Anuradhapura is about 100 miles from Kandy. On our travels, Bernard, our driver, advised us that we passed through the best area in Sri Lanka for mango.
He sampled a few before advising us which to buy at 12p each. The farmers are keen to sell at the roadside stalls. If they sell wholesale they get only 2.5p each. Six weeks later the season was almost over and the price was 25p each. Never mind, they are still very good. Some say that Eve offered a mango to Adam, not an apple.
One of the useful skills we have learned is how to eat a mango. No, there is no way of doing it without getting into a mess, the skill just limits the mess and delivers more edible fruit. It is socially acceptable to suck the stone.
Age shall not weary them
At one place close to Anuradhapura we met an old man who claims he was born in 1906 so he is now 108 years old. Previously he was an archeological labourer helping to dig up the ruins of the early civilisation at Anuradhapura.
He still works sweeping up the fallen leaves from beneath a sacred Bo tree (Ficus religiosa.)
All bo trees are sacred as Buddha was sitting beneath one when he achieved the state of Nirvana.
All the bo trees in Sri Lanka are descended from that special bo tree, which is said to be still living in North India.
We passed through teak forests and the trees were in flower. They have an abundance of greenish-cream blossoms. The road also runs through a part of ‘coconut triangle’, an area of coconut palm estates.
Hit the road, Jack.
Almost everything is available somewhere along the roads. Corn on the cob is a popular snack, either boiled or roasted. Rickety palm or banana leaf shelters held up by string offer cool drinks, snacks, king coconut, toys and local handicrafts. Some of the latter are unique and very good value.
Car and lorry repairs are done at the roadside. I have seen a lorry with its gearbox stripped out and all the cogs neatly piled up alongside. There are auto shops which specialise in a particular part: doors, lights, transmissions, clutches, windscreens, suspension etc. There is a car wash, well a boy with a hose, wherever a mountain stream crosses the road.
Later we stopped at a rest area in Kurunegala, a busy market town served by rail and at an important road junction. The small rest house had a better ambiance than Watford Gap Services and the loos were cleaner. Refreshing cool drinks for the 3 of us cost about 30p.
On the long climb up towards Kandy we passed buses, vans and coaches parked and double parked along a stretch of road where there was only jungle. Just visible in the forest was a security fence and a modern factory building where Penguin clothing is made in a Free Trade Zone.
Young girls work there for £100 a month, a good wage for an uneducated girl. The girls are away from home and live in terrible conditions with a poor diet.
Life on a plantation
Behind the free trade zone are mountains and up there in the jungle lies Halgolla Plantation Home. A difficult 5 mile drive up jungle paths brings you to a former plantation bungalow now used for visitors who would like to experience plantation life in luxury.
Emil and Arlene van der Poorten opened this a few years ago and we were the first experimental guests. Here I saw rubber trees being tapped and how nutmeg grows and exactly what is mace. The cloves had been harvested and were drying in the sun. The Newsletters from Halgolla Plantation Home is worth a read. They are full of information and pictures.
Post Series: Dispatches from Sri Lanka, by Mike Sedgwick:
- Dispatches From Sri Lanka
- Kandy Lake vs Chandler’s Ford Lakes
- Self-Employment In Sri Lanka
- Sri Lankan Wedding
- Sri Lankan Food
- There’s Some Corner Of A Foreign Field
- The Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka
- This Is the Record Of John
- Tuk-tuk: My Transport Of Delight
- Life On The Road
- Commonwealth Games In Kandy
- A Temple For A Tooth?
- Dawn Train Down The Mountain To Colombo
- Traditional And Modern Medicine in Sri Lanka
- Ancient Vedda Tribe Becoming Extinct