Welcome to 75% humidity and 33 degrees. We left Colombo as soon as possible and headed towards the smaller cooler villages in the center of the island.
I spend the first two weeks cutting a way through jungleland, feeling like the british settlers that arrived in the early 19th century. They kept Sri Lanka as a colony till 1948. The jungle belonged to Jerry and Sally, an english couple with a history of tea plantation ownership in the great grandfather family-line. As part of a Workaway, their garden needs taming every few months.
And I fall in love with the tuk tuk culture. If there is a narrow road that the bus can’t take, a train that doesn’t arrive on time, because it’s a holiday, the three wheeler takes you.
On a walk through tea plantations near Haputale a tuk tuk driver picks me up for a free ride. He takes me till he reaches the deposit and I continue by bus till I get to the top of a place called „Liptons Seat“. It holds the bronze sculptur of Sir Henry Lipton, known as the tea-baron. Lipton is worshipped by the Sri Lankans like a god. They love him because he put their island on the map of trade and created thousands of jobs. He used to bring friends up in the lush green hills and debate the nature of tea while looking over the landscape.
During clear days one shall have a 360 degree view and spot the different villages around. In my case the view is a 2 m far stretch after which the heavy daily mist sets in….
Being in exploring mood I continue my day by visiting the famous hindu temple Sri Devi Karumari Amman. Karumari is the God of success. If you have a problem, come here and it will get solved.
The place is big and colorfully decoratd outside. It is the size of a barn. Inside the impression is still one of a barn. An aspahlt wall separates the building in two halves. On the left side a trader has set up a simple selling point. His voice is overpowering while he discusses the price of the items he has to offer with his customers. It’s all glittering and golden souvenir stuff. On the right side, behind the wall and a subtle cash counter, there is the sacred temple area. A podium with a shrine. On this podium believers get blessed by the temple servants, young men dressed only with a white cotton wrap around their hips and upper legs. I walk around and wonder what the heck the special painting might be everyone in Haputale told me to have a look at. Instead I see a psychedelic colored ceiling, mandala structures and lots of fierce goddesses. It‘ a comic to walk through.
Haputale itself doesn’t have much of an art scene. People work to survive. Art is connected to religion. What I like about this little town, that has terrible coffee and no better food, is that temples and churches are scattered throughout the village, along winding streets and pressed in space next to a garage. The main confession is buddhism, mixed with islam and hinduism, as well as some christians who built a church on the outskirt. It’s a wild bunch. Gods make the landscape overflow with color. Religion serves a purpose of remembering lifes beauty, meeting people, sharing food and songs. While reading about churches in Europe I found that during the 12th century (gothic) churches were used for all kinds of celebrations, speaking justice and even theatre plays. They had to be big enough to hold lots of people and let them party. Haputale keeps this spirits. In the morning I wake up with the prayer from the mosque. Later, it’s the 10th of april, we go to the New Year celebration of a buddhist temple. White is the primary color of the dresses people wear for it. It symbolizes the purity of the teachings and liberation through them. Free food is handed out to us. The next day the monks parade through town and people put offerings on a tray. Meanwhile non-buddhists go over their daily business. Their religion might have a sacred day next week.