Helen writes...We left Laamu Atoll just after 1pm yesterday and arrived at
South Nilandhe (also known as Dhallu) as the sun rose. We had no confirmed
anchorages to aim for - just the desire to get as close as possible for one
of the two islands within the atoll known for making gold and silver
jewellery. No luck with the first one 'Ribudhoo' - it was surrounded with
shallow coral reef and deep drop offs (over 30m) all round. We headed
instead for Hulhudheli (population 720 people says "Lonely Planet -
Maldives" though it was published in October 2006 so I guess you can add a
handful on to that number!).
A narrow channel was marked by sticks leading into a harbour at Hulhudheli
so we decided to gently nudge in the seemingly shallow azure blue water.
Our depth meter measured a reasonably comfortable 3m and the tide was on our
side. Our lowest recorded depth entering a harbour so far is 2.7meters and
since we need 2m clearance for the keel we are getting fairly used to
holding our breath - but this is definately a spot that we are leaving on a
high tide! Once through the coral channel, the lagoon before the harbour
deepens to 10 meters, so for a change of scene from the harbours we have
become accustomed to, we decided to anchor in the lagoon. It was absolutely
beautiful as we came in - less than 7 knots of wind and fluffy white clouds
in a blue sky.
Typical of the weather we have become used to now, in less than an hour,
rain clouds were pushing overhead. The wind picked up to 20 knots and
before we knew in we were out on deck soaked to the skin pumping water to
top up the water tanks - again! Thankfully we had taken full advantage of
the sun when we arrived, so had already snorkelled to the nearby reef and
had a chance to freshen up and cool off. It has stayed over cast since then
and is raining every other hour, so have stayed on the boat so far and we
will venture onto the island, just a few hundred meters away, tomorrow. We
have a bit of a swell under us, but at least we are not a spectator sport as
is usually the case in harbour.
In advance of our visit though - an explanation of what we have read about
the two jewellery islands. Ribudhoo (the first island we sailed round) is
known for its goldsmiths and Hulhudheli (where we are now)for its
silversmiths though apparently many of the craftspeople are now making
jewellery, beads and carvings from black corals and mother of pearls. One
story claims a royal jeweller was banished here by a sultan centuries ago.
Another states that they developed their skills on goldtaken from a
shipwreck in the 1700s.
It has to be said that Lonely Planet do rather "upsell" the local islands as
we discovered searching high and low to find an example of the local mat
weavers on a previous island. Our latest "disappointment" was the
archaeological site in Laamu. We read that this was at the north-eastern
most tip of the Laamu atoll. Lonely Planet reads, "a giant, black dome
rises above the palms. Who built the ancient artificial mound, known as a
hawitta, and for what reason is not really known. Buddha images have been
found on the island and HCP Bell believed such mounds to be the remains of
buddhist stupas...." (Not sure who HCP Bell is...answers on a postcard
please?) We had exited Laamu through the narrowest of channels - less than
200 meters at one point so had already had a bit of an adrenline rush
leaving the atoll. Bryan kept us reasonably close to shore with binoculars
trained on land looking for the dome rising majestically above the
palms...and finally we saw it...what looked to be nothing more than a huge
pile of dirt somewhat reminiscent of many of the building sites in Dubai!
In a years to come they could well be saying the same thing about the world
islands and the palm reclamation "who built these and for what reason is not
known..." At least we got to see the ancient mound...just need to think of
some reasons for it?...maybe in ancient times they just had very big moles?
Hopefully Hulhudheli won't be a disappointment and I will be sure to remind
Bryan to take some cash just in case me and Erin see some nice trinket.
After doing yet another load of hand-washed laundry, I really reckon I