After an ok nights sleep at the New Old Dutch Hotel we had a few billing issues resulting in us feeling very disappointed and annoyed, However a traditional Sri Lankan breakfast in a little cafe near the fort wall got us back on track, until our stomachs started churning and we realised it might not have been the best idea to have something so spicy and fishy so early.
We headed further into the fort, through the grid of narrow lanes, popping into a beautiful traditional Dutch Protestant Church, an amazing refurbished Colonial style Hotel with a man playing lovely tunes on a grand piano, and stopping to buy stamps at an old post office.
We happened to stumble upon an amazing new craft project called Sipnara, which is run by a lovely woman who teaches unemployed women traditional Sri Lankan crafts such as Beerala lace and crocheting, it was wonderful to see such a positive step forward in this struggling community after the Tsunami devastated the city in 2004, we supported their efforts whilst enjoying another little splurge on intricately designed hand-made crafts.
Shoba lace formerly known as ‘Power of Hands’, was our next stop, it is another handicraft programme initially being supported by the trans-rural trust, now an independent self sustaining venture. Cheerful lace makers greeted us as we crossed the threshold into the colourfully laid out shop. The manager that we spoke to was very open minded, reiterating the need to learn and the importance of sharing knowledge with others for continuous development to encourage economic stability. The lace work was beautiful and we were kindly invited to share a drink with her in her families home. This trip has also been an opportunity for Kate to share her knowledge and she will be returning for work experience in the coming week.
A greatly needed break was had sat on the windy harbour wall, a beautiful little baby was thrust into Zoe’s arms for a photo opportunity for the parents – the blond hair and white skin was obviously a novelty for them – and greatly amused the rest of the group!
After a short stop at the pharmacy for some anti-vomit pills we trekked through the tropical jungle spotting huge monkeys, beautiful kingfishers and a two foot long lizard, to visit a small household producing coir rope, the whole female side of the family were involved in the making including the old ladies and little children who twisted and swept respectively. They bought the fibre already processed and proceeded to use two basic spinning wheels to twist the coir into a strong cord often used for farming and coconut matting. Measuring in hand widths rather than conventional means, the ropes were roughly 6 metres long and the ladies could produce up 250 per day earning 2.2 rupees per rope.
We headed down to the main coir producing mill which deals with retting and decorticating (shredding!) the fibres found on the outside of the coconut, before being fed into machinery that refines the coir into manageable sausage like tubes ready to be mechanically spun on a hand-made twisting machine.
After stopping for some late lunch snacks (not for the dodgy tummy ones!) we checked in to a beautiful little hotel right on the beach with its own pool – bliss!