Sitting down for breakfast on the terrace at Mount Cinnamon with a view of the Weligama bay through the pavilion at the edge of the lawn, made me flash on the fact that that this was about as south as one could get to where there is no land between us and the south pole. Blue Whales and Sperm Whales are often seen in these waters and although the onset of the monsoon has made it a bit dicey going out to sea to view them, the few die hard whale-fans are patiently waiting for mid-December, when the whales will be back to inhabit the waters until the end of April, so they will be able once again to observe and study these magnificent creatures. But back to the breakfast on the terrace:
There I was with Angel, ‘Architect Extraordinaire’ and the designer of the Mount Cinnamon complex – both of us tucking into a breakfast of rotti, fish curry and katta-sambol with perfectly fried eggs. The previous night’s rain has left everything around us glimmering, with the early morning sunlight reflecting off the grass and leaves, and the birds, that included Babblers, Kingfishers, Orioles, Scimitar Babblers, Spotted Doves, Peafowl, the ubiquitous Mynahs and others, were busy with getting their morning meals as well.
Angel (aka Anjalendran.C) has extended himself in creating a series of buildings spread over the thirty acres of Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) that merge with the environment and afford views of the ocean, the lush vegetation or the distant hills – depending on which window or door one looks through. And given the location of the site it is possible to view both the rising sun as well as the setting sun, both of which make for magnificent sunrises and sunsets. And to make it even more dramatic, a few peafowl have learned to fly up to the copper roof of the pavilion and hangout there, silhouetted against the sky. They seem to have got used to an audience, as they don’t spook easily and getting pictures of them isn’t a problem at all.
The main house wraps itself around a lawn and swimming pool, which, as one climbs the steps to ascend to the level, is reflected in the panes of the French-doors, creating an illusory mirror image that takes more than a moment to settle into reality. As is usual in Angel’s houses, all sorts of artefacts abound. Paintings by well known local artists like Jagath Weerasinghe, H.A.Karunaratne, Kingsley Gunathillake and other emerging ones like Mohaned Cader and a few artists that exhibit at the Red Dot Gallery. A sculpture by Laki Senanayake – ‘Enchanted Forest’ – a combination of mythological figures in copper serves as a screen that separates the living from the dining area, and a series of four metal figures symbolizing the four castes stand on the far end of the veranda that faces the ocean. These beautifully executed sparse abstract figures are by Klaus- a German living in Unawatunne. There was a Richard Gabriel in my bedroom and I do believe I saw a Lionel Wendt somewhere else.
The rest of the complex include a Cinnamon Museum (presently under construction), that will inform visitors of the history of the spice that is endemic to Sri Lanka and that has been traded ever since the first foreigners set foot on the island. The entry courtyard is dominated by a Psung Woo Han sculpture standing at least ten feet from the miris gal courtyard floor. This is the mythic Phoenix that is seen emerging from a burning pile of Cinnamon. Upstairs is another sculpture by Laki – Cinnamolgus - a stunning piece! The museum also contains a demonstration kitchen where visitors could see for themselves how Cinnamon is processed for cooking and then getting to see how the recipes are actually put into practice. There will be a bar and a dining area as well and the building could be reserved for special groups and parties.
The Guest Cottage was a derelict old house on the land, now transformed into a comfortable, tastefully furnished three bedroomed home with attached baths and all other facilities. Angel has, as is his wont, retained all the indigenous features of the old architecture, accentuating them in his inimitable manner and extending the building with no discernible trace of tampering.
The homes of the Cinnamon Peelers are vintage Angel, who thrives on the use of indigenous materials and endemic architectural forms in the creation of his works. The living areas of the Peelers are upstairs, the exterior walls of which are cabook (laterite), with its fleshy–earth hues contrasting vividly with the cement grills that make up the walls of the ground floor to provide adequate ventilation for the peeling and drying of the Cinnamon.
Other cottages, to be used as residences for the senior staff, are now in various stages of completion and what struck me most was that their location ensured privacy, as well as views of the vistas that were available.
All said, it was a wonderful visit to an enchanting complex of buildings set in verdant environs, with the ocean providing stark contrast to the rest of the three hundred and sixty degree view. Angel was, as usual, his eccentric self – providing lots of interesting insights and information in between the bouts of laughter and lighter stuff.
Another visit is surely on the cards!