Friday the 13th
A slow start for some, but not so much for Saida who woke at 6.30am for a swim in our infinity pool. There was a little bit of a storm making everything look very dramatic with sheets of rain falling and blowing palm trees, we braved the wet and piled into the van to get to the Martin Wikramsinghe Folk museum which turned out to be surprisingly interesting. On the path towards the museum we saw the smallest frogs ever; they were about the size of a blue bottle fly – all attempts at photography failed as the miniscule creatures hopped away before we could focus our cameras. The museum itself plots the heritage of village life from pre-colonialisation through to the Portuguese and Dutch periods. They even have a scale model of the Monsoon steel furnace (built by Exeter university archeology students), these used to be dotted along the cliffs of Sri Lanka and the strong monsoon winds were funneled through pipes to create carbonised steel that was unsurpassed by any other nation.
We stopped at Shermila batik factory where we met a group of busy women creating batik in traditional Sri Lankan style. Again, we were walked through the process of batik from drawing through to dying and boiling. The set up was not as large or as organized as Ena De Silva but the woman who runs it has had the opportunity to go on a government run course on how to become a World Fair Trade Organisation member, however she doesn’t think it is worth it as it would be expensive to set up. It was interesting to note (although slightly obvious) that they use cold water dyes so as not to melt the wax. This means however, that it is expensive and difficult to find cold water Azo free dyes and they often don’t bother especially for the deeper colours like black and maroon.
Next was the soft toy making workshop called Indika, it was a lovely peaceful place set in the middle of lush forest, at the time we visited there were 9 women working there doing the hand-stitching and stuffing. It was nice to see that they were using the local kapok to stuff the toys. The owner, Manek, used to work in a clothing factory but decided to leave to set up this initiative using his skills learnt from the factory and the skills of local women.
After Indika we went to another couple of Beeralu lace places along the main Galle highway, this is where Dr. Nirmali and Dr. Lakdas left us to go back to Colombo. We were now free to do our own thing. So we travelled back to the fort and found the Beeralu lace initiative that we visited the day before and Saida bought an amazing lace tablecloth for her mum. We then had a relaxing time wandering around the fort and eating toasted sandwhiches for lunch in a restaurant that had an amazing zen bathroom with a gravel floor and a large copper shoot for the tap.
Our driver Mahesh then picked us up and we headed back out of the fort walls towards our hotel, stopping at the paradisical beach of Unawatuna on the way. It is like something out of Treasure Island, with the curve of the cove and aesthetically placed palms, but it was incredibly squally and even as we were walking along the beach we got soaked up to our waists by the waves. We found a friendly café where they let us change, and Beth, Saida and Kate braved the ocean and all got thrown about like little ragdolls until their swimsuits were full of sand and they were quite out of breath, Zoe didn’t quite make it in as it was all a little too violent.
We headed back to the restaurant that most of the group had enjoyed so much the night before, but which Kate and Beth had not managed to due to Kate’s vomiting extravaganza. Feeling totally recovered, and quite peckish Kate was able to enjoy pizza and salad along with everyone else. It was also the ideal place to check emails as they had relatively fast wifi.
The tuk-tuk journey back to the hotel was eventful, not only were four of us piled into what should only be a three person vehicle, we also had a slight disagreement on price. We had been told that it would cost no more than 500 rupees, however although we agreed this with the driver, he then demanded more when we arrived at our destination – we of course told him where to get off and he responded with some colourful and offensive words. Not a very nice contrast to the usual friendly and helpful demeanor of the average Sri Lankan tuk-tuk driver.