DP1 Orientation trip- great or grave?

My classmates and I went on a school trip to Kithulgala, the so-called ‘adventure hub’ of Sri Lanka, and the home of one of the longest rivers in Sri Lanka- Kelani.

As a new student, I made considerable progress in friend-making 🙂  I don’t think anything can bring people closer than facing a ‘death drop’ in a small floatable raft. The screams and the laughs were all just tools of bonding. I’m glad to be surrounded by these people for the next two years.

Inside the cave

One unforgettable experience was visiting the Belilana temple hidden in the folds of a mountain, behind a waterfall. The cave was only recently converted into a place of religious worth in the past few centuries, however there is proof of life dating back thousands of year ago. There was nothing like being in a place of such spirituality and history, surrounded by nature and the hum of splashing water. It was the perfect spot for a TOK lesson, where we discussed the ‘Allegory of the Cave’, a book written by Plato, conceptualising reality and society.


This expedition was an experience of both amusement but also heart ache. All the memories of sharing beds and river baths will always be fondly remembered. But along with the bonds I formed with my peers, I also bonded with the river. Kelani, however, is being drained of water by the construction of a large dam, and she’s dying.

The Sri Lankan and Chinese government have recently become very closely allied. This ‘friendship’ has led to major development and advancement all over the island. While a large economic boost is bound to occur, I also fear that our culture may fade in the process. The beaches, mountains and rivers play huge roles in the lives of Sri Lankans, but it seems that now they are going to be either demolished or institutionalised for tourists. Kelaniya is one single victim to this ambivalent issue.

After two days of absailing, rafting and swimming, we interviewed a raft company owner about the dam(n) disaster. Even in my deficient Sinhala, I was able to understand that his job was at risk. It was apparent from the fear in his eyes. The life he had built for himself, in harmony with the river, was about to be annihilated. He had made many attempts to contact the government, but only received empty replies. They weren’t going to compensate him after stealing his livelihood. He was hopeless. The Kelani being decimated not only had an impact on the cultural identities of these people, but also their sustenance.

The trip was eye opening for a number of reasons. My physical fitness was tested by the arduous hikes, and my mental limits were challenged by the many cliff jumps. However, as a resident thrill-seeker, these didn’t spark a lasting fear; it was the many yellow hats and vests darted around the area that really intimidated me.

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