The morning was bright and pleasant in Koggala and a two-hour boat ride along Pol Oya was ideal to start off the day. Pol Oya is considered as Sri Lanka’s largest natural lake consisting of eight islands including the famous island named Madolduwa.
Madolduwa, is a popular island because of the novel “Madolduwa” by Martin Wickramasinghe. I remembered the heroes of that interesting novel Jinna, Upali, Siripala, Dangadasa and Ranadewa and could remember how they became the heroes of my childhood.
View of the Pol Oya ( Koggala Lake)
There are so many places from where people can start their boat ride on Pol Oya.
When you reach Koggala sign boards indicating “Madol Duwa” are in more than a few places. Sadly, most people visit Madol Duwa only, because of its distinctive popularity but they lack the knowledge about the other seven islands.
But on your boat ride to Madol Duwa, you can see the other islands as well.
Kathduwa was the first island that comes into view. “This became a famous island in the Second World War because the Japanese used this island to land sea planes. It is still used today by Air Taxis as one of the places which they land their sea plane at. Other places include Marawila and Nuwara Eliya,” the animator accompanying me P.G. Sarath was somewhat against this practice due to ecological issues.
Madin Duwa (Kurulu Duwa) was next. This was an island where you can see hundreds of birds on. If you want to watch the birds there the best time is the evening, because the birds come to roost at that time, I was told.
We went along the Pol Oya. In just a few minutes I could see the biggest island on the lake Thala Thuduwa Duwa. According to Sarath, it has a Sylvan (wilderness).
Madin Duwa (Kurulu Duwa)
Then there is another island named Koth Duwa which has four water bungalows owned by private owners. People can’t enter this island because it is private property. But we could see it while moving.
The first island that we could set foot on was Ganduwa which was a cinnamon island. There were many cinnamon trees on this island with a small house and a family living there.
This family shows how the cinnamon product comes out for our meal and the process of clearing the cinnamon sticks, rolled and dried it on the roof. A woman put the dry cinnamon into the grinding stone and ground it. Their final process is to packet the cinnamon. Visitors can buy fresh cinnamon from them. And also they can enjoy the cinnamon tea (like I did!).
We returned to the boat again. I saw the next island Diyamera Dupatha which has many towering trees. We did not enter this island but passed it and reached Madolduwa where we got off. I went around Madol Duwa and saw the well, Sekku gala still there. I could imagine how Upali and Jinna lived in this island. But now it is an ugly state of affairs that are taking place here such as people throwing their litter about and empty bottles being thrown after consumption of liquor, I was told.
We already saw the seven islands. The last on my journey was Weduwa. It was a temple where nearly 25 monks resided. I entered this island which had a dagoba and some dwellings. “There are many people who come to this place to observe sil on poya days,” said D.H.Somasiri a tour guide. It was a serene location. This island was ideal for meditation, as was now being used as.
We returned to terra firma again with pleasant memories…and with new experiences for me also. Like many others, when I came on the journey to Pol Oya I had in mind only Madol Duwa. But apart from Madol Duwa there are seven other islands too providing us equal fascination…