28 October 2008

Letter 4.5

I left not and humid Colombo for the cool, dry upcountry, but found Kandy, on the wet side of the hills, not so dry, so, after a few days poking around old haunts, took the train to the Eastern Part, to a town called Bandarawela. There I visited an old friend -- a German monk -- he was in Kandy when I lived there and helped in building my kuti. Unfortunately, about 2 years ago he developed poly-arthritis and since then has had a lot of difficulties, particularly since he's an active sort who previously lived alone in very remote areas. Now he's looking for someplace less remote. I may have found a place for him, actually, on one of my outings: in a small town called Ella, on the edge of Upcountry, where there is a view down to the plains 3000 feet below, a sweeping panorama, I found a small cottage empty, not far from town, on the edge of a tea estate on one side, rice fields on the other, a pine forest behind it, with water close by, and some land prepared for planting. A fine spot; if it's not too noisy -- and that can only be known by living there for a while. I told him of it and he'll go to see it and decide. If he doesn't want it I might take it myself.

On another trip I went to see a place called Werakangama but missed the way and wound up walking on a steep uphill path four miles and came, quite unexpectedly, to an enormous waterfall -- 790 feet high, according to a small and ancient signpost -- which was in fine wild country just below the tea line. I've told Sinhalese about it but none of them (except those living in the area) seem to have even heard of it. Several of Sri Lanka's famous falls are much shorter. And then a local lad, as evening was approaching, invited me to stay in a bungalow. This usually means a well-made house, but I assumed he meant an ordinary shelter, but no, he led me to a fine brick house with glass windows -- uncommon in the tropics, where shutters are usually considered sufficient -- and a large stone fireplace and skylights in every room -- including one door with a sign on it reading 'SILENCE -- COURTLMARTIAL SITTING' which opened into a room with a Western-style sit-down toilet and shower fitted with a water heater. All abandoned years ago. Why, I c0uldn't learn, but because of the sign speculated that it might have been some Brit's retirement home, perhaps military, since all the doors had 7 feet clearance and were nearly wide enough for 2-abreast, perhaps someone loved Ceylon but was damned tired of always knocking his head on low doorways that had to be squeezed through and wasn't going to have that in his retirement home, which had a lovely view of the falls.

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