please click back to the older posts to start from the beginning
I had a full day planned, up at six and then on the road to Kalmunai to shoot some more housing and to Akkaraipattu to look at a vocational training centre and bridge by USAid in Potturvil. The plan was to end up in Arugam Bay for the night and then head west for the hospital in Elpitiya.
So on the road and I start to think ‘I’m aching a bit’ I couldn’t work it out and I thought it might be from the swimming yesterday and I was really unfit.
I managed to shoot one project on route.
The day dragged on and I’d just made it to my first port of call Kalmunai. As I got out of the car I noticed that Toney’s car had very ‘slick’ tyres! I took it to a tyre shop and they said I couldn’t go any further on them. There was literally no tread on them. I had about another 4 hours driving so I needed it sorted. Credits to Tony, when I phoned up and told him he said just replace them and he’d pat me back.
At this point, physically I was feeling quite darned. Little parts of my brain were saying ‘your really ill’ and the other Logan parts were saying ‘you need a coffee and to get going’.
Once back in the car I realised that I need to sleep or find some kind of refuse somewhere. So riddled with guilt I ditched the day’s photography and headed to my final destination Arugam bay.
As suspected there was not much surf and the car was really struggling too. It had started to shudder and stall in 1st gear and going round corners had just been cutting out.
In some fever ridden decision making I decided to try and drive from Arugam bay to Ahamgama to the Solar Garden about a about 6 hour drive.
With a full tank of petrol, it was about 4 o’clock and just me and the open road. The first 20k were just dirt road and then it merged on to some smooth A4 tarmac winding though the hills and paddy fields.
Once I topped up the oil and water the car seemed to fare a bit better. Apart form the wheel balancing. I couldn’t go over 70kph because the back on the car would start bouncing and wobbling all over the road. Driving under these restrictions with the windows up and the heaters blowing like it was a winter’s day I realised that I must be really ill. I had a chill in 40c heat.
I was committed to the trip now and there were no guesthouses on the rout. I just had to get there. The driver’s seat was a pool of water as I sweated though my shirt and shorts shivering withed deluded panic and focus. The headlamps and the occasional bus bearing in on me like some kind of fever tunnel with the road tethering off in to the distance. I made it to the Solar garden by about 10ish and collapsed.
I spent two days in bed still thinking I might have some bad case of sun stroke, but after explaining the symptoms to my dad over the phone he said ‘get a blood test looks like malaria’
I got a tuk tuk to Matara the nearest private hospital. I arrived after the 35 min drive dripping from head to toe with dank hair and what must have been a crazed look in my eyes shouting ‘Malaria, I have malaria, I need help’.
They took me in quickly and I saw a Doctor strait away. I was still cracking up and feeling quite mad and lost and generally getting very mad with people then passing out and giving up for a rest, then re-lunching in to my mad tirades to try and get a blood test and a bed.
They had me almost restrained to a bed and a nurse came at me with one of the biggest needles I’ve ever seen. My mind was swirling with panic that the needle wasn’t clean, she had no gloves on, was I going to die ( And in my head thought it might be the best option to escape the pain, I’ve never felt like that would be a viable answer before, defiantly feeling under the weather!)? Then as the nurse looms towards me she says ‘Just a little prick!’
Well I completely lost it, I was in stitches, possibly the funniest thing that had ever been said to me, and one of the only English sentences that day too! The fever was stong. They must of thought that I’d finally flipped but if that hadn’t made me crack up so much I think I would have been in a pool of tears
The blood tests came back and I had dengue fever.
I’ve spent the last 6 days in Siri Hospital in Matara on as drip feeling like a 10th of he man I did. The problem with dengue fever is it gets in to your muscles and leves you very week for months after, some times years!
The fever took a few days to leave my body. In these days I can’t really remember what happened. I was coming back and forth from conciseness. I knew I had tubes in my arm and there were people taking my blood every now and then. I was still dressed in my grey shorts and flannel shirt that o drove down in form the east coast when I finally found my head again. They hadn’t thought to make me comfortable or give me some pyjamas.
Once this section of the fever passed then my body turned a very strange red colour all over. It was like I’d been on a really strong sun bed. My skin was almost to the point of blistering. This seemed to last another few days. Then my feet and hands started to itch. This truly drove me mad with the splitting headache and my body and my fingerers tingling and trying to scratch at something that wasn’t there.
This was also when the new friends that I’d made in Sri Lanka really shone. I’d only met Tony and Pauline a few times, I phoned him up to say I had the fever and if he had any advise. I’d remembered he’d had it a few times. The next day Tony was down in Matara and had clean shorts for me. It was also nice to have a friendly person to chat to. Something I’d really missed since no one spoke English in the hospital.
Then later that day there had been a knock at the door. It was Tony Rent A Car’s cousin! Tony was in Colombo and couldn’t come but he sent his brother who bought me some fruit, and phone charger. I mentioned that I desperately missed some European food and retuned in about 30 minutes with a pizza! This was incredibly genres and thoughtful.
Later that night Upal’s from Solar gardens relative turned up and insisted on buying me a shirt to were in bed. He also gave me a toothbrush and toothpaste. Something I really needed after days of fever. Later on that week Upal come down and told me how everyone at the Solar Garden had been so worried. I also needed my laptop and some books. As I got a bit better boredom and frustration started setting in. He sent down two of his reliable chaps. The ones I’d help wash their dogs. They came down with all me stuff I needed for the next few days.
I was really touched that some people that I’d come across in my short stay in Sri Lanka took me into there hearts and went out of there way to not only look after me but also give me support. I’m not sure if you’d find a hotel owner or a car rental man in England would take such care of there customers. I think you can count these people as friends. They are certainly very prod of there country and care how people experience their time here and take responsibility on a larger scale rather then just them self.
I am no at an amazing retreat up the coast with my mum taking it easy for a while waiting to feel energised to carry on project Lanka
5am start. The mornings in Sri Lanka are probably the best time of the day for me. Driving from Polonnatuwa the heat from the rising sun battle with the cooled down ground from its nights rest. This creates a dancing foggy morning mist. The sun is always that deep blood orange and as it raises it clips the palm trees and the mountains.
Elephant bay was a total flop. I was hunting round Kalkudah for ages and then moved up to Passekudah where I found out that it was also totally flat. I decide to give myself a guided tour of the area and look some very random roads and found a paradise beach. It was early in the morning so there was no wind at all. It was a sprawling cove of inlets as far as the eye could see it sparkled golden in the in the morning light like dunes of diamonds.
There were lines of little people in the distance that looked like two millipedes in the sand. They were fishermen haling up a nets from the night fishing. The beach was empty apart from a small group of bovines that had gathered under a tree already struggling to endure the heat.
The water was like glass and an occasional ½ foot clean perfect wave would stroke it’s way along the beach. I dived in after my 3-hour drive. The water around me was like being wrapped in silk, so warm. So refreshing. This was a picture post card type place with boulders jutting out at the points and trees dangling over the sandy beaches.
I decide to head to Batticaloa or Batty as the locals say.
This was another 30k so I was starting to structure a plan on how I was going to shoot my project on the east coast and get in proper surf.
As I was driving in I saw the head offices for UMCOR so I popped in and gave them my project details about what I was doing. I was luckily enough to meet Murali who used to work for USAid and new all the projects they had done.
He told me about this market that Dr Francescas’ had mentioned! I spend most of the morning photographing this two-story structure. It was very unusual for a market out here. The controversial issue is that they put the fish on the first floor. To avoid the other items smelling. This also meant that the fish cuts and everything was washed down the drains and were left on the ground floor. Not really solving the problem.
I then travelled to The lighthouse that USAid help rebuild. This wasn’t much actually so I did some of my own hunting around. This included another dip in the sea. I love working with a little bit of a dip in the sea, so lucky. But as I took my dip I noticed a small hamlet of fishing huts.
I new this would be great for my project.
As I was making my way in the scorching midday heat I came across a house that looked like it had been blown up, as I got closer I notice that there was a village of them. They reminded me of the ruins of the concentration camps that I saw in Poland. The windows and doors had been torn from their fittings and the brickwork facing the beach had been destroyed. Obviously it was the tsunami. But what I couldn’t work out it why these structures looked so new. They were very much like the houses I had been photographing all last week. There must have been about 25 to 30 of them. They were stripped and in a desert like area.
I made my way done to the fishing village, they had seen me taking photos way before I arrived. As they greeted me and we were walking towards the sea I noticed two Long Drop toilets to one side. They had now walls just the foundations and two hols. The first thing that struck me was they were clean! Openly exposed to the world, clean toilets and the concrete look like it had never been trodden on. I found out that this village had been wiped out. The most painful thing about it was that it had just been built before the tsunami hit. People had moved in to there new homes only to be whipped out months later.
The people had been relocated about 500 meters from there old village. It’s a shame they can’t rebuild the old structures and use them. I imagine it is quite emotionally hard for the people but they could be converted in to new housing considering there are some people living in tents still.
The fishing village was incredible! I had a great help from them and they showed me all the huts and the housing that they used. It was interesting to see there approach to buildings facing the same project problemsas the INGOs.
The little huts were held together by bits of old gathered corrugated metal, wood and tarpaulin. The roofing was a thick thatch that was bound together with palm tree leaves and layered on top of each other.
The new car Tony-rent-a-car had given me is really quite good, it goes fast then the stereo that works. Typically there is light on the dashboard saying check engine but I’ve been assured that this is nothing to worry about!
And the tyres are a bit baled! And I’ve already had a puncture.
Any way I made it to the base and I was told buy the general that no one must know about these photos. (although that has some how changed quite bit since retuning and it has been published)
And I had to jump in lake to take the last shot extreme.
I’m back in Polonnatuwa for the night and going to hit the road at 5am to finally get to elephant point to see if there is some surf. I’ve not been on the internet for over a week now so I got Greg to check the Arugam bay report and I hope it peels round a bit and gives me a morning surf before I find out about the new projects to shot on that bit feather up.
I had arranged to meet the electrical mechanic at 9 to start his work. Much to his disappointment, he wanted to start at ten! I got there at quarter to 9 and he was already under the van hammering away with sparks flying.
He found out that it wasn’t the starter motor or the block in the fuel pump but the head gasket. As I said, I know almost nothing about cars but a head gasket is really bad and I asked how long it would take to mend. It was so hard to understand them with such a lack of English and my one word of Sinhala being hari-hari (the only reason I remember that is because of my mums dog) we didn’t get far. There was so much work to do in 3 days and I started to panic! I had jobs lined up and wasted two days. It didn’t look like the Van was going to get fixed.
Then Tharalca, who is an absolute legend had the bright idea of going back to the church! The sisters were educated in English and they spoke it really well. So the sister translated what the mechanics were saying and how bad it really was, and it was really bad! The van was busted
So I then got her to phone up tony. I think speaking to a lady of the cloth shook him up a bit and he got his ass in gear. The Nun asking him to top up my phone 200rps to reimburse me she started to rely my situation to him. Being such nice lady she didn’t quite have the force I required so I got the phone from her and gave tony the only option there really was which was to come up with a new car for me. He tried to say that I couldn’t leave until six and he didn’t have one, it was 11 now and I was at lease 5 hours from Colombo! But after some rather less then gentle persuasion from me he said he was coming up.
Well he got a car from somewhere and headed up. He in then arrived at 5.30 with is brother, equally as sharp. They then had no money to pay my hotel bill or put more fuel in the car! It was a cascade of inaptness on but at least he arrived with a car. He gave me more days on my rent and paying to 1500rps of petrol and money for a beer and a curry. Then he and his brother got the rather uncountable bus ride home. I hear you say ‘why didn’t he wait for the van to be mended and dive back? ‘For some reason they drove up with a mechanic from Mount Levinia and he somehow got the van started strait away and drove back with out them. Strange decision but I think Tonys’ life might be a bit like that. He is a complete goof but his heart is in the right place. Now I’m in one of the most picturesque places in Sri Lanka, Polonnatuwa. I stay for about 10 hours just time for asleep and a 6 o’clock start to go to military base for my shoot!
After quite a heavy night with Petr and his partner, I managed to hit the road at about 8.30. I was planning on arriving on the Sunday and possibly surfing elephant point. I also had a few projects to photograph down that coastal route through Ampara.
Some of the roads are really bad here so I had to take a 2hr in-land road, the same one I came on from Colombo to Trinco.
I’d been on the road for about 20 kilometres and the mini van started to loose power a bit, going up hills at about 40kph with buses bursting past me blowing me sideways I thought I’d better stoop and check it.
After pulling over and realising I couldn’t even find the engine! I knew I was way out of my depth! I tried to start the thing again and there was really strange pulling, clanging sound. I’m no mechanic but I knew this was really bad!! Considering I hired the van from some joker in an Internet shop I doubted he had RAC cover!!
I gave Tony the joker a call. He was typically quite useless.
The van was on a bit of a decline so I rolled the van down a bit and tried to get it started but no luck. Three men ran over and realised I was in need of a push. These 3 local guys spoke about 20 words of English between them but I managed to describe to them by various gestures that I needed a mechanic. One of them ran off and came back with a bigger then usual tuktuk, hooked me up with some ropes and towed me to the nearest mechanic. Being quite short ropes I was about a meter a way from the tuktuk and going down the hills for about 3 miles I kept almost crashing into him.
We pulled in to what can only be described as a mechanics graveyard. There were old cogs and various bits of blackened metal hanging around in the sun blazed drive way.
The mechanic was in a sarong. He had a full gray beard, blackened by grease and a massive potbelly.
My 3 rescuers stayed with me and helped relayed what little information they could gather from me to the mechanic.
First they were saying that there was a block in the fuel pipe.
YES! Nice and simple I thought. They spent quite a bit of time sucking on fuel pipes and then pointing at their mouths and looking at me and spitting. Not really sure what they were going on about they put a new pipe in.
Still didn’t start!
Then they tested the battery that was now dead. They tried to start the van battery with a tuktuk battery. Surprisingly that didn’t work! There were sparks flying everywhere as they kept shorting the battery. Right next to the battery was a water bottle fully of petrol they had been poring done the petrol pipe. This combined with their petrol breath I decided to stepped away and find sanctuary under a tree and leave them to blow them self up.
The 3 rescuers then took me down the road in there tuktuk to have some fried rice and a cola. We had to wait 2 hours for the battery to charge up! I went back to their village where the van had broken down and had a cup of tea with their family and had a tour of their village to kill the time. They were preparing for a festival and there were a few artists working on painting 3D pictures made from clay of some god like crow creatures. I never really got to find out who they were because no one really spoke much English. I dropped by a local café for a very surgery coffee. As we sat with your drinks I was kind of signing ‘I pray that the van is mended today’. I think he read this as, ’ I really need to go and pray’. Tharalca, the main rescuer, in fact the only one that could be bothered to wait or had nothing else on decided to take me to the local Catholic Church. I had a rather uncomfortable meeting with the head sister or nun. They were kind of quizzing me and asking me what I was up to and where I was from.
So after about 2 hours we went back to the shack on the mechanics to find out that it was the starter motor!
They called an electrical mechanic. He spent the next 4 hours working on it. As the sun was moving lower and lower I knew I was doomed to spend the night in this random place. Luckily I’d spied a place a100meters away form the mechanics! I’m sure they had a deal going on! So I bead down for the night at the local ‘holiday inn’!
Eariler in the week, I had spotted this little village on the way back from the school shoot and thought it would make an interesting shot looking from the rode up to the hills. I finally managed to find the village, Konesapuri (Saribaltheevu), after taking roads that headed south.
I was on my own with no PIN help or other guides. I drove through the village and passed a bright green house. As I passed, a tall young man with a moustache jogged up and called out to me. I was fairly dubious at first, but I drove on and pulled up. He came over and asked the usual ‘how are you?’ and ‘where are you from?’ but his English did not finish there. It turned out this eloquent chap had relocated up to the village, so I asked him if he had tome to show me around.
The village had 150 houses but I just thought I’d concentrate on the ones near his house. He took me to his next door neighbour’s house. He told them about my project and they let me photograph their house and family. In chatting to Nesanithi, I discovered he was he was an artist, so I took a break from the shooting and went to his house to look at his work. I was introduced to his mother, brother, aunt and grandmaother. They even isisted that I kissed his sister’s daughter!!
I looked through his work, all in Tamil style and very complex joining buddas with modern day thinking. He was looking at religion and conflict. He’d also done an amazing replica of the Taj Mahal. The attention to detail was almost OCD. He’d done some portraits of some Bollywood stars, which, when compared to the orginal pictures were almost perfect. I photographed all his family and got his details to send the pictures to him.
He got out his certificates he’d received at school, ranging from from singing and art to health. He was so proud of them, and was one of the the first things he menitoned to me when we met.
The house was extremely basic, with a simple sofa without cushions. The beds were little more than pieces of cardboard on the floor. This simplicity didn’t, however, take away from the happy family feeling this house had to it. With three generations and covered in his artwork it felt a warm and loving place.
After spending an amazing afternoon with Nesanithi he told me of this high level ground where you could get a great view of the new village. We went up there with his best friend that lived in one of the neighbouring houses. The view was great. The sun was setting and there were heavy rain clouds towards the horizon looking out to sea. The golden red sunset and dark blue clouds lit the roofs of the buildings making for a great photograph.
As we were at the top of this mound I heard a ‘honk honk’ clown-style hooter. Up rolled a Sri Lankan on a bike with a grubby glass box on the back. It looked like a fish tank and it was full of doughnuts! Not something I’d usually eat, but Nesanithi ran down the hill to buy me one (not for himself) screaming it was tea time. I was so touched knowing that 20rps ws probely quite a bit for him.
This is just one of the many great experiences I’ve had with the Sri Lankans.