A bigwig of the local Pradeshiya Sabha had bought a plot of land on the river bank to build a luxury hotel and the Pradeshiya Sabha built the road leading to the plot at government expense and we realized the motive behind the construction of a good highway in the jungle at State expense
Our overnight stay on the river bank was not so comfortable. My sleep was frequently disturbed by unbearable sweating inside the tent though by now we had forgotten the fear of the rising tide of the river.
The moon was not visible due to hanging heavy clouds overhead which trapped heat escaping from the earth. When I focused the torch on the river there was no rise in the water level. I opened the front entrance of the tent to let in cool air which relieved the heat and let us sleep well.
No sooner than the crack of dawn I woke up and observed the water level of the river had risen slightly. We felt a cool breeze sweeping across.
The mist formed on the river valley was like a white veil covering the surroundings while hiding the Kumbuk grove on the river bank.
I slipped out with my camera to capture some scenery down the river valley while my companions were still in deep slumber.
In the middle of the river there was a delta situated above the water level which was a shrub jungle. I entered it and saw many creatures including rodents, butterflies and birds common to the Dumbara Valley.
According to a research done between1991and 1996, it was revealed that the Dumbara Valley is the home to122 species of birds, amphibians, butterflies, mammals, reptiles of which 40 species are endemic to Sri Lanka while 32 species face extinction.
Now I decided to return to the campsite crossing the rocky plain. I saw a shoal of fish swimming in the stream. So far 15 species of fish have been identified in this river and eight of them are endemic to Sri Lanka while three varieties are found only in the Dumbara Valley – Philips’s Garra; (Garra phillipsii), Blotched Filamented Barb (Puntius srilankensis) and Knuckles Laubuca (Laubuca insularis).
After breakfast we were set to leave the camp which was nearly 50 metres away from the road. We were puzzled by the well constructed wide road in the thick jungle but our guide provided us the answer to the puzzle the previous day. The area had a few huts around owned by farmers but there were no residential houses.
A bigwig of the local Pradeshiya Sabha had bought a plot of land on the river bank to build a luxury hotel and the Pradeshiya Sabha built the road leading to the plot at government expense and we realized the motive behind the construction of a good highway in the jungle at State expense.
After a short time we reached the Meemure village and started to probe how its name came into existence. There are various folk stories related to its name. It is believed that there was an important guard post established there during the reign of past kings and it was called ‘Maha Muraya’ which later became “Meemuraya” and finally “Meemure.”
Another tale tells us that in the olden days this area had a grove of Mee trees and thus it was named Meemure. Folklore in another version states that this village provided bee honey to the royal court and was named Meemure. Some believe that many precious gems were found here and so this area was called Minimure and later Meemure.
The origin of the name Meemure is replete with diverse folklores. Nevertheless, it is evident that the village of Meemure existed from the days of ancient kings. Another version of the origin is that the kings expelled the traitors to this village during the bygone era.
Many houses by the roadside had spacious home gardens which were akin to jungle plots with vegetation varying from tall trees to shrubs. Some plants are useful for medicinal purposes. On the way back we found an old woman weeding a paddy field which was a joyous sight as it was an eco-friendly means of weeding instead of using Weedicides. But that joy was short-lived as we soon came across a farmer couple carrying chemical sprayers on their back.
It was evident that the farmers in these remote villages also use chemical fertilizer to increase their commercial crops.
Now we took a short cut near the paddy field and there was a young girl dragging her small brother on a branch from an Arecanut (Puwak) tree on the compound of a deserted house under the watchful eyes of their mother. It is a rare sight nowadays to see children playing with such improvised wheel-less carts.
Having reached the village bazaar, we went to our vehicle parked under the huge Mee tree (Madhuca longifolia) which bears testimony that there are still some trees dating back to the old days.
I was looking for a guide who could show me an ancient house in this village and met a young farmer by the name of Suranga. His reply to my request to show me a very old house was disappointing. “It is hard luck to find an old house nowadays in this village. All the old houses have been demolished and replaced with modern ones,” Suranga replied.
“At least can you show me a granary (Vee bissa) which was used to store grain in the old days,” I asked him. On my insistence, he complied with my request and took me to an old house climbing a long flight of granite steps. “This is the only old house remaining in the village but it is also now roofed with zinc sheets,” Suranga said.
When we visited the house it was unoccupied and there was no opportunity to see the inside of the house. Suranga said that there was an in-house courtyard which was a sign of old architecture. I took a few photographs and returned to my companions thanking Suranga.
It was afternoon when we set to return. On the way we met a long line of vehicles taking tourists for sight-seeing in Meemure. It is a crying need for better roads to such scenic places that tourists are eager to visit.
(Translated by Ananda Elkaduwa)