Colours of Hikkaduwa # 2

Boats at Sunset. Hikkaduwa. 11 Jan 2012. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Boats at Sunset. Hikkaduwa. 11 Jan 2012. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Sunset and evening star
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.

Words: Alfred Lord Tennyson/Crossing the Bar


Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky. …/Khalil Gibran

Uda Walawe Park at twilight. Photo© Chulie de Silva

Uda Walawe Park at twilight. Photo© Chulie de Silva

Neem (Margosa) tree at the University of Jaffna Campus. Photo © Chulie de Silva

Neem (Margosa) tree at the University of Jaffna Campus. Photo © Chulie de Silva

Trees at Habarana Lodge. Photo ©Chulie de Silva

Trees at Habarana Lodge. Photo ©Chulie de Silva

But then Gibran. continued and said … “We fell them down and turn them into paper, That we may record our emptiness.”

At least the “emptiness” we record  now digitally doesn’t fell down trees. But the avocado tree in my garden that I gaze at from my bedroom window and watch the birds singing and chirping was cut and burned to the ground and was a little stump about a decade ago. Why? Because it bore no fruit. It was barren. But the tree refused to die and little shoots started sprouting, and I let it be. The tree grew branching out, too heavy and into the next door garden. I got a man to trim the branches, and then regrettably discovered the flowers and what was a tiny budding fruit.

Avocado flowers. Photo©Chulie de Silva

Avocado flowers. Photo©Chulie de Silva

Sad I photographed the leaves fresh green with rain on it, the beauty of its fallen leaves and talked to it. But still there were no fruits.

Rain drops on a fallen avocado leaf. Photo © Chulie de Silva

Rain drops on a fallen avocado leaf. Photo © Chulie de Silva

Then one day recently, almost camouflaged by the noise of green, there was this one fruit.

The first avocado on my tree. Photo©hulie de Silva

The first avocado on my tree.  Can you spot it? Photo©Chulie de Silva

Whether I get to taste it or whether the monkey brood gets it doesn’t matter — the tree has come through its trauma and the birds on it tweets a whole new song.

Painful wakeup call@Lighthouse, Galle

The pain was sharp, excruciating, just below the elbow.  This must be the pain that precedes a heart attack  says my sleepy mind and  if so might as well die in the comfy bed – why get up?  Coming out of deep layers of slumber I wait for the heart attack that shows no sign of coming.

Well, my brain is more awake than my body — plodding me get out of the bed.  “Switch on a light have a look at your arm you idiot says my inner voice. ” OK, OK but why me? And why at this time? The time on the digital clock is 5:16 am – the light shows there is  a pinprick of pink just below the elbow but no blood – no flying insects.   Body says get back to the cosy bed, so I do  holding the arm but with the light on, trying to think of  a rational cause for the pain that was now spreading to my fingers….I snuggle in on the soft soft mountain of four pillows and then . … out comes the villain – a 7 or 8 inch reddish orange centipede.  He wriggles across the snowy white sheets,  I jump out of bed and grab a shoe to whack him – but he is too fast and disappears into the bedhead.


Mr. or Ms. Centipede is so named because of the 100 legs she/he has  but apparently the real number can be any in the region of 15 to 191 says the Wikipaedia.  Their first pair of legs are modified to form poison claws which are found underneath the head while the last pair of legs, which turn backward, are used for holding prey and fighting off predators. In Sri Lanka we have the small varieties, and these big ones called “gas paththeya” or tree centipedes that like to live on coconut trees.

Apparently, there are many moist, warm, and dark cavities where phobia-inspiring organisms quietly lurk in our world.

One such example is the Amazonian giant centipedes  — Scolopendra gigantea, a venomous, red-maroon centipede with forty-six yellow-tinted legs. Read more

For these  vicious varieties devouring prey  watch ( not recommended for the  faint hearted)



I didn’t know all this at that time except the searing pain.  My brain searches for possible antidotes, and I  call room service to get me bicarbonate of soda/baking powder hoping I could neutralize what I was guessing to be an acid sting.  The stretch PJ top doubles as a tourniquet and I count the minutes, pace the floor waiting for room service.  Time is 5:45 am and I feel it’s OK to wake  my sister-in-law Padmini an ayurvedhic doctor.  She tells me to rub a red onion on the bite point — the traditional treatment on the fast swelling arm. 

So its back to room service for onions but  no one picks up and as I hang up I hear the door bell. Three guys from the hotel are outside — one in a chef’s hat holding 3 or 4 unpeeled red onions.  These are peeled and I send one guy down to get a stick of cinnamon.  I remember something I heard from my  yoga teacher in Brunei — that a cinnamon infusion removes toxins.

The bed is stripped but we can’t find the villain.  I change rooms, drink my cinnamon tree and try not to scratch my skin out.

At  breakfast I growl at the manager that I didn’t come to a posh hotel to be bitten by a centipede.  I hear nothing more from the hotel till my loud complaints reach the manager and a doctor is summoned in the afternoon. He can give me only pain killers and an antihistamine ( these have  already been taken).   The doc tells me that I will be OK in 24 hours and that nothing ever happens to us Sri Lankans.  Well, nothing really except the pain and suffering. 

I stayed recently at the Cinnamon lodge in Habarana famed for its natural environment   Monkeys loped around in the gardens and on the roof;  the mongoose came for breakfast running around the dining tables.  


 Fine,  nature at its best  and I loved it there


  …. but are these hotels ready with their first aid, if anyone is bitten?  Lighthouse wasn’t.