SRI LANKA

1978

JOURNEY

Ben Oostdam

May 6, Saturday

(please click to enlarge)
I spent a fine cool night in Tissawena, so cool that my shorts hung out to dry the night before were still wet.. Breakfast of bacon, egg and toast was served at an old fashioned set table and at 07:45 Albert and I set out on foot to explore Anuradhapura, starting with the 2,200 year old Sri Maha Bodhi Tree - the oldest known living tree in the World!?


Sri Maha Bodhi Tree

Lotus flower

Frangipani flower

The tree was rather
unimpressive, but
numerous pilgrims
present offerings of
lotus and frangipani.
Nearby is the so-called
"Brazen Palace" - a
forest of granite pillars.

Lovamahapaya


Lovamahapaya was constructed by King Dutugamuna , 161-137 B.C. and reconstructed by King Parakramabahu, 1153-1186 A.D. On the terrace - which reminded me of Angkor Wat - a little girl presented me with a lotusflower and pointed out to me the miniature "dagoba" inside it, much like a clam. In the closeby temple I noticed numerous flags and pieces of cloth with written vows or promises of the true believers. Even though Albert was a Hindu, he did pay his respect (Namaste) to the rather gaudy Buddha image with large holes in the stretched earlobes kept protected in a glass vitrine. Several monkeys were swinging in the trees on the way to our next stop, the very white and almost too modern stupa of Ruwanweli Seya :



Availing myself of the bright early morning light I took several shots, including an oxencart with the pagoda in the background, some little boys with Ganesha, the Elephant God - two flower girls to who I donated my lotus flower instead, and a dozen or so young men cavorting (or working?) in a lily pond:








Next we visited the twin ponds - beautiful except for its dirty waters - and a little roadside stand with a cute tame monkey whose owner sported a "stuiver" (nickel) in one of his eye sockets. Our last visit was to the Jetawana Dagoba, high, old and surrounded by construction platforms. By that time it was almost 09:00 and we departed this lovely ancient capital in Albert's fine Renault 10(odometer 32,922). I philosophized about the "Heeren der verspreide zaken", which is probably a reference to the "Heeren XVIII" who headed the VOC, the Dutch East Indies Company which: "By 1669, (the VOC) was the richest private company the world had ever seen, with over 150 merchant ships, 40 warships, 50,000 employees, a private army of 10,000 soldiers, and a dividend payment of 40% on the original investment."
Fantasizing - as I did earlier in Angkor Wat - how wonderful it would be to travel in time (Dr WHO ?) and see this capital - that lasted as long as 15 centuries - at various times of its development and decline... how attractive it would be for tourists to travel in time....wow!!!
[NOTE at time of finally translating this journal more than 30 years after writing it:

this is almost as strange, because who would ever in 1978 have imagined the World Wide Web, Google, etc... and for me to have witnessed the start of Tamil Tigers problems, which subsequently escalated and only now seem to have been solved after a civil war killing thousands - and in the last few days Presidential elections took place in Sri Lanka, and both India and China are promising help to the remaining Tamil population... while the USA not only complimented the winner but also extended its protection to the other candidate sequestered in a hotel... but I am straying, so back to business....
]


We saw spiderwebs
between telephone
wires, colorful
kingfishers, and
one meter long
grayish iguana.

Next, some handy
two-wheel Kubota
diesel tractors/plows.

The road was flat,
with many lakes (Willu's)
displaying purple
lotus flowers.

We passed
Wilpattu Nature Reserve,
where one could
rent a jeep
for R 450 per 1/2 day.

Albert told me that
Northern Sri Lanka
holds at least
50,000 illegal
Indian immigrants.

Rather suddenly we reached the town of Putallam on a beautiful coastal lagoon , where we stopped to tank.
I walked throught the local market, bought and drank a coconut ...
and noted copious fish and crabs, the latter commanding R 2.50 for a large live one.
Little boys begged not only for money but also for pens.
I took this picture of the main street and two mosques :

[NOTE at time of writing:

I am obviously fond of coconuts,
and always missed them in Europe and the USA,
till some 7 years ago (finally...)
some Thai and other smart merchants like Goya
started to sell here in our supermarkets
cans of coconut water - milk and - cream...
WOW!! Heaven on Earth - have another swig!]
.

We continued southward through large coconut plantations and meeting trucks loaded skyhigh with nuts or husks. Also, the toddy barrel oxencarts started reappearing, as well as rope-wheels.

It was getting hot, by the
time we entered the very
crowded and picturesque
town of Chilaw,
known for it Crabs, Coconuts
and Coreas - a famous family
which in 1927 hosted Gandhi.

The open and exposed beach was not too clean, and consisted of yellowish medium-grained quart sand, with some exposed beachrock at the foot. I took 3 profiles:

EMP 80506-01 - 110 x 6 ft - 88.5 g i.e. 48.4 gm-1
EMP 80506-02 - 105 x 6 ft - 26.9 g i.e. 14.7 gm-1
EMP 80506-03 - 110 x 6 ft - 22.7 g i.e. 17.5 gm-1

At some guesthouse, I stopped to enquire about sea food dinner. They offered a meal for R 35 for four crabs but refused to consider a smaller meal of two - to my surprise and Albert's dismay. We walked a stretch along the promenade and this was the first time in ages that I saw some couples sitting on benches below umbrellas and smooching in public...
Another cute sight was that of two dungbeetles helping each other rolling along a ball of dung and defending their precious possession against third party flying beetle attacks.
Onward Christian (nono) Soldiers to the next stop where Albert had to adore a horse shaped deity which allowed me to have another coconut - to which he treated me, I guess to increase his credit rating with the equinedeity. Albert earns R 800 per month of which R 200 goes to rent and some R20 per day for the whole family.
We continued driving along the coastal road and stopped at three spots some 2 km apart along a clean looking fisherman beach between Kochchikade and Negombo. Boats with black sails were visible at the horizon. Again, I took 3 profiles across the open, yellowish coarse sand beach:

EMP 80506-04 - 120 x 6 ft - 68.0 g i.e. 26.4 gm-1
EMP 80506-05 - 100 x 6 ft - 02.3 g i.e. 01.3 gm-1
EMP 80506-06 - 100 x 6 ft - 21.3 g i.e. 11.6 gm-1

Since all men were out at sea, there were only women and children, all very curious, nice and polite. They did ask for pens and money, but not as gratingly as I have encountered elsewhere. At one house, I was given a mango and a little girl was proud to act as interpreter. One 26 year old R.C. fisherman's wife spoke English very well and asked me if this was my first visit to Sri Lanka. To my dismay, I had to admit to an earlier visit when she was about one month old ....which made her giggle and call to collect her friends and introduce them to me: Shelvy, Santhee, Rupika, Rupa, and Wolma!
Albert was getting impatient and we raced the rest of the road to Colombo to be at Hertz before closing. It took a while to do the account, which came to 701 miles (or kms?) and after paying Albert another $ 2, I had barely enough to take a taxi to the Hotel. I was happy to find they had done fine with my passport and visa. I went to Hotel International for a milkshake and fried rice. Then I took a long evening walk, visiting a market full of people and an empty temple, doing the harbor with its pimps and girlees but managing to tumble into my bed by 20:30. A rather exhausting but very memorable and productive last day in lovely Sri Lanka!


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