Friday, May 2, 2014

Bamboo Paradise along the Dedduwa River


The river is an ever changing orchestra weaving through endless trajectory and swampy tributary, the vast drama, whose environment is populated by man and nature evolve, together, as friend and foe, symbiotic in their intercourse. The barge-like bamboo boat, moving sluggishly with its silhouette in gentle sway, undulates, its wooden body, a pinnacle of human craftsmanship, carrying its lot, commanded by the fates’ of the furies of the elan vital, anchored ostensibly in the seasons at the legendary Dedduwa Boat House.

Aboard the Bamboo Palace
Anchors away as we push out from the river bank, two turns left, one click right of the Yathra steering wheel, the boat engine starts to hum and our bamboo palace sets adrift on a river that is the source of life for the area’s ancient fishing community. Green catamaran wooden boats speckle the Dedduwa River, which is named after the local village.

The wizened old Dedduwa men can be found hunched up catching Modha, a river fish for the day’s rice and curry, with a Huckleberry Finn style rod, turbaned in red to stop them overheating in the harsh tropical sun. Amzar, my youngest son at the helm and Samad at the starboard taking pictures, get all excited as a monitor lizard pops its head out from the bushy undergrowth, and they scream ‘it’s a crocodile’ as this is what we have told them to stop them getting too close to the edge of the boat and falling into the river.

The monitor lizard ignores them as he crawls through the gnarled undergrowth of woven mangroves looking for something to eat. Life does not come more idyllic than this with the thatched boat roof rustling in the breeze, listening to the sound of Kingfishers mating in the cool of the undergrowth, whistling happily as we pass by. All the while an eagle circles overhead eyeing our journey’s progress along a river teaming with life, that was also once a major waterway for transferring wooden logs and cinnamon during the colonial period.


Parawa fish jump through the air so they can dive on the little fish and eat them as we head towards the Dedduwa River island, a bird sanctuary and a place where technology ceases to work and where one’s mind becomes clear of all the junk that makes today’s lifestyle so hectic and trying. Here the importance is living in harmony with nature and the changing tides, avoiding sand banking yourself as you catch fish to cook for your family. Life does not get any more simple and fun. –

Uber cool houseboat
Jetwing Yathra is a stunning 76 foot uber cool designer houseboat, similar in style to an old rice barge with two stunning double bedrooms with splashes of colourful cushions, stripy window curtains, complete with all modern facilities such as air conditioning. The handmade colonial style boat boxes bring a vintage feel to this charmingly designed boat. The boxes have been used in a variety of ways from side tables to cupboards for your clothes and the highlight of the room is one’s very own private river view balcony. In a separate room there is a sunken bathtub where you can soak in luxury while watching the sun set, turning the bamboo, mangrove paradise into a shimmering river of gold. Sipping fresh juices made in the boat’s kitchen is the ideal way to fully enjoy the warm bubble bath while washing the dust of the day from your body, with windows on all sides to take in the ever changing views or a vigorous shower for those who do not want to miss any of the action on the main deck. Between the two rooms is a sitting room where you can lounge around on blue and green cushions and read books as the boat gently rocks you to sleep or go onto the second deck to experience the full panoramic roof terrace views of the river or for the sun worshipper it is the ideal spot to take a deck chair and catch a tan.

z_p15-Bamboo04.jpgAll the while the team are cutting up fresh village vegetables for our dinner and marinating fish from the river if you have been lucky enough to catch some. They love mixing dhal with spinach or potato with tempered onions and many other exciting concoctions.

Boat life is simple with three and a half hour water safaris taking place daily in-between anchoring up to explore the village area or to just stop and have a meal on the front deck. The soothing green of the vegetation, and the lapping waters cool the mind, along with the river winds that make one sit in the same spot for hours, just taking in the ever changing views of the river as the light dances from tree to tree. As I clamber over the bamboo railings and climb up to the upper deck, I am amazed just how differently one sees things from one side of the boat to the other, barefoot so one does not damage the wonderful wooden floorboards that hark back to the old style boat building era, but with all the touches of modern living like hot coffee or tea on tap.

Meals under the canopy
Dinner like breakfast is served on a lovely wooden table with green deck chairs on the starboard and a simple woven canopy roof cover keeps the tropical sun from turning us all the into the color of lobsters. Nothing beats eating freshly prepared rice and curry with all the accompaniments of sweet mango chutney, dishes lit by only the full moon and the stars. This place bear’s witness to the saying early to bed, early to rise makes you healthy, wealthy and wise.
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To really appreciate the beauty of river living one must rise as the sun comes up and the dawn chorus of birds act as a wake-up call for the villagers to meet the day, along with the chanting monks and their calls to prayer. One feels re-born as the colours of sunrise rip across the river like splashes of paint from an artist’s messy palette, kissing the clouds as one enjoys a freshly brewed cup of milk tea and hand baked bread with homemade marmalade jams. I feel like I am home again at my grandmother’s house in England, when conversation was key to the day’s entertainment instead of pointless computer games and TV and being plugged into all world changing events. For intelligent thoughtful people this has been the single most destructive force of the 21st century. Chatting with the boat crew making fresh dhal with a range of amazing Sri Lankan spices, is just that - the spice of life. So don’t miss the boat, live a little Yathra style.
For more details on Yathra House Boat by Jetwing and Boat House villa one can contact Manager Janaka Rodrigo janaka@jetwinghotels.com or www.jetwinghotels.com/yathra

To get to the Dedduwa Boat House take the highway from Colombo to Aluthgama and take the Welipanna exit or travel along the old Galle Road to 449/1 Haburugala, Dedduwa, Benthota. If coming from Galle turn after Amal Restaurant on your left at Benthota Junction and follow the Elpitiya road to the Dedduwa river and look for the Jetwing Yathra sign.