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On the Road to famous gem mines at Ratnapura (in Sinhalese Ratna: gems, pura: city). About 2 hours drive from Columbo, this road takes us deep into the heart of the Sri Lankan countryside.

Near the gem mines in Ratnapura. The Sri Lankan countryside is lush and very tropical. Here we see rice paddys which dot the countryside at every corner. Water is everywhere, one passes endless streams, rivers and waterfalls in Sri Lanka.

At a mine in Ratnapura looking down the mine shaft. Much less nerve-racking in the picture than in person, trust us. The shaft reaches down to the gem bearing gravel layer (illam) which can vary in depth from 2 to 20 meters. The shaft is reinforced with timbers that the miners scurry up an down. The minining often spreads laterally from the shaft for several meters, parallel to the top surface. The pump house is just on top of the shaft which pumps up the ever present accumulated water.

Once raised to the surface, the gem-bearing gravels are very carefully washed in the pit shown here. Material is placed in these triangular baskets and carefuly sifted in the water pumped up from the shaft. The trained-eye will catch the glimmer of the ellusive "blues" or other stones that catch the sunlight.

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