Day 1 -16/08 - Departure from France on Emirates with a short stopover in Dubai: this time we are entitled to an Airbus A 380 for the 06h00 which separates us from Dubai and a Boeing 777 for the 04h00 from Dubai to Colombo.

Day 2 -17/08 - Colombo - Yakkala - Malwatuhiripitiya - Anuradhapura 199 km

32 ° alternating clouds and thinnings. Rain and thunderstorms in the afternoon.

Arrival in Colombo at 8:45. 40 minutes queue to immigration. A lot of people who do not have their documents in order slow down the flow.

Mohara is waiting for us at the airport. It is planned to lunch with his family in Angoda. It will take a good part of the day.

Late in the afternoon we take the Kandy Road lined with workshops and wickerwork, pottery and cashew merchants at Weweldeniya to discover two temples and monasteries that we had not had time to see the last time among the hidden treasures of the Gampaha region.

This area is dotted with small temples and monasteries, sometimes at the top of rocks, sometimes buried in a green setting or set among the rice fields. In the majority of them, there are caves that used to shelter the monks in meditation. Buildings have been added, as well as schools, the monks often having a teaching role in isolated villages.

  1. Puce We visit the pretty temple of Koskandavila Maha Viharaya enclosed in a lush garden and plump rocks. Better light between 15:30 and 16:00. For the pleasure of the site, the setting, the atmosphere.

  2. Puce A few kilometers away the Maligathenna Rajamaha Vihara rock temple hung on its cliff near Malwatuhiripitiya. The dagoba overlooks the countryside while the temple is half buried under the rock recalling that monks were sheltering in these cellars to practice meditation.

Late arrival at Anuradhapura.

We had planned a full day of safari in Wilpattu reserve the next day.

Mohara told us that day safaris are no longer allowed due to drought. We opt for a safari in the morning. Departure at 04:00 to be on site at 05:00.

Hotel Margosat Lake Resort

Dinner at the hotel, a rice & curry with different dishes of vegetables and lentils, 13 different dishes. 2090 rupees (11,50 €) for two.

Day 3 -18 / 08- Anuradhapura - Wilpattu - Anuradhapura 76 km return

In the middle of the night, I do food poisoning like never before. First time of all my travels. I empty myself from everywhere. At 4:00 am I had not yet closed my eyes and I did not feel willing to do the safari.

Thanks to a "shock treatment" based on natural medicines and Ercefuryl, I recover fairly quickly. We decide to do the safari in the afternoon.

  1. Puce Lunch at the hotel: excellent buffet 1760 rupees (9,60 €) for two

We do not understand well the logic: a day safari is prohibited, but one can make one in the morning and one in the afternoon !

Another peculiarity of this park is that jeeps are not allowed to travel outside a certain route, and most of them remain in convoy. The first arrivals are the first to the ticket office which opens only by order of Colombo. Then everyone takes his place in the convoy according to the speed of the driver to get his pass. The first three jeeps are more likely to see an animal cross or run along the runway. Entrance fee 3500 / pers, rental jeep 4500 rupees.

A path bordered by brush and bush forest that does not allow an animal to be seen beyond 5 meters on each side. Only those who cross the track, or those who occupy the few deforested areas and dried-in water points can be seen.

The end of convoy jeeps have no chance of seeing anything.

We saw four peacocks, two langurs monkeys, an eagle, a deer, few sambar, few water buffaloes, a hornbill foot malabar, some crocodiles, some wild pigs, some cormorans.

We saw a dark shadow in the undergrowth that was supposed to be a black bear. One of the jeep would have seen the tail of a leopard!  Everyone rushes then, in vain: tourist alarm call, to maintain the suspense! An uninspiring safari!

This reserve, one of the oldest in Sri Lanka, has been reopened since 2010 after being occupied for ten years by the rebels and poachers who caused great damage to the fauna. Agencies are full of praise for this park, evoking a park constellated with thirty fresh water lakes, where gray herons and cormorants fish. There are animals such as deer, wild pigs, elephants and leopards, of which it is one of the regions of predilection. There is also the longest serpent of the island, the python, with some specimens whose size can range from 6 to 10 m in length. According to various witnesses and drivers there is generally not much to see!

When a driver reaches the exit which is behind schedule, his jeep is confiscated for a certain number of days depending on the size of the delay!

Hotel Margosat Lake Resort   Dinner at the hotel vegetables noodles 2090roupies (11,50 €) for two, there we got ripped off.

Day 4 -19 / 08 - Anuradhapura - Mannar 145 km

Cloudy with sunny periods. Very windy in Mannar 33.4 °

We chose to go to the Mannar peninsula, because it was very little visited, and charged with an interesting history.

From Anuradhapura there are two roads: one passing through Thantirimale (150 km A 12 + A 14) and another passing through Medawachchiya (145 km A 9 + A 14).

The distance to be traveled is relatively short, so we want to take the one of Thantirimale to see again this site which had seduced us on a previous trip. In vain did I show the map, Mohara claims that the road to Mannar does not pass through Thantirimale and that one must make a detour. Which is wrong. Not want to enter into conflict from the 3rd day.

The road A14 is a recently remodeled, monotonous, rectilinear road, with little interest, with very little traffic. At the end of the route it is lined with mangroves, populated in winter by many migratory birds.

Mohara falls asleep at the wheel, we have to ask him to stop and drink a little water to refresh himself. We set 3:00 to go from Anuradhapura to Mannar.

The old bridge with only stretches in front of the Portuguese fort was destroyed by the rebels to prevent the army from advancing. The Japanese offered a new bridge to the city in 2010.

Mannar is a small forgotten city full of charm, 32 km from the Indian continent. Connected to the capital by a railway line on which circulate 2 trains per day.

It is a small fishing port. We discover his fish market and the principles of solidarity or intermediate economy: three different trades, the fisherman who sells his fish to the fishmonger who sells them to his customers who entrust them to the preparer so that he dresses them, flakes them, cut them.

In a capitalist system, all functions are concentrated in the same person or company, in order to derive maximum benefit from it.

This is where we meet Jesuthasan, fish cutter, deaf and dumb birth whose clients tell the story in his place.

He started very young and can only do that: prepare the fish for the customers. Although very poor, he is happy, because he gets up every morning with the satisfaction of being useful as a fish cutter, which gives meaning to his life, which is what gives him of recognition, in the absence of sufficient income. It has its place in this market, in this system.

Mannar was an important trading port in Asia for the Romans, the Arabs, the Chinese, the Indians. In 543 BC she saw Prince Vijaya first invader and king of Ceylon.

Known for a long time for its fine pearls of which it was the specialties, it was the object of many lusts and traffics. During the colonial period, it was occupied by the Portuguese who built the fort to control navigation (1560), which, hampered by the sandbanks of Adam's bridge, had to go along the coast. The Dutch took over in order to defend their colonial interests, to leave room for the English who distrusted the French based in their Pondichery counter opposite.

The English built a huge metal and wood wharf (Talaimannar Pier) which stretched far into the sea to accommodate the ferries that brought them from India, trains, machinery, raw materials and human beings for plantations (Tamil). This bridge slowly disintegrates due to erosion. An old lighthouse very close guided the ships, in the strait between Ceylon and India. A railroad connected the port to the center of the island.

It is close to what remains of this pontoon that we met Thangawelu fish seller, father of 3 children. He told us about his childhood when he came to visit the English ferries, and later the years of war, during which he and the fishermen were racketeered by the rebels who took a percentage of their sales or their fisheries. He is relieved that all this is over ... although it is known that new groups of rebels are being formed in reaction to the pressure exerted by the army on the local population. SLA is omnipresent. There are camps, barracks everywhere, even on the beaches in the middle of the fishing villages as in Pesalai (watchtowers).

  1. Puce Lunch at the Colombo Pilawoos Hotel cleaner and more endearing than its neighbor City Hotel. 450 rupees (2,50 €) for 3 fried noodle vegetables and a bottle of water. Next time we try the Kamala Vegetarian Cafe, right next door.

In town you can admire an impressive baobab with a circumference of 19.5 m. Mohara explains that it is the Portuguese who have imported the baobab, whereas a poster of the tourist office says that it was planted or sown by Arab traders or their African slaves, about 700 years ago.

As in many small towns in Sri Lanka, the street is often a work of art with painted walls that give advice, recall rules of conviviality, inform.

Talaimannar, which is at the tip of the peninsula, is known for its proximity to Adam's Bridge, a succession of sandbanks that connect Sri Lanka to India.

The legend says that it was Rama (Ramayana) who built this bridge to come to deliver Princess Sita.

These sandbanks, which are formed and deformed as a function of the currents, are exposed to the surface of the water, revealing themselves and covering themselves according to the whims of the weather and the sea.

Opportunists propose for 4,000 to 6,000 rupees to take tourists to see Adam's bridge. Without interest. Nothing can be seen of the height of a small fishing boat.

The fishing village of Talaimannar beach is very friendly. We met Anthony and his family there. They have been crab fishermen, especially blue crabs, for generations. They go to sea at 7:00 am and return around 09:00 / 10:00 am. Their fishery is sold to a cooperative that conditions crabs for export to Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan who are very fond of it. The rest of the day is devoted to the repair the nets. They earn between 700 and 1000 rupees a day. When one compares their income with the price of a box of crab, one can wonder about the distribution of wealth.

Like Jesuthasan, they seem happy, though they are poor. They have a rough life, punctuated by family and religious festivals that give them the pleasure of being together. They are proud of who they are and what they do. That does not stop their children from dreaming of anything else.

We observe that the population of the Mannar peninsula is more welcoming and warm than that of Jaffna, although having experienced the same episodes of war, persecution and occupation.

The Mannar peninsula is also known for its wildlife: it is the land of wild donkeys. They are everywhere, even in town. They are adorable. It is also a stopover for many migratory birds that many professionals and amateurs come to observe, from October to December. There are several well-known birding sites such as the Vankalai bird sanctuary.

Some diving enthusiasts also come for underwater riches.

In the late afternoon Mohara is embarrassed by messages from clients to whom I recommended. We discover that when he is on circuit it is not he who answers the customers, but his son to whom he leaves his laptop. His son does not speak a word of English, and knows nothing about tourism.

He translates the clients' messages with Google, contacts his father to give him the content of the messages. His father dictates what to reply, answer that he translates again with Google before sending it to customers. This sometimes gives rise to misunderstandings that discourage customers. I tried to rectify one of his misunderstandings with the hotel computer. In vain.

I understand better why I have so few returns from the people who contacted me to get her contact information.

Dinner and overnight at Hotel Agape, apparently still under construction. The owner, Cingalais with the English name (John Coonghe) who lives in Germany, was there desperate in front of the inefficiency and laziness of the Sri Lankan masons. The work is done no matter what, it does not see the end.

Day 5 -20 / 08- Mannar - Galkiriyagama - Habarana 206km

nice weather 32 °

On the road we visit some peculiarities of the peninsula.

  1. Puce The Hindu temple Thiruketheeswaram or Ketheeswaram kovil, one of the temples dedicated to Shiva the most renowned. An annual festival brings together thousands of pilgrims (February). Its origin is not defined. It dates from the 6th century BC. Destroyed several times, left in ruins, rebuilt by different dynasties, completely destroyed again by the Portuguese as they did for the Konoma Kovil of Trincomalee, in order to recover the materials to build their forts and churches. Its last reconstruction dates back to 1903. Currently in work for expansion. Cold and unsympathetic welcome by the brahmans.

The church of Lady of Madhu known for having been a land of refuge for Catholic families, in 1670, fleeing the invasion of the majority Dutch Protestants.

They had taken with them the statue of the Virgin, now Lady Madhu, and built a small chapel to protect her. Enlarged and rebuilt in its final version in 1872, the church is very crowded because Lady Madhu would perform miracles, many pilgrims come to ask for help to the Virgin especially for problems of disability, infirmity, infertility and leave with a some soil extracted from a cavity dug in the ground of the nave.

A popular festival takes place on July 2 to celebrate the day of the Visitation, and on August 15 to celebrate the Ascension of the Virgin. In 2015, Pope Francis visited the island on the occasion of the canonization of Bishop Joseph Vaz. This has only increased the popularity of the church.

The 5 arch bridge and the Hanging Bridge of Kunchukulam

the suspension bridge over the Aruiyaaru River, was built in 1935. 150 meters long. It is now the object of family picnics. In the rainy season it happens to be covered.

Shortly before the bridge the road passes in front of the 5 arch bridge which was a strategic place of regulation of the water in a vast system of irrigation.

No lunch. I had already observed on previous trips that when we do not propose to stop for lunch, it does not come to Mohara's mind to propose it.

  1. Puce Road to Habarana (A14 + A9). I had planned to visit the Sri Wanasinhe Rajamaha Vihara Monastery in Galikiriyagama, which is a few kilometers away from the Kandy to Jaffna (A9) road at Madatugama,  because, as for those in the Gampaha area, it is paeceful, nice and photogenic. (free) One of the few monasteries and temples to have an access ramp for anyone in a wheelchair.

  2. Puce No lunch. I had already observed on previous trips that when we do not propose to stop for lunch, it does not come to Mohara's mind to propose it.

Mohara is lost. He seems to have trouble using the built-in GPS in his Smartphone. He contacts friend to search on the internet where this monastery is located. In vain. He asks passers-by who, according to him, do not seem to know. Finally he says that this temple bears a different name, until we finally get there and find that it bears the name indicated.

This monastery is very pleasant to visit. Like most of the Buddhist religious places in the area, it includes a school, a monastery, a dagoba and a rock temple sheltered by a rock-side construction. Many temples and monasteries are built around caves where monks meditated long agoThe place is serene, quiet.

On the way back a little before Madatugama, Mohara proposes to visit a peculiarity of the region: an enormous vein of pink quartz in the middle of a mountain of gray rock - Jathiaka Namal Uyana.

Property belonging to a private operator, who makes money on this natural site consisting mainly of iron trees and rocks. 500 rupees the entrance. He says that he has already seen it and that it is interesting to discover. A huge poster at the entrance reveals this mountain cut in half by an imposing vein of pink quartz.

A 40-minute walk through the forest to reach a mountain of gray rock, scattered in a very sporadic way with small chips of white or even pinkish quartz. No casting or pink quartz vein. I turn to Mohara who stopped at the cafe below. He says that it was people who told him. I ask him if he himself saw the pink quartz and if he knows what it is. He laughed. We are sure he never came here. Looking at the poster, it is easy to see that the photo has been tampered with, colored with a tool like photoshop. Many photos seem to testify to the presence of pink quartz on the internet. We saw nothing like it! Chemical scam or aberration?

Arrival at Hashti Hotel. We discover that the hotel is under construction: Nimal is building an extra floor of rooms, above he builds a reception room for weddings, which is difficult to reconcile for a tourist hotel. Electric wires, pipes, cements, traces of paints, dust everywhere. In front of the restaurant a huge construction site of swimming pool with concrete mixer. When we proposed to book this hotel, because we had known it better in the past, Mohara refrained from telling us that it was under construction, when he knew it.

Nimal may be nice and honest that does not prevent his hotel is not ready for the moment to welcome tourists on vacation.

Dinner at the hotel.

Day 6 - 21 / 08 - Habarana - Kaudulla - Habarana

Seeing that Mohara was not moving to find villages where we could meet craftsmen as we asked him, I asked Nimal if he knew some of them. Almost all Jeep operators in Habarana organize Village Safari at exorbitant prices ($ 50), with a bullok ride, or a catamaran, with pictures of potters, blacksmiths and weavers. Everyone sells this kind of visits, but nobody knows where they are !

Nimal inquires and gives directions to Mohara who will spend the morning to get lost, to look until we come upon someone who seems informed.

We end up visiting a weaving cooperative set up as part of an aid project for women in the region, the Handloom Village Project in Namalpura, set up by the Department of Industrial Development. After receiving training, women access the traditional looms made available by the department. They weave saris, cousins, tablecloths, curtains, rayon, silk or cotton. 16 women work in this workshop, mostly people of a certain age because "young women get pregnant and are often absent for family reasons". They earn 300 rupees a day (1.63 €). They are under the supervision of Manjula, the lady-chief who earns 30,000 rupees a month (163 €). A finished product costs about 2000 rupees out of the workshop, but they do not know how much the product is sold in state stores.

  1. Puce Lunch at the hotel

In the afternoon, we planned a safari on the Minneriya reserve, known for its large number of wild elephants. In this season the safaris take place in the reserve of Kaudulla.

We discover that the same elephants migrate from one reserve to the other twice in the year, passing through the elephant corridor of Ritigala.

From July to September / October, they would be in Kaudulla. The rest of the year in Minneriya. Entrance 1750 rupees per person, rental of jeep 5200 rupees.

After driving 40 minutes on the road we reach the entrance to the reserve. Atomishment: dozens and dozens of jeeps are waiting for their drivers to leave. More than half an hour waiting. We are the 177th jeep to enter the reserve this afternoon.

A fifteen minute drive along a forest track to reach an immense meadow bordering an artificial lake (the trunks of emerging trees suggest that the reservoir was created not long ago).

Many hordes of elephants come and go from the meadow to the lake and from the lake to the meadow. A herd of cows share the stage with the pachyderms.We counted about 70 elephants on this place, including a beautiful tusker with beautiful defenses.

We also counted nearly 200 jeeps!

Having a habit of safaris in Africa, we are shocked by the behavior and uncivility of Sri Lankan drivers.

They have no respect for wildlife, no rules regarding the approach of animals and even less about usability with other jeeps. I saw a jeep with a film crew to snatch a piece of the camera by pressing a jeep to pass.

It is to the one who will go closest to the animals, to the one who will force the passage to be in frontobstructing the sight even if you have been there for some time. We saw them cut the trajectory of the elephants on three lines of jeep for a distance of 800 meters. So that the tusker began to simulate a load with regard to our vehicle in order to create a passage. This has nothing to do with the privacy of an African safari and animal observation procedures. It is the zoo of Thoiry on a large scale.

All the inhabitants of the area seem to have bought a jeep to make money on tourism. There is practically one in front of each house. They have no training, no ethics, no education.

To cushion the jeep and continue to make money, after the "elephants" safari , they propose "villages safaris" during which they wander the tourists in villages, meeting villagers who are photographed as in a zoo. Nowadays, the villagers are waiting for tourists as participants in amusement park: bullok rides, catamaran rides, cooking classes, dance classes and family meals.

The same trend and functioning is found in marine safaris for tracking whales and dolphins, or exposing turtles, with far more dramatic consequences for cetaceans and marine mammals.

Unlike Canada and other countries that practice these observations with very strict rules, in Sri Lanka it is anything, but money.

Back at the hotel, Nimal who had inquired, takes us to see an old blacksmith: Aberathna, 60, in the trade for 30 years. We spend the end of the afternoon watching him work while he tells us his story. Nimal doing the translation. He abandoned the old mechanical bellows for an electric hairdryer to activate the embers. Making a knife blade costs 300 rupees (1.60 €). We order one of them by asking it to hand it to someone who needs it.

He is alone, his wife is dead, he has no family. He proudly practices one of these last jobs that will disappear thanks to or because of globalization. He regrets not having an apprentice to whom to pass on his knowledge, he is aware that he is one of the last blacksmiths in Sri Lanka.

Soon the villagers will no longer come to have their tools made at home (knives, cerpes, hoes, machetes, mines, etc ...) they will buy them made in China in the supermarket of the corner.

As Jesuthasan, like Anthony, the expertise of Aberathna is his reason for being, his social link, the reason he gets up every morning. This observation should not obscure the fact that in many countries of the world, the "little people" do not enjoy social protection or retirement. That means he will have to work until his last breath, if he wants to eat, pay for his medicine, electricity and rent if he does not have the chance to own. If it happens to be ill he does not touch anything, and if he has no family to help him, it's the street, total misery, fast end.

Late in the afternoon, a family that I had recommended to this hotel without knowing it was under construction and who passed through Mohara for the reservation. Surprised as we are of what she discovers.

In the early evening to top it off, power outage at the hotel. No lighti, no air conditioning, no meals.

We dine outside, in a hotel run by Nimal's brother: the Mihini retaurant & hotel a few hundred yards away. A very nice little hotel with 4 comfortable and neat rooms. Price a bit high: 45 $ in low season, 50 $ in high season. 5500/6000 rupees would have been more appropriate, in comparison with many other accommodations.

During the meal we ask Mohara what he intends to do for the family with children staying at the hotel. Rather than contacting the family, he contacts their driver to ask if they want to change hotels. The driver (Amila) would have replied "not yet". Surprising.

Hashti Hotel electricity has been provisionally restored by a makeshift connection, with voltage variations that regularly cut off the air conditioning.

Day 7 -22 / 08- Habarana - Batticaloa 137 km

Overcast 34 °

At the time of breakfast I go to meet the family I recommended this hotel to introduce myself and apologize. What Mohara should have done!

The mother is looking for another hotel not wishing to spend a second night in this one. I asked her if the driver contacted her last night to offer her a change of hotel: no!

I explained to her that Mohara had telephoned in front of us. Not speaking Sinhalese we do not know what he said exactly, the driver would have said that the family did not wish to change for now. She confirms that this is not true. She would have liked to change last night.

She also tells me that since the beginning of their journey she ask to go to lunch in small local restaurants and that the driver refuses, pretexting problems of hygiene. We eat lunch every day in local restaurants and never had a problem, on condition of being vigilant.

I promise to talk about to Mohara as soon as he appears. Random or not, he came once the client and her family went on excursion.

We explain the situation to him, insist that he must find a new hotel for this family. Knowing that his brother had availability we call on Nimal, ask that he negotiate with his brother a room for this family with no extra cost. He takes care of it. We ask Mohara to contact his driver to ask him to respect the wishes of his clients and to drive them in local restaurants correct for lunches. We inform the family of the change of hotel, to be sure that this is done.

Mohara stunned us by his lack of reaction, his negligence at the limit of incompetence. We thought he was like that with us because we are friends, but he is like that with his clients. Unimaginable. I begin to feel bad about all the people I recommended him.

Road to Batticaloa.

On the road we stop at Sewanapitiya to visit a wicker workshop. Upale and his wife Nilante manufacture and sell the usual objects made of rattan, canes, bamboo and other natural materials suitable for braiding: shelves, armchairs, baskets, dishes, table set, blinds, coconut spoons, coconut strings and the famous wooden appliances to make strings hoppers: the wangedi, made by another craftsman. I choose one that has three functions: string hoppers, spaghetti of rice or red millet and muruku, snacks local aperitif.

On the way we cross the road of cutters of logs who go by bicycle to seek wood in the countryside to sell it in town, turning their bike into a pyramid in precarious balance.

We stop to discover another profession of the solidarity system. If the blacksmith creates the knife or tool by hammering a piece of metal, then go to the carpenter who will make the sleeves. Youssef seems to excel in the art of making these sleeves which will fit to the millimeter by the tools that are brought to him. He also draws the essence of his life from the art of which he is the repository. Without being able to say that one day someone will take over.

  1. Puce Another stop at the Hindu temple Santhively Pillaiyar Kovil, of Batticaloa unfortunately closed, whose exterior walls and gopuram are a real cartoon in 3 D. Unlike the Hindu temples in the center of the island, that retains its shimmering colors .

  2. Puce Lunch in town fried rice vegetables + bottle of water and excellent milk tea; 600 rupees (3,25 €) for 3.

Arriving at the guesthouse, we ask the owner what we can visit authentic in the area, outside the fort, knowing that Batticaloa is full of interesting workshops to discover. Mohara was supposed to inquire, but this year he is out of service.

Rajah proposes to call the guide Ignatious, and who makes tours in bajaj for tourists in the city and the surroundings for 1500 rupees.

We explain to him that we want to see potters, weavers, braiding palm leaves (palmyrah)... we lose 45 minutes go and 45 minutes back to take us outside the city discover a factory of casual shoes, happily closed. We will just have time to visit a family whose daughter, Mathivathani, braids palm leaves to make hats, baskets, mats, boxes, flowers. The guide insists heavily on the fact that this family is very poor, that it has only that to live etc ... until we buy or leave a ticket ...

Rajah asks what we want for breakfast. It offers eggs, toast and a plate of fruit.Perfect. Mohara intervenes and says that we prefer a Sinhalese breakfast! What right ?

Dinner in the room, soup in sachet, emergency cereals, fruits of the market.

Hamsaam Villa, a small guesthouse behind the Riviera Resort, a few steps from the lagoon.

Day 8 -23 / 08- Batticaloa -  Marathamunai - Kalmunai - Hingurana 84 km

Mostly sunny, slightly cloudy 34 °

I had asked Mohara in March to proceed with the booking of the boat from 06:30 am to do the Gal Oya safari. The boats are few and the schedule very specific if you want to see the elephants swim, it seemed important to book. I repeat my check, he replies that we will see at the guesthouse.

The region of Batticaloa and Kalmunai is a region of high Muslim density specializing in weaving with old handlooms.

We take the coastal road (A4) to Hingurana, crossing peaceful villages with shimmering colors

  1. Puce Temples and mosques are built everywhere. We visit a recent Hindu temple dedicated to Ganesh, whose imposing statue can only attract the eye when we take this road: Kompuchanthi Pillaiyar kovil, at Thettativu, village near Kaluwanchikudy.

Series of colors, frescoes of popular imagery and symbols. The ideal would be to be accompanied by a person in charge of the temple in order to be explained the meaning of these statues and these murals.

We stop on the bridge of Priyakallar to watch the fishermen throw their nets in the lagoon. A traditional fishing method that is found all over the world. It is the gesture and opening of the net that are spectacular.

Somasantharm explains how he does it. Its fishing is very fruitful. His fish do not wait long to be sold, many cars stop to buy fresh fish.

We cross Kalmunai without any reaction from Mohara to whom I had asked to find a weaving workshop. Before leaving Kalmunai, I ask him to stop the car. I go to several fabric stores on the main street. A shopkeeper tells me that it is in Maruthamunai that it is necessary to go because it is there that there are most families of weavers at home.

I ask Mohara to turn back. As soon as we enter Maruthamunai, we call on an old merchant who tells us the address of a handloom at home. There are 2000 families who live by weaving in the region.

We meet Hafeel's, 285 Jinnah Road. A small impasse where one hears the sound of shuttles coming and going.

Hafeel welcomes us with a fresh drink (EGB) It has two looms. It makes sari, sarongs, tablecloths and upholstery.

Ahmed, his brother is making cotton sarongs with pretty colors. I order one. It takes 45 minutes to make a sarong. While most sarongs sold in shops are manufactured industrially in India, I will have a cotton sarong made in Sri Lanka by hand.

According to the quality of the weaving a sarong returns between 600 and 1000 rupees (3.50 € to 5.50 €). While Abdul Latheef (another weaver who works here) was having his breakfast, Atheef, a nephew of Hafeel came to weave and show what he could do. Impressive for a 9 year old boy.

  1. Puce Lunch at Kalmunai at the Halthab Hotel, clean and decent. Rice stir-fry vegetables and egg, bottle of water and milk tea 450 rupees (2,45 €) for 3

Continue towards Hingurana.

Mohara contacted the owner of the Hingurana guesthouse to find out what we could visit in the area.

Lassantha had given  him the address of a weaver, whom he had forgotten, and the address of a potter's cooperative which we visited before reaching Hinguruna.

Once again, this is a premises and equipment made available to poor families by the rural development department to enable them to live through work. Potters : Chandra Kumari turns the clay pots, while Keri Ethana shapes the bottom of the pots.

Cooking is done under a pile of flaming straw. Many pots are damaged during cooking. Another woman polishes the pots once cooked, in order to give them the final patina.

They make about 100 pots per day, which they must then cook by stacking them under straw. The clay is extracted free of charge, the pots are sold on the local market (3pots = 100-rupees). Every person who works in this cooperative must pay a rent of 730 rupees a month to the state.

We arrive in Hingurana after many detours in the late afternoon with heavy rain and thunder.

I am asking about the boat's reservation for the Gal Oya reserve the next day. There was no reservation.

Lassantha seeing my confusion intervenes and calls himself the reservation office. No luck there are no seats available on the boat from 06:30. It remains for the boat at 09:30.

Mohara says it's the same thing. He and many surfers had told me that the best time to see the elephants swiming was 6:30 am. I lose my control and say I'm getting fed up with his negligence. Every day we have to face his incompetence. This makes him laughing. He has lost me definitely as a friend.

Dinner in the guesthouse. Pleasant meal prepared by Mali, the wife of Lassantha, in addition to her office work in town.

Gambeera Rest & Guest. Friendly small guesthouse, cheap and comfortable.

Day 9 -24 / 08- Hingurana - Inginiyagala (Gal Oya tank) - Hingarana 20 km + 20 km return

cloudy periods in the morning, 32.8 ° rain and thunderstorm in the late afternoon

Regretfully we accept to take the boat from 09:30. Lassantah says there is a 20 to 30 minute drive from Hingurana to the Inginiyagala pier.

We leave at 08:30. Mohara having not taken the road indicated by Lassantah, we take an hour to arrive there. No luck he can not find the ticket counter.

At 09:45 we still did not find the ticket office and cannot go to the entrance to the reserve. We missed the 09:30 departure of the boat. Tired of his inability, we ask him to take us back to the guesthouse. It's too much ! We no longer support him.

  1. Puce Lunch at the guesthouse.

In the afternoon, Lassantha takes us to Niyuguna village to meet villagers who make curd: buffalo milk yoghurt. This takes much of the afternoon. Here again the work is based on solidarity economy. Each has his function. The farmer breeds the buffaloes and milks them. He sells his milk to families who make curd, who sell the finished product to cooperatives or roadside curd sellers.

Wasante and Angela Madurasa buy the milk 400 rupees the can of 5 gallons (22 l env) and the pots of clay 20 rupees piece. They make about 100 pots of curd a day, every day. They heat 3 to 5 cans of milk in a large cooking pot, placed on a wood fire outside. Using a thermometer they check the temperature and stop the fire once the milk has reached 80 °. Pasteurization and non-sterilization to preserve the enzymes.

The milk should cool until it reaches 42 °. Meanwhile they introduce us to their young son who is a local karate champion.

They also show us their production of mushrooms they grow on sawdust bags in a canvas shelter for local sale.

Once the milk is at 42 °, Angela dilutes yoghurt from the previous round into a container with the milk before pouring the preparation into the clay pots that will remain overnight in a closed room where the temperature is constant at about 40 °. Then the curd will be good to be covered with paper with their trademark and to be sold the next morning.

Return and Dinner at the guesthouse.

Gambeera Rest & Guest

Day 10 - 25/08 - Hingurana - Siyambalanduwa - Pottuvil - Buttala - Tissamaharama. 46 km (A25) + 32 km (A4) + 87 km (A4) + 63 km (B35)      Nice weather, little windy 33 °

Good and beautiful road through the countryside. Pretty scenery.

In Siyambalanduwa, Mohara proposes to meet a friend who is a miller. First initiative since the beginning of the circuit. With pleasure, why not!

Gunapal is a miller. It uses electric mills to polish the rice (remove the bark so that the grains are white). The rice bran is sold for animal feed. He can also grind the rice into flour. Since there are only two seasons of rice harvest, he also mout the red millet to make flour, and the coconut flesh, once dried in the sun, to make virgin oil extracted cold

The residual pulp is used for fodder for cows. It smells so good. Too bad that the milk does not have the coconut taste.

The customers bring the raw material, Gunapal is content to grind.

When he does not have any work, to have a supplementary income like other men of the area, Gunapal, works in the river to sand extraction. He collects sedimentary sand, sometimes by diving, he packs it in bags and sells it for constructions.

We wish to go to Pottuvil to visit a rather original village of round and colorful houses that we had seen on a previous trip, Inspector Eatham community.

It is a village that has a history, marked by drought, war, tsunami. Its reconstruction was organized by NGOs, who chose this method of construction.

Dome shaped circular houses prove to be a solution to the hot, dry climate of the region and promise to be resistant to tsunamis.

The history of this village of dome-shaped houses began before the tsunami, when the 280 families of Inspector Eatham community were forced to leave their village in 1990 due to war and water scarcity. They were resettled in Komarai, where they were confronted with the December 2004 tsunami, which forced them to leave their adoptive village in search of shelter with relatives and friends.

Fear of another tsunami caused them to return to their home villages where disastrous conditions such as water scarcity and lack of adequate housing awaited them.

These dwellings of another world are renowned for their versatility and the simplicity of the construction process which requires a minimum of skilled labor and building materials. They were introduced into the country by the Solid House Foundation. They are constructed with a reusable air frame, produced by BingFo in the Netherlands and transported to the site while other materials were purchased locally. Compressed stabilized earth blocks were used for the additional straight walls that separate the interior spaces.

They include a living room, two bedrooms, a kitchen and an en-suite bathroom. A rainwater harvesting tank for each house was introduced to compensate for the shortage of water. Depending on the education and standard of living of the inhabitants, they are more or less well maintained, more or less well-managed. If, at the beginning, they wonder what we are doing here, we often discover the pleasure that these families have when they saw how we are interested in them, their history, their way of life.

  1. Puce No lunch. We voluntarily ignore it. Nothing is happening.

Road to Tissamaharama. This road is full of places to visit that we have already seen twice: the Modu Maha Vihare, the Maligawila and the Dematal Vihara, the photogenic Dematamal Viharaya of Helagama (Okkampitiya).

To change we take the road (B35) from Buttala to Kataragama.

Wild road that crosses the western part of Yale Park. At the entrance of the shops sell water melons. This is because wild elephants block the road to beg for food. Sometimes they refuse to move if they are not given anything. As soon as they have some bananas or watermelons to put in their teeth, they are understanding and docile.

We have the opportunity to meet 4 in the space of 45 km.

  1. Puce We visit the temple of Sella Kataragama, different and less interesting than the Maha Devale of Kataragama. We arrive in full Hindu festival (birthday of Ganesh) to witness real scenes of collective hysteria on the part of men who carry a statue of Ganesh on a palanquin. As soon as they raise the palanquin, they start screaming as if there was a riot. Most of them are Brahmans, shirtless and in loincloth, fat for the elderly, "bodybuilded"(it is a fashion actually in Sri Lanka) for some young men, generally not very serene, nor very "wise". We are far from Oriental wisdom. The procession begins at first in the temple whose gopuram is under construction, then goes around the temple carrying an impressive crowd of pilgrims. He crosses a river. Once out of the enclosure of the temple it is accompanied by two elephants, schools of dances and musicians.

It is very interesting to discover the life that is organized around the major temples: as many pilgrims come from afar, they will have to eat, buy offerings, and also a lot of unnecessary objects that will serve to remember. Like everywhere else in the world, from any religion, religious tourism (pilgrimages) is an opportunity to spend and earn a lot of money.

In addition to the many popular restaurants, many shops offer the vegetables and fruits and many sweets that are usually found in the markets. There is also wood to make fire and to cook these foods. And then there are all these boutiques of religious gadgets, fanfreluches, toys, cuddly toys, cousins, trinkets, plastic flowers, all made in China.

We had already asked Mohara during our various trips to make us discover sweet specialties such as faluda, kalu dodol, Wattelapan. Each time he answered "later". We had come to believe that they were rare products.

The kalu dodol is a very popular candy in shops for pilgrims around religious complexes like this one. Mohara offers us a tasting. Good, but no more. This is not exceptional.

Arrival at the Elephant Camp Guesthouse in Tissamarahama.

Since our last visit, there have been some changes. One floor has been added, multiplying the accommodation capacity by two. The dining room was moved because the noise interfered with the aficionados of digital tablets. Drivers are no longer allowed to eat with customers. But the welcome of Jaya and Anoma is still warm.

Having planned to do a full day safari with their jeep, we do a final review, at the level of meals included (breakfasts and lunches) that they have to order.

When I ask if there is a meal for Mohara, Jaya tells me he does not come. We meet Mohara, who tells us that it is Jaya who does not want him to come. I go back to Jaya and ask for explanations. He replied that he asked Mohara if he will go on safari, and he replied that he did not know. He interpreted this answer as negative.

Here we are at the center of a misunderstanding between Jaya and Mohara. Jaya raises the tone, Mohara stammer. Finally Jaya says he will order meals for Mohara, for free.

This is not the first time I have faced this kind of situation with Mohara where he gets into a victim position because of the misunderstandings he creates, often in terms of his accommodations, his meals.. It seems that there is a conflict between Jaya and Mohara that I had spotted when I recommend this guesthouse to travelers for which Mohara refuses to book, systematically proposing another establishment and another jeep.

I had to make my booking myself, as in some other hotels, who did not want to go through Mohara for booking. These are usually hotels that do not provide room and meals free to drivers. I tried to talk about it. He accuses Jaya of refusing that one of his drivers takes his meals with his clients.

Day 11 -26 / 08- Tissamaharama - Yale - Tissamaharama

Full day safari in the Yale reserve: from 5:00 am to 6:00 pm in the afternoon. It is not obvious: a single "toilet" break.

We met again the driver Janaka.

On the way to the entrance of the park, it is a real motor racing (James Dean would not have done better): it is to the one who will come in the lead to be first to buy tickets, and enter in the park. Pure madness!

Then it's 45 minutes waiting to get tickets: more than a hundred jeeps on the starting block, and finally the rush to the reserve. There are more local tourists than foreign tourists. Normal they pay 10 times cheaper.

  1. Puce Breakfast at 09:00 and lunch at 13:00. the driver prepares the picnic on a rest area by the sea. The only place where you can go to the toilet.

Jeeps rotate tirelessly around a few water points where a leopard would be expected to come to drink.

We saw some crocodiles, a few wild pigs, some deer, two peacocks, an elephant, an eagle eating a snake, ibis, that's all. We waited 2 hours at the edge of a pond of water reputed for its leopard, in vain.

We observed an elephant that was covered with mud meticulously, with incredible precision to leave no skin space uncovered.

Is it due to drought or other problems (poaching, mismanagement, incompetence at all levels of jeep drivers).

The wildlife of this park seems much less provided than in previous years. In one day we hardly saw very few animals.

As in Kaudulla, we were shocked by the behavior of the jeep drivers. They do not respect safety distances with animals. I saw two jeeps rolling beside an elephant walking on the runway, barely 60 centimeters from the animal. It is a stress for the animal. It is also a wild animal that can react unpredictably. Without recoil we can not do anything. Pure unconsciousness.

I saw jeeps in double file on a hundred meters blocking the passage of an elephant who wanted to go to the tank to refresh. The animal swayed as though thinking about how to overcome this obstacle. This he did with great gentleness and intelligence. In Africa such behavior would have caused a systematic attack of the animal. This is what makes me say that the Sinhalese wild elephants are more Buddhist (wise and respectful) than the people who surround them.

I saw jeeps intruding in front of us as we waited for an expected leopard, as if we did not exist.

This last safari leads me to decide never to go on a safari in Sri Lanka again, because it is without interest, without rule, without ethics and expensive for what it is. We cancel the planned safari the next morning in Bundala.

Anoma, Jaya's wife opens a Sri Lankan cooking class workshop: 500 rps the class. She is going to be successful, she was the object with 3 other women of a book of recipes realized by an Australian surfer Jon Lewin:

Dinner at Elephant Camp Guesthouse. We had planned to spend the evening at the Maha Devale in Kataragama. We don't go, tired by unecessary shaking.

Day 12 -27 / 08 - Tissamaharama - Kirinda - Hambantota - Haputale 168 km

Sunny, windy, increasingly hot 36.5 ° Rainy in Haputale

  1. Puce Not having to do the Bundala safari, we wish to see the temple of Kirinda Raja Maha Viharaya again.

We had seen this temple with nobody, few years ago, it now attracts a large crowd of local tourists.

The setting is always pleasant, apart from the fact that it sometimes takes a long time for the locals to finish their selfies. We discover that, like Vietnam, the Sri Lankans are always taking selfies. They take pictures of themselves everywhere, all the time. It has truly become an international narcissistic disease. The ocean seen from this temple is impressive.

Unsatisfied with the Kalu dodol for pilgrims tested at Sella Kataragama, knowing that this is the specialty of Hambantota, I had asked Jaya if he knew where to find the best. He told me to go to the old town and ask for a Muslim confectioner, they are the only ones to make good kalu dodol.

As we have time in front of us, we go to Hambantota (37 km).

On the way we stop to make pictures of salt marshes. I get escorted by guards who remind me that it is private property that is forbidden to photograph. Ban on photographing salt marshes ! It is new and funny !

Mohara says that since the tsunami (2004) the sellers of kalu dodol have retreated on the main road. We ask to go into the old city. He pretends to inquire and claims that the sellers of kalu dodol are on the main road. We go there to discover that they are general confectionery shops, as in the temple, held by Hindus or Buddhists.

It will never be "later", it will be "here and now". We ask to return to the old city and look for a Muslim confectioner. Finally we get an address. A Muslim family that makes kalu dodol, and sells them at home. We test: a treat, nothing to do with those confectionery of temples and roadside. We take one kilo (500 rupees). The address M.N.S. Nizamiya, No. 13 Jail Street, Hambantota. We confirm that it keeps at least one month after the making.

  1. Puce They tell us a small Muslim restaurant nearby for lunch where we could test the faluda: Royal Bakery and Family Restaurant, Barak Street. Rice sautéed with vegetables, bottles of water + 1 fadula, 520 rupees for 3 (2,80 €)

The faluda (falooda) was not great: milk, water, rose syrup, vanilla ice cream and colored vermicelli, it lacks gelly or tapioca, basil seeds or casa casa (Sinhalese) or Sabia (Hindi) - different from the seeds of Chia.

Road to Haputale (A2 + A4 122 km) where we arrived in the early afternoon.

On the road a little before Wellawaya, we meet Ramani who earns his living by selling fresh orange juice by the roadside. 50 rupees (0,25 €) the large glass (400 ml). To avoid digestive troubles, we give her our bottle of mineral water, to which she mixes the juice of her oranges freshly pressed, a little sugar and a little salt. It is the tradition to put some salt in citrus juices. Avoid the ice cubes that are made with tap water. A delight.

A little further on the road before reaching Ella a potter (Vijaya Lechchime) attracts our attention, she turns a pot of clay. We quickly notice that it is different from the potters encountered in the villages. She is located on a busy road. She hides tourists, takes them behind her shop to beg for money in a pitiful way.

We pass through Haputale station to know the train schedules for Demodara. There is one at 05:00 am, a cargo and passenger train at 12:05 pm, a train at 2:00 pm and another at 4:00 pm - the employee is playing on his smartphone, he has not even deigned raise his head to inform us.

Arrival at Leisure Mount View Holliday Inn. Tea and biscuits welcome.

We are warmly welcomed by Shehani and Chitra. The hotel has added one floor. Even more refined than the first. It is a pleasure to stay at the Leisure Mount View.

Day 13 -28 / 08- Haputale - Demodara - Haputale

Partly cloudy in the morning 20 °, rainy and warm in the afternoon 32 °

  1. Puce Visit of the Adisham Bungalow at 2.7km from the hotel, (30 mn on foot, 7 minutes by car).

English manor built in 1931 by planter Sir Thomas Villiers. Adisham received important personalities from the colony until Sir Thomas retired, after which it was sold to Sedawatte Mills in 1949. In 1961 it was bought by the Catholic Church and later converted into a monastery. It is interesting to note that the majority of Catholic mosnasteries have a certain comfort, even luxury, behind a facade that is austere, compared with the local standard of living. The house is well preserved as well as its fittings and period furniture. Nice garden. No photography allowed. Sri Lankans photograph with their smartphone, no one tells them anything. There are as many surveillance cameras as in a military camp, around the house, in the house, in the garden!

We go to Hasan the tailor, 7 route de la Gare, to sew my sarongs. The Sri Lankans do not wear sarong sewn, it is the Indians who do (longhi). But tailors are used to it. He asks for 100 rupees.

We then go to the railway station to take the train to Demodara, in order to pass on the Nine arches Bridge, before admiring it in its lush landscape. The train is down, engine is broken, no one knows when it will be repaired. None of the 3 "chiefs" of the station made the effort to inform. They are distant, disillusioned, inefficient, monopolized by their smartphone.

We're waiting a little. Since there is only one track, all other trains are blocked until the repair is completed.

  1. Puce No lunch: we voluntarily omit the lunch break. No reaction!

I suggest that we go directly to the Nine Arch Bridge by car, it is 2 km from Ella.

We drive almost an hour to get to Demodara station. We ask Mohara what we have come to do here. He does not know ! He thought the bridge was near the station. If he had inquired, he would know like me that he was near Little Adam's Peak at Ella. But he did not inquire. We have to go back.

Once on the site, you have to walk down a footpath to reach the bridge. Mohara accompanies us to halfway and stops at the Cafe Nisee. Although he saw that one of us took a shortcut on the left, just after the coffee, when I got there he told me to go straight ahead. We lose ourselves, and spend an hour looking for ourselves.

This bridge attracts many local and foreign tourists, who wait impatiently for a train to emerge from the tunnel and fly on the bridge. Which eventually happened. It was the train we had to take, two hours late.

We return to the hotel. It rains and the sky has descended to the level of the dwellings. You can not see 10 meters.

We inform Mohara that the next day we will not leave until 1 pm. We will hike through the tea plantations, alone, at the bottom of the hotel.

Dinner at the Leisure Mount View Holliday Inn

Day 14 -29 / 08- Haputale - Nuwara Eliya - Hatton - Dick Oya 85 km

Partly cloudy in the morning 29 ° rainy in the afternoon 32 °

Walk through the tea plantations down the hotel to the picking villages. Each group of houses has its Hindu temple. All the houses are painted with shimmering colors. They all have a dish and flat screen TVs, some mismatched furniture. It's dark inside. Most of them do not have windows. The windows are obscured by plastic sheets or bags of fabric. They do not have running water. Families living there are generally poor.

On the side of the road, an old Tea Factory, bought by a farmer who turned it into a tea room frequented by many "rich" local tourists traveling in Toyota C-HR or Nissan X-Trail. He sells organic milk from his cows, appetizing pastries, and a very good tea 200 rupees tea pot. Opportunist he built a hotel in order to surf on all fronts of local and foreign tourism. Farmer, hotelier, restaurateur, we are far from the traditional economic system!

  1. Puce Excellent sandwich lunch at Leisure Mount View before heading to Nuwara Eliya.

  2. Puce A little before Nuwara Eliya, we rediscover the hindou temple Sri Ramajayam of Seetha Eliya, transformed. While before the gopuram was painted in all colors, as in South India, each statue having a particular color, it is currently bichrome gold and brick. This gives it a very chic look.

Nuwara Eliya is increasingly unrecognizable. It has become a popular climatic resort with pedal boats, jet skiing, mini golf, fast food, no interest.

Continue to Hatton (A7 - 42 km) in the rain, with a stop to see St Clairs falls, and a little further Devon falls, which can be seen from the Dimbula car park. Great waterfalls in lush landscape, no more.

Hatton is a small town without much interest. This area is mostly visited by tourists and pilgrims who plan to climb the Sri Prada (Adam's Peak) from December to April.

We go directly to Dick Oya to join our guesthouse

It is also an essential step if we want to penetrate the heart of the island.

From Hatton, the roads lead to fabulous landscapes, through villages where time seems to have stopped in the middle of the last century, with people of extraordinary kindness.

Princess of Dick Oya. A small but nice guesthouse. A little expensive for its class, compared with other accommodation of the same standard.

Dinner on the terrace, with jacket and wool cap. It is wet and cold. We would have appreciated the warmth of a dining room sheltered from the fresh air. Vegetable soups and Vegetables noodles, a little expensive for what it is.

Day 15 -30 / 08- Dick Oya - Bogawantalawa- Balangoda - Ratnapura 110 km

sunny in the morning 21 °, overcast and rain in the evening 32 °

The road from Dick Oya to Bogawantalawa is absolutely beautiful (B149 + B339). It runs alongside the Castlereigh Reservoir, with alternating careful tea plantations, pruned like an English garden, orchards and flower gardens like the bright red flamboyant.

A small Anglican church, Christ Church Warleigh (built by William Scot's generosity in 1878), located on the estate of the Wanarajah Estate with a late 19th early 20th cemetery where life hope of the planters seemed not very large: many tombs of children, and adults died between 30 and 40 years. Malaria was to wreak havoc. There is a copy of the 1879 Bible.

The whole area is covered with tea plantations, the best maintained that we have seen in Sri Lanka.

Seeking to see the Adam's Peak hiding in the clouds, we take the road to Dalhousie (B149).

On the road from Norwood to Dalhousie pickers groups roam the road with their baskets to reach the point of weighing. Relationships are completely different from those we may have with the pickers in the area of Nuwara Eliya.

We observe how the little chiefs speak to them. They yell at them constantly, giving them orders about everything. These little chefs who are seen on the roadside, supervising the pickers, in shorts with boots and white striped socks. They always have a stick with them. We never got to know if it was to correct the pickers or just as a mark of power like the wand of the officers.

The road to Dalhousie is not long, but it is winding. We do not see the end of it, we are afraid that it will go on as usual, get lost..... We decide to turn back... there is always a mountain that hides the Sri Prada. Mohara does not know the region at all.

The Bogawantalawa area is known for producing the best of Ceylon tea. The estates and their tea factory follow one another occupying the whole landscape.

Almost all of them are in alliance with Rainforest and Max Havelar Fair Trade who gargle fair trade and improve the working and living conditions of employees etc ...

We cross Tiensin and its overpriced ecolodges ...

While I was taking pictures of one of these factories from outside, I was at 200 meters from the building, I was arrested by guards who forbid authoritatively to take photos of the factory even outside. I asked if it was a military camp. Along the road that leads to the factory, posters recall the rules governing visits. Others mention about sexual harassment! Others praise the ecological and humanist sophisms of Rainforest and other Fair Trades.

We come across a group of pickers that is not monitored by a maton. We take this opportunity to ask questions, questions that we have been asking in Sri Lanka for a few years for people who work in companies in partnership with labels of solidarity and fair economy.

Their salary is no different from the other pickers of the island who work without a label. So who benefits from redistribution? What is called fair trade?

They earn 750 rupees a day if they work at least 22 days in the month. Over 22 days they receive an additional premium.

There is no help for their homes, they do not have running water, and have real drinking water problems. There is no help for the school. A kindergarten was created, but they have to pay for their children. A clinic has been set up but it is so poorly equipped that they prefer to refer to the government hospital. They can not afford to pay for their children's high school. Most men spend at least half their salary on alcoholic beverages.

About Rainforest and Fair Trade, they say people have come, they have made a lot of promises, but nothing has happened since.

After seeing the film "the fair trade business" by Donatien Lemaître and after reading "Behind the Scenes of Fair Trade" by Christian Jacquiau, we no longer believe in the allegations of Max Havelard, Rainforest and consors, we know where is going our money.

We cross the small town of Bogawantalawa: fabulous Sri Lanka of the last century, streets with the atmosphere of gold seekers or planters, old shops, quiet people, smiling, welcoming.

I was taking a picture of vegetables display, an old Muslim came out of the shade and tought me in his arms as if I were his son... emotion.

We leave this little town with regret, and continue on the plantations.

Work is underway on the small road, the 21st century is in action with its bulldozers and rollers compressors ...

We cross a majestic pines forest, followed by an even more impressive forest of Eucalyptus Grandis, rectilinear trees that rise towards the sky, reaching 80 meters. Imported from Australia, they have been used to make electric poles and railway sleepers. You really feel very little in this forest.

Even in the villages of this region the Hindu temples were repainted in gold and brick. This gives them a serious and classy character. We met Abinea, a nice little girl from Marathenna.

At the approach of Balangoda, the change of century is palpable. It is obvious.

We find contemporary Sri Lanka, with its sanitary ware shops, its luxury cross-over, which merge with the merchants of snacks, samosas, lottery tickets and bajaj drivers.

We crossed the truck of the traveling optician. He is both an optometrist and an optician. He goes from small towns to villages.

  1. Puce We again fail to request a meal break. We wonder how this happens with other customers. The majority of drivers in different countries of the world offer toilet stops and snacks or meals stops.

To go from Balangoda to Ratnapura, we had the choice between two roads: a small road that again plunges us back into the heart of the island B39 + B477 + B391 passing through Uwella, Galabada, or the main road A4 more quick, much less authentic. Mohara systematically opts for the A 4, claiming that it is better taking this road. Tired, we no longer want to negotiate.

From time to time Mohara does things that surprise us like offering a coconut. Kindness or to be forgiven ?

We go through Ratnapura with a thought for all those who lost their lives or their possessions in May 2017, in the city and the surrounding area, during the floods.

There was water and mud up to half the clock tower, it gives an idea of what the inhabitants lived. The god Saman, protector of the region seems to have abandoned them this time.

Ratna Gem Halt the owner, Jayarathna, remembers us and my review on Tripadvisor. Dinner at the hotel

Day 16 - 31/08 - Ratnapura - Sri Palabaddala - Wadduwa 109 km

Clear weather in the morning 26.8 ° at 08.00 34 ° at 11.00

We want to see the temple Sri Palabaddala that served and serves as a starting point for the pilgrims who are climbing the Adam's Peak (Sri Prada = sacred foot).

A small road of 20 km in bad condition takes us there: one hour to go and one hour to return.

On the way we meet another blacksmith: Priyantha Samarawisa. We remain a moment to watch him work and talk about his work. He has an old bellows forge which he operates with a lever. He has always done this job, and regrets that no young man wants to learn it in order to perpetuate it. Young people no longer want to do this harrowing, dirty work, which does not bring much income but the feeling of being indispensable to the village, the region, until the tools and knives manufactured industrially come to dethrone him .

  1. Puce The Sri Palabaddala is a beautiful little temple with four guards: Katargama, Saman, Vishnu, Vibhishana, at the foot of a mountain that must climb before descending to climb the Sri Prada that we still do not see of this place, in spite of its 2243 meters.

It was the first point of departure, of pilgrimages before J.C. The street is lined with stands and empty shops waiting for the next pilgrimage.

Today, access to the summit is made up of 6 trails: Ratnapura-Palabaddala, Hatton / Dalhousie-Nallathanni, and Kuruwita-Erathna, Murraywatte, Mookuwatte and Malimboda, much less used.

The most commonly used route is Hatton / Dalhousie, which is steeper, but shorter by at least 5 km. There are no long paths to go. Some pilgrims or tourists ascending by one way and descending by another. The different paths meet at the foot of the Pic d'Adam, from where about 5200 steps to climb to reach the summit and the small temple that crowns it. The night lights illuminate the steps. Stalls sell drinks, food and offerings at the start, and along the stairs.

The period of pilgrimages is from December to May, the most important month being April. According to the itineraries, it takes between 7 and 3 hours of walk.

Road to Wadduwa, with a stop at the temple Maha Saman Devale of Ratnapura, in full preparation of perahera which is to take place the following day 01 September. It is forbidden to take pictures in the temple and it is a shame because it is beautiful. Cameras watch and when we try, a guard reminds us to order. What is valid for us is not for the Sri Lankans who use their smartphone. Discrimination !

Outside the temple, some elephants are waiting patiently for the next day's feast to put on their costumes of light.

As it is very hot, the mahouts refresh them. A huge tusker with beautiful tusks is lying on the ground. He lets himself completely do as a tourist in a massage parlor, swinging his trunk of contentment. It's fabulous to watch an animal "get its foot".They are nails the mahouts were particularly carefully, polishing them with a coconut crust.

A little further on, another elephant manages alone. He seizes a hose and sprays water very dexterously over his head, in mouth, on his belly, on his legs. Once again we observe how these animals are intelligent and funny.

An aggressive and probably alcoholic mahout intervenes forbidding us to take pictures. After the salt marshes, the tea factories, some temples, we can no longer photograph an elephant ! While the Sri Lankans use their smartphone. Discrimination !

  1. Puce Road to Wadduwa, we omit one last time to propose a lunch break.

Crossing Panadura we discover the statue of Vijaya Kumaratunga (Kovilage Anton Vijaya Kumaratunga 09/10/1945-16/02/1988), a renowned actor and singer, committed politician, an openness with the Tamils, has been be in 1988 as his father in law Solomon Bandaranaike in 1959. His wife Chandrika Bandaranaike, who did Sciences Po in France, was president of Sri Lanka (1994-2005), while his mother-in-law Sirima Ratwatte Bandaranaike was the first woman prime minister in the world (1960).

We arrived in Wadduwa almost relieved that the journey ended. We were in trouble almost every day with Mohara. Unimaginable.

We find Little Villa, Chitra, Kalu, lalani, Samira with pleasure. We come to the end of a wedding.

Dinner at the hotel

Day 17 - 01/09 - Wadduwa

Chitra told me her love at first sight for Rome and the Italian cooking, we carried in our luggage everything necessary to make traditional "home maid"pasta: fresh pasta machine, dryer, semolina of wheat, aromatic herbs and tomato seeds.

In the morning I give a course of Italian cooking to Lalani, the cook, who understood the first time. We prepare a lunch of fresh tagliatelle tomato sauce carbonara without meat.

During the Italian workshop, one of the cooks of Chitra prepares us a faluda in the pure tradition: all the ingredients are there. A treat, the best we tasted in Sri Lanka.

  1. Puce Italian Lunch at the hotel

In the afternoon, Chitra takes us to visit Kalutara which is not listed in Lonely Planet. The Palace
Richmond Castle, built by Padikara Mudali Nanayakkara Rajawasala Appuhamilage Don Arthur of Silva Wijesinghe Siriwardena. A rich planter, the son of a family of commoners and landowners, very opportunistic with the English and megalomaniacs, who was inspired by European and Indian architectures (Maharaja Raman palace) to create this palace and found a family with Clarice Maud Sooriya Bandara. The couple, unable to have children, dissolved sadly. The squire retired alone to the Queen's Hotel in Kandy, where he died, after donating his castle to the state to welcome and educate disadvantaged children.

Not particularly interesting, this building, like many others in Asia, gives an idea of how the Sinhalese nobility lived. Kings, princes, nobles, planters, settlers lived in luxury and refinement: gardens and sculptures, ballroom, soundproofed room, marble and tinted windows come from Italy, carved beams, wood comes from Burma etc. There were 12 Sinhalese servants and 40 British sentinels.

All these people lived on the basis of a feudal system, exploiting people and wealth, as some princes, sultans, emirs, emperors, maharajas, noble lords, planters and other oligarchs in Europe, Africa, Asia, Middle East. These people apart.

  1. Puce We then visit a very special dagoba by the river: Kalutara Bodhiya temple. It forms a dome that contains a smaller dagoba inside surrounded by statues. On the walls 74 paintings tell the life of Buddha.

Connected on the other side of the street by an underground passage, an annex with its various places of offerings and prayers.

Another stop in a wicker workshop. The lady was making rattan curtain.

Return and dinner at Little Villa.

Day 18 - 02/09 - Wadduwa

In the morning I welcome a driver whom friends had recommended to me, to meet him and to have an idea of his skills. He seemed clear and healthy. He has thought of a number of points which indicate a real professionalism. I think he will accompany me on my next trips to Sri Lanka, even maybe with a small group since he has a mini van in very good condition.

Then Lalani teaches me to make string Hoppers, Iddi Appa in Sinhalese. Relatively easy to do provided you have the accessory: wangedi in aluminum or wood. Pre-cooked rice flour is used to which very little salt and a little cold water are added so as to make a non-sticky thick dough, such as a pie dough. A piece of dough is placed in the wangedi, and the second part is pressed hard to remove the vermicelli, which is brought down on small baskets overturned, which are then placed in a soft steam cooker. Cooking 4/5 minutes.

  1. Puce Lunch at the hotel: string hoppers with three different curries: eggs, okra, rapeseed cabbage. A delight. Kalu makes us prepare a delicious faluda as a dessert. To fall on the floor ....

  2. Puce After the meal, we take a walk in the village. We see the temple Maha Vihara of Molligoda 200 meters to the right when leaving the hotel. Several times centenary, the walls and ceilings of the temple were decorated by artists who have nothing to envy to Western Renaissance.

The fineness of the lines, the color palettes are very interesting. The ceiling of the entrance is decorated with signs of the Sinhalese zodiac.

A part of the temple remains closed and is only opened once a year: it would contain a particular energy, too strong to be in contact with the visitors. I would have liked to know if it contained a lingam!

Throughout our walk in the village, we meet people who greet us, ask us how we are, where we came from, how long we have been here ...

At the end of the afternoon we see the preparation of a new wedding which will take place in the evening. As in many Asian countries, Sri Lankans are keen to invite as many people as possible, choose the most sophisticated sets possible. Marriage being more the occasion to impress, to establish a social position than to share a moment of family ntimacy.

When the crowd takes possession of the hotel, the couple is preceded by dancers, the techno music invades the space of its debilitating binary rhythm and its stunning decibels.

Delicious, but  infernal dinner for the ears.

  1. Puce After dinner Chitra offers us to visit a small temple out of the ordinary: Habaralagahalanda Suniyam Devalaya

A temple where Buddha is associated with Hindu, local deities and demons, all venerated with equal fervor. There is an atmosphere that is difficult to describe in this temple. As soon as we have passed the door, the peace becomes palpable, the serenity breathes, the fervor of the people who are there wraps us in its blanket. The prayers and attitudes of the young couples who are there are quite moving.

A priest officiates, reciting and singing mantras in the various chapels, taken over by the audience. He has the reputation of being a good exorcist, freeing some of the faithful from the demons who inhabit them. We did not have the chance to attend one of these ceremonies.

In the distance, in the night resounds the decibels of the marriage, other ceremony, other ambiance, other demons ... return the hotel where the party is in full swing. Although not supplying alcohol, Chitra is surprised by the number of drunk people wandering around. Very classy at the start, the wedding gives a show of decay: brawls, car accident with material damage on neighboring properties, inappropriate requests etc ...

Day 19 - 03/09 - Wadduwa - Colombo 50 km

In the morning we attend the preparation of a new wedding: new couple, new tastes, new decor. This time the reception will take place during noon. In opening the couple is preceded by Kandian dancers. As for the previous marriage, the very classical beginning, soon reveals its faults and sufferings. Alcohol does its duty, even the groom, at first very dignified, retires to a room that he hired to venerate the god Araq.

Kalu and Chitra take us to visit a coconut oil mill a few hundred meters from the hotel.

  1. Puce Lunch at the hotel.

In the afternoon, Chitra accompanies us to the Sunday market. This is our last bath of crowd before joining France. We discover vegetables that we tasted without knowing what they looked like before they were prepared: dambala (winged beans), bitter gourd green, goraka, dried acidulated fruit that is used in curry and to soften the meat.

After the market, we visit Lata, who lives with her adopted daughter Madoushika, her son, her daughter in law and their baby in a hut with a collapsed roof, full of holes and walls shredded.

Lata maintains plantations for an owner who hosts them in return (in disconcerting conditions). They have absolutely no comfort. Hygiene conditions are dramatic. They live like many Sri Lankans that are not shown to tourists. If it is true that one does not go on holiday in an exotic country to spoil the sight and the life with such images, it is important that we know the hidden face of the country that we visit, without having to hide the face or make a discomfort.

This is part of the reality: while the emerging class and the government fill their pockets with tourism, the redistribution of wealth forgets those thousands of Sri Lankans who sometimes live a few hundred meters from hotels, sites, circuits, in conditions of poverty unimaginable.

Faced with the poverty of this family, we can not do otherwise than give them a little pleasure by offering them enough to spend a week less difficult.

As we did with the family of fishermen, we go to the village grocery store to buy a supply of rice, lentils, potatoes, tea, sugar, milk powder for the baby, soap etc ... Even in large quantities this is not expensive, and it makes life so much easier for a week or two ... without falling into charity or tips distributions. Out of respect we did not take any pictures other than that of Lata and her small family.

Madoushika is a brilliant child, the best student of her class. It would be interesting for her to get help to pursue studies instead of fleeing misery difficult to bear in an early marriage.

Dinner at Little Villa before taking the road to the airport. Registration is at 00h30 for a flight at 03h00am.

Mohara who could not pick us up, feast of the aïd el kebir, sent one of his drivers. He told him to come at 8:30 without specifying whether it was morning or evening. The driver went to pick us up at 8:30 am. He had to come back at 8:30 pm. Until the end...

We cross Colombo by night. The city is very lively, and very illuminated.

Day 20 - 04 / 09 - Colombo - Dubai - arrival in France


Sri Lanka

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du 16 Août ​au  04 Septembre 2017

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