Sunday, 18 April 2010

Day 19-21 Rotary Club of Wariyapola

Day 19

We were to leave Kandy and our hosts for 5 days. It had been a remarkable experience and nice to stay in one place for a while. Also we had been given a degree of freedom as Kandy being much smaller was easier to walk around. Jim was dropped off very early with Ayesha to attend the "pooja" ceremony at the temple. Oferings of friut, coconut etc. were made up and taken to the buddhist priests. Prayers were said and Jim was introduced and prayers spoken. Later homage was paid to Ganesha and Kali. This was all a very humbling experience and again a wonderful thing to be part off. A last look at the large tank in the centre of Kandy, a mango juice from the Queens and then into the minibus off to Wariyapola.

This was to be the first host to take all members of the team. After a hot sticky day travelling we could not believe our luck; not only a beautiful house but also a pool. We even stayed in during a thunderstorm it was so welcoming!

We had heard about this place from the Indian team and we were not disappointed. Jayantha and Asanthi were wonderful hosts.

Day 20

Have you ever wondered where Kershew nuts come from... (just an aside).

We travelled out to Yapahuwa to the rock fortress which is also called the Fire Rock. This dated back over 2500 years and was really quite impressive. The stairs were very steep 75-80 degrees. Jim found it really difficult coming down with his fear of heights but Dan and John made it right to the top. one of the lions at the top of the staircase appears on the Rs10 note.

This three day break gave us a chance to recharge and for that we were eternally grateful. The programme was flexible and the Rotary meeting was held at their house.

Yes it is fair to say that the Rotary meeting was different as marquees arrived and outside caterers and even a disco. We did the presentation and then what an evening of fellowship with "last man standing our illustrious leader Jim dancing until the early hours.

Day 21

An early start and we were heading for the coast to Kalpitiya and Chilaw. This was at the end of a 40 km spit north of Colombo and known for its whales, dolphins and reefs. Whilst travelling along the spit one saw the freshwaterlagoon on one side where the muslim community fished and on the other the salt flats (industrially "mined") and the salt water ocean fished by the huge Catholic population. The spit was so narrow there were many points where you could see both sides. The fisherman's houses were all made from palm. It was amazing.

Our destination was Sethawadiya Dolphin Veiw Eco Lodge. A wonderful beach fronted restaurant with basic lodges for rent. Gill immediately fell in love with this place imaging just how much they would like to return.

Unfortunately we had missed the dolphins they had passed at 6am (approximately 600 of them!)..even so setting off at around 3am might not have been an option.

Jayantha however arranged for us to go out on a fishing boat and see the coral reef. We waited until around 4pm when it was cooler!! Arriving back to a beautiful sunset.

On our return we stopped off for a meal. We had all really benefited not only for the rest but also spending the time together. Just how much better could this trip get?

Day 16 Rotary Club of Kandy and Day 17 Rotary Club of Nuwara Eliya

Day 16 (Weds 24th March )

In the morning we split up again; Jim and Ayesha were going to open another toilet facility in a school; whilst the rest of the team were being hosted byRotoractors from the Rotary Club of Kandy. Unlike the UK the Interact (14-18) and (18-30) are prolific in many of the Clubs in Sri Lanka. Kandy has 26 Interact Clubs and 16 Rotoract Clubs. This is quite remarkable! Schools are invited to set up these clubs and a Rotarian will be given the task of oversight and work closely with the staff. If only this could happen in the UK!
The team went to the Botanical Gardens to experience the beautiful flora, fauna, bird life and...fruit bats...hundreds of fruit bats...

Jim went to another school which on the face of it was a little better equipped. Pujapitiya School had approximately 400 pupils just as a Primary School. The welcome was astounding with the children forming a marching band and all the school can out to welcome the VIP guests.

Flags were hoisted and the chilldren sang the national anthem with real conviction. Proud to be Sri Lankan.
The vote of thanks was given by a pupil aged 9 years and then the block was opened.

It was a very proud moment and Jim felt privileged to be there; yet had not been involved the project at all.

Again the extensive use of matching grants from the Rotary Foundation had facilitated this work.
Jim was taken to a rural Sri Lankan dwelling where he was introduced to the custom where a glass of water is passed around the guests; you would think to share but no it was just to touch the glass! By this act you had accepted the invitation to take food and drink with your hosts.

We all met up afterwards in the centre of Kandy in a restaurant called "The Pub" - very promising; and there we shared our stories of the morning.

The evening was the Kandy Club meeting and Ladies night at the Kandy Rugby Club. We had had a wonderful time in Kandy and we all wanted this night to be special.

But first a group photo followed by one of our versions of the presentation. And yes this did yet again include the three legs of Man!

At the end we presented President Ayesha with the cash for the sick room. As part of the meeting each of the political candidates had been invited for a hustings. This seemed at first contary to normal practice as Rotary is a non political organisation; but it was obvious that in order for Rotary to get permission to do what it does the two must work together. It was run exceptionally well. Jim was introduced to Dr Sarath Amunugama; one of the top politicians in the country.

We then played much to our delight "musical chairs" which Michelle won! Followed by a few moves...

But nothing could cap the Salsa Demonstration by Dan.

What a great team!

Day 17 Rotary Club of Nuwara Eliya

Back at the Queens 9.00am we were off to the tea country. On our tour so far we had seen the packaging, tasting and auctioning but not the picking and processing. It was quite a drive mainly uphill past the most astouding countryside. Deep valleys and quite high hills and incredibly "bumpy roads"...more of that later. We were to visit the Labookella tea factory but we missed it ! as one of our hosts dozed off. He was quite cross and ensured we say it on the way back. We therefore went to Mackwoood's. The first thing that strikes you about this area is the Scottish connection; and then the beautiful green lush countryside. As we got closer there were tea bushes everywhere totally carpeting the landscape. The tour followed and we began to see how and why there were so many teas from one tea bush. it was in the rolling, drying and processing.

Lunch was provided by the Rotary Club of Nuwara Eliya and President Rajathurai. Later we then had an opportunity to explore the town. The weather was just like Manchester on an average day and true to form it started to rain but it was a great deal cooler. Interestingly enough our hosts thought we would be very comfortable in this climate...How wrong could they be!

We all visited the oldest post office in Sri Lanka. Not very old at all!

On the way back we stopped off at the other factory and saw the tea pickers arrive at the end of their shift with the large bags of tea leaves. They had been out all day in the fields... once amazed by the manufacture of the humble tea bag; when you see the whole process end to end one should never rush a good cuppa!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Day 14-15 Rotary Club of Kandy

Day 15
Gill and Michelle stayed with Carl, almost one hour out of town quite isolated but a beautiful location. Jim stayed at the top of the steep sided valley; with the President Ayesha and her husband Ravina with extraordinary views and sun rises. Dan and John were nearer to Kandy centre but the accommodation was excellent.
The day starts early in Kandy as we all make our way to the Queens Hotel to meet up with the driver and our hosts. A visit to District Governor Suri's match factory (Sun Match) ensued. It was fascinating as every thing was more or less done by hand including counting the matches in the boxes and even making the boxes themselves; the factory was a major employer in the area. Then a quick look at a printing business working overtime producing political posters for the elections much to the delight of the proprietor! Then also on the same site an explanation of how palm resin is extracted and its many uses. Everything in the tree is used and provides a valuable natural resource absolutely nothing is wasted without felling the tree. The king nuts themselves are harvested 12 times a year; leaves used for fences and roofs as well as floor coverings.
After lunch we visited Maligwa; the Sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic. This significant Buddhist Temple the most important in Sri Lanka and beyond is the resting place of Buddha's tooth smuggled into the country. This famous artist depiction adorns many of the temples.

Day 16
Our second vocational day where we split up. Dan, Michelle and Gill visited Mother Theresa Centre , Daya Nivasa. the experience was unforgettable and will stay in their hearts for a long time. For the rest of the trip Gill often referred to the time when she picked up one of the little ones and just wanted to take her home. No photos were taken inside for confidentiality reasons but what an experience.
John as part of his vocation visited the Agricultural Development Department and again gained a valuable insight into the work being done in Sri Lanka to optimise production without jeopardising the environment and future yields. This visit would provide valuable information for his PhD which he hopes to commence on his return. In actual fact this visit could be instrumental in him changing his research emphasis to Sri Lanka.

Jim spent the morning visiting some water projects funded by the Rotary Club of Kandy. The first the provision of toilet facilities at a local school. The school, D S Senanayake School had a primary section of approximately 520 pupils with very poor toilet facilities, ( only four squat toilets). The new block provided six new cubicules and a staff toilet. During the visit it became apparent that the school needed a sick room for the children. The room was available but needed to be kitted out with a bed, curtains , a fan, medical supplies, some paint for the walls and other items. The project was later put to the team who unanimously decided to fund the project themselves as a "thank you" for the wonderful hospitality being given. Ayesha and Jim then moved on to the Centre for Handicapped where 15 artificicial limbs were being donated to members of the army discharged mainly due to landmine injuries. The army does initially supply one fitted limb but these are not really up to the same standard. From there a third presentation was made through the equivalent of the "The Friends of Discharged Soldiers" of 10 toilet systems to enable disabled soldiers to return home as these replaced the sqat facilities which could not be used because of their injuries. The scale of the work done by this club was astounding as with the other Clubs we had visited the scale of the projects was facilitated by the extensive use of matching grants given by Rotary Foundation as Kandy linked up with Rotary Clubs around the world.
We all met up for lunch and shared our amazing experiences then all of us returned to the Centre for the Handicapped which had finished its surgeries and we were given a detailed tour of this remarkable facility.
The day finished with a fabulous BBQ at Carl's home the setting of which was as near to the jungle as we were to experience. The access road was almost non exisitant and the final part of the journey was driving over rocks! Gill and Michelle experienced this journey twice a day.

Day 14 Rotary Club of Kegalle

Day 14
So we meet at Lanka Hands for the final time as we are about to travel up country towards Kandy first, Wariyapola and then later north towards Dambulla. We were going to be "in the sticks" for 12 days and to transport us our driver Sumwoodu and a minibus. We were pleased that Sumwoodu had a little grasp of English and a very safe way of navigating the treacherous roads. We were to be met in Kegalle by members of the Kegalle Club for one of the highlights of the trip, the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage.The aim was to meet in time for the morning feeding but we soon realised that the state of the roads meant that even short distances took a long time; better safe than sorry!
We reached the Mahaweli Reach Hotel and proceeded to the entrance and then started walking down a street lined with tourist shops, (the first we had really seen ) towards a slope leading to water. We waited in a shop entrance as first one elephant came down the street , then another two and then...
What a spectacle as the elephants headed for the freedom of the water and were allowed to roam.
One elephant decided to go shopping in our shop!

We then we were asked if we would like to visit a Spice Garden; it was the middle of the day and very hot so a bit of shade seemed welcome. The spices and their uses were introduced to us and then much to our suprise our hosts had provided India Head massages, facials and body massages. This was very new to Jim! The team really relaxed and was pleased that the shop sold citronella balm!
We returned to the Orphange to watch the baby elephants being fed with huge bottles and then said goodbye to our hosts and headed for Kandy.
Lanka Hands had been replaced by the Queens Hotel opposite the tank (lake) that dominated the centre of Kandy. Carl was the co-ordinator and immediately presented us with a detailed programme of the next five nights; (ex RAF what else would you expect.) Kandy had an entirely different feel to Colombo and it is really beautiful set in a steep sided valley.
Our hosts were waiting for us and the luggage transferred.