Welcome to our latest newsletter keeping you up to date with life at Jungle Tide. As always, let us know if you don’t want to receive them and we’ll unsubscribe you.
Meenawatte is the estate where Sally lived from the age of ten to thirteen (and also as a baby, but of course she has no memory of that). Her father didn’t plant on the estate; by then he was a Visiting Agent (tea estate inspector) based in Colombo and the family had the lease of the house as an up-country retreat as Sally’s Mum had got tired of the Colombo life.
Meenawatte provided a place for him to spend weekends with his family. Meenawatte sits on the slopes of Hunasgiriya mountain, the pointy peak visible from Jungle Tide. We’ve been back a few times from 1998 onwards, watching it change from a semi-occupied house for temporary workers through to an empty shell awaiting its fate, to a refurbished but still empty place awaiting a suitable buyer and, now, to part of an up-market hotel – Simpson’s Forest. Having spotted this latest incarnation by chance on the internet we just had to pull together our pennies and go and stay a night there, which we did in February. And here’s Sally in front of her old home.
The bungalow is small by tea estate standards with only three bedrooms. The new hotel with about twenty rooms stands where the old ‘lines houses’ (tea estate workers’ homes) used to be. But we stayed in the ‘colonial bungalow’ – and found ourselves in Sally’s old bedroom! The other two bedrooms used to be her parents’ room and the nursery – when her brothers returned from boarding school in England for the holidays it was quite a crush!
The house has been brilliantly renovated with all the old styling of doors, windows and ceilings preserved. But outside, where the upper lawn once stood, there is an amazing infinity pool with what must be one of the best views in the island. Nearby there’s even a helipad on the walk Sally used to take with her dogs up to the jungle pool – though the manager admitted that as yet no guests have arrived by helicopter. Sally was treated like royalty and they gave us a free dinner and wine. Next morning, on our way home, with Martin’s help we found Aslin, whose husband Kalu Banda used to work for Sally’s family in the 1960s. Kalu Banda, who is about Jerry’s age, was away in Wattegama town but we hope to see him soon. The photos below show, in order: The bungalow as it appears today; Sally in her old bedroom; the lovely ceiling restored, and some of the staff getting excited about the old photos we brought.
Sally in the pool; sunset view, Sally with Aslin, and a couple of old photos of Sally aged twelve or thirteen at Meenawatte around 1970, with dogs and parents.
… is not good. When gardening in the UK we used to think slugs were the most despicable creatures but we’d give good money to be rid of porcupines, monkeys and wild pigs no matter how many slugs came to replace them. The porcupines especially are massively destructive and dig under any fence you can create unless it’s sunk two feet into the ground (see picture). They can climb, too.
We’ve investigated both concrete trenches and electric fencing to keep them
out but both are prohibitively costly for our just-about- breaking-even business so for now we’ve abandoned attempts at growing vegetables and will gradually reinstate the veg plot bed by bed using lengths of buried chicken wire.
Comings and goings
One person who will be very important in our (non-violent) war with the local fauna is our new gardener-cum-groundsman, Daas (pictured). Daas is Rani’s brother-in-law and as you might remember we went to his and Gowri’s wedding last June. Initially they moved to his Jaffna home but have now come back to Kandy where Gowri will shortly have her baby (promise/
threat – there will be cute baby photos in the next edition) They will be moving into the house we built for Noni as she has now been given a new house back in her village, which is almost complete, so she and her children expect to be able to move there in the next few weeks. Noni will continue working full time for Jungle Tide. For now, Martin, Rani, Gowri and Daas are sharing the bedroom and the drivers’ room at the house.
Walking with lorises
We recently visited our great friends Simon and Pauline Lazenbatt at their wonderful Flamboyant Estate hotel near Dambulla http://www.flamboyantestate.com/ and went on a night-time walk in the nearby Sam Popham Arboretum to see if we could find any Slender Lorises, shy nocturnal creatures looking a lot like the more familiar African Bush Babies. Though one wildlife website persists in referring to them as ‘slender lorries’! With the aid of our expert guide we were very fortunate to see three of them; two only glimpsed in the undergrowth but the third was cavorting around in a tree right next to us. Fabulous! The only other people on the walk were a young German couple. So if you plan to come to Sri Lanka stay a couple of nights at Flamboyant (as well as Jungle Tide, of course!) and visit the arboretum by day and by night. It’s also close to many other attractions both well-known such as Sigiriya and Dambulla and lesser-known such as Menikgala and Ritigala. No loris photos, but the arboretum office does currently house a rescued baby owl so here’s our cute picture for this edition!
TEA Project update
As reported in the last edition the TEA Project, our chosen local charity, is developing rapidly now they have secured on a long lease the land and buildings they will work from, a couple of kilometres from Jungle Tide near the village of Upper Kitoolmulla. Like us, they have started using volunteers via the Workaway website and we met them when we visited the project recently with Carl and Rachael, the founders of the project, and Madhu, their volunteer business advisor with an impressive track record. Sally is helping them with business planning and fundraising. Already they are working with local schools and doing some one-off activities with children.
The site is owned by Suranjith who is also the guy who organises trekking and camping in the Hanthana mountains and is developing a biofuel project to help power homes in Upper Kitoolmulla. The TEA Project leases a set of buildings on his land, one of which used to be Suranjith’s home (he’s building a better one nearby) and the others were associated with a former dairy farm.
1) A general view of the site. The building in the foreground is the volunteers’ centre; the main buildings are where the educational and other activities will take place.
2) The room which will be the main activity/learning room – possibly the best view in the world from a classroom. Pay attention at the back!
3) Sally, Carl and Madhu discussing the business plan. Well, if you have to spend your time talking about business plans it’s much better to do it in an open air ‘boardroom’ in the Hanthana mountains…
Contact: [email protected]
Well, we hope that’s whetted your appetite either to make your first visit or to return to Sri Lanka and Jungle Tide. We’d love to see you!
Jerry and Sally