Oh didn’t we have a lovely day the day we went to…Kalutara?

March 10, 2009 at 5:58 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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On Sunday 1st of March along with the other 3 volunteers at Angoda (plus 2 of their friends from Holland) we were invited to the home of AA (a senior social worker collegue). She lives in Kalutara about 40 km south of Colombo. Kalutara was one of the northern most points along the coast to be hit by the tsunami, the hotels have been patched up and the effects of the tidal wave are visible in the ruined houses and fishing villages on approach to the town. We travelled by van the journey taking about a 1 1/2 hrs (AA uses public transport daily leaving her home at 5.30am to get to Angoda for 8am!)
On our arrival we were immediately fed in true SL style banana, fish cutlet and freshly made milk toffee (condensed milk, vanilla and sugar) delicious. Following our elevenses, we boarded the van with AA as our guide to go to Gangatilaka Vihara. A huge white dagoba I had admired on my previous travels down the Galle Road. Built in 1960’s on the site of a Portuguese fort it is unusual as it is the only one in the world that is entirely hollow. Once inside the cavernously echoing chamber you get a fantastic view of the Kalu Ganga estuary, the coast line beach, Railway Bridge and the surrounding environs inland. These were once famous for spice trading, now more famous for the islands source of finest mangosteens (looks like a purple tomato, with a hard shell like skin that softens when ripe, the delicate flesh within tastes a little like grape with a citrus tang!)The walls of the interior are covered by a sequence of murals depicting various scenes from Buddha’s life…my he had an interesting time let me tell you! (Perhaps another time hey?)On existing we crossed the road to the other temple buildings where we observed the usual lighting of incense sticks and the offering of flowers to the many Buddha shrines, it was after mid day the sun was hot so was the sand underfoot(footwear removed in the temple area)so we moved around pretty sharpish I’ll tell you! AA blessed us all by rubbing hot oil on our foreheads, as we watched the locals tying prayers to the bo tree or pouring water into the channels to water the bo tree roots.
We hot footed it( literally) to the van to return to AA’s for our lunch which was laid out for us by her son and daughter. Again masses of food, 2 different rice’s, 8 or 9 curries on offer for the guests, who have to eat before the hosts. We did all eat the dessert fruit and ice cream together, or was that because I was on my second helping?
After a short rest we again boarded our van and headed for the beach (deserted) for a paddle (warm water) before going on to AA’s business venture a rehabilitation home. This project is a house for up to 10 residents( currently only 2) set up as a halfway home AA will work here herself when she retires next year, since she became a widow 5 years ago she used some family land to build the house, the gardens need some work. She had invited us as she is proud of her achievements which are fantastic, but also for our ideas of how to support the future developments, the discussions of course aided by chocolate cake and tea! After an hour or so in this retreat, we dropped AA off at home and wend our way back up the coast road passing the temple with its roadside donation boxes, fed by motorists who stop to say a prayer and offer a few coins for a safe journey… when you’ve seen the state of the road you’d understand why!
A good day was had by all…

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Oh to be beside the seaside…

May 25, 2008 at 9:44 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Yes my first trip to the coast was to UNAWATUNA  3-4 hours drive south. We left Colombo via the supermarket I’d mentioned in  last blog how I enjoyed the eats on trips out, so armed with watura ( water)Pringles and sesame seed balls(delicious) we headed off, picking up the Joanne and Podi joining Helen and myself. We were travelling by van, booked earlier in the week. I sadly report that there was another bus bomb on Friday (16thMay), killing and injuring both police and civilians. We would have been in that area to catch the bus had we chosen to travel that way. I won’t dwell…

I was unable to see very much as it starts to go dark about 6-6.30pm , but was aware of the coast line on my right hand side (dakuna, I am doing ok with my directions in sinhalen by the way- wama is left.)Some reconstruction was evident post the tsunami devastation of 2004. I remember watching the news on that Boxing Day, never thinking I would be here some 4 years later…strange hey?

We reached our destination The Shangri La guest house – cabanas (Wooden chalets/huts to you) surrounded by palm trees with the odd hammock strung between them it was a beautiful spot. Cabanas house cater for 1-2 persons  toilet/shower ,they  are round and have a little balcony, price at this time of year £40 for 4 nights based on 2 sharing (£5 a night each!) we deposited our bags and headed off in search of a late supper which we found at the Happy Banana (sathutu kesel). 4 deck chairs on its beach front setting  in the moon light with fish and chips (Grilled tuna, salad, and fries)  and a beer …ah bliss just like I’d seen in books and on travel programmes about SL. 4 days of this would I cope???

Well I did in deed cope I had a fab time not alone the setting but enjoyed the time to catch up with other vols .Saturday found us chilling on the beach in a pretty semi circular bay and as my guide book informed me “picturesquely terminated by a dagoba on the rocky headland of the northwest” you can check it out the photos if you follow the link in the e email..  In the evening dancing into the small wee hours at the Happy Banana Disco!

Sunday morning found us not to worse for wear, despite the late night. However I lost my phone and a camera belonging to another vol was possibly stolen, putting things in perspective we took our selves for a hearty break fast at “Zimmer”. An appropriate venue for our pace I thought! We enjoyed healthy fodder of papaya juice,3 grain porridge, fruit and kitul (Honey from the kitul tree a type of palm)followed by toast…yes brown home made bread machine toast, I had not realised I had missed toast , it was well tasty!

Late morning we took a trip in to Galle to the Fort area .Galle is known as SL fourth largest city, and declared a World Heritage site in 1988.The tsunami devastated the east coast with the direct impact of the tidal waves, but the southern coastline suffered the greatest destruction of property and loss of life. We spoke of the TV clips we had viewed showing waves breaking against the walls of Galle Fort where we now sat. We got chatting to some locals who had been diving off the rocks that day, they spoke of  their immediate reactions and experiences in the days that followed hearing of the loss of friends, families and livelihoods. They openly shared their disappointment at seeing anything of the money raised worldwide to help those who survived, rebuild a life. It made me think of the impact on my work , some of the women able to be discharged , will never be reunited with family as they died  or are no longer traceable following this disaster…

 

We continued our meanderings aware it was very busy with locals having a long weekend ,it was VESEK POYA. This is one of the most important Buddhist Festivals which revolve around the days of the full moon- poya days; this one was a three fold celebration of the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death. Lamps are lit in front of houses. (I had left the hospital on Friday with most wards patients and staff busy making their lanterns to decorate the wards)

Monday saw enjoying the beach, with a gentle stroll to explore the dagoba on the headland watching the locals enjoy the sea, seemed like a really family affair. The women tend to maintain their dignity and mess about in the water fully clothed! The kids splashing  about with Dads, teenage lads playing football, the girls in groups plaiting hair giggling, could have been Blackpool?… not – no penny arcades, no rides to queue for ,no donkeys, rock or fish and chips, and no tower… no comparison !

On Monday evening we ventured to Galle to see the streets festooned with lamps and lanterns no 2 alike, some very ornate and intricate in their design , a whole street being the area for competition between local schools, and police forces they were pretty spectacular. Buses and cars were decorated with streamers; roadside booths gave away free rice and curry… one of the best meals I have sampled in SL.

On the return journey on Tuesday we stopped off at the idyllic Brief Garden- named after the father of the artist and writer Bevis Bawa, who raised the money to buy the estate from a successful legal brief.BB began landscaping the 5 acres garden in 1929 and continued until his death in 1992, encouraged by his brother Geoffrey who embarked on a career in architecture and landscape design. The garden is a series of terraces which tumble down the hillside below the house. The guide who nursed BB in his last days informed us that as the two brothers never married, the will of BB left the estate to the workers of the land, otherwise it would have gone to the government.  This made a welcome stop and was really interesting with influences from around the world. Great venue for a party was my thought as I wandered about looking at huge plants and flowers including a black orchid from Thailand! Visitors whose pictures decorated the walls included Vivien Leigh and Lawrence Olivier … nice bit o’ culture to end the weekend don’t you know!

So that was my first little break from work, one which I felt I deserved I enjoyed every minute and am already thinking about the next… I’ll keep ya posted!

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