Letter From Colombo – Week 1


The local fishmonger has fresh sea crabs on Sundays. They make wonderful crab curry to be eaten with red Basmathi rice and washed down with Tanqueray and tonic. Fresh king coconut water is another great thirst quencher, isotonic and rich in potassium. Bananas here are called plantains. They are relatively small in size and are golden yellow when ripe. The two varieties shown here are Kolikuttu – rich and creamy and ambul – more mineral and with a slightly sour taste.


Derek and Menaka, my next-door neighbours, threw a party the other day. They live and work in Oman and return to their Sri Lankan home periodically for short holidays. It was a typical Sri Lankan party – vast quantities of Scotch were consumed, Derek played the guitar, every body sang old songs and dinner was not considered until after midnight. There was lots of laughter and joy until the dawn chorus.


The Kimbulawala circular walk (kimbulawala means ‘crocodile hole’) is only a short distance from our house. It is 3 km long and circles rice fields where rare indigenous varieties are grown. I did the walk as the sun was setting, stopping to talk to a farmer watering his vegetable patch and watching flocks of Black-headed Ibis gliding overhead. Ageing power walkers were doing their thing and younger men and women were busy at the open air gym. At the food market I bought coconut roti and lentil burgers for supper and headed home thinking of a cold shower and Scotch on rocks.

PS. The roti and the lentil burgers were awful!


“Hugel wines are doing well in Sri Lanka” David Ling from the Hugel head office in Alsace told me when I met him in Harrogate in December. Rockland – the local Hugel agents sell Gentile, basic Riesling & Gewurztraminer. I ordered a case of Gentile. A bottle cost about £12. Rockland were unable to give me the wine at trade prices as all UK agents do as I do not have a liquor licence in Sri Lanka but offered 14 bottles for the price of 12.P1030680


Two HMWS members who will be on holiday in Sri Lanka in February sent me their itinerary and asked whether we could meet up. Of course I would be delighted and they have my contact details in Colombo. In recent years, I have been discouraging potential visitors to the island but with the recent change of government, the country is more likely to be tourist friendly and visitors are less likely to be ripped off (see blog post “Do Tourists Get Ripped Off in Sri Lanka?”). I have already started talking to potential ground agents here (Flamingo Travel, Jetwing and Upali Ekanayaka for birding) about putting together a quality tour in August/September 2015 (for the Kandy Perahera & and Minneriya Elephant Gathering) and the peak tourist season of January/February 2016.


The monkeys were back this week. They ran on my roof, swung from the TV antenna and decimated the Guava and Papaya trees in the garden. The Western purple-faced leaf langur (Trachypithecus Vetulus Nestor) is endemic to Sri Lanka is one of the 25 most endangered primates in the world. It is a tree-dwelling, leaf eating monkey and the unremitting urbanisation of the country has resulted in severe loss of habitat for them. Instead of swinging from tree to tree, they now jump from roof to roof!


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