Monday, March 29, 2010

the western road north hugging the west coast will be complete to Jaffna

The current state of the bridge construction at this crossing of the Aruvi Aru just south of Mannar.

I went up the Western Road, now open to the public from Colombo, via Puttalam. From there on the road, some parts of which are paved and others dirt, were nevertheless being widened and improved. We passed Vanathavillu, and then nr Eluvankulam we crossed the Kala Oya at which point you enter the Willpattu Park and continuing on this ver dusty trail, we crossed Moderagam Aru at Mullikulum where you leave the park.

You then enter a buffer zone which is now gradually being occupied by farmers who wish to make use of a number of abandoned tanks for paddy cultivation. Continuing on to the next area of revitalized settlements at Sylavaththurai one sees a lot of paddy cultivation and at this time of year much harvesting with combine harvesters of the largest kind.

Just North of here the main road turns inland and though i did not go on it , was told it is being carpeted to a high standard. This road meets the Medawachchiya Mannar Road nr Murunkan which is the current route to Mannar.

We however continued along the coast and hit Arippu where the previous blog entry at the Portugese Fort was described. Shortly thereafter the road was closed to 3 wheel and above, where it meets the Malwatu Oya. At this point the river is called Aruvi Aru. There used to be a ferry service here. A proper bridge is being built now and at present only bicycles and motor bikes ply the route with people going to Mannar to work as it apparently saves about 20km of the distance.

It is only a matter of time after this bridge is built, that the A32 Mannar Pooneryn road is completed and tarred or carperted. One then can go all the way to Jaffna on this route, shaving 100km from the whole distance.

While environmentlalists may frown on this further race to build new roads, this opens up this vast currently sparsely developed area for development. My only concern is that this too will be carved up into small settlements and our manic desire for land is fulfilled, instead of the more productive and profitable, large extended farms or estates where crops can be grown, along with adequate reservations made for National Forests and areas that are demarcated as virgin lands not to be encroached upon. My point is as evidenced in my area, lands given to small farmers eventually get subdivided and become homesteads creating a country of villas and not productive agriculture.

Before any allocation of lands it is important that a national policy be adopted with regard to opening up lands. and strictly adhered to. I am afraid once the horse has bolted the enviros and others will try to close the stable door. So before it is upon us do something now as we always wait till its too late to try and reverse decisions, without first evaluating the decisions at the time they are made. People complain they are made in secret, but there are ways to find out impeding decisions if one is on the ball.

Aruvi Aru shortly before it flows into the sea just south of Mannar

Friday, March 26, 2010

a Portuguese two bastioned fort at Arippo

Going due North of Sylvathurai and the new settlements of the Western Coast past some hidden coves where the LTTE used to bring ashore and bury arms until they could be retrieved and transported accross, are signs of new life of small communities, possibly the return of displaced people back to their original villages. In the midst of one was this old abandoned Portuguese Fort, which presumably even the Archeological Department cannot determine if it is worth enclosing and for the moment, preventing from encroachment of settlements.

One would not know what this was unless one alighted and read the board and just wondered what it would have been like in its hayday! I presume there are so many such places with history that have just been covered over, encroached upon and generally forgotten until and unless someone privately tries to publicise the plight and get the authorities involved. I presume this is also due to the lack of funds to fully manage the places of Archeological interest in this country. In America, I know some of these locations are purchased by people who using the site, bring it up to a standard for veiwing then charge a fee and manage to make a living from this, both preserving what remains, and also taking the cost on to themselves while also undoubtedly making it financially viable. We may eventually have no option but to take this course if we are to prevent many of the smaller lesser important sites from completely disappearing, for lack of resources.

This can be called sustainable exploitaiotn of places of interest that increase the leisure choices of a newly liberated populace massivly overcrowding the limited places of interest that are open to the public and therby reduce its attraction, to say nothing of the desecration from over use.

This fort above is a small two bastioned Fort originally built by the Portuguese and then taken over by the Dutch after the battle of Mannar in 1658. It was to this Dutch Fort incidentally that Robert Knox escaped in 1679 after his 20 year captivity in the Kandyan Kingdom. Governer North converted this Fort into a bungalow for his officers supervising the Pearl Fisheries, which later became the Rest House at Arippu.

The tombstone ( see photo below) is of Charles Leys, an employee of the Oriental Banks Corporation, who died of sunstroke at Marichchukaddi on while on a shooting expedition.

This flowers are from the tree I found at this fort and shown earlier in a separate blog entry on 23rd March 2010. So this is where it was photographed and I have still to get confirmation on the type of tree this is.

Dolphins and the Barr Reef off the coast of the Kalpitiya and Uchchimunai

January to April appear to be the months when the seas off the coast of the Kalpitiya peninsula are calm and the dolphins are at play a few hundred meters from the coast on the sea side. We were in place by around 7.30am due west from Alankudah about 500m into the sea when we spotted schools of dolphins swimming alongside the craft with us. My photographic attempts with a digital camera came to no avail, as the shutter somehow appears to delay from the time I pressed.
I have experience in seeing Dolphins and Blue Whales of the coast of Santa Barbara, in California, and there are strict guidelines about the number and size of vessels permitted for whale watching. This has led to minimal intrusion on the mammal and little chasing by a flotilla of craft as is found here. While I was on a larger craft, being able to look a long distance to spot them the smaller fishing boats that double up as Dolphin boats, while closer to the objects are nevertheless bereft of a clear sighting and therefore congregate once a boat has sightings and so speed to where they are, sometimes to the annoyance of the Dolphins who dive down only to emerge a distance away, to be chased yet again.

Whatever one says it is truly breathtaking to see 10 or more Dolphins swim together in perfect formation at close quarters and so close to the shore line. I understand that off the Southern Coast there is a long journey into the sea before they can be sighted. I am surprised that while they have been around for so long in this area that this activity is only now being exploited. Perhaps due to the security situation sea going craft were restricted and so this activity not permitted.
A more spectacular place just north of where these Dolphins were is the Barr Reef a section almost at the tip of the peninsula, I think called Uchchimunai, where there is a reef about 3 foot in depth, so the craft have to tread lightly, where there is live and dead coral and a sighting of different fish almost visible to the boat, but perfectly visible to snorkelers skimming the surface and not having to dive at all. If one can just float with snorkels one can just watch the proceedings down in the coral basin. While I was only in the shallow section, I presume there is a deeper section with a more varied selection of coral and fish.

The numerous islands are wonderful, some with beaches and others without, where there are fishing waadiyas and one I was shown as being the location of the Six Senses Resort, which to me looked a very dull island with no beaches. I personally don’t think that island should be developed as I cannot see much potential.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

kalpitiya lagoon at dawn with an unusual lighthouse

Sun rise on the lagoon

I was told that this was a lighthouse, but as it was a new building, I presume it is still not functional and wonder if it ever will be! Let me know if any of you are wiser to the fact.

The wake from the water jet and the sun rise as we go east from Puttlam at 6am.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

“DORIC” The House of the first British Governor at Aripo, Sylvathurai some fascinating insights into the past which very few people are aware of

I visited the remains of a house, now long abandoned to the elements, of Frederick North the first British Governor built in 1804 to oversee the then most famous export of our Island, the Oyster Pearl from here where the Pearl Fisheries were. The House was supposed to be the most beautiful house in the Island at that time as it was a purpose built house completely designed in a style for in keeping with European architecture, but which was nevertheless the ultimate beach house!!

All European Royalty from then till now wear natural Pearls, white, black and pink that were collected from Oysters off Kondachchi Bay overlooking this house.

Some interesting observations are that the sea erosion has eaten into our landmass as there was probably at least 30meters of land from the house on top of the cliff to the sea. Now the remains are at the edge of the sea and in a few years what remains will also fall down the cliff into the water.

There are mother of pearl shells strewn all around, as a by-product of the Pearl Fisheries, and there no telling if that remains now what there would have been then. There would have been a thriving secondary industry using the mountains of oyster shells from which mother of pearl ornaments etc were made.

The sea shore as can be seen from the photos is straight with no beach, but one can walk a considerable distance into the water making it perfect at this time of year to bathe as there are no waves. Ideal bathing spot!! Of course no one uses it as we don’t normally bathe in the sea if it is at our back yard.

Just imagine the parties that the Governor would have thrown here at the height of the Pearl Fishing season. Details of which are described in a book by the Governor’s chaplain, Reverend James Cordiner’s Description of Ceylon 1807.
The divers were usually from South India and from Africa. There may have been Arab traders and traders from all over the world to purchase these valuable items.

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!!

Unusual and charming flowering tree in Arippu

A closer look at the flower

I was recently at an old Portuguese Fort at what was Arippu on the North Western Coast about 25km north of the Wilpattu National Park western boundary. The three photos of the tree were taken there, but alas I would like someone to let me know what this tree is. It was really pretty and for my luck it happened to be in bloom at that time.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Oranges and the saga continues

These oranges rarely turn orange on ripening and we can tell when they are mature when they become soft on the tree. I have newly planted about 30 Bibile Orange trees where the fruit is sweeter, and fetch a lot more in the market, but which I maintain does not have as much juice and makes fewer drinks per fruit.

There are a few more weeks to go before these oranges are ready to be plucked and available for sale. I scoured the destrict last week in search of these oranges, as it is time they were mature, but none of the oranges in all my known haunts were mature, and I suspect this season all the oranges will ripen at the same time leaving a huge glut but alas all too short of a season. So you my customers please preorder in 100s and squeeze and leave them in your freezer, so you can dilute and drink as and when necessary over time as long as 6 months.

The Orchard of 10 orange trees of the traditional variety, where fruiting is very erratic and the squeezed orange is the unquestionably the best for a vodka orange.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

the unpredictability of events and a serendipitous outcome

I wish to share with the reader an experience from yesterday.

I returned from Polonnaruwa on Sunday evening, with my usual stock of newly milled rice for my customers. I drove back alone and was home about 11pm. The next morning when I backed my pick-up truck to unload, I noticed a diesel leak under the bonnet and it was dripping drip drip!

Yesterday, being Monday was my delivery of produce in Colombo, and if my vehicle was not functional I was having a nightmare of how I could meet my commitments for the day after that I had promised on the assumption that I would sell!

I first went to the mudalali from whom I buy spares for his advice. He looked under the cab and said that my fuel line had punctured, possibly with the vibration of the gear box that is tethered to the side of it. I then went to a local shed and asked the mechanic there to look at it and he also confirmed the scenario, and said it will have to be solded in brass but he does not do that sort of work. I asked him for advice as to whom I should take this vehicle not knowing what amount of work was involved and how long it would take to effect the repair.

He pointed to a garage close to my farm and said that the mechanic there does these patches. Once I got there, out came a person in a beared with a cigarette stuck in his mouth who I could not imagine could help me in the slightest. A scrawny slightly built man who would me more at home in Dambana than Kirimetta. He was already assisting some other motorist with another problem, but promptly left that task, and came over to me and checked the problem, and asked me to bring the vehicle into his driveway. He works at home! I have never been to him and I guess he did not even know that I was a half a km up the road from him.

He got under the vehicle with a couple of spanners, and there were no hoists here. He then managed to remove the whole fuel line within minutes and proceeded to check where the fuel leak was by blowing into one end holding the other tightly shut with his thumb to determine where the leak was by putting some spit where he thought the tiny hole was. He then proceeded to get a brass rod and put it into some solvent, before lighting up the arc lamp and asked me to help him hold the fuel tube while he soldiered right around. He then checked if this was all correctly sealed, by blowing air and putting the tube in water to see if bubbles came out.

Once he determined that was OK he put it back, and I forgot to tell you that 3 fingers in one of his hands had been severed so he had that disability to contend with too, and asked me to start the engine. He got under the cab and determined there was no leak, told me the work was over and I was good to go.

I asked him how much for the effort, he said Rs 150 (about $1.25) for the work of the best part of 90 minutes. I told him he was mad and gave him Rs 300.(baas unnahata pissuda)

I was only 90 minutes late in leaving on my sales round, and was able to successfully complete my daily routine, and able to send the promised funds this morning from the sales I had made.

In the US this would be a minimum US$1000 repair with the vehicle out of action for a few days, and a tow truck required to move the vehicle to the repair shop, as a fuel line leak is not one to mess around with driving, a risk I had to take.

I was just floored at the total non plus attitude with which this mechanic did this job as if he had done thousands of such repairs, which no doubt he must have! I was even more amazed when he told me how much he wanted for the work.

I want to share with my readers this short story, to remind them of people who still live in SL with such amazing abilities and attitudes as well as the versatility of the local mechanic to use common sense to perform a technically difficult repair. I also forgot to mention that he put a rubber washer between the pipe and the bracket so that it would not result in the shuddering from the vibrations which contributed to the hole in the pipe. That to me is common sense which a trained mechanic in a recognized garage would not do, as they would only do what is prescribed and not one that requires common sense. They don't note why the original leak had occurred and take steps to reduce the likelihood of recurrence.

the sluice gates of the Minneriya tank

The photo above looks as if the water is flowing towards the camera, but in fact it is going in the other direction, and the force of the water from the sluice is pushing the water away and up into a kind of high wave.

I went on Saturday to the place where the water exits the Minneriya tank, hoping that when the gates are closed, the fish that have been washed down would surface for us to catch our dose of protein.

The date of 1957 on the gate is when this tank was restored to its former glory in order to feed the fertile plains, in much the same way it did during King Mahasena's time when the tank was first built.

We got there in the morning and there were already other people gathering for the same thing, to catch fish. We laid the nets across the water and waited for the gates to gradually close.