9 April 2008

Journal 5

11:10 - huge snake on the road, 7 or 8 feet long, slithering everywhere very quickly, very close to me. I step back quickly as well. Villagers go by curiously looking at me, paying no attention to snake. One man throws a stick at snake, which disappears-harmless, apparently - certainly startling, however. Walk for a while. Rearrange baggage. Becoming tired; feet hurt; pavement is hot - can't wear sandals in villages, which are now scattered but still too frequent to take out sandals or go with one shoulder bare, tired, hot, wet, dissatisfied. Have already gone 10 miles, according to mile posts. Arrive at Kottawa village - am told hermitage is first juncture to the left: walk on and find small foot path with turnstile entrance. Is this the place? Path is on the left; there is a sign-post but only in native script – can’t read it. Enter. It's a beautiful park, with shady jungle paths - altogether pleasant. Is it the place? Uncertain. Walk on. No sign of anyone anywhere. Perhaps there is a dry place? Downhill is a gentle river, a quiet marsh. Mosquitos? Up-hill - too dense to sleep under a tree. Better find hermitage - and not try any ‘by the root of a tree’ sleeping business just yet. Leave park - if that’s what it is - and proceed. Eventually come to real junction precisely 11 miles from Galle, on road to Udugalla, turn left – shortly another left onto a dirt road, walk on another mile across a river, then a sharp left, short walk - and there is the hermitage. There were several attractive places, along the way, but they can’t compare with this: a fine river; hills, beautiful jungle, clean, well-kept, isolated, looks nice; arrive at 1:00. Am shown to a fairly nice kuti (a native hut) - given a cup of tea - welcome, but fortunately not overly-welcome. Then a delicious long bath in the icy stream, where tropical fish of many colors circle my legs or nibble my toes. Wonderful; wash off blood - probably from the leech bites. 0n my right foot I cool a few blisters. Everything is fine again. Return to kuti; straighten it up; make first entry in this record. Night: there is an insect - or perhaps a bird? - which sounds exactly like a power saw being flicked on and off, rapidly speeding up and slowing down; there are several mongooses here as well - perhaps more - but they will not come to me, nor let me get close to them. There are a great many paths, and I have yet to learn my way around. One path leads to a cetiya (shrine) on top of a hill which has a magnificent view for many miles, north and east, My first impression of the place itself is that it is primarily devotional. We'll see how much formal devotion is required of me. (I have no objection to devotion; a great deal to formal devotion.) Mosquitos are bad, and no screens or nets - I think this is the worst time of year in this part of Ceylon - but even so, not nearly so bad as Island Hermitage (where they are worse in number - though not in viciousness - even to Ein Gedi in the Negev)…

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