SRI LANKA

1978

JOURNEY

Ben Oostdam

May 5, Friday

(please click to enlarge)
Sound of voices woke me up at 05:00, so I got up at 06:00
and had the usual bacon and egg breakfast before checking out.
Since Sjoerd planned to stay, I invited Brigitte, a nice 20 year
old German girl, to go along, but she had two other travel
companions. One was a red hair German photographer from
Hamburg, named Helmuth, the other an Italian guitarist,
Maurice. Although each of them had been on the road for
well over a year - she in an Indian Ashram - they traveled light.
We departed Kandy at 08:15 driving through low hills, forests
and along a cliff. Our destination was the fabulous 5th Century
Rock Fortress Sigiriya, 200 m high climbing up a narrow steep
trail along an almost vertical cliff wall with a total of 842 steps!

It was scary,
and even
though new
iron rails
had been
installed, Maurice
was very afraid.
(if possible, even
more than I myself !)

I wondered how the
erstwhile occupants
went about getting all
their food and supplies up...

We admired a gallery full of frescoes of bare breasted apsaras,
and I found I sympathized with the compiler,
who was irreverently referred to as "King Boob" ..

The last part of the trail was hardest, passing between the stone
claws of a stone lion - but what a glorious view!
On top, there were ponds, a stone throne and a dancing hall.
By the time we climbed back down, it was noon and we were
soaked and very ready for several drinks, including tea
and coconut juice, which my guests paid.

[NOTE: The same year of this my too brief visit, 1978,
was the beginning of a 4 year series of work-visits by
Mary B. Wheeler of the University of Pennsylvania,
whose lecture series and slide shows are far
superior to my attempts]

Somewhat anti-climactically, we proceeded on our long sleepy
drive to Trincomalee through lowlands and roads full of stray
dogs, calves and gayly waving children.
Trincomalee is about 80% Tamil and in the center of recent
unrest and fights between Singalese and Tamil
[which subsequent to our visit exacerbated in the following
decades and only recently appeared to have been forcefully
terminated with the surrender of the Tamil Tigers.]


It had the largest Dutch fort during the Dutch period,
named Fort Fredrick.
It is a splendid deep water port and naval base.
After Albert recovered from his fear for generator problems and
deposited us at a nice little hotel/restaurant looking out
over the Bay and towards the fortress, we had a late lunch with
beer. This was our farewell meal, since Brigitte could not be
persuaded to come along to Thailand. Thus, it was a bit
tough to say goodbye,
and do a lonely three profiles on the nice wide beach
with medium grained white sand - and fresh tar:

EMP 80505-01 - 115 x 6 ft - 53.9 g i.e. 29.4 gm-1
EMP 80505-02 - 120 x 6 ft - 41.1 g i.e. 22.5 gm-1
EMP 80505-03 - 200 x 6 ft - 56.7 g i.e. 31.0 gm-1



Albert and I drove on to the long time (15 centuries) ancient
capital of Anuradhapura where we arrived in dark and rain at
18:30, having seen a snake swooped up from the road
by an eagle near another MAB reserve.
We stopped for a Thambili Kings Coconut at a roadside vendor
near a modern stupa, then checked in at the old planter's
Tissawewa Resthouse.
They had more servants than guests, including two French visitors.
The staff was celebrating Poya or Full Moon.
I did my laundry and took a shower, then sat on the verandah
with a large ice coffee writing my journal, and reading the
latest news:

that Afghanistan was now communist,
that there were problems in Namibia,
and also in Israel with Begin, and
that the ruler of Bahrain was
advertising for 50 gardeners.


It was a good thing the Moon was full,
because the lights went off twice that evening.
By 21:30 I turned in and started to get excited
about getting back to Thailand again in a few days...

Trincomalee SATMAP - Anuradhapura
Anuradhapura SATMAP - Kandy SATMAP
cost of visiting Sri Lanka

Sigiriya thumbnails - BLO fecit 20100125 - next page - contents 1978 Journey