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10/12 2013 - 10/2 2014

   Map + Plan


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   10  11  12  13  14  15  16

 After the Highlands - once again, I now reach the south-eastern coast.

16/1. Some say I will be able to skip the rain, going out to this magnificent "Bounty-beach" of Vakaria. I can't see what I should miss. On the way, I drop by the recommended Dimbulagala Viharaya. First though, I have to make a prober dent in the enormous breakfast I'm served. I try almost everything, but leave some of most!

 I have a cosy chat with the two young and sympatric Czechs, who stay here too. I try to give them some ideas of, what to see, although I must admit; I can't really remember any names at present. Before I finally get to leave, my host recommends me the giant sluice gates, further up the tank. Apparently it is a real big thing, when all ten gates are open at the same time.

 I drive on top of the dike for quite some time, and I can see the water have gone high, since last I was here. Then I see a big gathering of people, and I'm at the gates. No doubt, this is a big local thing. Both people, gates and water are eagerly being  photographed, but I guess I'm just hard to impress. The ants, on the other hand, seems to have enough by now. They are sitting in clusters on straws of grass, with their litter.

 I set the GPS for several towns on the line I have planed: It recognises neither of them. Then I find one further away, and set of. Once again, the GPS is as useful as a snooze button on a fire alarm or a used echo. Would only get worse, if it got Tourette's syndrome. It even stutter, every time it get confused. At one point, it claim we are in Mannarmundikattamannakkamadu - I got the photo to prove it!

 I finally make it out on a bigger road, leading the right way. It seems like the rain have a hard time, breaking through, and after noon, it actually clears up from time to time. The water is just not gone yet. On the contrary, the road are flooded in quite long distances.

 I was told; I couldn't drive to the coast due to flooding, but after Chile/Argentina last year, I'm sure I can. I just watch the military cross, in their huge 4x4 truck, and then I know my little Maruti can too. To me, on the other hand, the high water does cause problems. It is hard botanizing in half a meter or more of water.  On the bright side, I finally get a photo of the Rice Frog; Fejervarya limnocharis.

 I have only seen a very few road-kills, which is so strange, considering 90% of the dogs lie on the road all the time, and the cows and goats don't seem to realise they are on a road. Well, besides from a few snakes and Common Garden Lizards, I now see a swamp-turtle!

 I reach the city, which should hold the turn-of for Dimbulagala, but my GPS is helpful as a bicycle for a fish. Well, I find the only road going to the right, and head out of it. It is narrow, badly maintained and none of those I ask for direction, have a clue to what I'm all about. I end up in a maze of dirt paths, and figures I'm either the wrong place, of it isn't worth it.

 Back in Mannampitiya, I ask a couple of tuck-tuck drivers. It turns out, I have to go one kilometre out of town, to find the right road. Well, not accordantly to my map, but I guess they know best. And behold, after that kilometre, a brand new, real wide and completely smooth road leads the right way. I should do something after another four kilometres, and I go left - just to try.

 Another six kilometres our of another pristine road, and find the classic entrance portal for a Viharaya. It might be Dimbulagala. Somewhere in the back, I can see the great boulders and the temple on the top. Down in front of the boulders, several rather large buildings are found. One is under construction. 30 metres in diameter, 20 meters tall by now, and I guess half-way. One guy is working on it, and I believe it will take some time, to finish the brick-work.

 I go and have a look at the other buildings meanwhile. One is a strange construction, rebuild after the war, to house some amassing wood-carvings. Under the boulders, old caves are filled with colourful figures. Mainly Buddha, but also praying monks and devils. It is real dark inside, but I try to photo anyway.

 A degoba sits on its little boulder, and due to the mist, I guess the big one on the top, is best left alone. Instead, I go for a walk around the local tank. When I returns, the young monks are having a fight with the numerous monkeys. They launch several skin-attacks against each other, monkeys coming out winning, I think. This is one of the few places I have seen more than a single stray monk. Here seems to be an entire society.

 I head on towards the water, crossing a few "wet parts" of the road. I pull over to make a photo of a Ganesha statue in a tiny sheet. The landscape changes from busk/forest into more open grassland. Herds of big, white Indian oxen and a few water buffalos rules, although a stray elephant can be seen in the distance, from time to time.

 I reach the coastal road - way further inland than I have thought - and turn north. It is three in the afternoon, but I figure I can reach Vakaria and see if there are an available bed. If not, I can make it back to Eravur or even Batticaloa, down south.

 The area is partly flooded, and it seems like the local ants have taken that in consideration. Their mounts are scatted in the wetter parts like volcanoes in the sea. I do several walks around, but only find a few interesting plants. One is the parasitic Convulvaceae; Cuscuta sp,  which is only on a single bush.

 I can see glimpses of the sea half a kilometre out, but find it hard to get close. When the road finally get close, it is a symphony of military barb-wire. After 50 kilometres, I give in. I have passed two public libraries, but not a single room for rent. The few times I walked to the "beach" it turned out to be a lagoon.

 I turn around, and treat my self with a cup of tea. The host speaks a understandable English, and want to chat all evening - I don't. I find a last concrete road, leading towards the sea, and end up at a fisher place. Perfect sandy beach  - little else to see.

 When I passes through one of the gatherings of five houses or so, called a village, I'm pulled over by a smiling, young cop. I let hem go through my papers, and he let me go. Then the older one calls me back. He is a real anal prick! He go through every line of the insurance papers, the rental contract and unfortunately also my Sri Lankan driving license.

 Now, he turns into a real arrogant asshole, demeans rendering, as nothing I ever have tried before. I have to account for which day it is, how many days there are in each months and so on. I figured he found out my driving licence had expired, and point out, it say "From 2013/12/12 to 2014/01/11. That means I have it to the first of November.

 Now I get a big lecture about how dates are build up, and he does not care about how we Danes write them wrongly. I have to park my car here, and take the bus to Colombo and get a new driving license. Then I can come back and pay the fine, and perhaps, get my car.

 I try to find out, is he is just a prick, or he is aiming for a financial settlement. Then he starts all over with the dates, and I show him my visa, which both the first and the extension uses the dd/mm - just as we do in Denmark, Colombo and the rest of the world. I'm given a warning, and can drive of. Another guy that was pulled over tells me, I should have dropped 100 LKR - that's what you do. I thought we were talking about something in the range of the fine for not having a driving license; 2500 LKR, which I have shown in cash. That could have scared him?

 Anyway, I'm on the road again, and I'm not coming back - ever! I reach the minor city of Oddamavadi, which seems to be quite to be a quiet Muslim city. I fill the car with gasoline and air, and try the first restaurant/rooms I find. It turns out to be the only one I see in town. Cold water, but all right room for 1500, and I even get clean bed- sheets on.

 I ask for a towel a few times, and the third, he get a boy to point out a textile shop, down the road. Guess that means no? I buy one, and divides it in three. They tend not to be re-used due to the moisture. Then I do the shop-street-walk, and tell about every one I meet: I'm from Denmark, I'm here for two months, I'm here alone, I'm not married, my name and that I love Sri Lanka. That tend to get a bit boring after the first 50 times, in every town.

 The town is rather warn down, greyish and despite the smiling people, rather depressing. Flocks of cows walk right through the main street, and the gutter is open. The central gasoline station looks like it is in the middle of a war, but functional. I hope some of the coastal towns further down south, are way more inviting! I need a place to stay for a week or two.

 I get some fried rice at the hotel, and head home to work. I called by one of the boys: Haven't a clue to what he say, but I get the meaning: Come down please. It turns out I have a flat front tire. Must be dirt in the valve. I get it off, and carry it across the street to a tire-shop. He fasten the valve, fills it, and I give him 100 LKR, despite he only asked for 20. I hope for some good karma. 

 While enjoying my evening tea, I ask the tired waiter; how much he works. He starts every day at eight in the morning, and help closing down at eleven - in the evening. And he does it every day of the week. I don't dear ask him, how much he is paid.

17/1. I leave the town right after breakfast; it does not, even in the early sunlight, seems worth offering any more time in. The plan is just to drive the 40 km down to Batticaloa; a larger town at the seaside. The road is five kilometres inland due to the swamps, but I manages to find a few minor roads, leading to the beach.

 In one place; Eravur, the tiny Punjaramaya Temple make the home for a large, pale man. Thinking about it, his greeting could be taken as a desperate attempt to get someone to talk with. Well; I'm here for the beach and the costal vegetation. The beach is a perfect sandy one, only offering a lot of colourful, small fishing boats, a few fishermen and even fewer findings on the sand. The most significantly must be the sepias from some rather large squids.

 I am called over by a family, digging up thick roots from the sand. It appears to the early stage of some palms, and they are eatable. I make a loop through the strange pine and palm plantation, but without actually finding any interesting plants.

 As I continue down south, the beach is suddenly on the other side of the road? It turns out to be the enormous lagoon, dividing Batticaloa from the mainland. I find a path leading to it, and it seems to be rather sweet, although some jellyfish seems to thrive here. The area is, after all, too cultivated to offer any interesting plants. Besides from a short stretch outside Oddamavadi, I have constantly been driving through settlements, although probably just a narrow stretch, along both sides of the road.

 I reach Batticaloa before noon, but start looking for a hotel anyway. My guidebook list quite a few, all on a road, not shown on its map! Of cause, my GPS does not recognise it. I ask around, and get to see quite some of the city. It is based on several islands, connected with a few bridges.

 Finally, I find the classic old hotel, I was looking for. Almost perfectly white walls, a pleasant change from the dark and dirty, I have had lately. It is near, but not connected to either the lagoon or sea, but I had thought it would be in a fancy part of town, considering the many listings on the road. It is not!

 I have a plan about letting this town "last" several days, but drive straight down town anyway. Plenty of rather nice but small shops in Main Street, and even the Dutch Fort is tiny! Inside, it is stuffed with offices. As I pass the mosque on the way back, the streets are crowded. It is Friday, just over noon, and time for the Friday prayer.

 That mean the entire shopping centre closes down, even the Hindu shops. Well not the Tamil jewellery shops, they stay open, every one of them, and there are a lot. I do a lot of walking, passing more closed shops. After an hour, some opens again, but not enough to make it interesting.

 I try the market, but once again, almost every one have gone. Well, the water haven't I hope. Down to the beach, which is with perfect golden sand. It is wide and real steep. From the lowest of the waves to the fresh top are around six meters vertically, and the waves are fare from big! Just a little out, it seems to be real deep.

 Here are not much to be found, but the centre piece of a lobster is quite spectacular. Back to work a bit at the hotel, then next door, where another hotel should offer some good food. Where my hotel (Bridge View Hotel) have absolutely no view to the bridge, the one next door has. I get some good pepper, curry beef with frites and a caramel pudding. Unfortunately, I'm not aloud to dine alone; 100 mosquitoes joins in.

 I make a reservation for a room, mainly because they offers hot water. On the way back through their large garden, I find several toads and a tiny owl, hooting. Back at my hotel, the party is on. I doubt here are other guests, but the colour lights and music is on. The other hotel had a few Sri Lankan guests, I think. I would have thought some tourists or back-packers came for the beach, but apparently not.

 At nine, I feel like a cup of tea, but with the cloud of mosquitoes in mind, I can do without.

18/1. I make a slow start on the day, and I must confess; I'm a bit puzzled by the fact the hotel don't offer a continental breakfast or anything alike. Well, I'll eat anything, as long as it is recently fresh. Then I start reading my own diaries, just to remind me of the good places, which might be worth going back to.

 At half pass ten, I'm welcome at the other hotel, and I check out. Store the back-pack in my 100 square meter bungalow, and head in to the market. Today, it is significantly more active, although not every stall is open. I fail to find anything interesting, except a few motives in general. Strangely enough, the fish market occupies the entire upper floor, while the vegetables and alike are at the ground floor. I do a few rounds, but I have seen my share of these markets by now.

 Back to my island and out to the sea, up north. 40 kilometres of perfect, golden sand with a few small fishing boats on, from time to time. A big eagle fly above my head, and that is it. Just inland, a narrow stretch of pine forest is found - completely mono-culture. I drive up to almost the end, and walk the last bit.

 The area was destroyed by the tsunami, and it seems like it never really got populated again. Most of the few buildings are ruins, the rest in poor condition. I drive the five kilometres back, still without seeing anyone - kind of spooky. Then I drive right through town, and head for the southern end of the narrow peninsular. some 40 kilometres further south, it is connected with the mainland.

 Pretty soon, I reach Kattankudy, which turns out to be way larger than I have thought. It might be narrow, but the intense line of shops fill both sides of the boulevard for almost three kilometres. Then it opens up a bit, and continues. All the shops I was missing in Batticaloa are here, and then some!

 My cooling sleeves are not good enough, and I have been trying to find the right fabric for some time. Here, I try again - and again. They simply don't have any elastic fabric at all. On the way back, I stop at a discount market. They have the right material, but only in six square meter pieces. At first, I give up, but then I ask for the price: 350 LKR. Or in European: Nothing at all. I get several sheets, blankets and towels for free, on top of that.

 I see several of the strange harvest machines. Kind like a normal one, but with a distinctive tractor on top. At first, I thought it was a homemade construction, but John Deer apparently make them for real. Considering how much the tractor is complete, I guess it can be extracted for individual use.

 Back in Batticaloa, I head down town to find a tailor. The only one who is still open, are too busy! Well, I'm sure I see at least one more. In some areas, more that 25 are found in a single street or two. It is all about finding the right neighbourhood.

 Back to the hotel to order dinner. They like to have the order in good time, and I like to eat before the mosquitoes. Cashew nuts in carry with red rice sounds good. Then the plan was to investigate the huge garden, but the first I find are two hammocks, next to the water. That delays the project ten minutes. As I go through the garden, I kind of regret I didn't stay in the hammocks; here is nothing real interesting anyway.

 The dinner is truly splendid. As I finishes my pineapple juice, the swarms arrivals, and I'm gone. The bungalow has real good insect-nets, and I'm pretty much alone with my work. I make a tea-brake at eight, and afterwards, I go frog/toad hunting around the pond. Here are at least two species of toads and two frog species. The toads are small, the frogs huge, all are noisy.

 I think about the fact, world's Muslims make Friday the day off, Jews take Saturday off (along with some Christians), the majority of Christians use Sunday while alcoholics recon Monday is the right day to stay home. Hindus don't have any and Buddhists only get the full-moon.

 My going through old notes reveals the interesting stuff apparently happens in the central, lower third of the country - or that could be a result of that is so fare I have read...

19/1. I have no hurry to leave the nice hotel, but eventually, I better go. I drive down the same peninsular I did yesterday, but continues all the way to the mainland. When I reach that, it is an almost dessert landscape. White sand with few plants. The most special is the invasive St. Pedro cactus, but I also find a plant I have been looking for; Coccinia grandis. Somehow, a few caudexes have been exposed, but I also find a smaller one in the beginning of the growing season.

 On the other side of the road, it is more like a swamp, but with invasive Opuntia cacti. Besides from them, and a temple, here is not much interesting. I continues to the rather large village of Pandiruppu, and find a tailor, working on a Sunday. Most of the city is actually open. I get four new sleeves for 100 LKR, but insist on paying 200, for the excellent work. Now, I got a better quality, and they hold more water. That will keep me cold, even in a steamy day.

 Next stop is Kalmunai, mainly because I didn't get truly out of town. This is a large and modern city with loads of rather fancy shops. Their market, on the other hand, is the most rustic I have seen so far. It is still clean, but down on the ground, little to trade and primitive in general. I get a few photos, but the locals are too eager to talk with me, till I  can get anything done quiet.

 In the middle of town, the usual bus station is found, and right behind that, a enormous swamp. 25 meters away, and I'm back in the rather modern city. I get the usual cup of tea, but the interest my person awakes, get too much, and I leave town a bit early. Thinking about it, I have not seen another pale for several days. The roads are good, you can get modern stuff, here are just as many temples. I'll bet there is a beach to kill for too  - why are here no pales?

 I'm puled over by a policeman. Apparently; I crossed the full white line. I have not seen any one else respect it, but of cause; it is stupid to do it in front of a lawman. I get away with slapping my own wrist, perhaps because neither of the officers could speak a single word English?

 I turn inland for a while, heading towards Gal Oya National Park. I will pass through it several times, first time right outside Amapara. First though, I will see the giant boulder, raising 150 meters above the surrounding rice fields. Despite it is within a elephant infested area, I simply must have a walk-about.

 Despite the dung are within seeing distance from each other, I sense no gray grumpes, and make a long walk. It is dense bushes, divided by areas with real low grass of shallow pools. Looking through the photos make me realise; none are without the elephant calling card! I don't find any interesting plants, but the area has a strange atmosphere with all that short grass and none chewing on it. I leave, when I hear a big branch be broken, somewhere further into the bushes.

 I reach the area with the giant boulder; Buddhangala and is Rock Hermitage. I make a tour round the huge granite boulder, and find some shallow pools on the top, containing tadpoles and some blue flowered plants. And piles of dung! After a while; I have to see the temple area too. A baby monitor greets me, that about all.

 Several shrines, degobas, temples and alike is scatted over a huge area of the boulder, and I have a look at a few. A round tablet with the footprint of Buddha seems especially old, the rest too popular for me. Next stop is the city of Ampara. A real modern city as well, but still cosy and relaxed.

 I go shopping for a hotel. The first is for only 800 LKR, but without warm water. The next is 1200 LKR and still without. Don't ask me why, but I book the next. Then I drive down town to find yet another pair of sunglasses. The previous died due to brittleness caused by sun! Now I try a pair of metal/glass, and only find the crack in the glass, after I have left the shop. Anyway; 100 LKR is still all right.

 A cup of tea, and I'm ready for the local tank and the first bit of Gal Oya National Park. I see a big monitor hunting along the road, and position myself in front of it. Unfortunately, my behaviour causes the locals to be a bit to curious, and they scare it away. On the top of the dike, a line of fishermen stand with their sticks.

 I get inside the elephant fences area, but when I try to find the buggers, they are gone! I returns when I exit the area, and find my way back to Ampara in the dusk. I try a western chicken burger with fries, and it is surprisingly good. Back at the hotel, I start working to some rather loud Eminem music. Well, it could be worse for sure! At ten, I have feed all the mosquitoes in the room, and I figure I can get an undisturbed night.

Considering this part is getting a bit long, and I'm actually did turn a bit inland, I start a new capture. The photos from this part, is found in This Slideshow.

From the coast, I turn inland to the low and humid south-central part - again.

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