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After a hectic year of gigs, festivals, and plenty more, I was looking forward to two weeks of surfing on the south west coast of Sri Lanka. I downsized from a longboard to a 6″10 over the summer and was busting to put it though its paces in some decent waves. As well as the surfing and some hardcore R&R, I did however manage to find the time and opportunity to take some pictures.
Midigama & Weligama
Midigama is a lovely stretch of coast with some nice reef surf spots, a few guest houses, and not a lot else. Most days you’ll have the beach to yourself, but I took a stroll one afternoon and found it buzzing with locals. Sri Lankans are a truly lovely people, offer them a smile and they’re only too happy to chat. It turned out it was a full moon that day a number of them had driven down from the cities Colombo & Galle to celebrate.
A couple of days later I spent the afternoon walking from Midigama to the nearby fishing village of Weligama, set in a wide and very picturesque bay. I came across a few groups of fishermen who were chuffed that I stopped to talk and get their pictures. I also found a Sri Lankan wedding party and was welcomed by the proud mums and aunts, who asked me to take few pictures of the happy couple.
Catch of the Day – Galle
I nipped up to the city of Galle to find the local fishermen hauling in the day’s catch from the bay. This consisted of two teams of men adopting a ‘dragnet’ approach, each team taking either end of the net and positioned about 30m apart on the beach. Over the course of about two hours the men gradually hauled in the net with the aid of a boat positioned in the bay that manipulated the net to maximise the catch.
Each team consisted of a fixed anchorman while the rest were in constant rotation, moving towards the back of the line as the net was drawn in before returning to the front once they reached the anchorman. The anchorman’s role was to have the net properly folded, in both cases they were the eldest of the fishermen.
There was a real sense of camaraderie amongst them, chants of ‘heeeeave, ho!’ provided an atmospheric backdrop and I had to resist the urge to put the camera down and muck in. A crowd of locals formed throughout, by the time the catch was landed the beach was packed. It became clear that the spectators weren’t just there to watch. The fishermen opened the net onto a waiting tarpaulin, and with scales at the ready the fish were sold to the waiting customers there and then. This so beats shopping at Tesco’s!
Whilst this wasn’t my first time in Sri Lanka I had never paid Colombo a visit, so I was keen on spending the day checking it out.
I strolled out of my hotel on my first morning there for a wander, immediately a local casually fell into conversation with me. Having travelled a fair bit I’m used to fast pitches & hard sells, but this guy was totally relaxed. He gave me a quick lowdown on what’s worth seeing in the city, and after pinpointing a few spots that interested me he acted as my guide for the best part of 3 hours without the slightest mention of money. I ended up asking him if he’d accept a payment for his troubles, we agreed to 1,000 rupees which is equivalent to just over five pounds. I may well have been able to negotiate him had I tried, but as he was such a good guy I chose not to. I make sure I never get ripped off when I’m travelling, but some people make a point of screwing the locals down to pennies which I just don’t agree with. Not good karma dude!
Our first visit was the Gangaramaya Buddhist temple. This was established over 120 years ago by a famous scholar monk, Venerable Hikkaduwe Sri Sumanagala Nayaka Thera. His pupil, Devundera Sri Jinaratana Nayake Thera, over time converted what was a small temple into the much grander institution that it is today. Today the temple serves both as a place of Buddhist worship and a centre of learning. It is involved in Buddhist welfare work including old peoples’ homes, a vocational school and an orphanage. The main features include the Vihara (temple), the Cetiya (Pagoda), the Bodhitree, and the Relic Chamber.
A short stroll from the temple sits a shrine and assembly hall for monks, the Seema Malaka. Positioned on an island in Beira Lake and being overlooked by the high rise 5* hotels and financial buildings on the opposing shores, it offers an interesting juxtaposition of tradition with the modern world and a little island of peace away from the hectic city.
I then bid farewell to my guide, and took a wander through some of Colombo’s busy streets. A regular feature are small businesses opening directly onto the street, as well as the white-sleeved traffic policemen who do a great job of controlling the chaotic traffic.