Monday, March 12, 2012

We went on a day tour a couple of days ago and saw many very interesting things.  As we went by the main beach down town we saw these men pulling in a net by hand.  It was a huge net and our guide said it would take them about three hours to pull it in.  They would very slowly walk backwards with it and then would rotate to the front of the line once they had reached the edge of the beach.  The net piled up on the boat shows you how huge it was.
The next place we headed to was a silk factory. They showed us the silk worms and their cocoons, and there were actually spinning the silk from the cocoon to make thread.  The silk thread was extremely fine but very strong. They had lovely clothing there and I could not resist a beautiful raw silk wrap around skirt.  We met one fellow in Mexico that was comparing beer as he went around the world.  I have decided to buy an article of clothing in each country I am in.  I have some incredible clothes on board at the moment. 
The silk worms and a cocoon, there is 1500m of silk in this cocoon, AMAZING!
Next we went to a moonstone mine, there are lots of semi-precious gems in Sri Lanka, topaz, garnets, rubies and emeralds.  The gem store just in front of the mine was quite the set up and over a cup of tea we were shown the wares.  They had these beautiful pink stones that were called star rubies and they were beautiful.  When you pointed a light at them a star would shine from the center of the stone.  I picked one out and we were negotiating about how it would be mounted.  He then informed us that it would be about $1,000. USD so that was the end of that.  They showed us where the craftsmen were cutting the gems by hand. It was an incredible feat, they would turn the cutting stone by hand and the gem would be on the end of a stick and the would grind it on the spinning cutting stone. 

Our tuk tuk driver took us to a turtle hatchery next.  I applauded the fact that they were saving turtles, but to see the beautiful wild creatures swimming around in a small cement pond was very sad.  I have been in the water swimming next to a turtle and they can really move, a few flaps of their flippers and they zoom away from you.  I did not enjoy seeing those poor creatures in captivity. We were going along the rode beside the ocean when our driver said we were in a special spot where there were five types of transportation that could take place. There was an airport to the left of us as well as a railway track, we were on a highway and beside it was a sidewalk, the fifth mode was difficult to figure out but he said the ocean was a transportation corridor for big ships going to Bangladesh.
A tea plantation was our next stop.  I was very interested to learn about the tea and how it is grown and harvested. Here a woman is harvesting the tea leaves.  The plants are kept at waist height in order for the ease in picking.  She will pick all the fresh shoots and only a week later she will do it again.  The plants take about 2 1/2 years to reach maturity.
The fresh young shoots are taken to the factory where they are cooked.  The machinery in use in the factory was about 100 years old.  It was all very simple but still effective I guess,  there were not a lot of fancy parts and anything that broke down could be fixed fairly quickly. The machine below was the tea oven and the stuff coming out the bottom was the unacceptable stems, etc. the ramp by my head had the good stuff falling down it. 

After that we went to the tea tasting room.  You were given a spoon and there were about 30 different kinds of tea to taste.  I ended up buying some lovely lemongrass tea, a chai mix and some extremely smooth BLUE pekoe tea, non of that common orange pekoe for us tea conniseurs.  The tea plantation is a remnant of the British occupation and during the tour we stopped and had a cup at the plantation home.  We had to use the facilities and I got to ogle the wonderful old wooden furniture, the bookcases and the collection of family photos of the former plantation owner.  The plantation is still a going concern and at the moment it employs over 150  people.  
Our last stop was at a coconut factory.  We had been to a where they harvest the coconuts in Mexico so I wasn't sure it was necessary to go, but Barry wanted to so off we went.  They didn't do anything with the coconut meat it was all about the fibre.  The manufactured rope and stuffing out of the coconut husks. 

In the top picture you can see the wide loose rope that comes out of the first machine and then it is wound tighter so that it makes a rope.  The rope is used on the nets in the area, I  don't think it would cut the mustard for line on Cat's-Paw IV though.  This was the end of an extremely informative and interesting day.  Our tuk tuk driver drove us all over and conducted the tour for $4.00 per hour, we ended up giving him $26 for the day, what a bargain.  
Tomorrow we are headed off for a five day tour with another boat.  The crew consists of an Australian couple and 2 children aged 10  and 12, we have known them for awhile and we really like the kids.  It should be a fun trip.
Our tuk tuk driver, Batu with his trusty vehicle, it has a 150 cc engine, manufactured in India.