19th January 2015 – Ahangama, Sri Lanka
When tourism replaced the ocean as the breadwinner, The stilt became an ornamentation. Not functional anymore. Amidst the cramming for the tourist dollar, much rampant. There was one solitary stilt fisherman. The one we heard from lore.
One of the reasons that I came to the Southern part of Sri Lanka, and stayed so long here, was to see the legendary stilt fishermen.
Steve McCurry had popularized Weligama with his photograph of the Sri Lankan fishermen. And since then, thousands of tourists have been flocking to the shores between Unawatuna and Weligama to take a picture of these deft fisherman who spend the whole day sitting on a stilt, catching sardines.
But popularity bought other problems. Nowadays, there are very few actual stilt fisherman, as most of the stilt fishing is done as a show. Tourists are expected to pay for taking pictures of these fishermen, and most places charge around $5. I have been trying to take a picture of these guys for a while now, but I back out every time I am asked for money. It just didn’t seem right to me.
Today, I was riding through Ahangama, a little fishing village before Weligama, when I saw a solitary fisherman on his stilt. He was obviously not doing it for the money and raised no alarm when I actually clicked him. Because, after all, it would be a shame if I did not click one of these legendary guys, at least on my last day here in Sri Lanka.