Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Exploring Anuradhapura to Wariyapola on Paapedi route

Thalawa tank- one of the awareness sites for Paapedi 2013

Planning ahead of Paapedi in Thalawa
Last Monday Kanchana, Trudy and I (Sion) spent the day finalizing the route and logistics for Paapedi.  We left home before the sunrise and when I woke up in the back of the van the sky was gray and raining.  We were approaching Anuradhapura, our first stop for the day and starting point of the bicycle journey.  The air was cool and the scenery a lush green.  The tanks seemed full to capacity and the landscape looked to be an endless wetland.  This is a completely different scene than in the dry season, where the landscape is arid and brown.  The bicycle journey will be wonderful and the participants will get a real treat seeing all the greenery, the birdlife and the tanks.
We stopped briefly for a string hopper breakfast before entering Anuradhapura.  I’d never been there before, but was struck by how calm, clean and quaint the town seemed.  It is of course one of the ancient cities of Sri Lanka and it is nice to see that the modern life has not completely taken over.  Our first visit was to the secretary of the provincial council.  We entered a massive government complex and found his office.  Kanchana spoke with him about our journey and confirmed their support and collaboration.  He agreed to have a small ceremony for the yaathris before leaving Anuradhapura and Kanchana agreed to offer a workshop for media representatives.  The goal of the workshop is to educate the media about the issues that we will be talking about on the journey so that their coverage is accurate and educational for the public.
From there we visited an ancient dagoba (stupa) where we paid a visit to the head monk.  While we waited for him we observed the langurs in the trees and enjoyed talking about birds.  When the head monk arrived Kanchana requested that he offer some blessing or ceremony to the yaathris before we start the journey.  He was willing to do it and agreed that on the 14th in the evening we would come to the dagoba and he would lead some chanting and ceremony for our group.  Everything was falling into place.
From there we visited the circuit bungalow where we will spend the first two nights.  The accommodation is nice and close to a tank where we will be able to do yoga in the morning and begin our preparations for the journey. 
We left Anuradhapura and continued on to Thambuttegama, our second stop.  Before reaching Thambuttegama we stopped in Thalawa to meet a contact of Kanchana.  He learned about Eco-V from the Kelani Nadee Yatra and was interested in helping with Paapedi.  He introduced us to the local council and showed their garden.  It was a nice mandala style garden, but clearly there was not a great interested to keep it up.  He expressed concern because they had sprayed “round up” a weedicide to kill the grass.  We agreed that it would be a good place to bring the yaathris to learn.  From there we went to the local tank and saw some beautiful trees.  Kanchana explained that they were planted by the British and have some harmful effects on bees.  They decided to arrange to plant some native trees nearby so that after the life of the non-native trees, the natives could grow up in their place.  What a nice idea!
After this meeting, we continued on the Thambuttegama where we were searching for accommodation.  We met the manager of a hotel and in conversation, Kanchana helped him to understand how to make better environmental choices, like switching from very dark curtains to lighter curtains so he wouldn’t have to use the lights during the day.  He was open to learning and said that he would help find accommodation for us.
We continued on to Galgamua where we went in search of a place for the yaathris to stay.  We visited the irrigation department training campus which is set in a beautiful garden.  Unfortunately the head of the center said that the facilities were completely occupied because they host students there.  She suggested a few places to us and we visited a lovely little guesthouse where we will be staying.  It is located on the banks of a beautiful tank.  The family that runs the guesthouse is willing to help us and we all thought that the location would be great for the group to stay.
From Galgamua we carried on to Variapola, our last stop of the day.  We checked in with the agriculture training school to confirm accommodation for the group.  Everything there is set and we spend the last of the afternoon light enjoying the garden and visiting a local nursery.  From here we spend the next few hours coming back to the city.  The roads get progressively more crowded and there are more and more shops along the way. 
The day was beautiful and the roads are quiet in the north.  It will be a pleasure to ride our bikes through the country.  I’m very excited for the journey and it feels that the experience will be so rewarding and transformative.  Go Paapedi!


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