Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A visit to Bathalangunduwa at the tip of the island known in the maps incorrectly as Karaitivu north of Kalpitiya peninsula.

I had the privilege of hitching a ride to an island 14km long but very narrow, north of the Kalpitiya peninsula where about 3,500 people live, and who fish for a living.

They use different nets to catch different fish during the various seasons, and this time they were catching keeramin, which is a bigger version of the sprats.

the fish being cleaned in sea water once removed from the nets after the morning's catch

These people have no medical facilities, they originally came from the Negombo area over a century ago and have their own dialect of Sinhala. They are almost all Catholic and live a very basic life in coconut thatch dwellings. The other community is concentrated in three localities on this tiny strip of land, the others being Sinnagunduwa and Palliyawatte.

They are now finally facing some freedom after the severe restrictions they had and the searches they had to undergo, due to the recently concluded LTTE infiltrations in the area. Water is one of their biggest problems as there are no fresh water wells, and they collect water by digging a hole in the sand and collecting drinking water in the first 10 minutes before the water again becomes brackish.

Hole to get fresh water to drink has to be covered up immediatly after removal of water
Ironically they were selling the dried fish at Rs240kg at their site, while I was able to buy at the Hingurakgoda Pola, the same fish and lower quantities at a maximum retail of Rs200kg. So were they trying a fast one knowing the buyer had no idea what the real price was!

They make special expeditions to the mainland to stock up on water and other essentials, but their diet consists of just rice and fish for every meal with a scarce vegetable or leaf bought once a week as a treat as they come from the mainland or Kalpitiya.

I heard from the small Naval detachment that pregnant women suddenly come to the camp when they go into labor and have to be urgently ferried in a naval craft to the nearest hospital which happens to be in Kalpitiya, when the baby arrives aboard the craft on its way to the hospital. The naval staff with no training in midwifery have had to somehow cope with these unexpected events, that being the highlight of their otherwise uneventful existence.

In the absence of a Coast guard, they also have a duty to protect the maritime boundaries from outside fisherman especially from India as well as to protect the country from smuggling mainly of drugs that come in. Needless to say the island has a few superb beaches. No one swims as they just have too much of it!!


Anonymous said...

beautiful fish, but by the pictures i cannot say the same about the beaches (as you have said)..

Anonymous said...

rajarata, you should set up an eco-tourism travel agency. your knowledge of the hidden jewels in SL is special. it is something that the tourists coming to SL want but are unable to find because of them being set up by large package players. it's a shame they're making all of the money in this boom, whereas people like you with the knowledge of experiences tourists want is being left out in the cold. the capital requirement to set up such a venture is minimal.

thekillromeoproject said...

Hi there, I'm quite a fan of your blog and though i seldom comment, I regularly check for updates.

I have an inquiry from a friend who's trying to locate a reliable supplier of lime fruits (unripe)on a weekly basis.

He requires 3,000 kilos a week on a regular and long term basis

Would you happen to know where he could find such a supplier or if you are in a position to be the source?

I believe he will handle the transportation logistics in order to minimize the cost factor to the supplier

Thanks in advance for any help or advice you can offer. :)

Rajaratarala said...

I am glad you asked me about limes, as there is an insatiable demand for regular supply, and I have already been asked about it.
I have 10 lime trees in Godagama, Meegoda that is in the wet zone and about 15 lime trees in Minneriya area in two properties. The fruiting is seasonal and unpredictable and very erratic. When it rains it pours and hence the reason for lime prices to vary from Rs5kg to Rs500kg.
The only source for that quantity would be Dambulla Economic Centre, but the traders will NOT commit to price due to the unpredictability of supply.
A lesson in agriculture is that it is almost impossible to guarantee steady supply throughout especially with seasonal crops.
I have met a Danish man who is the only person who grows lime out of season as he cons the plant into thinking the season has changed by using intensive drip irrigation. However he expects a huge return as he had to cover the costs for off season fruiting.

thekillromeoproject said...

Thanks very much for your quick reply! :)

Is there any possibility that you would have any contact details of this innovative Danish gentleman?

I could pass these details on to my friend or ask him to get in touch with you.