We lose track of time in Jaffna, and three days go by quickly. We could stay longer, but we are eager to see more in the surrounding area before we start our descent back to the South of Sri Lanka.
Back on the road….!
Our destination on the map is Anuradhapura~ (Now that’s a mouthful.. much like many Sri Lankan names). Anuradhapura was the center of Theravada Buddhism for several centuries.
We are in no hurry to get there. We want to enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
Outskirts of Jaffna
A small market along the road.
Ben is in good company ~ sarong wearing is quite common among men in this region. Other parts of Sri Lanka, such as the South it is mostly worn in the evenings and not during the day.
Piles of smooth caramel “jaggery”. What is jaggery you might ask? Condensed palm sugar.
Sri Lankans definitely have a sweet tooth and enjoy their desserts. Here a variety of different sweets being sold, including tiny rattan containers on the left, filled with jaggery for individual portioning.
A typical rural Jaffna scene. A man, his bicycle and his cow.
A small Hindu temple with beautiful carvings on the outside attracts our attention. This Ganesha rocks.
The red and white stripes outside almost every Hindu temple, small or large. A small opening in the wall creates a Ganesha altar for offerings. Below the opening you can see script in both Tamil and Sinhalese.
For some reason Ganesha has a stationary bright blue car at this temple and Ben of course loves old cars (see our archived posts on the beauties of Cuba!). As luck would have it, color-wise he co-ordinates with the car rather nicely.
Point Pedro, Northern Jaffna
A girl in her brightly blue modern sari, rides her bicycle past the weathered shop doors and walls.
A deep peach sari and matching parasol brighten up the backdrop of ruins.
The pace is slow ~ not only is it quite hot but it seems everyone either walks or bicycles to their destination.
I heard the laughter of these boys before I saw them on their bikes coming around a corner. Born at the tail end of the war, they reflect the carefree attitude of a new younger generation.
it is not often one sees a totally authentic fishing village in today’s world. But here we get to encounter one. There are old wooden boats painted bright colors with birds swarming above doing their best to get some of the days catch.
Tiny silver, perfectly oval shaped fish lie lifeless on the shore as well as still floating in the waters surrounding the boats. Clearly these unfortunate little ones got caught in the net intended for bigger fish and were simply tossed back into the waters.
It has the look of some Mediterranean village of days gone by.. but, no, it is still Jaffna. Just across the Bay of Bengal, the Polk Strait, is the continent of India ~ a short boat ride away. (As of now, there is no legal way to go by boat from Sri Lanka to India.)
Well used weathered fishermen boats ~ all lined up in a row at Point Pedro harbor.
The languid pace at the fishing port is best captured in a video ~ Take a look…
The houses in Point Pedro are perched at the edge of the island of Sri Lanka, and have fantastic positions right on the coast.
A bright fuschia colored sari brightens up the front of the house. People in this area are Christian and celebrate Christmas in a low key way.
We are the only car on the road. We are the only “anything” on the road, save for a few bicycles here and there. The road follows the coast and passes through many tiny communities where fishing is the primary activity for its inhabitants.
And there you have it… We are at the most Northern point of the pearl shaped island. One cannot get further North than this. Which is kind of fun, given that we have travelled from the most Southern point of Sri Lanka where we live, to the most Northern part!
What a beauty sitting on the side of the road! We are both big fans of goats. I (Peta) did a small series of goat paintings inspired by the goats we met in India.
Rather elegantly posed on the side of the road, with the ocean right behind.
Peta’s painting of her favorite goat (met outside a temple in Rajasthan, India.) The goats sitting so gracefully on the side of the road are reminiscent of this particular goat we now look at every morning when we wake up.
Alongside the road, fish in neat rows are laid out to dry. Dried fish is used in making curries and soups.
People dot the jetty which just out into the ocean. A perfect spot to catch the sea breeze.
The black silhouettes cast a dramatic sight on the pier.
We see more churches in this part of Jaffna than Hindu temples. In the photo above this one, you might have noticed the Muslim woman on the right of the photo. An amazing aspect of Sri Lanka is the convergence of Buddhism (predominantly in the South), Hinduism, (predominantly in the North) and a much smaller population of both Muslim and Christian.
An angel watching over our little car and our road trip.
We drive along the coast on a piece of land that becomes increasingly narrow. On one side is the ocean and the other a lagoon. Shades of green and mauve grasses flank strips of water.
A church here, a Hindu temple there…. the interweaving of religion and cultures. Love how bold this life size Hindu sculpture is.
From bright crayola colored Hindu temples to a muted creamy colored cow walking alongside the road.
We stop for a typical Sri Lankan lunch ~ dahl (lentils), vegetable coconut curries (aubergine, green beans, potato) crispy papadams, rice, chutney and coconut sambal. Pretty tasty stuff. (Sri Lankans eat rice and curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner). Most cook and eat at home and indeed that is where the best curries are found! We are both getting addicted to Sri Lankan curry.
Two to a bike… taking a leisurely ride. Note the super long jet black hair on all three of the girls.
We are well outside of Jaffna and entering an area where there is NO one here. There is no development or buildings just sand, sea and sky.
A few shacks made from the fronds of the palm trees, are dotted here and there. Desolate and beautiful.
We come to a point where the lagoon and the sea meet and the road is a bridge over the two. Just following along per our paper road map, no internet here for google map! We are heading towards the bird sanctuary area. Driving slowly and enjoying the serenity.
All of the sudden the road comes to an abrupt halt! Nowhere to go.. it just STOPS! In the middle of nowhere. The map shows it going through?? So perhaps the map is old or the road was wiped out during the war and not yet repaired? We slowly back up so as not to get stuck in the sand and look for alternate roads we may have missed. Nope, it seems that the map is out of date. Now what? It is around 4.00 in the afternoon and we are hours from anywhere we can sleep for the night. Hmmm …. Then we remember that there was ONE place that said “Lagoon retreat” about an hour back. And so, we head that way, hopeful that we will find somewhere comfy to crash before dark.
Surprised yet pleased to see foreigners, we are told that yes, they DO have one room available. But they wonder if we would like it? It is a tree house! All we can see so far is a huge tree with branches that swoop almost to the ground. Apparently there is a room in there….
Ahhh, there it is. WOW! Now we are talking! Can we move here?
A simple staircase winds up the tree to the platform where there is a room with a bed in it, with glass doors on both sides. One side opens up into the branches of the tree, the other has a balcony and a view towards the sea. We are pretty happy with this save, given our predicament. A unique lodging. Nice!!
Balcony off the tree house. What a fabulous surprise and treat. Past the low lying foliage and sand is a stripe of blue sea.
Before dinner we get in some much needed stretching after hours in the car. Staying clear of the lagoon with its alligators.
When you eat curry every day you get hooked and you start to taste the subtleties between the various types. It is always different but invariably delicious with a layering of flavors and unique spices. The only caveat that the Sri Lankan baseline spicy is to us FIERY HOT!!
After a restful night of sleep in our treehouse, we are ready to hit the road again and continue our drive through this marshland area, which has a beauty all of its own.
The light is soft and the colors have a pastel quality to them. We see egrets, herons, HUGE painted storks, flamingoes, ducks and other birds we do not know the names of. (See video below.)
Back on the main road via Elephant Pass to Anuradhapura
Once we are back on the main road after our morning driving through the sanctuary and beach area, we are getting hungry and stop at what turns out to be a European Union – funded program to create jobs for women in the area, featuring North Sri Lankan culinary specialties.. Ooh what fun! A mini “food fair” for the lucky drivers that stop here.
Signs are written in Tamil, Sinhalese and English, with a name for each of the dishes. Many are fried, so we just have little tastes of as many as we can. They are delicious! Who ever heard of cowpeas? Or Green Gram?
Banana flower cutlet anyone? This is just one of many different ways that banana flowers are used in Sri Lankan cuisine.
“String hoppers” are vermicelli like rice noodles used as an alternative to rice, as a base for curries. They are surprisingly light and good at absorbing that coconut curry flavor.
Paratha (a Sri Lankan version of a crepe or pancake), a staple flat bread used to scoop up curries and rice.
And of course…a lentil herb donut, that when had fresh, are absolutely delicious (even though fried) it is definitely one of Sri Lanka’s most popular snack foods.
We are heading towards the seat of Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Anuradhapura.
The Anuradhapura kingdom named for it’s capital city was the first established kingdom in ancient Sri Lanka. Founded by King Pandukabhaya in 377 B.C. The kingdom’s authority extended throughout the country.
Buddhism played a strong role in the Anuradhapura period influencing it’s culture, laws and methods of governance. Because the kingdom was largely based on agriculture the construction of irrigation works was a major achievement of the Anuradhapura kingdom ensuring water supply in the dry zone and helping the country grow mostly self sufficient.
After the introduction of Buddhism into Sri Lanka it spread throughout the country. The rulers were expected to be protectors of Buddhism and it became a legitimizing factor of royal authority.
The Anuradhapura kingdom also became a great trading economy. The primary goods exported during that period were gem stones, spices, pearls and elephants. While ceramic ware, silks, perfumes and wines were imported from other countries. Foreign merchants mainly Arabs often acted as middlemen in this export and importing. The countries position in the Indian ocean and it’s natural bays made it a center of international trade transit.
The dramatic red stone Jetavanaramaya ,a significant stupa structure in the sacred world heritage city of Anuradhapura. It is recorded in history as one of the tallest structures in the ancient world and the second tallest non-pyramidal building. Its height is 400 feet.
Approximately 93.3 million baked bricks were used in the construction. This stupa belongs to a t compound that covers about 5 hectares and is estimated to have housed 10,000 Buddhist monks.
The grounds are perfect for strolling, shade and serenity.
There are some very large Buddhas in Sri Lanka but so far this is the largest we have seen. Standing alone in front of Buddha and imagining all the history and the continuous past and future use of this site for prayer and community.
We try to find a place to stay for the evening… It has been a long day of driving. It rained last night and the some of the side roads leading to hotels are quite muddy. Ben tries to avoid an incoming vehicle and over-corrects. We wind up in a ditch! Oy!
We manage to enlist the help of two very nice safari jeep drivers. They find some rope and pull the car out of the ditch. Problem solved! Off we go…. back to the main road where there is no mud!
We arrive in Puttalam, a small city where we eventually find a room for the night. There are very few hotels in these parts. Turns out, the beds are super comfy and we have a good night’s sleep before our last day on the road.
Puttalam has a bustling food market. Oranges, purples and greens ~ a painter’s palette.
Betel leaves being sold here. (The same ones that people use in Viet Nam and Myanmar). People chew on them as a tobacco like substance. It makes tongues, lips and teeth red. Not huge fans of the spitting of betel leaf that punctuates the chewing ritual. Splotches of red on the sidewalk.
The betel leaves do make a nice circular arrangement though.
A vegetable vendor and a very old fashioned scale to weigh her produce.
This part of Sri lanka has Hindu Temples, Buddhist temples, churches and mosques. The population where we have lunch seems to be mostly Muslim.
A woman waits patiently outside the mosque.
Ben is always drawn to the architecture of mosques and this one is quite large for a town this size. (Our first date, years back, included a stop at a mosque for a visit.)
Well worn wooden blocks keep the newspapers from flying away. And they have English language newspapers! Ben = happy!
The saffron robed monk, a fairly common sight in the South, heralds our arrival into the part of the country where the Buddhist population outnumbers any other.
One of the things we both enjoy about Sri Lanka is the variety of Buddha sculptures along roads. From very large to tiny ones, they are omnipresent. The road is now parallel to the ocean as we make our way back towards Negombo and Colombo.
This beautiful roadside Buddha secures a safe journey for travelers. It has a particularly beautiful setting and especially so at the end of the day as the sun and light soften.
This road trip ends in a hellish drive through Colombo evening traffic. Ben has driven in Paris, in Tokyo, in Managua, Nicaragua ~ so he can drive in Colombo. But finding our way through Colombo, without a map, in total gridlock… this is definitely not the highlight of the trip.
We stop for the night in Colombo as Ben has some work things to take care of. And then, one final 2 hours back “home”, to Dalawella!
A memorable road trip in Sri Lanka ~ looking forward to more…….
For the earlier blog posts on this road trip to Jaffna: