A Travellerspoint blog

August 2015

Summary of sorts

Today is Harrys 15th birthday and we have been here almost two weeks. It feels longer, not because its bad but because we have been to such diverse places and have been doing things every day. We have landed in clover in Polonnaruwa and are going to have a few relaxed days here.

In summary our first place in Negombo was a fragrant garden hideaway but I was ready to move on after a few days. Its more difficult to enjoy a hideaway when you don't know what you're hiding away from. Kandy was lovely, the climate was cooler and breezier and our accommodation was a early last century modernist gem with wrap around balconies. Unfortunately it had seen better days and Hostelworld, our great resource in SE Asia, gets you the servants quarters in Sri Lanka. That has been a bit of a shock, we assumed we could rock up in new places and find somewhere to stay but its not working out like that. We had planned to go to beautiful Uppuveli and Nilaveli beaches for a few days and still could, if we wanted to sleep on the beach. There is not a bed to be had. In Jaffna there was a constant stream of would be guests turned away from our accommodation and believe me, it was no beauty. So we are doing it differently from here and have the next week or so booked which takes the spontaneity out a bit but appears necessary.

Anuradhapura had many unfeasibly large Dagobas but the heat was savage, real life sapping stuff. So onwards to Jaffna on the bone shaker train. The palm trees and paddy fields and anything green gave way to a dry, barren landscape. The city is getting back on its feet, lots of trade and building but my God, its in shite. The Nallur district, where we were staying, had lots of leafy charm having seemingly escaped the bombing but the rest is grim. Our trip out to the islands the next day showed more of the same, what appeared to be a systematic destruction of communities house by house. The light is harsh and its rubbish strewn. The military boat out to Nagadipa was ship shape and there was a joyous, holiday atmosphere out there. The boat back was interesting, the engine cut out about 30 seconds in so we drifted back in to the pier. The Navy man seemed to be ordering us off but the young sailors had other ideas. I'm not sure what was happening but some guy had to swim under the boat and it seemed very important that another tied a string to the throttle correctly. Actually I think that's what happened, the string connecting the throttle to the engine had come away. Not so ship shape. There was lots of looking over the side during the journey too, I think the water is really shallow. Having run our boat aground on my hen party I would have been all over that situation!

So back to what felt more like India than Sri Lanka. We have felt only safe thus far but there was a different vibe in Jaffna. Rosie struggled to understand why she had to wear a t shirt in the sea and the boys didn't. I was probably over vigilant but I could see the way she was being looked at and she is taller than most Sri Lankan women so seems older than she is. But hey its not all negative. Jaffna will return to its former glory if the number of returned emigrants/refugees have anything to do with it. It was hilarious to ask directions in pigeon English ask get a reply in a 100% London accent.

I'm going on, bus to Polonnaruwa, guesthouse was overbooked so we gladly went with the upgrade which is like being in a holiday home in Ireland, if it was 35 degrees. Amazing day in Minneriya yesterday, silently watching elephants silently eating rings around themselves. Very peaceful. Today the ruins were fab, cycled around and could really get a sense of the scale of the place. Went to the pool for the afternoon with Harry , Rosie and Paddy. Poor Joe is sick, we are going down one after the other, glad I brought antibiotics. On to Arugam Bay tomorrow to try some surfing. Over and out. Caroline

Posted by goldenmaverick 07:05 Comments (0)

The long haul south

sunny 36 °C
View Sri Lankan shindizzle on goldenmaverick's travel map.

It was our last day in Jaffna yesterday so we hired the same tuk-tuk drivers again. Two nice fellas - one Hindu chap and the other a Christian. Our first stop was a Hindu temple that we've passed by a couple of times but today we went inside. Unlike the Buddhist temples where they expect you to cover up in the Hindu ones its tops off for all the lads. You can see the locals aren't used to the white farmer-tan bodies of us Irish lads.

After that we took a trip to a beach near Jaffna. Women are required to cover up so most of them get in the sea fully clothed or in some Burkini style get-up. It seems so odd from a Western perspective but when in Rome and all that. It has become very apparent that Sri Lanka is a very unequal society - the rich are downright rude to everyone, the emerging middle class are even more rude to the poor and the domestic help. There's definitely a caste system in place and the whole thing stinks from a moral perspective if you're not used to that type of thing. On top of those problems the country is a bit of an environmental disaster. Any good arising from recycling rates in Ireland or the EU is being undone here. Litter is everywhere you look around you. Plastic waste is in abundance. The diesel used in the vehicles spits out dirty noxious fumes. The country's natural beauty is being spoiled everywhere you look. It's a damn pity.

This morning we departed Jaffna on a public bus to Pollonaruwa. Jaffna was an experience but I'm not sure I'd classify it as a holiday. Their 25 day festival has been in full swing for the last couple of days and continues for the next twenty or so. One of our last sights leaving the outer limits of Jaffna was a Hindu devotee hanging with hooks through his back from a juggernaut float - mad shit is an understatement. Our bus journey was long but again the kids played a stormer. We were up with the lark and breakfast was had at the bus station to ensure we got a seat. The first three hours of the journey had some mad movie called Singam 2 playing. The hero was an all-fighting all-dancing fella with a great moustache. I'm tempted to get Singam 1 out on DVDs when I get back home. The next three and a half hours wasn't the worst and we eventually made it to our destination. We hopped off the bus at the side of the road outside Pollonaruwa and a nice gent was there waiting for us. We'd booked in at a place recommended by friends (cheers Richie and Nadette) and his brother was there waiting for us. The owner of the guesthouse turned up two minutes later and next thing we're in a jeep with our bags. It turns out the guesthouse was full so now we're in a villa owned by his brother about 200 metres away. It's newly built and is in tip top shape - far and away the nicest place we've stayed in so far. Super fast wifi, satellite TV channels, a wonderful shower, new mattresses - it really is a godsend after a week of hard travelling. The kids cannot believe their luck. And it's all just in time for Harry's 15th birthday tomorrow.

To celebrate we're off on safari in Minereya National Park. Things are looking up and it's already starting to feel more like a holiday again. I'm really glad we went to see Jaffna - it's an extraordinary place - but now we're looking forward to a little more rest and relaxation for the remainder of our time here.

Posted by goldenmaverick 09:13 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged pollonaruwa jaffna Comments (2)

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