the name of our host family: Hs B. Kirtisinghe.


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