Fishing for Money

Trip Start Nov 16, 2007
Trip End Dec 15, 2007

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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Sunday, November 25, 2007

I could have done without another early start after staying up to the early hours in a bar with a small group which formed as the evening progressed - David (German), Susie (Swedish) and Justine (English).
However, I stuck with my original plan to visit the village of Mirissa.  Mirissa was formerly the island's most famously "undiscovered" beach, and although there was a very small smattering of (mainly backpacker) tourists, you still felt you had the place almost to yourself.  Far better to sleep off any excesses along one of the prettiest beaches in the island, which was mercifully free from hawkers, than a darkened hotel room.
The coastal section between Unawatuna and Mirissa is the best place to witness one of Sri Lanka's most emblemic sights, stilt fishermen.  The stilts consist of a single pole and crossbar planted out in the sea, on which fishermen perch whilst casting their lines when the currents flow in the right direction.  Whilst the Rough Guide book states that "positions are highly lucrative and are handed down from father to son," the value of each position is increasingly less to do with the supply of fish, and more related to the proximity to photogenic roadside positions.  Whilst previous generations practised the art of sitting still for hours to catch fish, the ever dwindling fishermen now race up-and-down the stilts fishing for money - basically, "you pay, I pose".
It's often claimed that Sri Lanka has more festivals than than any other country in the world, with four major religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, Muslim, and Christianity) all represented on the island - with the largest ethnic and religious groups being the mainly Buddhist Singhalese (74%) and the predominently Hindu Tamils (18%).
Buddhist festivals revolve around the days of the full moon - or Poya days - which are official public holidays as well as having special religious significance.  On poya days, Sri Lankan Buddhists traditionally make offerings at their local temple, whilst the less pious section of the population seemingly mark the occasion with widespread drunkeness!  An example of the latter spent the evening serving the same merry band who had met the previous night with ever larger measures of arrack (beer is widely available on poya days), with a "one for you, two for me" approach.  Not that we had a problem with that, especially when it came to settling our 'heavily discounted' bar tab, before trudging along the beach to respective accommodations guided by the intermittent lightening (fortunately the rain held off).         
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