A Flight to Ampara

Friday, November 17, 2006


No, not like running away, as in fleeing..like fleeing the country or fleeing the law. (As you might imagine based on the last blog entry!)
Rather, a flight from Colombo to Ampara on a very small plane. Because we ended up in Colombo this weekend (which turned into a more like a week) we were able to time our return to the east coast with the arrival of Don Acker from SP USA. Don is here to help out the permanent housing project and can only be here for a couple of days. So instead of having him spend two out of four days driving back and forth from the east coast, he and Carter our country director decided to fly. Now, there are no flights from Colombo to Ampara unless you charter one. And if you charter a flight, you have to guarantee 4 out of the 8 possible seats. And since you have to pay for these seats whether or not you use them, you might as well use them. So, because we were hanging around in Colombo, and there are two of us and two extra seatsA?a??A?well you can do the math. And the math works out to equal a one and a half hour flight instead of a 9.5 hour drive!

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Needless to say we were very excited. (Scott says A?a??A?IA?a??a??m so pumped right now!A?a??A?) The drive out to Colombo last week was beautiful but so long, and this flight was really incredible. We flew low over the land and once again I am stunned by the beauty of this country! ItA?a??a??s so green, and really very wild. It was cool to see from above how much wilderness there is. Most of the population is along the west and south coast, with a thin strip of populated areas on the east coast. I think the north is very populated as well. Throughout the middle of the country there are small settlements scattered here and there and miles and miles of empty wild countryA?a??A?and mountains.

As we flew towards the mountains there were thin patchy clouds below us and I was glued to the window, watching the mountains emerge out of this sea of clouds. It was a very misty, ethereal scene and I realized about half way through that my neck was sore from staring out the window beside me. (I got to sit in the cockpit or I got to A?a??A?fly right seatA?a??A? in flying lingo). I took so many photos, many of which ended up being of the reflection of my hand in the window, but as you can see, some of them turned out.

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The flight itself was uneventful but the preparations were another story. First of all, there was an island wide power outage the night before so we packed up in the dark, then got up at 4 to make it to the airport by 6:00. When we got there, we had a very helpful porter who grabbed our stuff and then tried to get us in line to check in. He didnA?a??a??t speak very much English (and we donA?a??a??t speak any Sinhalese) so he didnA?a??a??t understand that we were there for a domestic flight. I donA?a??a??t think anyone other than the military and NGOs fly domestically here, so his confusion is understandable. Then, we figured out where to go, and went to check in. The girl at the counter, wearing a beautiful red saree (her uniform) handed us boarding passes and then asked us to follow her, we went back to where we had just been where she asked us to wait. So we did, but the people at Etihad airlines didnA?a??a??t like that we were blocking their line, so we moved. Then the attendant weighed our luggage and sent it somewhereA?a??A?then we followed her back to the airstrip (walking right through the customs lines which definitely confused all the customs people.) She led us outside and told us we could get on this bus that was parked there. A full-fledged airport bus for the four of us. The bus took us to the plane where we met the pilot and boarded the plane. Then we realized that our luggage hadnA?a??a??t quite made it, which really confused the pilot. SoA?a??A?a separate luggage trolley showed up with our luggage delivery and we were ready to go. So all in all, we were helped by two airline attendants, one pilot, two luggage delivery boys, a bus driver, two security guards, and 3 other random airport people. What service!

We probably wonA?a??a??t be doing that again while weA?a??a??re here so we sure appreciated the chance to fly across this stunning country.

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1 Response to “A Flight to Ampara”

  • If you go to the above web site you can read about how the PLACE NAME
    arugambay” came into bieing.

    Here is an extract from the mentioned site:

    Arugam (Bay) (Ampare [Amparai])
    Disc. A village donate to a temple is known as ‘aaraamagama’
    10th century piller inscriptions near Kondavatavana ruins have used
    the shortened “aaragama” to refer to an “aaraamagama” there
    Karanda oya falls into the sea at aaragama
    Legend. Arugam-bay should be aragamthara -> Araganthara
    “Aragama”, means “that village”,
    as pointed out to King Kavantissa.
    Also Saigama, where “Sai” -> six -> “Aru” in T.
    Both are unsubstantiated, “Jana Pravada”.
    The ‘gama’ in S. is never used as such in T. where it becomes ‘kamam’.
    Meaning. ‘Ara’ in S., and ‘Aru’ in T. refer to a water stream”

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