“It is not a luxury cruise” – Alexander Kreis
Traveling to places off the beaten path is not for the faint of heart. “It is not a luxury cruise. Life is very simple, to say the least. It is not unheard of to find ants or big spiders in the hotel room. And, it can be a challenge to keep these little visitors out of your luggage.
Monkeys will follow you around and try to steal your belongings in the hope to find food in there”, says Alexander Kreis.
Part of this behavior is fostered by locals. “They like to feed the dogs and monkeys on the street. They put baskets of leftovers out for them, and of course, the animals observed, learned and are not shy to express their desire”, says Stefan Kreis.
Due to the cultural importance of Buddhism, Alexander and Stefan are being told that a strong “tree culture” exists. It is a reference to a living symbol of this religion.
Alexander Kreis explains: “Every village has its own representation of the “Bodhi Tree”. It is usually gated to protect it and is one, if not the oldest tree in the village. It has a special meaning and purpose as a place to meet. And so, has high social importance for the village. People will gather or randomly meet to learn about the latest happenings in the village.
It is connecting the people in the village and thus helping to create the close-knit communities we encountered”.
The sapphires are usually not found high in the mountains. Most are located in secondary deposits. “It means that sapphires that were once in the mountains had been washed out by the rain and other natural phenomenon and found their way into the valley”, explains gemologist Alexander Kreis. Thus, mines are structures most often found in valleys. Usually, these are operated by the family who also owns the land.
However, this does not mean that it is possible to mine anywhere and by anybody. “Wild-mining” is forbidden and taken seriously by the people and the government. It is about protecting nature and preserving the natural flow of the landscape.
The mines are very small in part to not damage the environment, as would be the case with a big open pit mine. Further, due to regular rains, the mines tend to collect water. When the mine is small, a simple water pump is enough to get the water out. The structure to stabilize the mine inside is usually made of Bamboo. The outlay and structure of a mining operation mostly depend on the experience of the miner himself. It encompasses a body of knowledge accumulated over decades, if not generations.
[Alexander and Stefan Kreis on their way to a mine for sapphire in Sri Lanka – Picture by KREIS]
[Picte of a secondary deposit sapphire mine – Picture by KREIS]
[Stefan Kreis with some miners at the mine’s entrance – Picture by KREIS]