Touring Belihul Oya & Thoughts on Tourism
Posted on March 9th, 2016

It was once a haven for weary officials

Weary at work, attending to the chores of the people.

They all  emerged from the capital at Ratnapura,

Worked the full day, inspections on hill and dale

At the end they waded in the cool waters of Belihul Oya

Resting their weary limbs

And a good nights’ rest, readying for the chores of the next day,

All while the waters of Belihul Oya raged down heedless.

Then it all belonged to the Govt Agent

The Rest House Keepers worked spick and span.

Everything was right- Cleanliness perfect

Not a scribble on a wall, never a leaking tap

Lest the Keepers  face the wrath of the Govt Agent.

Then he was all powerful. One word and that was all.

It was not touristic,

The Rest Houses served the officials on circuit

That was the time when I served at Ambalantota

Covering the Southern Province for paddy purchase and rice milling.

When I inspected units in Galle,

A hearty meal and rest at Hikkaduwa Rest

At Kegalla, As Additional Govt Agent, in the Sixties

When Premier Dudley ruled,

Every Saturday and Sunday, for two long years,

When the premier was in Lanka and he never never left our shores

I met him at eight at the Warakapola Rest House

A Pot of Tea and away we went

Ready for a days’ toil, attending development meetings following him throughout

with a pad in my hand to write out his concerns

The Rest House  had to be perfect and it was.

Then came the crunch

Tourism had to be developed

In the days of Minister Kalugalla

He established Tourist Rests at Nuwara Eliya

Kataragama and Anuradhapura and Bandarawela

It was his concept to add, not to destroy what existed

I yet remember the gleaming smile on his face, whenever I met

But  later, the tourist Axe fell on the Rest Houses

They were wrested from the GA and entrusted to the Hotels  Corp

And later to make them  better,  to Galle Face.

Belihuloya

The Now

One call to Titus at Kings Rent-a-Car

Be it any time in the night or day

Finds a sound reliable motor at the BIA.

Off we get on at speed along  the Rajapaksa Highway.

This time we decided for Belihul Oya and Kataragama

We had high hopes of  Belihul Oya

Despite its cost, well  over eight grand,

We all looked forward to enjoy the charm

and the never ending cadence of the waters gurgling along,

singing a song that we humans fail to decipher.

When we visited last that was in the Eighties

We had a real grand time, a very long bath in the cool waters

eats, dinner, lunches- all sumptious.

And we waited, enjoyed for days.

Alas, as we turned in,  the looks looked forbidding

The waters had lost its charm

With the opening up of the other shore, replete with shops and a road

The stream no longer – a hide away, a lone retreat

We stepped in, it was  in the evening

We were shown a room, with scribbled walls,

Unkempt, not swept and dusted

Not even an easy chair to sit on,

We did complain and were shown an equally unkempt room

It was clear we had lost; not worth  eight grand

We stepped in for dinner at eight hundred

The table cloths that should be spotless were dirty

Rice that was cold, perhaps the lunch left over

A few specs of veg and a measly bit of meat

A Perera & Sons lunch packet would be far better

Harking back to the GA days

One report from a staff officer

And the Keeper will not know where to run

We kept wandering why we ever came

All while the waters of Belihul Oya raged down heedless

The Rests are now to serve tourists

Tourists that would run a mile away from them

The occupancy is low; The Rest has chased them away

It is only a hungry passer by that stops for a meal

Perhaps the waters of the Belihul Oya can shake it all

If it is to flow  Tsunamilike,  through the Rest

All while the waters of Belihul Oya rage down heedless

It was not worth another day’s stay

Our Lancer took on the winding Haldummulla road with ease

We took the Koslanda Road one of the few roads Ruler Rajapaksa missed

The road was narrow, through hill and dale

We gazed at the waters cascading at Diyaluma

Shimmering white and the silvery waters raging through

Our tallest water fall

The road needs  to be built up to attract tourists

We ploughed on via Wellawaya

The pepper belt, pepper creepers everywhere

Down through Tanamalwila

 

At Kataragama we marched into the Tourist Guest

One of the Kalugalla Rests

We were cordially greeted

We were entering a well kept rest.

We were shown a room, well swept, equipped with arm chairs,

Not a scribble on the walls, not a spec of dust to find

Only query- why no hot water.

We had a tasty traditional meal

Off to the Police Station

Where often we get chased away,

Not this time

Seargent Abeywickrema  gave a kind ear to my request

A Car Pass to KiriVehera via Sella Kataragamea

For ancient old people to visit the dagobas and worship with ease

Thanks to the Police.

Its all sad

Belihul Oya is no longer what it was

It is a hell hole now; its charm has gone

And as I write Kitulgala tourism is dead

With the building of a Hydro Power Project

That will destroy the White Water Rafting on the Kelani,

The only White Water Rafting in Sri Lanka and known world wide.

All to grab 45 Mega Watts

Why Kitulgala;  Many more sites to grab more Mega Watts

My circuits up hill and down dale in Kegalla, Kandy and Nuwara Eliya

Can easily find sites for far more Mega Watts.

But none for White Water Rafting.

 

But  the waters of Belihul Oya  gurgle on, heedless

And the Kelani Waters rage on rocks, the doyen of white water rafters

Both waters lament loud on how development is sabotaged

The doors of tourism are being closed, shut

By an unseen hand

Destroying what we have

All in the craze to make something else,

 

We creep on in quest of  a mirage

Ignoring or rather Devouring what we do have

 

Garvin Karunaratne

Former Government Agent, Matara

4 th March 2016

One Response to “Touring Belihul Oya & Thoughts on Tourism”

  1. L Perera Says:

    A welcome change Garvin, to the usual C..P that appears on this website.

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