Sri Lanka

Contacts and authenticity

du 15 Août ​au  03 Septembre 2019

Day 01 Thursday 15/08/2019 Departure from France with Qatar Airways via Doha. 2 hours of stopping + 1h30 of delay on the flight Doha-Colombo.

Day 02 Friday 16/08/2019 Arrival Colombo with 01:30 late and road to Anuradhapura 199 km.

The sky is overcast, it's hot (32 °) and humid. Heavy rain in the late afternoon.

Money exchange in a shop in Negombo, rate much more interesting than at the airport or in the banks.

We brought an assortment of cheeses in a cooler for friends. Appointment with a driver who will bring them.

  1. Puce En route visit Attanagalla(Aththanagalla) Raja maha vihara temple of Nittambuwa.

It is one of the most famous royal temples, among nine others, of Sri Lanka, because of legends related to its origin.

Three friends (or brothers?) Sangabodhi, Gotabhaya and Sangathissa came to Anuradhapura to serve King Vijaya. As they passed Thissaweva, a blind man who lived there, hearing their footsteps, exclaimed, "The earth bears these three kings." Gotabhaya, who heard this insisted: "Tell me, whose reign will last the longest?"

The answer was: "The last one". Hearing this, Gotabhaya joined the others without revealing anything. Sangathissa conspired and killed the king and crowned himself king. He directed Anuradhapura for four years. Sangathissa was terrorizing the peasants, he would have died while eating poisoned fruits.

Prince Sangabo was crowned king. He was known as a very kind virtuous king with his subjects. One day, a demon called Rakthakshi started killing the people, the king dominated him by his virtues.

Then Prince Gotabhaya conspired and entered the city with his troops to conquer the kingdom of Sangabo. Sangabo did not want to shed blood and left the city. After that, he lived in Aththanagalla as a hermit meditating most of the time.

Prince Gotabhaya sought the ex-king to eliminate him. He killed a number of people suspecting that he was the king. One day, a passing peasant offered Sangabo a meal, unaware that he was the king, he revealed to him the way innocent people were wrongly killed in the king's place. Sangabo was unhappy to hear that his head was priced and that because of the bonus, people were killing each other to bring a head to the palace and get money. Sangabo revealed that he was the king and asked to be cut off to get the money. The peasant refused and the king cut off his head himself and offered it to the peasant.

Prince Gotabhaya sought the ex-king to eliminate him. He killed a number of people suspecting that he was the king. One day, a passing peasant offered Sangabo a meal, unaware that he was the king, he revealed to him the way innocent people were wrongly killed in the king's place. Sangabo was unhappy to hear that his head was priced and that because of the bonus, people were killing each other to bring a head to the palace and get money. Sangabo revealed that he was the king and asked to be cut off to get the money. The peasant refused and the king cut off his head himself and offered it to the peasant.

This place is the place where the king would have lived (251-253 AD) and the pond where he took water is still visible. The place later became a Buddhist temple that many people visit.

King Sangabo is known in the chronicles and other ancient works of Sri Lanka as the most pious king of Buddhism in the history of Sri Lanka. After King Sangabo, his brother Gothabhaya (249-262 BC) became king of the country and built a stupa at the place where his brother Sangabo made the great sacrifice.

According to the Chronicle, during the reign of King Upatissa (365-406 AD), one of the monks of the monastery, would have attained enlightenment in this temple after practicing meditation. It would be the only monk and the only place in Sri Lanka to have been enlightened.

  1. Puce Stop at Kajugama to see the cashew sellers. Not much to do with what is described in many paper guides. Still a legend about women hugging vehicle drivers to sell their precious cashew bags.

  1. Puce In Padeniya visit the temple and monastic center Raja Maha Vihara. Again a monastery and a temple haloed with legends. The original temple would have been the residence of the giant Therapuththabhaya, who later became a Buddhist monk. Therepuththabaya, one of the 10 giants of King Dutugemunu's army (161-137 BC), was to participate in the Battle of Vijithapura between King Dutugemunu and the cruel South Indian invader Elara.

If the monastery itself is not very interesting, the temple, very old, placed on a rock is interesting. A few steps with a roughly cut moonstone at the bottom of the three entrances with half wooden doors. The building includes a central hall surrounded by an open gallery. The door of the sanctuary room is decorated. The gallery also includes carved wooden pillars.

The feature of this temple is its brightly colored lions frieze that extends around the four sides of the outer wall. With elongated bodies covered with scales, they are reminiscent of some dragons. This suggests a Chinese influence that would date from the presence of China in Sri Lanka in the 15th century.

Nearby, the Bo tree stands on an artificial mound of stones forming a pyramid, surrounded by gilded barriers.

Arrival at the end of the afternoon at Anuradhapura under a pouring rain.

Black & White Hotel - Mihintale

Day 03 Saturday 17/08/2019 Anuradhapura - Thanthirimal - Silavathurai - Vankalai - Mannar 145 km

Heavy rain from 09h to 12h30. Hot and humid. Leaded sky with thunderstorms

  1. Puce Thanthirimale Raja Maha Vihara, This temple, built in the 3rd century BC, has historical or legendary value. When the Bodhi tree was imported from India to Sri Lanka, during the trip to Anuradhapura, the procession with the pot containing the young tree spent one night in Thanthirimale. It is said that a separate branch of the pot was planted in this village to remember this passage. The Bo tree is placed on a stone mound.

This place was ignored and abandoned until the beginning of the 19th century. In the 1960s, the temple was restored by Buddhist monks. Kudakongaskada Wmalagnana Thero, a pioneer in the renovation of this place of worship for the general public in the 1960s, is considered the modern day leader of this temple. He was murdered by terrorists in 1992. Subsequently, Than Thanhirimale Chandrarathana Thero became the incumbent. Is it him we saw arriving in a big new mercedes with a driver ?

This is the first time we have visited this site so thoroughly thanks to Eranda.

The temple and its surroundings are full of ruins, including two stone statues and several ponds cut into the rock.

Most of the sculptures seem incomplete, which is explained by the fact that the inhabitants of the region have had to flee because of enemy invasions.

We discover that most statues show holes that have been closed. Especially at the level of the heart or the head. It was common for devotees to offer jewelry or money that was placed inside during the building of these statues. In the past, and nowadays, thieves pierced the statues in search of these treasures.

On the other side of the tanks one can see the ruins of meditation platforms and the old library with the leaf dryer. Until the 20th century, in southern India, Sri Lanka and South-East Asia, tallipot or latan palm leaves were written according to region. These sheets or "ola" (from Tamil olei, "sheet") were specially prepared to receive the writing, incised with a metal stylet on the front and back. Gathered between wooden tablets, ivory and sometimes silver through cords passed through holes, these ola were the traditional form of books and especially sacred texts, Hindu, Buddhist and Ayurvedic.

Before being used, the palm leaves were cut to the desired size. To make them flexible, they are boiled, dried and then polished and smoothed.

A little further still, two rocks protected by fences on which we can see cave paintings (primary cave paintings), traces of a pre-historic life in Sri Lanka (They date from about 4000 years).

These cellars had become places of meditation for the monks who had carved the rock so that the rainwater did not flow inwards.

  1. Puce Stop at Silavathurai to see the Doric Bungalow.

The home of the first English Governor Frederick North, 5th Earl of Guilford, son of Prime Minister Frederick North.

The house was built by the governor himself in 1804. True architectural delirium for the time, the
building was named "The Doric" because of the architectural design of the columns that was similar to the style of the Greek order ancient Doric. Built in the early 19th century (between 1801 and 1804) to develop and supervise pearl fishing. It was then used by government agents and other officials.

The two-storey building was built with bricks and mortar. The exterior walls have been decorated with chunam, a kind of plaster made from lime burnt oyster shells, described as having the appearance of marble.

Built on a low cliff near the beach, exposed to extreme weather conditions and lack of maintenance,

the house is now in ruins. No restoration work has been carried out despite the fact that it has been declared a protected archaeological monument.

  1. Puce On the way to Mannar we cross Vankalai - A small town known because of the barbaric massacre of a Tamil Christian family on June 08, 2006 (horrible photos on internet). For some it is retaliation of the Sri Lankan army against a Tamil family. For others, it is the LTTE rebels who massacred this family because the father would have been an informant to the army. It is difficult to know the truth.    

  1. Puce Dinner at the hôtel

Agape hotel 32/31 Seminary Road, Mannar  Thalaimannar Road | Karisal, Mannar

Day 04 Sunday 18/08/2019 Mannar - Pesalai - Talaimannar - Mannar

Beautiful and warm (32 to 35 °)

  1. Puce Mannar has been famous around the world for the quality and quantity of these wild oyster pearls. Native exploitation, the exploitation of the pearls passed under the control of the Portuguese, the Dutch, the English. They used Indian and Arab divers. Nearly 400 boats went fishing for pearls every day. The main problems of the divers were the sharks and the vascular accidents due to the large number of freediving dives, and the pressure of the depths.

Once harvested, the oysters were buried in the sand until they became putrefied. This allowed to open them without effort. Which made the air unbreathable.Once extracted the pearls left for Bombay, Paris and London.

In 1920, the Japanese, who were beginning to invade Southeast Asia, introduced the practice of pearl culture in Sri Lanka. This lasted until the 1950s. This new method seems to be at the origin of the decline of the Mannar pearl, because of abandonment of traditional practices and quality.

Every time we go to Mannar, we ask ourselves the same question: are there still pearl fishermen in Mannar? Why did they stop so abruptly ? Wild pearl oysters did not go away quickly. Why are not there fishermen continuing this practice? The only answer we got on the spot: "it was organized by the settlers, the snorkelers came from India, we are not used to it". Not convincing as explanation.

  1. Puce Visit the fishing village of Pesalai around 09:30. There is a lot of activity this morning on this beach. Boats bring in nets full of fries: mixtures of small fish of different species, small crabs, shrimps of all sizes, some normal sized fish, octopus and squid.

Women sort the contents of fillets and fill trays with small fish after removing shrimp, crabs and algae. These bins are bought by middlemen who sell them to a factory that makes fishmeal to feed the animals. Octopus, crab and shrimp are either sold on the market or sold to the food industry.

For security reasons, we no longer have access to the lighthouse or Talaimanar pier. We wanted to give photos to Thangawelu fish vendor next to the lighthouse. Because of the events, he can not work there anymore. Well known in the area, people have told us his address. We gave him the photos to his surprise.

  1. Puce It's market day in Pesalai: we like to walk these small authentic markets. We see every time the profusion and the variety of local vegetables. Fruits are less represented: bananas, mangoes, pineapple lemons, for the rest they are products that come from elsewhere: apples, grapes, oranges from China, Australia. New: goldfish. Sellers expose plastic bags filled with water in which goldfish are waiting.

On the road we meet a Tamil wedding with a modest wedded and a bride disguised for a few hours as prince and princess.

  1. Puce Adam & Eve's grave a place that no one speaks in guides or on tourist sites: the tombs of Adam and Eve. Muslim site. Legend said that a brother and sister landed in Mannar on a boat. Nobody knew where they came from or when they died. They were buried here. With time, they became giants of more than 10 meters and the Muslims of the region developed their own version of the tradition for both tombs. We did not get to know more about why these graves and what they represent.

  2. -We wanted to go to Talaimannar beach to give photos to a family of fishermen (Anthony) with whom we had sympathized, their cabin is destroyed and nobody knows what they have become.

  3. Puce  Return to Mannar for a late lunch at Colombo Pilawoos Hotel.

It's Sunday, almost everything is closed and a number of drunken men roam the city. Farniente the rest of the afternoon.

In one day of visit on peninsula of Mannar, 60 km round trip, we were stopped by 4 checkpoints held by young armed soldiers: 1 was satisfied to verify the identity of the guide, the other 3 were young men armed who wanted to show that they had power. One of them asks to see our passports. He did not even read a passport in the right way, another asked what we were doing in Sri Lanka, a third, playing Rambo with his Ray Ban, asked to check the car boot and luggage and was interested only in name of the lady passenger.

  1. Puce Dinner at the hotel

Day 05 Monday 19 August 2019 Mannar - Habarana 213 km

Good weather and hot (32 °).

  1. Puce Disappointed by not being able to visit the salterns at Hambantota because it is forbidden, we asked to visit the salters of Mannar (Mantai Salt Limited). The manager authorized us to make the visit. Beautiful site, much more photogenic than this of Hambantota. There are large settling tanks where seawater stagnates for 3 ½ months, then it is directed to smaller tanks where it evaporates for 45 days, taking on a pink color, of different intensity according to the salt concentration, with quite impressive crystals. The white salt, the intense pink reservoirs, the blue sky harmonize pleasantly. The managers answer all our questions and the salt workers take pleasure in exchanging.

We discover that these salt marshes, although very productive, are not enough for local consumption. Each basket worn by women and men on the head weighs 40 kg. They are paid by the number of baskets picked up and transported and the working time, about 1200 rupees (6 €) per day. Harvesting is only done in the morning from 6.30am to 11am. Those who want to earn more money can work in the afternoon to salt conditioning, maintenance of the site.

Virtually all Tamils, they tell us that during the war, many fled across the narrow passage (32km) that connect them to South India aboard small boats, they came back after the war.

On leaving, stop at the fish market to give pictures to Jesuthasan, a fish finder met last time and to vegetable merchants. It made them happy.

  1. Puce On the way to Habarana, we stop at the Church of Lady of Madhu, a high place of Catholic pilgrimage. Following the attacks of April 2019, the security is impressive: body search, bag prohibited, control and registration of passports, obligation to take a picture with each camera in the presence of a military to verify that they are not no detonators.

Inside the church, you can not take pictures anymore. There are always so many people coming in expectation of a miracle.

The Church of Lady of Madhu is known to have been a land of refuge for Catholic families, in 1670, fleeing the invasion of the mostly Protestant Dutch.

We had planned to see Galkiriyagama Sri Wanasinghe Rajamaha Viharaya again - because the site is particularly beautiful and welcoming, then Aukana we had already seen, but which we appreciate to see again.

Eranda suggests we visit another site we do not know, the Sasseruwa Reshwehera Raja Maha or Ras Vehara of Sassuruwa, by taking a beautiful little tree-lined road that forms a tunnel through forgotten villages.

After Anuradhapura, nice road trough Tambuttegama, Meegalewa, Sasseruwa, Ranajayapura, Kekirawa, Ganewalpola, Palugaswewa, Habarana. A very authentic region away from classical circuits.

Close to Aukana and its impressive standing Buddha, this site is forgotten by the majority of tourists, although interesting. This standing Buddha displays the mudra Abhaya (protection and absence of fear). An ear is not finished, the drape of the garment either, the base is not decorated. The place would have been deserted, for unknown reasons. The day when the Bô tree was planted, the place would have been lit by a particular light (ras) hence the name of this site.

Sessuruwa or Sasseruwa would be interpreted as "similar statue". Is it with reference to that of Aukana? Some say that the artist who made Aukana would have started with a draft in Sasseruwa ... Others say that this statue was ordered by King Mahasen, his death being at the origin of the stoppage of the site. Still others speak of invasions that would have caused people to flee the area. We are back in the legends with this inability Sri Lanka to unravel what is legends and historical facts.

There are two caves rich in decorations, one of which contains an elongated Buddha. His dress was woven and folds made with cotton strands before being glued and covered with plaster and paint.

In this cave there is a bed which, according to legend, was offered by a carpenter at the time of King Rajasinghe (1797-1814).

At that time only the privileged were allowed to sleep on beds. But the carpenter's wife was harassing him for one. So the craftsman made a bed for his wife. But what is the point of sleeping on a bed when nobody knows there is one in your house ? The woman spoke of her secret bed to her neighbors and the news spread from house to house to the king. Finally, the craftsman decided to offer the bed to the temple to avoid having trouble with the king.

As in Dowe (Ella) there is a burrow in which lives a cobra that would protect the site.

Virtually all of the Buddha statues on this site have been pierced by treasure thieves. Reason for which the doors are locked. The monks open them gladly to visitors, through the purchase of a ticket.

In the area there would be a hundred caves in which lived the monks.

Late arrival to Habarana.

Dinner at the hotel

Villa Habarana Kashyapagama Road, Habarana 50150,

Day 06 Tuesday 20 August 2019 Habarana - Batticaloa 139 km

Beau temps, chaud (32°)

  1. Puce In the morning, we have an appointment with Mahout Ale Putha, and his elephant Rani, whom Eranda knows, to talk about the job and share one of the activities we prefer. There used to be many elephants working on farms, in forestery, but also in temples. With the modernization of machines, the elephant is now relegated to the ballad of tourists and parades for religious holidays. The majority of elephants belong to wealthy owners who rent them to middlemen. The elephant levy in wild herds is no longer permitted, and captive breeding has become sterile, becaause elephants not enjoying the choice of their partner.

A mahout is assigned to an elephant for the duration of his life. They form an inseparable couple. His mission is to take care of it, to feed it, to treat it if it is sick, to accompany it on every occasion.

Among the cares, bathing elephants is a very important moment. A refreshing moment, relaxation, complicity, exchange. It is also a privileged moment for us to discover this animal, which likes to be pampered, scratched with coconut husks.

Some mahouts let us go, keeping a watchful eye on the animal's reactions. We did it in 2015 with an elephant called Mutu (pearl), it is with pleasure that we do it again this year with Rani.

We planned to look for a village famous for its traditional pottery: Bakamuna. But this road requires us to make a long detour to go to Batticaloa.

  1. PuceEranda proposes to go to another village of potters. Enough isolated from tourism to guarantee authentic encounters.

We discover a family of potters very welcoming. It produces pottery that goes to fire for cooking traditional dishes. After watching them work, we are invited to introduce ourselves to pottery. Tushani is a good pedagogue and we end up creating a relatively satisfying little pot.

We share a cup of tea. This gives Eranda an idea for his future clients: meeting with a traditional craftsman, an introduction to his art, and sharing a meal prepared with the family, which could give rise to a modest financial contribution to help these families who live in the limit of poverty, while allowing travelers to discover the daily life of Sinhalese families. A true solidarity tourism.

A little later Eranda proposes to visit a temple and a monastery that we do not know: Dimbulagala Raja Maha Vihara. A site of the Polonaruwa era from which it is only twenty kilometers distant, forgotten and restored in 1950 by the monk Kithalagama Sri Seelalankara Thero killed by the Tamil rebels in 1995 while going on a farm near the temple. He supported poor families who were undergoing rebel terrorism. This assassination helped to make this site famous.

At the rear of the site a rocky peak overlooking a stupa, which can be reached by a steep path, overlooking the entire region. A modern monastery is under construction on the right. In front of the rock, an octagonal building contains many wooden sculptures (ebony) representing Buddha made by monks.

At the back, a series of decorated caves featuring different aspects of Buddha's life and teaching, sometimes with demons, monsters or creatures that have little to do with the original teaching.

Leaving the site, we savor a juice of oranges pressed by Siriyalatha at the edge of the road. We discover that Sri Lankans drink salty orange juice !

Arriving in Batticaloa, we thought we could visit the interior of the Hindu temple Santhively Pillaiyar Kovil at the entrance of the city, having only been able to see it from outside the last time, but we did not take the same road.

Meet Mala from Mala's Home stay, our accommodation for two days. The worst human experience of all our trips to Sri Lanka with that of Senadhi owner of Rawana Heights in Ella (in 2008).

As soon as we get out of the car we are surprised by the personality of this woman, who although apparently attractive, is invasive, authoritarian, very directive.  She leads everyone as a soldier, including her clients.

From the moment we arrived and until the day before we left, Mala keeps talking about her, her worries, her difficulties, her experiences, her clients, besides trying to place her products: picnic, excursions, disguises in local dress, massages, cooking classes ...

Luckily there were her kids who are friendly, we could talk about something else and relax as soon as she was away a bit, although she kept a close ear to what we were saying to intervene if necessary . We are surprised that she has so many good comments on the forums! As for Rawana Heights, some customers evoke the same problems.

  1. Puce Dinner at the guesthouse

Mala’s Home Stay, Technical College Road 1st Cross 27/5 Technical Collage road, manjanthoduwai, batticaloa., Kattankudy

Day 07 Wednesday, August 21, 2019 Batticaloa

  1. Puce We planned with Eranda to visit the Batticaloa market, the lagoon and surrounding villages in search of other crafts to discover: cotton weaving, palm leaf weaving (palmyrah and indikola), one of the cashew nut farms established in the region with the help of the government to help the population after the war.

Mala imposed herself with her three teenagers, trying to play the guide. Excursions in the area are part of her livelihood, but we did not ask her anything. Eranda reminded her that we had already established the program with him.

The market is interesting and authentic. It allows us to discover all that Sri Lankans buy for their food, but also for their different needs of everyday life. We are always impressed by the quantity and variety of herbs, vegetables, fruits on display, and the quantity of objects and products found.

Whenever we asked Eranda to explain what we saw, Mala was needed to answer for him.

On the market we discover the nannari sherbet that Sri Lankans call sherbet. It's been years that we wanted to discover this drink from South India imported to Sri Lanka by the Tamils. But nobody seemed to know.

It contains: Sarsaparilla root syrup (nannari) usually artificial, sometimes kasa kasa seeds that resemble chia seeds producing mucilage in contact with liquid, ice cubes, water, lime juice , here Thomas adds cubes of fresh pineapple.

The mixing of the ingredients is done spectacular by moving the containers away from each other as far as possible. It's nice to drink.

  1. Puce Seeking to discover palmyrah weavers, Mala suggests going to the craft center of the region that trains weavers, but it no longer accepts visits from tourists (rare in the region) although a shop is paradoxically dedicated to them. On the floor a museum without interest.

Seeing our disappointment she tells us a person she knows who braids the palm leaves. What she does is not very beautiful, without interest.

On the way back, we go along the lagoon. Mala is constantly proposing to organize a picnic with fishermen. We decline the offer.

  1. PuceWe visit a farm that grows organic vegetables for patients of a hospital specialized in cancer.

At the end  of the day, Mala asks that we stop in a temple dedicated to Hanuman that she likes. To our surprise she pushed it into our mouth of sweet rice that gave hier a priest. Then she spent time trying to help a woman who was in psychological pain. We were happy that it was the last day with her.

  1. Puce Dinner at the guesthouse

Day 08 Thursday 22 August 2019 Batticaloa - Thettativu - Periyakallar - Maruthamunai - Pottuvil 114 km

Early morning calm, Mala is monopolized by a group of local tourism agents who comes to visit his homestay.

At the moment of paying the bill we discover that she has charged the teas that were offered to us each day (that we took for welcome drinks), that the driver's room was charged at a high price, that the meals are also expensive than in a restaurant for tourists. Fortunately we had declined all offers of services. At home, it is more expensive to stay at the inhabitant than at the hotel.

We take the road to Pottuvil, with many stops.

  1. Puce The Hindu temple Kompuchanthi Pillaiyar kovil of Thettativu, beautifully colored. Every time we stop women and men prepare meals for deities (and priests), made from rice.

  2. Puce The Periyakallar Bridge and its fishermen with the plaice.

  3. Puce Maruthamunai with the Hafeel family, 285 Jinnah Road, and his handloom producing such beautiful Sri Lankan sarongs. His family seems happy that we bring him the pictures we made last time. Hafeel shows us the shop which sells his sarongs, in the main street. City Handloom, 281 Main Street, Maruthamunai + 77 4680 225

It is amazing to discover that Sri Lankans prefer to wear industrial sarongs that come from India.

Maduradamunai (kalmunai), Kattankudy (Batticaloa), Maruthamunai were home to Moorish weavers' communities, which were installed by King Senerath (1604-1635), to weave and dye precious fabrics for him. It is also said that Salagama caste groups, the Saligrama Brahmins of India were brought to Sri Lanka as weavers for the Singhalese kings during the time of King Parakrama Bahu III.

At present, there are  about 2,000 weavers in the area, including 600 in Maruthamunai. Most looms are provided by local and international NGOs working in the district. Eranda has made contact with a former Hafel employee who speaks Singhalese and who works on his own, for possible contacts with customers interested in weaving.

Arrive in early afternoon at Pottuvil.

We planned to do the Pottuvil mangrove mentioned in many guides. As for safaris and boat tours, the proposals are plethora. Many opportunists have settled in the area, becoming hoteliers, restaurateurs, bajaj, boatmen and surf coach to pump the maximum amount of money to the many tourists who stay here.

We are asking to go through the fishermen's cooperative preferring to leave money to fishermen rather than opportunists.

We will locate the places and book our boat. On site we see in the distance an elephant at the edge of the water.

On the way to go and back we cross Arugam Bay which we do not recognize.

When we came in 2009, it was 5 years after the tsunami, 4 months after the end of the war. There was only a small handful of hotels, the best at the time being the Stardust whose Danish owner was killed by the Tsunami. We only found two small local restaurants to eat cheaper than at the hotel.

Today it is a succession of hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and clothes shops, beer bars, pastries, fast food.

We find the decor "trendy" bamboo, rattan, natural wood, like all destinations for geeks / hipsters: Kuta, Goa, Ventian, Ko Samui, Phuket, Hikkaduwa, Ella, Ibiza etc ... all these places are similar regardless of country where they are thanks to the generation of "goldfish" in shorts, tank tops, flip-flops, and tattoo, beers, pizzas, burgers, red bull, wifi and binary music.

We planned to do Kumana Park and the Hermitage in the morning because they are close and the mangrove in the afternoon.

Eranda says it's best to do the mangrove in the morning and the park in the afternoon, because we would be more likely to see animals in the afternoon. We inquire, opinions diverge. Make the park the afternoon involves defer to another time the Hermitage. We don't want to take our heads with that, we accept

  1. Puce Excellent dinner prepared by Antoy at Saneepa.

Saneepa Holiday Bungalow Sawalai Road, Arugam Bay. Nickson et Antoy

Day 09 Friday, August 23, 2019 Pottuvil

  1. Puce Early departure for the mangrove. We joined the fishing cooperative of Kottukkal Urani. Two fishermen are waiting for us. We embark on a frail boat composed of two canoes on which is fixed a floor a few centimeters above the water. Without a cushion it is not very comfortable!

It is no longer quite night and not quite day. Beautiful images between black and orange with declination of blue. We see some birds like ibis and egrets. Fishermen are busy sitting on frail canoes, legs in the water, with the height of our seat at the water's edge suggests that there must be no crocodiles in this lagoon.

The solitary elephant is always in the same place, it grazes a few steps from the bank. It's too dark to photograph.

Impression that it is the same elephant in the same place as on all the pictures seen on internet. The light increases slightly, revealing some herons in search of food, sacred Milans (Haliastur Indus) that many confuse with the fisherman's eagle, and some cormorants.

We expected to see more animals and birds. The mangrove is beautiful with the plants that intertwine their roots before diving into the lagoon.

A little stop on a sandbar that separates the lagoon from the ocean: one of the "paradises" of surfers: Pottuvil point on one side, Whiskey point on the other. Many morning riders learn to ride on waves, which are not impressive next to those in southwestern France and even less so in Hawaii. But the surfing atmosphere is there.

We return to the starting point. It's barely clearer. There are a few more birds in the lagoon: gray herons, many cormorants and red anhinga (anhinga melanogaster) that are often confused with cormorants, pelicans, Indian tantalum (Mycteria leucocephala), Eurasian spoonbill(Platalea leucorodia), great egrets (Ardea alba), black-headed ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus), some black-winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus) and probably other birds that we have not distinguished for lack of light.

This exploration of Pottuvil's mangrove is not interesting and does not deserve the fuss that people do in the guides and some forums. Maybe by making interesting visits, we are less easily seduced by ordinary visits.

  1. Puce Back to the hotel, free time, and delicious lunch.

We take the road to Panama to join the jeep and the driver who will make us take the safari in Kumana park.

  1. Puce This reserve is the eastern part of Yale Park. It was closed from 1985 to 2003 because of the war, and was very affected by the 2004 tsunami.

It is famous for the variety of its fauna characteristic of the tropical dry forest zone. We are supposed to find large mammals such as elephants and leopards. It is much less frequented by tourists than Yale. The weather is cloudy, we start the safari late, the light and the colors are not extraordinary. Added to this, as in Wilpattu, poorly maintained low sides with many undergrowth that prevent to see inside the forest. Outside some treeless areas visibility is poor.

We saw two elephants of which one wanted to play the balance of power by blocking the passage.

The driver frightened it by scolding the engine, coming towards it. Probably an elephant who lacks self-confidence. We saw a few crocodiles, of which a huge one crossed the road in front of the jeep, some buffaloes which always are immersed in the mud of the water points to lower their temperature, some wild boars, some langurs monkeys (Semnopithecus entellus), many groups of chital deer, mongooses, crested eagle (Spizaetus cirrhatus ceylanensis), grey-headed fish eagle(Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus), and many bee eater (Merops orientalis).

Swamps in the center of the park attract many varieties of birds. It would be a very popular refuge for migratory birds. Watchtowers are arranged at a distance to observe them. Provided that to have time, to be equipped with telephoto lenses or powerful binoculars, and be there at the right time!

At the end of the day as it begins to get darker, a leopard moves away quietly on the edge of a dry tank. We would have arrived a few moments earlier ...! All the pictures are blurred because of the distance, the movement and the lack of light, which is added to one of the most common incivilities in Sri Lanka, a hilarious jeep driver intervenes between the animal and us to privilege its customers by blocking the view. In Kenya, when a driver has such behavior, he is reported to the park administration and is no longer allowed to come with customers.

Unattractive safari: too late, too dark, and really few animals.

In the evening during the meal at the hotel, we hear and then see wild elephants that come in the rice fields a few meters from the hotel, and even at the entrance of the city to look for food. A good part of the evening and night people watch and make them leave to protect their crops. Meet Nikson the owner of the hotel, very friendly.

Day 10 Saturday, August 24, 2019 Pottuvil - Walapane - Kandy - 232 km

Beautiful mid-mountain road that passes through villages and small towns forgotten travel agencies. We wanted to photograph rice paddies in espalier. Less beautiful than Bali, some are worth it to stop, especially when they are very green.

  1. Puce During a stop we are invited by a family to visit them. Appuhami, a septuagenarian, who is a carpenter. He wants make us discover the furniture he makes. We find the crafts of our childhood where artisans were also artists.

They create unique pieces for their customers, a table, chairs, a sofa, a wardrobe, with or without inlay, but still without nails. Everything is assembled with wooden pegs.

The family seems happy to receive us and offers us fresh coconut juice, very nice.

Seeing that we are interested in his art, Appuhami offers us to visit a monastery (Pothubandana Raja Maha Vihara) where he participated in the renovation, doing all the work of carpentry, from stairs to the frames of windows and the doors which are entirely carved according to themes relating to Buddhism. A virtuoso work.

The monastery is modern, built on the ruins of a very old temple of which there remain some pillars. This allowed us to observe a certain luxury in which the monks live today, very far from the austere life that we imagine.

  1. Puce A little after the junction for Walapane, when you go from the B492 road to the B413 towards Padiyalella, there are very beautiful rice paddies on the mountainside on the right. We will see others after but less beautiful. Later, we can see Lake Victoria with its small cone-shaped islands. We drive along the lake and the hydro dam (Victoria Dam). The area is really beautiful.

  2. Puce On this road there is Rikillagaskada where one turns to Deltota if one wants to see the first tea plantation of Sri Lanka: Loolecondera Estate, to Deltota (18 km by B364), created by James Taylor in 1867. It is here is the whole story of Ceylon tea. The first tea factory came into operation in 1872. You can still see some period buildings, at least what's left of it.

Pretty little road lined with tea plantations with pickers who do not claim anything, pin forests, espalier crops.

  1. Puce In Hanguranketa there is the Potgul Vihara which is one of the oldest Buddhist bookshops on the island. Hundreds of books recounting Buddha's teaching including a copy of the Tipitaka (book of Buddha's teachings that was burned by the English at Alu Vihara of Matale). All these books are written on ola leaves, some have a worked silver or ivory cover.

We wish to visit the temple, closed the time we came. Eranda got the agreement of the chief monk. A monk accompanies us with the keys. From the beginning of the visit, the monk begins to haggle: to see this part is 1000 rupees, to see another part is so many rupees and so on. That put us in a black rage. We no longer support these monks who racket people to put money in their pockets and live like pashas.

We leave without trying to visit the place. Eranda has filed a complaint with the chief monk. I am not convinced that this will serve any purpose, given the opulence in which most monks live in Sri Lanka. Maybe the chief monk also has his car with driver like in many Buddhist monasteries in Asia.

  1. Puce Late arrival at Kandy. The lake is still beautiful with the illuminated temple of the Tooth temple reflected in it.

Small walk among the pilgrims, for the atmosphere. Everything is modernized, the ticketing is automatic, the handbags pass on a scanner as at the airport, remains the body search that has not changed.

There is a lot of peole that comes to this site, tourists and locals. We visit some small temples around. Everything has changed in a few years. If the temples are still there, the spaces have been redeveloped - the walls have been removed, other temples have been erected, the lights have been studied to enhance the site. It is very pleasant to see.

  1. Puce Dinner in a cool restaurant a little outside the center, the Garden Café: one of the best places to eat tasty and reasonable dishes, that Eranda made us discover. The juices are fresh and varied. Praba the waiter is exceptionally kind. We discover a Sri Lankan street food which nobody has ever spoken to us so far: the kottu. But what a pity not to have known this earlier. It would have changed from rice & curry, parathas and other sauteed rice with vegetables. A delight. It seems to be a complete dish that is only served at night.

Different ingredients make up: omelette, onions, rotti (flat bread) vegetables, cheese, aromatic herbs, scented spices with or without meat (chicken). The whole thing is cooked together on a plancha while the cook hatches them with a blade in each hand in a devil's rhythm.

Kandy holiday home  51/30, Bangalawatta Lewella Road, Kandy

Day 11 Sunday, August 25, 2019 Kandy and around 95 km

We want to do loop around Kandy to visit temples that we do not know, with some particularities. It is again the opportunity to discover small roads uncrowded full of charm.

Eranda tells us that the Nalanda Gedige, a small temple originally Hindu then  Buddhist on the road to Matale, built between the 8th and 10th century, is located in the geographical center of the island. How did they do at the time to define the center with such precision?

  1. Puce Medawala Rajamaha Viharaja is a monastery temple that features a Tampita, the oldest Tampita of Sri Lanka.

It was a two-storey sanctuary in the 14th century. It was renovated as Tempita Vihara in 1755 under the reign of Kirti Sri Rajasinha (1747-1781). The Tampita is a special "shrine room" (room where the statue of Buddha is and paintings to promote meditation).

A Tampita Viharaya (Temple on Pillars) is a type of unique "shrine room" found in some Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka. It is built on a wooden platform that rests on low stone pillars. The roof is maintained by a structure built of wood and the walls are usually mud. A seated Buddha statue sits at the center with sometimes other representations of Buddhas, and other mythical characters next to the main statue. They are made of clay, wood or limestone. The interior walls are entirely frescoed.

Although there are traces of older structures, most were built between the 17th and 19th centuries. There are over two hundred Tempita Viharaya identified in Sri Lanka to date. Most of the sanctuaries are in the north-west, in Kurunegala, Kegalle, Kandy, Sabaragamuwa districts.

This monastery is very pleasant to visit, especially on Sunday morning when children come to Sunday school.

  1. Puce Mawanella Aluth Nuwara Dedimunda Devalaya: a temple both Hindu and Buddhist who is also the subject of many legends, which still influence the religious life of the devotees today. This place is dedicated to Dedimunda Deviyo a deity revered by Buddhists in Sri Lanka. He is considered a tutelary deity of the Sarana Buddha in the country. People believe that it has the power to heal deadly diseases, epidemics, eradicate evil possessions and give married women hope of pregnancy. It is believed that the worship of the deity Dedimunda became known during the Kandyan era.

The days of Kembura, that is to say on Wednesdays and Saturdays, people come to offer their pooja and make wishes to the deity. They come from many parts of the country to seek the blessings of this deity.

We discover that pilgrims bring coconut shoots. They offer a life (the young coconut shoot) in exchange for another life (human) to the deity, either in case of illness or to optimize a pregnancy.

  1. Puce Danthure Raja Maha Viharaja is a two-storey Tampita Vihara. The ground floor is used as "Bana Maduwa" or preaching room, with the throne of the chief monk and his sound system. The original carved pillars, with dancers and musicians decorate the center of the room. The upper floor is an "shrine room" with a sitting Buddha statue under a Makara Torana. The wooden ceiling and walls bear paintings of the Kandyan period.

There was a famous battle between Wimaladharmasuriya I (1592 - 1604) and the Portuguese at Danthure. In 1591, the Portuguese installed a puppet king, Yamasinghe Bandara, named Don Phillip. Although he ascended the throne, he died of old age soon after, setting the stage for his 12-year-old son Don João. Konappu Bandara immediately overthrew him and proclaimed himself king of Kandy as Wimaladharmasuriya. He fought the Portuguese and liberated Kandy from the invaders.

We had planned to visit the Peradeniya botanic garden and its Peradeniya Hanging Bridge overlooking Mahaweli Ganga. We have not been there since 2001, wanted to see the evolution.

  1. Puce Eranda proposes to visit a brass foundry which produces, among others, oil lamps of all sizes, for temples and homes. We attend all stages of manufacture. Brass comes from India in its raw state as ingots. It is melted and poured into different clay molds representing half of the object. The two halves are joined by torch welding. Then each piece is turned, abraded, polished, to give it its shape and its final color. Nothing industrial, everything is artisanal. We will leave by making a stop at the shop.

Every Sri Lankan family has at least one oil lamp that they light up in the Buddhist New Year.

On the way back, we stop in a temple that we like because of its particular architecture.

  1. Puce Lankathilake The entrance facing the main door leads to a Hindu sanctuary. The entrance at the back overlooks the shrine room where sits an imposing Buddha statue. The history of the temple dates back to the 14th century. According to historical reports, this temple was built by King Bhuvanekabahu IV, who ruled from 1341 to 1351. The architecture of the temple was designed by an architect from southern India, named Sathapati Rayar. He would have designed the temple using the Sinhalese architecture of the Polonnaruwa era as well as other Dravidian and Indo-Chinese architectural models. We find it rather a tibetan look.

It was built on a natural rock called Panhalgala Rock. Among the buildings, the "shrine room" has exceptional architectural features, adorned with Sinhalese sculptures. According to the facts recorded in the copper plate of Lankatilake, this "shrine room" was built as a four-storey manor with a height of 25 meters, of which, today, one can only see three floors. The walls and ceiling of the shine room are adorned with paintings and sculptures from the Kandyan era.

Engraved inscriptions on the rock next to the temple with texts both Sinhala and Tamil, give indications on the participation of kings at this temple.

The Lankatilaka shrine room is enriched with five devas: Upulvan, Ganapathi, Saman, Vibhishana and Kumara Bandara are worshiped here. It is thought Kumara Bandara is the deity who protects the vihara of Lankatilaka.

We are witnessing a revolting scene: a monk is seated near the Buddha statue. When a group of pilgrims come in, he aggressively orders them to sit down and shut up. He preaches for a few minutes, and orders people to give money. All rush to give him bank notes of different values. The monk counts the bank notes ostensibly, puts them together in bundles, and his table is covered with them. Religious business! Not sure that this is Buddhism!

  1. Puce Late return to Kandy with a very pleasant passage through the Garden Café.

Day 12 Monday, August 26, 2019 Kandy - Hatton - Dick Oya - Tiensin -Bogawantalawa - Belihuloya - Haputale 170 km

Destination Haputale. We want to go by a road that we like very much: Kandy, Hatton, Dick Oya, Tiensin, Bogawantalawa, Belihuloya, Haputale.

The road is not in very good condition and it is winding. Which explains the time that we put for quite a few kilometers.

But what a charm: colorful Tamil villages, tea plantations maintained like English gardens, Castlereigh Reservoir and its islets, the Walreigh Christ Church, now closed because of Muslim attacks, villages where time seems to have stopped.

We are surprised by the "new methods" of tea picking. Before the pickers pinched the first two leaves and the bud, they placed in the basket they carry on their backs. When the basket was full they went to weighing. Today they tear handles of mature leaves, when the basket is full they empty it on a tarpaulin at the edge of the road and sort the leaves!

We discover that fewer and fewer families are considering letting their children work on the plantations. All want children to go to school and have another job. This means that more or less short-term Tamil pickers will no longer exist and it will either invent another method of harvesting tea or bring a workforce from other countries. I bet China will be here !!

Most plantations are dotted with tall trees with groups of leaves like trays, much like some acacias. By far, in a landscape it's nice to watch. This is Albizia odoratissma, appreciated for the shade they make and the enrichment of the soil. They withstand temperature and humidity differences, they resist diseases and insect pests. Precious wood for furniture, firewood, high protein feed for livestock.

  1. Puce The small town of Tientsin owes its name to a tribute to the Chinese city from where the first tea plants, brought by its owner, Irwin Stuart, arrived. 80% of the forty million plants in the valley come from China. We meet the old Muslim merchant met two years ago and give him his photos.

  2. Puce Bogawantalawa small town located at 1514 m altitude above sea level. At about 150 km east of Colombo, famous for its tea estates. The majority of tea estates in the region are managed by Bogawantalawa Tea Estates Ltd. (BPL Teas).

Formerly covered by jungle, these mountains of medium altitude were cleared from the end of the 18th century. At the beginning of the following century, the coffee plantations were spread over the reliefs of Bogawantalawa. In 1865, an epidemic of "coffee charcoal" decimated them. Heroic, the British planters responded to this epidemic by introducing from China and India plants of Camellia sinensis, perfectly adapted to this climate.

In this valley, the weather is very changeable, clouds can suddenly mist a summit, which gives this particular humidity that appreciate the tea plants. It can very well rain on a slope of a plantation and make sun on the opposite slope.

Before arriving in Marathenna we cross a beautiful forest of huge pines, and another of eucalyptus even higher (80 meters on average). We learn that the government plans to cut down these eucalyptus trees which pump the entire water supply of the area to the detriment of plantations.

  1. Puce Marathenna and its Hindu temple Sri Muthumariamman. We had met beautiful children there in 2017, again this year.

The village is in celebration: musicians, dancers, women in saree, men in sarongs, many colors. We wanted to take pictures, but the number of alcoholic people dissuaded us. Some men seemed to have no limit. In the car, through the open window some of them threw a kind of yellow powder on our face, in a very unpleasant way.

Arrived at Haputale we meet with pleasure Chitra, Hashan, and later Shehani who is expecting a child. Reuniting touching and warm.

Hashan tells us that he wanted to come to France for holidays. He had the plane tickets. The embassy refused him the visa, although he proved that he had a job in Sri Lanka, that he had bank guarantees, that he had return tickets. He was told there was no evidence that he would return to Sri Lanka. If we treated migrants in this way ... Poor France and its paradoxes.

Hashan is very attentive to the decoration of the rooms, which he does with creativity by
appealing to local crafts. We notice bed linen and batik cousin covers and ask where he found them. This is one of his friends who is an artist. He asks if it interests us, he can ask him to do it for us. The price is interesting we accept.

The artist is called Jeewantha Samarakoon, he will make us the finest sizes, he will bring it to the hotel on the last day, that means 160 km of road (320 km round trip) - practically 8:00 am by car) Amazing!

+ 71 974 8340 / + 71 296 2212

  1. Puce Dinner at the hotel

Leisure Mount View Holiday Inn Temple Road, Haputale

Day 13 Tuesday, August 27, 2019 Haputale

We wanted to experience the train, without tourists, other than Kandy-Nuwara Eliya that we tested in 2001 before it was fashionable. We thought of either the Haputale - Demodara line or the Haputale - Idalgashina line.

Eranda thinks it's better to do Haputale - Demodara because we go on the Nine Arch Bridge.

  1. Puce The train is at 11:05.

Going to the station I gave pictures and a sarong to Hashan the tailor who is in the same street.

To our surprise, this train that we could not take two years ago after a locomotive failure, is crowded and tourists are starting to be numerous!

There are two tendencies: those who jostle for a seat, at this level Sri Lankans are the most skilled, and those who scramble to be at the door of the wagon to see the panorama, at this level the "Goldfish" are the most skilled.

We'll understand why quickly: they love doing selfies or being photographed in balance on the running boards by taking poses that give the impression that they put themselves in danger for their followers of facebook or twitter. Result every time we want to take a picture outside, we have in the viewfinder one of these narcissi of the web. This is the generation of "goldfish".

We went over the bridge we saw two years ago. There are more and more people. Good plans are starting to become mass plans.

Arrival at Demodara around 13:00.

  1. Puce Lunch in a great little local restaurant, roadside and overlooking the nature: Delicious Cafe, Badulla Road, Hela Halpe, Ella

Then, we had tea on the terrace of the Ambiante Hotel overlooking the Ella Gap. Magnificent view. We discover the devastation of the forest fire that took place last week and stripped a part of Ella Rock.

While we heard it rumble after a storm, the Kilatella Waterfall is completely dry.

We end the day in the streets of Haputale, to discover the shops, the street food, the daily life, without tourists (different from Ella).

We discover a small restaurant that makes delicious vadai and samosas, crispy and not too spicy: New Russian Hotel, 19 Dambetanna Road, and another that makes tasty eggs hoppers: New Paradise, 9 Main Street.

We return to the hotel to end the day with Hashan who shows us the pictures of his sister's wedding.

  1. Puce Dinner at the hotel

Day 14 Wednesday August 28, 2019 Haputale - Tissamaharama by Buttala by road B35 - 136 km

Alternation of clouds and sun. It's hot.

Road to Tissamaharama, with a stop at the Dematamal Viharaya of Helagam on the Buttala-Okkampitiya road. It is a small temple that we like for its atmosphere and charm. Every time we come there, there are more and more people. Archaeological work has updated new ruins. A Hindu priest tried to extort money from us, while the locals do not pay. Eranda intervened, it immediately calmed him down.

We take the road with a stop at the big market of Buttala (every Wednesday) it is the most interesting and largest market we have met in Sri Lanka. This is the opportunity to discover all that is sold and bought at the food and other needs. It is also an opportunity to explain everything we see.

Many traders offer us to taste their production when they see that we are interested.

Then road A 35 from Buttala to Tissamaharama. The begging wild elephants are still there, practically in the same place.

  1. Puce At the end of the day we go to Kataragama for the evening puja at Maha Devale. We come to Kataragama every time we come to Sri Lanka, because it is a unique place that gives off something special.

This is the first time we see an elephant come to kneel before each Hindu temple. This time again we discover the richness of Eranda: until today no one had drawn our attention to a ceremony which nevertheless takes place every day: devotees offer meals to the deities. Depending on the fortune of the devotees and the quality of the meal they offer, this gives rise to particular rituals.

The path to the great dagoba is majestic with its flower stands, lighting and pilgrims flocking around like a wave that ripples from and to the dagoba.

Around the big white stupa, we find the same atmosphere. A crowd prays in groups, families, or alone. Their faith is so palpable that it makes it a unique place.

All the faithful come with offerings, flowers, money, lots of money, and packages (gifts) for monks. Each package contains a bowl to eat, a dress and a piece of cloth that wrapped around the waist like a skirt as underwear, a belt to hold the skirt, a razor to shave his head, Needles and thread to repair the dress, sometimes a cloth to filter the water. Some add a bag in which the monk keeps his papers, a book and now his smartphone. Smartphone also offered by the devotees.

Returning to the entrance we meet several groups of "kavadis".

Kavadi is a ritual from a legend that originated in the hills of Palani in southern India and a disciple named Idumban. He was supposed to carry two hills (Kavadi) at the request of a sage while Murugan was against it.

The Kavadi Aattam = Dancing Burden, is practiced by Hindus for the attention of the god Murugan to implore his help, usually for a loved one who needs healing or to settle a debt to the deity for the fulfillment of a wish, rarely to find a spiritual balance. The faithful dance while carrying these burdens (symbol of the two hills) on their shoulders. The simplest consists of two semi-circular pieces of wood or steel that are attached to a cross structure placed in balance on the shoulders of the devotee. They are often decorated with flowers and peacock feathers (the vehicle of God Murugan).

Some kavadis can weigh heavy (30 to 40 kg) and have small spears whose sharp points are posed or buried in the flesh of those who wear it. To which is added other mortifications like piercing the tongue, the cheeks with metal needles. Some go as far as piercing the body with big hooks either to hang themselves from tree trunks or to pull ropes held by participants. It is claimed that the faithful are able to not feel pain, not to bleed from their wounds and not to have scars. We have already seen it.

These groups of faithful are accompanied by musicians who play a rather unexpected music in Asia of the same type as the popular music of the South West of France. A furious music that in Sri Lanka often causes hysterical trances in some women.

If some "kavadis" are ceremonies prepared well in advance, with many rules: cold water purifications, head shaving, vegetarian diet, abstinence from alcohol, sexual abstinence, constant praying, sleeping on the ground, the majority are simulacres of kavadis rented by families before entering the temple to make an offering and ask for the intervention of Murugan to solve very materialistic problems.

Before entering the mosque, a family joined us to ask us to share their offerings. Large tray of various fruits that were offered and blessed during the pooja and that it offers us in turn. It is common in Sri Lanka that people share.

We never fail to visit the small mosque with its warm welcome. We are far from the Islam we know in France. A sign at the entrance specifies that Salafists and other fundamentalists are not welcome, they will be delivered to the authorities as soon as they occur.

  1. Puce On the way back stop in a small hut on the side of the road for an orgy of egg hoppers with a succulent cup of tea sweetened with milk. A real treat for a few rupees.

At the hotel we are warmly welcomed by Anoma and Jaya. We learn that we are the only customers coming to their homes since the attacks in April. As with many families, small hotels, and drivers, these attacks have had catastrophic consequences. This has led to a decline in individual tourism, a loss of income, an impoverishment of Sri Lankans who live small and honestly tourism. It is one of the objectives of terrorism: to terrorize, manipulate, impact, create situations of disorder.

Elephant Camp Guesthouse

Day 15 Thursday, August 29, 2019 Tissamaharama and around

It's nice and warm.

- We planned to make the reserve of Bundala which is one of the only reserves we do not know.

Eranda dissuades us and proposes that we do Yale in the late afternoon with a driver he knows. Because according to him it is always the afternoon that we observe the most animals. We let ourselves be tempted.

  1. Puce We have an appointment with this driver (Lahinu) this morning to visit a buffalo farm and attend the milking. We find that buffaloes all look sick. They are thin, without energy. Completely different from wild buffaloes that we meet in reserves.

We can not stay or photograph because of a belief in the "bad eye" that would have a detrimental effect on the herd and milk !

  1. Puce We visit a potter, Tusha Rani, who makes pots for the curd using a crankshaft mechanical mold. The cooking is done traditionally in a straw oven. She sells the pots to those who make yoghurt. She earns 20 rupees per pot and can produce 500 to 600 pots a day. But she does not sell pots every day. Competition is rough, customers are not loyal. She has to pay a tax to the state to collect and transport clay

She also makes pottery at the turn and can give lessons to those who wish. This could be a nice half-day activity when visiting Tissamaharama or Yale.

  1. PuceThen, we visit Nuwan and Mekala, a young couple who is trying their luck in curd production. Nuwan returns from the farm where he just bought a can of milk of 40 liters of milking in the morning.

They put it immediately to heat in a large bowl over a wood fire.

Their practice is different from what we had seen in Gampaha. The milk was heated to boiling, then cooled. When it reached 40 °, the ferment was added and mixed. The milk was then distributed in the earthen pots.

Mekala brings the milk to a boil and boils it for a while so that the water in the milk evaporates a little. When the milk reaches a certain creaminess, which it evaluates by experience, it withdraws the milk from the fire, mixes a jar of yoghurt which it has preserved, and pours the steaming milk into the clay pots.

During the preparation, we tasted curd of the last preparation, delicious. With 40 liters of milk, she makes about 40 pots that she sells 170 rupees. Generally, she does not sell directly to customers, they are traders who buy her and sell on the side of the road or in small shops. Here again it is dependent on the unpredictability of the buyers. There are good days and bad days and sometimes bad weeks.

  1. Puce We then visit Anusha Daepani, an artist who braids the palm leaves with a lot of creativity (palmyra weaving and Indikola weaving) to make baskets, bags, bracelets, mats, and wall panels. So nice. She is really talented. After showing us how she does it, she proposes to teach us the weaving of leaves, around a cup of tea. What can again be an activity to discover the authentic life of a Sri Lankan family, learning his art.

  2. Puce After a late lunch, we go to Yale for a safari in the reserve, with Eranda and his jeep driver. At the entrance a forest guide is imposed ! Some elephants at the entrance of the reserve. These are the only ones we will see, with the one who tried to charge us before leaving the park.

A langur monkey, some deer axis, some wild boars, the eternal buffaloes engulfed in their mud bath.

The driver rushes every time his phone tells him that a jeep thought he saw a leopard. This led us to zigzag in the reserve several times, even in reverse, to end at the end of a line of 50 vehicles, whose drivers came down to announce that a leopard is lying there, far away, under bushes. Not even recognizable with a long telephoto lens. We had never done Yale in such conditions. We have hardly seen anything, not even the beautiful landscapes we love.

Safari completely different from those we did with Janaka, the driver we are used to.

We will not do Yale in these conditions! We think that apart from risking seeing a leopard by chance, provided we are in the lead car, all safaris in Sri Lanka are overestimated and their tariffs for foreigners are increasing, reaching indecent prices for what is proposed.

Day 16 Friday, August 30, 2019 Tissamaharama - Unawatuwa  150 km

It is hot (35 °) sky is covered and sunny by alternation

  1. Puce In Hambantota we visit the family we know who makes delicious Kalu Dodol. We had tried the day before to contact them to learn how to do them. But they do not make it every day. M.N.S. Nizamiya, No. 13 Jail Street.

We buy 2 kg of Kalu Dodol which they pack in a remarkable way for the trip.

  1. Puce Coastal road to Galle. A few stops to photograph the ocean that seems to have made good progress compared to our last visits. Before there was always a space of sand or rocks between the ocean and the road. Today the ocean is at the edge of the road. Is it already the rise of waters announced?

On the other hand, the invasion of hotels, guesthouses, surf and diving schools, whale / dolphin safari agencies is impressive.

The whole south coast is now in the hands of opportunists who are decided to take off the most of the hen with the golden eggs.

We even noticed Chinese-owned luxury hotels under construction. As in Africa, they start by building roads, stadiums and ports and end up monopolizing the country's heritage and wealth, paying bribes to a corrupt elite. What is more, the fact that Sri Lanka has become the privileged playground of a generation of "goldfish" that seeks more to play it exotic than to discover a culture other than theirs.

Good to know, traditional tourism is definitely practiced in other parts of the island.

  1. Puce Shortly before Trapobane, we visit a natural pool of sea water, overlooking the ocean. Entrance fee for those who want to swim: 100 rupees, for Sri Lankans, 500 rupees for foreigners. Knowing that the majority of Sri Lankan tourists who travel aboard their SUV have income 3 to 5 times higher than ours. Hello discrimination!

We can not walk on the beach in front of Trapobane Island. The ocean covers the entire beach.

  1. Puce In Ahungana, visit the plantation and tea factory Handunugoda Tea Estate Virgin White tea plantation

The guided tour of the plantation is very interesting. It allows to discover the different types of tea, the different types of picking, and the plants associated with tea. Information about the effects of different tea on health to check. A tasting is offered in a very pleasant setting, with cupcakes. Of course all this is done to prepare the passage to the shop. But that has the merit of being of quality.

Before visiting the factory that produces the tea, we go through a workshop where two men prepare cinnamon peel. In the tea factory there are still old Irish machines dating back to the beginning of the last century, including the drying oven.

The shop is full of a wide variety of quality products, with the possibility to taste all the tea that is sold there. The products are quite expensive compared to the prices practiced in France.

Arrival at the end of the afternoon at Unawatuwa. As for Arugam Bay, we do not recognize Unawatuwa where we stayed in 2008. Completely different from the peaceful little town we have known. There are hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, shops, diving schools, travel agencies everywhere. There is no longer a square meter that is not dedicated to tourism trade. We realize once again how much tourism has changed this country, and how much the south coast is plagued by commercialism.

Late afternoon on the beach, where local women bathe in jeans and tee shirt, in dress and where tourists swim in bikini.

Asantha Guest house 38/B, Kanthi Villa, Peellagoda, Unawatuna,

Day 17 Saturday, August 31, 2019 Unawatuwa - Balapitya - Wadduwa  100 km

It's very hot. The sky is overcast, heavy rain in the middle of the afternoon.

Road to Balapitiya.

  1. Puce A little before Galle, every morning when the sea is not too disassembled, we can see fishermen on the beach pulling big ropes that connect them to a net that was put in the sea a little more early, sometimes more than 800 meters from the edge.

This work is painful because the resac pulls the pocket out to sea while the men try to bring it closer to the shore. When she arrives on the beach after a few hours of effort, she is more or less full of different fish.

Two years ago we could observe them and photograph them without any problem. This time, one of them was very aggressive and chased us to the car to demand money. As luck would have it, in the photos, it's the only one who pretends to pull on the rope. Here we find the mentality of the pole fishermen of Kathaluwa and Ahangama.

  1. Puce We would like to visit the monastery and orphanage - Sri Sugatha Community Development Foundation- Balapitiya.

We originally intended to spend two days and one night there. It is possible to stay there, take meals while learning meditation and sharing a moment with the children of the orphanage. But the rates seemed expensive for a monastery. Before attempting the experiment, we wanted to see what it is.

The monastery is in a village on Lake Maduganga. The setting is beautiful and serene. The buildings are in a well maintained and pleasant garden. The buildings are recent. The orphanage is modern and well equipped. It only accepts boys who live and are schooled locally. The monastery is recent and modern. The whole thing works with donations. People from the village and the surrounding area cook meals and bring them to the center. If there are no meals brought, the center has its own functional kitchen. Donations must be used to buy food.

In general, modest families make donations. Rich people and politicians do not deal with this kind of foundation. They prefer to donate to temples for Buddha helping to grow their business.

We are warmly received by the venerable Mahaladuwe Nandaratana, director of the monastery and orphanage and by Mr. K.W. De Silva, a retired volunteer who comes to help. The Foundation has various activities, such as a nursery school, a Sunday school, a library, a free medical service, a scholarship program for disadvantaged students.

The center welcomes 20 children. Initially it was mainly children whose parents had disappeared in the tsunami. It also welcomes children whose parents can not afford to maintain them.

The center welcomes tourists who wish to do a short or long meditation course, with the possibility to participate in the activities of the orphanage. Tourists are accommodated on the spot, either in dormitory with mosquito nets and ventilators, common toilets, or in a private room with private bathroom and conditioned air (there is only one for the moment). A project to expand the capacity is underway.

Meals are taken in a large, well-appointed dining room, which overlooks the lake, along with the kids. The meals are excellent and plentiful. Nothing to do with the frugality of some monasteries.

The prices are slightly high because they allow a cash flow that finances the operation and the different projects of the foundation. Unlike hotels, it's useful money.

We learn that European and some local tour operators have programmed a night in this center in their catalog. We hope this is not to add a note of "exotic humanism" to their tourism business.

Before the meal, the venerable Mahaladuwe Nandaratana offers us a session of meditation and exchange, without making headaches. We are reassured, we do not play it mystical.

  1. Puce Follow a succulent meal, brought by the people of the village.

All the people we met are welcoming and warm. Next time we will spend a few days there.

  1. Puce We had asked Eranda if it was possible to visit a cinnamon workshop. He suggested we go on a safari boat on the Madu River, which includes a visit from a family who is demonstrating around cinnamon.

We do not want to go on a safari where everything is organized as part of a business. Eranda then inquired and took us to a cinnamon farm.

The whole region is planted with cinnamon trees. We visit a factory, where everything is done by hand: G.D. De Silva & Sons, Uragaha Road, Diggoda Waththa, Ahungala. + 94777369330 Ahungala.

We will discover later that another producer and exporter of cinnamon is G.P. De Silva & Sons, with a factory in Ambalangoda and offices in Mont Lavina.

Cinnamon is a bushy, evergreen shrub of the laurel family grown in low bush (about 2-3 m tall) to facilitate harvesting. The soil should not be waterlogged as it produces a bark with a bitter taste. Eight or ten side branches are harvested after about three years to obtain cinnamon bark.

- The cinnamon branches are harvested twice a year, usually after each rainy season, when moisture allows the bark to peel off more easily.

- Only stems less than 5 cm in diameter are used. One start by scratching the outer bark of the branch either with a scraper or a thin knife.

- The second bark is then massed to facilitate its take-off. Sections are cut lengthwise and circumferentially with the tip of a knife in order to limit the sampling areas. The bark is gently removed by lifting. The bark removed forms a pipe (quill).

- Other pieces of bark are placed inside a quill, making sure to leave the best whole quill outside, the inside being filled with broken or less regular pieces of bark.

- Composite quills vary from 10 cm to 1 meter. Hardly harvested, their color begins to darken, ranging from beige to light brown depending on the drying time.

- The quills are placed on shelves in coconut rope and dried in the shade to prevent them from becoming deformed. After four or five days of drying, the quills are rolled on a board to tighten the packing, then placed under a sieved sun for a new drying.

- Once dried, the quills are cut and packaged according to the orders.

The quality of the cinnamon is judged according to the thickness of the bark, according to the diameter of the quills and according to the appearance (broken or whole quills), and finally according to the aroma and the flavor.

The Sri Lanka grading system divides cinnamon quills into four main grades according to their diameter:

Alba, best grade is thin and full of pleasant aromas of a powerful flavor. Sweet. Diameter less than 7m / m

C 5 special (C00000 special) Wanted for its character, taste, smell and flavor. This is the 2nd best quality cinnamon available. The most popular on the European market. Diameter inf at 11m m

C 5 (C0000) smooth, thin, golden-yellow in appearance, sweet in taste. This is the 3rd best cinnamon quality available. Diameter less than 13m/m

C 4 (C0000) M 5 (M00000) M 4 (M0000) etc.

The last categories have the widest hoses.

Another categorization exists: Alba (inf at 6 m / m), Continental (inf at 16m / m), Mexican (inf at 19m / m), Hamburg (inf at 32m/m

When buying cinnamon in France, it is sometimes indicated Cinnamomum zeylanicum, but never the grade. We never know what quality we buy.

We knew that the best cinnamon is Ceylon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum). The Chinese (Cinnamomum cassia) is only a pale copy with a certain toxicity. It is however that which one finds most commonly. 40% of world production comes from China, against 10% for Ceylon.

- Cinnamon powder is often obtained from falling bark, residues. Better to buy tubes and grind them yourself.

Cinnamon powder is not interesting: after being ground, spices are more vulnerable to oxidation. Aromatic compounds are not stable and will disappear quickly. The shelf life of ground spices is much lower than that of whole spices.

It is also very easy for unscrupulous traders to add to the ground spice another material such as sawdust. As a result, most consumers and savvy wholesalers prefer to buy whole spices. It is best to grind the cinnamon just before using it.

The essential oil is made from the distillation of the leaves, and sometimes by distillation of the falling bark, according to the principle of the still.

We visit warehouses where thousands of cinnamon stalks are cut, prepared, sorted, and bundled for export around the world.

A box of 15gr of cinnamon without precision of grade in France costs between 2 and 3 euros, according to the marks is 170 €/Kg

A box of cinnamon of alba grade of 250 gr costs 3900 rupees (19.85 €) or 80 € per kilo. Thanks to Eranda, we got a reduction of 1000 rupees - 2900 rps (14,50 €) which puts the kilo of alba to 58 €.

We observe that many individuals have cinnamon plants in their garden and produce cinnamon for their own consumption. Like us with herbs ( Thym etc... )

Cinnamon grown in the Ahungala region, and in private gardens, is not sprayed with pesticides, it does not receive chemical phytosanitary treatment. She does not have the bio label.

Arrival in Wadduwa. We meet Chitra and Kalu with pleasure. The cheeses have been delivered to them, they have already enjoyed a few.

  1. Puce Succulent Dinner at the hotel

Kalu offers us to go see the perahera of Wadduwa at night.

It takes place every August 31, it is the first time that we hear about it. He has a friend who has a shop with a roof from which you can see the parade without being crushed by the crowd. Awesome.

This is the first time we have attended a perahera elsewhere than in Kandy. And it is well worth it, in addition to the fact that it is free. The number of participating groups is almost the same as that of Kandy (80/90). The quality of the groups is sameeven better than this of Kandy in 2017, which was very rough. With the exception of Kandyan dancers who are the same everywhere. There are so many elephants disguised as Christmas trees.

There are many soldiers along the procession, assault rifle on the chest, fingers on the trigger. One of them was on top of his adrenaline and did not miss an opportunity to show his power, intervening between the police (who were cool) and the people in a very aggressive way. Poor guy, without rifle he must be lost.

Little Villa 234 Maha-Vihara Road | Molligoda, Wadduwa

Day 18 Sunday 01 September 2019 Wadduwa

hot 32 ° heavy sky and rain all day

Morning of idleness waiting for Eranda to pick us up. He invited us to lunch in his family.

  1. Puce He had a surprise for us. We wanted to see a traditional baker making Sri Lankan bread over a wood fire. He found one.

We spent an hour observing the gestures, bathing in the smells, in the atmosphere that characterized the neighborhood bakeries of our childhood, before the bread became an industrial product.

Lalidh, Mishanha, the two bakers work for the family Roopasinghe who did not want to sell their traditional bakery on the death of their father. Thanks to them for perpetrating the tradition.

In addition to bread, they make apple slippers, sugar croissants, and sliced bread baked. A delight.

  1. Puce Excellent meal at Eranda prepared by his wife Shiranga. She gave us her watalapam recipe which was succulent.

Return to the hotel. In the afternoon, Chitra offers to visit a family close to her home to buy her cinnamon and pepper.

They live in a well-appointed house surrounded by a large garden where cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg and many spices grow. The host is honored to show us how he prepares cinnamon. We find the same traditional gestures we saw the day before: scraping the first skin, massage the second, cutting the pipes, assembling pipes, drying in the sun.

  1. Puce Nice Dinner at the hotel. The meals at Chitra have always been exceptional and varied

Day 19 Monday 02 September 2019 Waduwa

Day of rest and long conversations with Chitra. Erudite it is a pleasure to exchange with her. The artist, Hashan's friend comes to bring us bed linen as expected. Thinking we could appreciate he also brought some watercolors he made. Typical street scenes. Impossible to resist, they are so beautiful. This artist is really great and deserves to be known.

  1. PuceLunch and dinner at the hotel

Departure at the end of the day to the airport for a flight that takes place in the middle of the night.

Eranda accompanies us. We are very happy to have known him and to have made this trip with him. Thanks to him, although we have been to Sri Lanka a dozen times, we discovered the island differently.

This confirms what we already thought, the guide or the driver can change everything in the way of perceiving a culture, a people, a country. It goes well beyond the funny reviews found on the forums, "my driver is great" or "we recommend an exceptional driver" or "the best driver" etc ... knowing that the majority of those who write this have only seen the country once and have generally seen only the inevitable. A driver would be exceptional because he takes clients with kindness from Colombo to Anuradhapura or from Polonaruwa to Sigiriya!

So how to define Eranda who is well beyond the banality of the "exceptional "?

Day 20 Tuesday 03 September 2019 Arrival in France after a short stopover in Doha.

When I mention the generation of "Goldfish" is in reference to the book of Bruno Patino "The Goldfish Civilization" - Grasset-
2019, where the image used by Google executives to convince the world to adopt their worldview, evoking the stupidity of the goldfish in their jar with a memory and a capacity for attention so small that it discovers a new world with each turn of the jar, transforming repetition into novelty and smallness into infinity. Did'nt Greta Thunberg and her clones feel like doing something new, when it was already what we said and did in the 50s to 70s! I am not surprised that we heard her less since the award of the Nobel Peace Prize was given to someone else.

Enclosed in their digital aquariums, the "goldfish", geeks, hipsters, millenials have a worldview and a culture limited to what the algorithms impose to them, a limited availability to the time that one leaves them, an image of the world limited to their own image (selfies). Their jars have become their only frames of reference. From one jar to another there is no difference. The sauce is the same. That's probably why they all go to the same place, with the same clothes, the same tattoos, the same apps, and everywhere they are the same sets, the same food, the same ways of being and to do, locked in the illusion that the world is "the between us" of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Booking etc.

It is a statement, not a judgment, that deplores the way opportunists handle generations. It is the wish that one day some will wake up and defend freedom, in the face of a numeric High Tech caste that turns everything into market value.


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