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.
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
Former Government Agent, Matara
4 th March 2016