Our motorbike was going at a controlled speed because the Paranthan – Mullaitivu highway was heavily damaged by the on-going war and also heavily mined. There were a few miles of repaired roads, jungle boys weed after which you would be getting on to a graveled passage. Along the highway good stretches of road alternate with bad ones. We had to reduce speed often and then step up. I wondered how our German friends managed to travel through this road.
While we were passing the “Bamboo-River” settlement my CARE day experiences came back to me. The displaced people from Trincomalee, a North Eastern coastal town of the Island, were settled down there several years ago and it is now a flourishing tiny hamlet. Once I attended a function there nearly a decade ago and delivered a speech, which was unforgettable to me.
While our motor – bike was quickly passing the “Bamboo-River” area; we reached close to the “New settlement scheme,” a relatively new town of some forty years, nestling in the dense jungle area. While going, we were stopped by LTTE policemen, but as we had permits to enter the high security zone of the LTTE, we managed to pass the checkpoint without any hassle.
Our bike sped fast and we reached within half and hour the “New settlement scheme” town. When we reached the junction, which connects the road to Mullaitivu Island and the other into dense jungle area in the mainland, our six-vehicle convoy was slowly negotiating the bend towards Mullaitivu. I signaled with my hand and stopped the vehicle, which was foremost in the convoy. I spoke to the German Praktikum (Internship) students and continued my journey on the motorbike, thus spearheading the convoy.
When I was traveling on the path, which was going towards the dense jungle area made me recall my scouting days. When I was a boy scout we camped in these jungles. That was nearly 25 years ago and still memories of those good old days were rekindled. How we had improvised what we termed as ‘get-a-pull”, which comprised two strips of rubber attached to a forked piece of wood, known as a catapult. This was a protective weapon with which we could pelt stones even at wild animals to scare them away.
I had taken the catapult solely for fun as well as for self-defense because I had a terrible experience some time back when I encountered a number of monkeys in the jungles of Mannar, a western coastal area of the Island on a trip there, when I was returning after a brief exploration in the jungle, which had lot of edible fruits, all over its shrubs and small tropical trees.
I heard that monkeys sometimes gather in a group and attack humans who are even known to suffer severe injury. In a jungle – based school ground, I had pelted one or two shots towards a group of monkeys who were perched on a tree. One of the monkeys when hit by one of my shots jumped angrily towards me. We fled screaming and the incident reached the ears of the master-in-charge.
He punished me by getting me to put the catapult over my neck and asked me to tell the scouting principle. He warned me and confiscated the catapult. That was an unforgettable incident and while I was passing that area I could not resist such evocative memories.
Another incident too came to my mind. We six boy scouts went deep into the jungle and lost our way. I had to climb to the top of a tree to try and regain my bearings. But I realized after I climbed to the top, all I could see was the rich greenery of the jungle. We had blown a few whistling signals but received no return. We had to grope our way and as though by instinct we discovered a path, which ultimately led us, back to the camp.