On December 19th 1981 I was in Wellawaya in southern Sri Lanka.
|Wellawaya: My picture|
Wellawaya was a crossroads on the road between the mountains around Nuwara Elliya and the south coast. It was a curious place to be a travellers' stop over, as it had no real monuments, no bank to change money and so on, but it was near a National Park. I was looking for a change of bus but there was nothing immediate. I noticed a family guesthouse which was a common place for tourists to stay: the food was typically a bit bland but there was a restaurant in town and there were other travellers around. Above all it was warm and not raining. On this day I walked out of town to a hill and wrote this in my notebook:
On top of the rock where there is a little stupa in white, a shrine with a variety of fairly crude Buddhist images and a bell nearby. At the foot of the hill is a little temple, low key as seems normal here, a shaven monk pulling on his cigarette, an old man and a school-pen-boy, who pointed me the way up the steep rock-face.
The sun shines hot at last, clouds spread from the north though rain seems mercifully at least a few hours away. The wind beats around the hill mainly from the east, great fun for the swallows, occasionally a swift, a falcon or a shikra. Around me I can see two low ranges of hills on either side, almost covered with thick jungly trees and a few stretches of bare rock. Beyond the distant town and stretching north are the major bulk of the mountains with green slopes higher up and a waterfall almost in line with the just visible water tower in town. A gap to the south looks flat, the plains stretching away to the horizon. Nearby I can see the brighter green of paddy-fields, the lighter green of maize or vegetable plots, shade trees and banana bushes. The houses are of all sorts: thatched roof, mud and wattle walls look the most traditional, but I can also see tin roofs and red tile roofs, and one tiled roof house is built of new concrete. There are thatch shelters in some of the fields.
Another day I went with friends to the lake, or Handapanagala Tank as it is called. We took a bus down to the turning along the Hambantota road and walked down to the lake. We then crossed the water in a thin dugout with a single outrigger, between sunken trees, and pelicans, cormorants and terns. On the other side we looked down side streams, which was very attractive with herons, egrets, peacocks, and monkeys in the trees, and one or two crocodiles. Then we settled on a big rock overlooking the buffalo, with kingfishers and bee-eaters and an osprey, but no elephant came. Eventually we paddled back, had tea and waited for the return bus in the bungalow on the other side.
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