Three Day Tour of the RCPTA – 26th to 28th August 2016

The annual three day tour of the RCPTA took place from the 26th – 28th August 2016. The itinerary included visits to Sinharaja Forest, Buduruwagala in Wellawaya and the Ridiyagama Safari Park.

Most of the members and their spouses and invited family members and friends numbering up to 88 participated in the tour. We set off in two luxury buses from the Royal College main gate at 6.00 am on Friday the 26th August. On the way a substantial breakfast was given to be had in the bus. After picking up several participants on the way we entered the southern expressway. After exiting from Dodangoda we were refreshed with tea at Rock View Hotel in Waddagala. Next on the itinerary was the visit to Sinharaja Forest reserve. After full preparation for the leeches that could hang on, the most able decided to trek through the forest. Some others decided to do sightseeing in a jeep. Walking through the forest was very refreshing with small waterfalls and streams with crystal clear water flowing by. Our guide pointed to us various kinds of fauna and flora that was unique to rain forests like Sinharaja. He was very particular that we do not carry plastics and polythenes that would pollute this World Heritage Site. We were able to get a close look at the pitcher plant, the giant tree fern, the pus wela, weniwelgata, wewal, wallapatta to name a few. All those who trekked really enjoyed the walk through the forest.

After lunch at the Waddagala Rock View Hotel we headed straight to The Hotel Centauria in Embilipitiya where we were going to stay for two nights. There were few anxious moments on the way when the tour route had to cut across from Karawita to Kahawatte through Nivithigala area where our two long buses had to negotiate through a narrow winding road which had a deep precipice on one side. The drivers have to be commended for taking us through safely. After refreshing ourselves at the hotel arrangements have been made to have sing song session before dinner.

27th August morning after breakfast we left hotel to visit the famous Buduruwagala Statue in Wellawaya. The tallest Buddha statue in the world was the Bamiyan Buddha statues in Afghanistan until the destruction of this ancient monument by the Taliban in March 2001. The Buduruwagala Buddha Statue is now considered the tallest in the world.

The center statue is flanked by two statues each of which is about 40 foot in height. These two again flanked by two other figures, one female and the other male. The center figure on the left (as you stand in front) still has most of the plaster and some paint which has been applied by the ancients. This center figure is thought to be of the figure of Avaloktheeshvara Bodhisattva (the manifestation of all the Buddhas’ compassion in the Mahayana Buddhist teaching – In Theravada Buddhism Avaloktheeshvara is known as Lokesvara). He is identified by the small image of the meditating Buddha in the crown that he wares. This image can be clearly seen in the carving. The bare breasted female figure on the right to this is thought be Thara Devi, the spiritual consort of Avaloktheeshvara Bodhisattva. She is carved in a ‘thivanka’ position (bent in 3 places) and is wearing a tall head dress. The other is thought to be their son Prince Sudana. On the right are 3 similar figures. The center figure is thought to be the Maithri Bodhisattva. He is the fifth Buddha for this eon. On the left is the Vajirapani Bodhisattva ( Sanskrit Vajra : thunderbolt/diamond, Pani : lit in the hand). He is one of the earliest bodhisattvas of Mahayana Buddhism. He is generally represented with a diamond club in his hand)

Then we arrived at Kumara Pawura Kanishta Vidyalaya in Kudaoya where our President Capt. M.N. Dharmaratne has made arrangements to build a Buddhist shrine with a Buddha statue for the benefit of the students of this school. The Principal of the school Mr. Kapila N. Prematillake who has a Master’s degree in Agriculture from Peradeniya University had made arrangements to welcome us in a big way. We were offered Kavum, Kokis and a refreshing belimal drink with jaggery. Two computers, desks and chairs, plenty of school text books and exercise books were donated to the school. One of the computers and the desks and chairs were donated by the Directress of Stafford International School and the other computer by Mr. Dimuthu Pathirana of the Sahana Lanka Padanama. Books were donated by the old Royalists Mr. Kasun Fernando and Mr. Rasika Galappathy of Edex Nana Pahana and some members of the RCPTA. The school Principal Mr. Kapila Prematillake said it was a nice gesture by the RCPTA to get involved in projects like this even after retirement. Our President Capt. Dharmaratne also spoke on the occasion. A vote of thanks was given by the secretary of the SDS of the school. We were then taken to the Kudaoya Army Training Camp where a tasty lunch awaited us. Capt. Dharmaratne had been serving in this camp for some time. The commandant of the camp Colonel Uditha Bandara was very generous in making all the arrangements. We arrived at the hotel late in the evening for dinner and overnight stay.

We checked out from the hotel after breakfast on the 28th and arrived at the Safari Park at Ridiyagama. After purchasing the tickets our two buses were allowed to enter the park. The guide explained to us about the details of the terrain. The whole park once completed would occupy a total area of 500 acres which will have ten zones. Already three zones have been completed. As you enter is the African lion zone extending up to 35 acres. We were able to see five lions freely roaming. This area was occupied other than the lions by the Sri Lankan monkeys only. Then we entered the herbivorous zone extending to an area of 80 acres. We could see zebras, pygmy hippopotamus, ostriches, double humped camels, lots of different kinds of deer, wild boar, donkeys, buffaloes etc. Next was the Sri Lankan Elephant Zone. The extent is 55 acres. There were five elephants and among them was a calf as well. The calf has been named as Dinuda since he was born on the day the war was over in our country. All these animals are fed by a special vehicle with food. Each lion is fed with either 6 kilos of chicken or 4 kilos of meat per day. The food is brought from Dehiwala carefully tested for bacteria etc. There are water holes which are being filled by bowsers. Construction is underway for water tanks spread over the area. Everyone enjoyed that tour through the safari park. There are some hot wells situated outside the park where we were able to test the warmth of the water. We left Ridiyagama to have lunch at Ceylon Sea Hotel in Tangalle. This is owned by a student of our former Principal Mr. S.H. Kumarasinghe. After lunch there was a small meeting to thank the hotel staff and also to present a small gift to Mr. H.M.Dayaratne the chief organizer, for the meticulous arrangements done for the tour to make everyone comfortable and happy.

We entered the southern expressway form Matara and arrived in Colombo around 8.00pm