I’m not sure what I expected. Certainly not pithead gear and belching chimneys, but probably something vaguely industrial-looking. Probably great opencast pits. After all, gem mining is a significant part of the Sri Lankan economy so to find it carried on like a 19th century cottage industry was a bit of a surprise.
We were driving through the Ratnapura area en route to Haputale and pestered our driver to show us a gem mine. He took us to the Gem Museum which was closed and padlocked. Beyond the city he pointed out a small collection of palm-topped huts in a field and said that this was a gem mine. A few miles further on we stopped and he suggested we take a look at another one – we’d passed several by then. The mine is literally a hole in the ground with a rough timber and palm shelter constructed above it. The miners descend and ascend on a rope wound round a wooden spindle with a handle – just like a wishing-well. Then they crawl along galleries in the dark and mud to look for gems. They are provided with food and shelter but any pay comes only from what they find – which is often nothing but of course there’s always the chance of the elusive big one. Fascinating and scary in equal measure.
Royston Ellis was the subject, long ago, of the Beatles song “Paperback Writer”. Now he’s a travel writer, living in Sri Lanka, and has been to visit us at Jungle Tide and written a lovely short piece about us in his weekly newsletter and a great longer article in the Sri Lankan “Sunday Times” published on 16th March.
Exactly a year after the landslip that took away a large part of our garden and put our swimming pool out of action, the pool reopened on 17th December. Things take time in Sri Lanka. To be fair, it was a huge job made more difficult by the difficult ground and having to transport materials from miles away. The pool itself was well built and undamaged, but the pump house, pipes and electrics all landed in the bottom of a canyon which had to be completely reinstated, as well as building a bund around the bend in the stream which had caused the original flooding and landslip. We’re delighted that Jungle Tide is fully operational once more. And Sally in particular can’t wait to try out the pool – finally – when we next visit in February.
Many guests who book in advance want our advice on places to go and things to do in Sri Lanka, and we’re more than happy to give it. But we also realise our own former guests are a huge source of information here which we haven’t really tapped into. Have you stayed with us before? Or just visited Sri Lanka? If so, we’d love to hear your thoughts on (a) good places to stay in other parts of the island (b) interesting places you’ve visited or activities you’ve done which are outside the obvious mainstream tourist attractions and (c) anywhere you had that really great meal. Just e-mail us at email@example.com . Or respond to this blog. Thanks!
Nissanka Perera, our Project Manager, has to leave us shortly as he is moving to Colombo. Nissanka has been with us since the start of the venue in 2004 when we bought the land on which Jungle Tide now stands. A semi-retired planter, his local knowledge of everything from people to geology was crucial at the start and he oversaw the building of roads, a bridge over the stream, levelling the site for the house and the construction of the bungalow as well as many other smaller projects such as planting trees, fencing the land, building a dam and a cowshed. We don’t have any cows but that’s another story! More recently he has supported our resident staff, Martin and Rani and overseen work to the house and gardens including putting right the damage caused by the landslip last December, of which more next week. We’re now looking for someone to replace him in the new year and hope to get a suitable person via our various contacts who we can interview and ‘sign up’ when we visit in February. But if anyone reading this is interested or knows someone who might be, do feel free to contact us. It’s not by any means a full time job these days – just a couple of half days a month.
August sees the annual Kandy Esala Perahera, the biggest street procession in the world. It goes on (and on, some would say) for about ten nights, getting bigger each night and culminating on the night of the Esala full moon, usually early August. Dozens of caparisoned elephants, Kandyan dancers, acrobats, fire dancers and assorted Buddhist groups (and some Hindus) accompanied by guys wheeling handcarts of coconut oil to keep the home fires burning, all parade around Kandy city centre for several hours. One of the elephants allegedly carries one of the Buddha’s teeth in a gold casket. There’s lots of chanting and drumming and traditional Kandyan dance. It’s the highlight of the year in Kandy and you need to book early to get a good seat. So if you fancy it in August 2014 let us know and we’ll sort you out a good place to watch from.