Day Seventeen – The climb to Adam’s Peak


17 April 2013

Adam’s Peak, or known in Sinhalese as Sri Pada (butterfly mountain) or in Tamil as Sivanolipatha Malai is 2,243m high and situated slightly off center in the south-west of Sri Lanka.  It is a holy site for many religions; for the Buddhist, it contains the sacred footprint of the Buddha, for the Hindus it is that of Lord Shiva and for the Muslims and Christians, it is that of Adam or that of St. Thomas.

We got up at 12:30am and left soon after a wash-up.  We packed water, some snacks and a jacket as we were told it would get cold up there.  All through the night, pilgrims have been making the climb.  Thus even at 12:30am, the path to Adam’s Peak had plenty of people.  It is just after the Buddhist/Hindu New Year and the Buddhists make this pilgrimage annually.  We will soon discover that it is not the best time for us to venture to this peak.

The initial part is a gentle climb.  Steps were well spaced with flat and wide paths in between.  There were shops selling food and drinks on either side of the path initially.  The shops were brightly lit.  The path to Adam’s Peak is also lit with street lamps.  Standing below, you could see the path snaking it’s way to the peak.1380a

Charles had been following a few paces behind me.  I have checking to see if he is alright.  At about 2 am, he wanted a break to have a rest.  He told me to go on ahead as he might just walk a bit further up and turn back to return to the hotel.  I told him that I will meet him back at the hotel and proceeded, leaving Charles seated on some benches.1381a

I picked up the pace in the hope of reaching the summit before sunrise.  The initial part of the climb did not have many people and I was very optimistic about reaching the top before sunrise.  All that optimism came to an abrupt end about 400-500 m from the top.  The path up had been getting narrower and narrower.  Suddenly, the density of people was increasing.  There were old men, old women, mothers carrying their babies in their arms and fathers carrying toddlers on their shoulders.  They were all here.  I was wearing my walking shoes for good support.  The pilgrims around me were bare footed or wearing thongs!

Near the top and before sunrise, it was cold.  Whereas previously I was walking a brisk pace and therefore my body heat was keeping me warm, when I came to a stop near the top in a human traffic jam, I started getting cold.  I had to put on my jacket.

I witnessed sunrise at about 400 m from the peak.  It was quite spectacular.  We we were above the clouds.1384a

Everybody on the path stopped to witness the sunrise.  It is almost like a ritual.1385a

I could see mountain peaks breaking above the clouds.  Everything here looks peaceful and serene.  For a moment I forgot that I was in a human traffic jam.1391a 1393a

Near the top, the steps up is divided into two; you keep right, going up or coming down.  The middle is divided by handrails.  There are handrails along the side too.  This is assuring.  Some have decided to jump the queue by using the sometimes empty path for those coming down to go up.  I don’t blame them.  It had been a long wait.1395a

When I got to the top, I soon realised why I was stuck in a 4-hour human traffic jam.  The guard at the entrance to the top gestured me to remove my shoes.  I moved to the side and removed my shoes and put it into my backpack.  I pulled out my sarong to wear it and come up to acceptable dress code.

The top of Adam’s Peak is about the size of a basketball court or slightly bigger.  The building in the middle housed the Buddhist and Hindu temples.  There were pilgrims queuing up to get into the temples and make offerings of various sorts; usually flowers.  No photography is allowed here.  On the far side, there were people seated on the ground and having morning breakfast.  This made the area at the top congested and rather hard to navigate.  I was keen the get out of here.1396a On the way down, I can see all humanity still snaking it’s way up the slope.  Going down was just as congested now as coming up.  I went down quite a bit to find a clearing to put on my shoes.  I then called the guide on the mobile to say that I am on my way down.  This was now about 9 am.

1397a Since the sun is up , you can now really appreciate the surrounds and it’s beauty.  I found the climb down a bit tricky.  The steps are of uneven height and irregular from half way up or so.  Hence you tend to have your head down mapping out the path you would take coming down, allowing for irregular steps.  Every now and then I paused to take in the scenery.  The legs were tired too.

1399a Near the end of my climb down, I looked back at Adam’s Peak, glowing in the sunlight.  It is quite impressive.


The natives along the way didn’t seem too preturbed by the crowds.  The sheer rock faces along the way are quite impressive.


Near the bottom, I noticed a Buddhist temple which I had not seen on the way up as it was dark.1403a

I also went past several tea plantations on the way down.  The women were busy plucking tea leaves and placing them in baskets on their back with is suspended by a piece of cloth around the top of their head.  Not sure if this is comfortable by this techniques has been used for many years.1406a

I reached the hotel just before 10:30 am, to be greeted at the door by our guide Jagath (our guide/driver) and a hotel staffer.  I wanted to get into the restaurant to have a cool drink.  Jagath asked me about where Charles was.  This surprised me a bit but I said he must be in his room.  Jagath then informed me that he had not had his breakfast yet.  Now I got worried.  I immediately went up to the room to knock on the door.  I got no answer.  At this stage I assumed that he had come back, unloaded his things and gone for a walkabout town.  Just to confirm this, I went back and asked the desk for a spare key.  Jagath, a hotel staffer and myself went back to the room with a box of keys.  We tried all the keys but none will work.

I chanced upon a slightly open window in front and pulled it slightly open.  It was tied on the inside by a cord.  We managed to pull as much as possible to stretch the cord, untie it and open the window.  We entered the room to discover that Charles had not returned.  It is now more than 10 hours since we had set out.  Charles came on this trip without a mobile phone and therefore there was no way of contacting him.  On my part, panic set in.  I decided we need to make a police report.

I got rid of my shoes as it was getting hot and wore my thongs, grabbed Charles’ and my passports and headed downstairs to meet Jagath.  As we started walking through town,  Jagath told me that the police can be slow and before we go there we should backtrack to see if Charles was waiting for me somewhere.  At this stage my legs were aching but I had to make this trip back.  I could not face telling Sonya that her husband is missing!

Jagath and I walked back to the spot were I thought I left Charles.  It was dark when I left him.  We walked further and Jagath, noticing I was tired, made me wait for him at a spot where I could clearly see all the people coming down from Adam’s Peak.  Jagath went on ahead with Charles’ passport to see if he could track him down.  Jagath showed the passport to one of the guides on the track and was told that he had walked further up.  Jagath conveyed the message to me.  This is positive.

Mentally I was preparing myself while I was waiting.  We were due to fly out of Colombo that night for Singapore.  I mapped out what I needed to do if Charles was not found i.e. change flights, extend stay in hotel, phone calls, etc.

About an hour later, to my immense relieve, I spotted Charles.  I drew his attention and made him sit beside me.  I called Jagath to tell him that I had Charles.  Jagath said he was almost half way up and now started to make his way back.

Charles then informed me that he made it all the way to the top.  He went half way and then felt compelled to keep going after seeing the various pilgrims making their way up.  Jagath joined us about 30 mins later and we all made our way back to the hotel.  Charles soon realised the turmoil he had caused.

We had planned to leave Nallataniya for Colombo at 11:30 am.  We left at 3 pm.

Along the way, we witnessed a few waterfalls pouring into the river below.1407a

This one is called Aberdeen falls (nice local name!).1409a

Charles was going to buy dinner for all of us that night to placate us before going to the airport.  Unbeknownst to us, Jagath had planned with his wife to have dinner at his place.  This was really nice of him.  His home town Vidduka was on the way to Colombo, about 34 kms from Colombo.  We had a fantastic home cooked meal and met his wife and 10 year old daughter.  The family was warm and welcoming.

I was hoping to hit Colombo early to go to a shop called Barefoot, which had bright coloured textiles, including cushion covers and a great bookshop.  Unfortunately, we did not make it in time.  We went to another shop called Laksala where we bought various souvenirs.  This shop was open until 9 pm.  Then we headed to the airport for our trip out of Sri Lanka.



Day Sixteen – Sigiriya and Dambulla

16 April 2013

Sigiriya is a rock fortress and city located in the Matale District and is right in the middle of the cultural triangle formed by Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy (the last kingdom).  It stands 200m high and the whole complex was built in seven years by King Kasyapa (477 – 495 AD).  After the death of Kasyapa, it was a monastery complex up to the 14th century.  After this, it was abandoned until the discovery of the ruins in 1907 by British Explorer, John Still.

We got up early to get to the Sigiriya rock. We arrived at the site at 6:30am. The gates opened at 7am. We looked around the area and viewed the beauty of the rock in the morning sun. The rock had about 1055 steps to the top. It was declared a world heritage site in 1982. UNESCO had been sponsoring some restoration work.20130419-074002.jpg

Inscriptions in the caves suggest that the rock was used as a religious place from the 3rd century BC. As you are proceeding towards the rock itself, you will observe structures built on either side of the walkway in a symmetrical fashion. The summer palace of the king was at ground level and the winter palace was on top of the rock.20130419-074718.jpg

After we pass the outer and inner moat (the latter used to have a drawbridge at the entry) we are welcomed into the water garden. The pond on one side has been restored but the pond on the left side is still underground, awaiting restoration. This then leads through the fountain garden, which contained narrow rectangular ponds (see above).  There are four fountains, two on either side.  The limestone slab (see below), has large holes in the limestone slab.20130419-075104.jpg

The whole system of water features is driven by water sourced from the top of the rock and passed down to the ground level by a system of channels. The fountain itself is run by only water pressure within these channels. During the rainy season, our guide tells us that there is enough water pressure within these channels to make these fountains function, even today! This system truly displays the engineering brilliance of the ancient Sri Lankans

After the fountain garden, the path takes us past the summer palace. Nothing stands today except for the foundation stones around the perimeter. The ancient buildings for the summer palace would have been made of wood.20130419-143538.jpg

Then we proceeded up a few steps and through the first of two boulder archway that is formed by two rocks resting on each other.20130419-075813.jpg

The steps that lead up to the top are made of marble. The idea behind this is that at night the marble will glow under the moonlight and thus provides natural illumination.20130419-144028.jpg

Just on one side of the rock archway is a very faint outline of a fresco that had been almost erased by the weather.20130419-144300.jpg

There were more steps that lead us to the rock face. On the right hand side just before the rock face is the Audience Hall.


The picture below shows the ascent from the Audience Hall level.20130419-145017.jpg

At the rock face, a series of metal staircases that are attached to the rock lead us up to the ancient walkways along the rock face. The original ancient system of staircases here have collapsed over time.20130419-145608.jpg

The walkway along the face of the rock lead us to spiral metal staircase which we climbed to enter a cave that had well preserved frescoes. No flash photography was allowed here to preserve these surviving ancient frescoes.20130419-145640.jpgAn Apsara or a Sigiriya damsel with her associate (above).



20130419-145757.jpgAn Apsara and her associate to the left (above).  A second Apsara is below.

The artist in those days sometimes made mistakes. The woman on the right has only four fingers in one hand. The women painted on these walls are of various descent. Some are Indian, some are African and some are Arab. It showed that Sri Lanka was visited by people from various lands. The frescoes were painted by a mixture of sand, beeswax, honey, natural plant dye to name a few constituents that I could remember.

Then we proceeded to along a walkway that gave us a good view of the summer place area below.20130419-150524.jpg

The walkway on one side had a wall. In ancient times it was known as Kedapath Pavura or the Sigiriya Mirror Wall. This is because the wall was made of brick masonry and has a polished plaster finish. The wall reflected the frescoes painted on the rock face. Thus anybody walking along this walkway had images on either side to view.  There are some ancient graffiti written on this wall.20130419-150901.jpg

Going further along the walkway, we went up a set of restored stairs to the next level. To the left of us was what was once the guard house where soldiers overlooked the area below for approaching enemies.20130419-203409.jpg

At the far end of the guard house, there is a huge boulder resting on some short rock columns. The boulder is a rock missile that is used to launch towards approaching enemy soldiers. Obviously it is a use once system with no reload mechanism!20130419-203648.jpg

Further along a walkway and up some more stairs, we come to a flat area with an entrance way that opens between two lion’s paws that have been carved out of rock. It originally is thought to have had a lion’s head with the lion’s mouth (a recumbent pose) being the entrance way to the next level. This structure is believed to have collapsed over time.20130419-204306.jpg



Through the lion’s paws and up a set of steel steps built into the rock, we were nearing the top.  The view on the way up here is quite spectacular.  We could see the route we had taken below.1316a

Coming up to this stage, Charles was getting tired and his legs were seizing up.  We had frequent breaks and fortunately, Charles brought his personal masseur on this trip.1320a

We climbed further on a combination of original marble stairs and steel staircases which lead us to a flat pathway.1322a

A few short steps later, we were at the top.1324a

The two limestone slabs represent the highest point on Sigiriya Rock.  In ancient times, this flat area had the two level winter palace.  The limestone slabs mark the spot where the stairs led to the 2nd level of the winter palace.1327a

We conquered Sigiriya Rock!  Looking at the top of this rock platform from various angles truly brought out the serenity of this place.1332a1334a

The way back down was just as interesting as the way up. There was an ancient pond made out of brick at the top (below).  I guess that rainwater was collected here and water channels fed water to the levels below including the fountains.1336a

While on the way down but still at the top area, we came a across a flat terrace with a huge flat limestone slab in one corner (below).  The king sat here while watching about 500 damsels dance and entertain him on the terrace in front.  The square holes in the ground would have contained wooden posts that supported a canopy that provided shade for the king.1337a

The performance area is reasonably large and would have been decorated in full colour.1338a

Going further on the way down, we come across the Audience Hall which we passed on the way up.  This is where the king received his subjects.  The surface is a flattened out rock with a stone seat that has been carved out of a rock boulder.  This place again had holes in the rock that had wooden posts to support some sort of canopy.1341a

To the side other side of the Audience Hall, in the rock face itself, is a cave with a drip ledge that was used by Buddhist monks for meditation in ancient times.  It was carved out of rock.  During the king’s rein, he took respite here from sessions he had at the Audience Hall.  The cave provided a natural shelter.  There is a stone seat for the king in this cave.  The layers of painting and a few graffiti in this cave dates back to 8 – 9 century AD.1343a

We proceed past this cave and through the 2nd boulder archway.1345a

The path then leads us past the Cobra Head Cave, known because the natural shape resembles a cobra head.  The cave had been used by Buddhist monks between the 3rd and 1st century BC.1346a

We made our way back to our car and back to the hotel.  We cleaned up, packed our bags to make a short trip to Dambulla.

Dambulla has 5 cave temples that had been cut out of an enormous granite outcrop that rises to about 160m.  The path to the temple is quite scenic.  The cave temples date back to about 100 BC.1354a

It was a hot day.  The monkeys along the path to the caves were having (a well earned) afternoon snooze.1351a 1352a

We reached the temple entrance after about a 30 min walk.  I donned my sarong (shorts above knee high not acceptable dress code).  To the right of us was the first cave.  Next door to it is a small chapel dedicated to Kataragama (Hindu Murugan).1356a

We went through all the caves.  These are places of worship and I made it a point not to use flash photography.1358a 1362a 1360a

The entrance ways to the caves look like they were built in the 1920s or so.1368a

There is a bell tower near the entrance.1370a

After Dambulla, we had a longer trip of about 4 hours to Nallataniya (aka Delhousie).  This is the gateway town to Adam’s Peak, which we were going to attempt during the night.  On the way to Nallataniya, we passed by Matale, the childhood town of Vijaya who was with us in Jaffna.  I promised to take some photos of the town for her.1371a 1372a 1373a 1374a 1375a 1376a 1377a 1378a

Nallataniya town was packed.  There were thousands of people around and the shops were brightly lit.  These people were mostly pilgrims, who were about to do their New Year’s pilgrimage up to the peak, which has a Buddhist and Hindu temple.

We checked ourselves into the Punsisi Rest House.  Although the room was smallish, it was comfortable.  The staff were polite, friendly and helpful.  We had a quick dinner at the restaurant here before turning in for a short sleep.  One of the staff members recommended that we start our climb at 12:30 am instead of our original intention of 1:30 am.  He advised that since there were a lot of people going to climb to the peak, it is best to start earlier.  Charles was feeling a bit weary from today.  He had earlier said that he might not attempt Adam’s Peak, with it’s over 5000 steps to the peak.  But in the evening he decided to go part of the way.  With that, we turned in for a good, short rest of about 4 hours!

Day Fifteen – Leaving Jaffna for Anuradhapura

15 April 2013

Charles and I are leaving Jaffna today. Our driver comes to pick us up at about 12:30pm. We are packed and ready to go. We will be parting company with the rest of the team today. My cousins Lakshmi and Vijaya will be returning to Colombo at about 3pm. After a day, Lakshmi is heading back to Malaysia and Vijaya to Canada. Our driver was early. He arrived at 11:30am. So we invited him to have some lunch with us. We left Jaffna at 1:15pm. We were heading for Anuradhapura.

The ancient city of Anuradhapura is more than 2000 years old. It was the epicentre of Sri Lankan civilisation until it came to an end in 993 AD when it was overtaken by Indian invaders. To explore the whole city, our driver informs us that it will take about 6 hours. We did not have the time so we only explored the important sites. Anuradhapura is divided into 3 sites, Abhayagiri, Jetavana and Mahavihara. We first visited the largest dagoba in Sri Lanka which is the Jetavana dagoba. It is an impressive structure. It was constructed around 274-301 AD.


The we went around to visit the tallest dagoba, Ruvanvalisaya which is in the Mahavihara area. This dagoba is also known as the great stupa.


The walls are adorned with sculptures of elephants and the whole structure is quite magnificent.

It is still a public holiday here after the New Year. There are plenty of people here who are attending the various monasteries for prayers for the New Year. We tried to visit the Sri Maha Bodhi (Sacred Bo Tree). It is rumoured to have been grown from a cutting of the original Bo Tree in Bodhgaya, India. Unfortunately we had our shorts on and we were considered improperly dressed. The path to this place had huge open grounds on either site. These grounds were full of monkeys who were very friendly and tame. They were simply adorable.




The last dagoba we visited was Thuparama. It is small compared to the other dagobas but it was the first dagoba ever built in Sri Lanka.


The ancient kings, including Mahasena (274-301) recognised the importance of water for irrigation as farming played a huge part. Within the old city of Anuradhapura, there are 3 large manmade lakes to collect rain water. Farm land is irrigated by channels connected to the lakes.


The lakes were constructed by first digging the soil out. This soil was used to build the various stupas and structures within the city. Elephants were used extensively for the construction. The lakes are huge and looks like some inland sea.

We hit the road again for Sigiriya. We checked into the Sigiriya Rest House which has been running since 1910 or earlier. It is comfortable and nothing flashy but all we needed was somewhere to sleep.


Tomorrow we climb the Sigiriya rock at 7am. That’s when the gates open. Our hotel faces the rock.

Day Fourteen – New Year’s Day

14 April 2013

Today is the Hindu and Buddhist New Year. We follow a different calendar system to the Gregorian or Western calendar. The Hindu calendar is a lunisolar calendar that has been used since ancient times. It has gone through several changes over time and regionalised. The Buddhist calendar is based on an ancient version of the Hindu calendar. Thus, in all Buddhist countries, this day marks a New Year.

We got up early for our traditional bath and headed for the temple at 8am. Today is going to be a long day. The New Year ceremony at the the temple is elaborate and long. Just to throw something else into the mix, is going to be a hot day. We arrived early at the temple. Troop elder Bala, suggested that we head down the road to see my grandaunt, Mrs Thevarajah. I was keen to meet her. She is my maternal grandfather’s (Ponniah’s) sister-in-law. She lives in a village called Karangali, which is where my maternal grandfather came from. They were farmers too. The bush telegraph (phones are rare in dwellings here although mobiles are popular) had already sent word that we were in town. My grandaunt was overjoyed to see us. It was like as if she was expecting us that day.

My grandaunt had done quite a bit of travelling in the past. She had come to Singapore and Malaysia previously and met all our relatives there including my parents. She reckons I look exactly like my father, which everybody says because we are tall and slim. Grandaunt can certainly rattle on. I don’t know if it is the excitement of seeing us or she is normally like that. We took a couple of photos for keepsake. As I have never seen my granduncle, I was shown a photo of him which I took a photograph of too. I hope it will turn out alright. Might need a bit of photoshopping. We then bid our farewells, hugged my grandaunt and left to return to the temple.

The temple ceremony today is going to be long one. In the end it went for some 8 hours straight. We managed to slip into a shop across the street for a quick meal. People were streaming in. Even the local ‘Mr Whippy’ and other street vendors had set up shop. It was almost like a carnival atmosphere. Roads in these parts are narrow, single lane, so buses and other vehicles tend to have a difficult time getting past. Still they go by with a minimum of fuss. Road rage is unheard of in Sri Lanka. I strongly believe that road rage is a by-product of an orderly society. If you break an accepted order on the road in Australia, you are more than like to wear a crowbar on your head for the rest of your journey.

Today’s ceremony revolves around Lord Ganesha, the main deity of this temple. After the priests had conducted the morning ceremony, the deity was hoisted on the shoulders of men and taken around the inside of the temple. This was a sight to be seen. It was not just a straight walk. The deity was rocked to and fro by about 20 men, in a fully synchronised fashion.

After a circuit inside the temple, the main deity was taken through the main door of the temple to the outside of the temple. The deity was going to have a ride on a ‘ratham’, which is like a chariot.


This entire process was long and slow. The day was hot but not as bad as a few days ago. I am sure if there was a bed in the temple chamber, Bala and Jeeva would have hopped on it for a nap in no time. It was already about 2pm at this stage and everybody was still going strong even though they had not had lunch (except for the weaklings like us who had a quick snack earlier).

The deity was lifted into the ratham for a ride around the temple. The ratham was pulled by rope by 2 teams of men lined up in front of it. The ratham was huge and very elaborate.


All through the whole process the deity was accompanied by traditional drummers and trumpeters. Today there was a full team of about 5 drummers and 5 trumpeters. It might seem like a cacophony of sounds but it was actually quite mesmerising.

After the proceedings, we headed to the home of Mr. Ganeson, who sponsored the day at the temple today. According to Bala, he is our oldest blood relation. I am still coming to terms with the various terminology they use. We had a meal at Mr. Ganeson’s place and a bit of rest. To the dismay of Bala and Jeeva, there wasn’t quite a bed in the living room. All of us being tired, we headed back to the hotel for shower and a good rest.

Day Thirteen – Around Jaffna town and then to Kovalum in Karainagar

13 April 2013

This morning we were heading for the Nallur Kandasawamy Temple. It is dedicated to Murugan and it is known to Buddhist Sinhalese as Katargama. This is the most important Hindu temple in Sri Lanka. The original temple was known to have dated from the mid-fifteenth century. In 1620, the Portuguese did their usual destructive job. The old temple is said to be have been located at the present day St James Church.  The present temple began in 1807. It is an enormous complex. We were early for the service and so we decided to take some of the sights of Jaffna. First we visited the old Dutch fort.



The inner defences were completed in 1680 and the outer in 1792. Unfortunately, it was used in the civil war and large parts of it were destroyed. It is currently being restored. Another prominent feature of Jaffna is the clocktower.

The clocktower was built in 1875 to commemorate the visit of the Prince of Wales. We then headed back to the temple for the morning service which was short and sweet.


I can’t say this temple is the most welcoming place. Gates are locked until it is precisely the time for the service. In other temples, gates are always open. The priests were aloof and unhelpful. But we had to make this visit. It is a must for Hindu Sri Lankans.
After breakfast, my cousin Lakshmi, Charles and myself decided to hit town to do a spot of shopping. I wanted to buy presents for my relations in Singapore. The town was busy with last minute shoppers. Tomorrow is the Hindu and Buddhist New Year.

We did our shop and headed back to hotel to cool off. It was stinking hot again. Bala had organised an auto rickshaw guy to take us to Kovalum on Karainagar. I was keen to see the spot where my mother was born. The tradition was to have the first child born in the maternal grandparents house. Thus, my maternal grandmother made the trip from Malaysia to her parent’s house (my great grandfather’s house) to give birth. My cousin Bala informed me earlier that the house does not stand anymore as it was built from straw and mud bricks and had an attap roof. Anyway we had lunch and waited for the auto rickshaw.

After a stop in town to buy a present for our grandaunt, we headed for Karainagar. Crossing the causeway seemed like something we do everyday. The auto rickshaw driver had the key to the only house that stands in the area which belongs to our cousin who lives in Canada. It took a while for us to track down the house although we had been here before. It seemed like a remote location with a lot of twists and turns along the way. We finally got to the place and made our way to the back of the house where my granduncle and great grandfather lived. My mother’s brother in Malaysia inherited the last block of land which is the largest and is on the oceanfront. Unfortunately, the navy still occupies a chunk of this land. After searching the area, I found two areas where houses once stood. Although the houses were made of traditional material, the floor was made of concrete.

I am standing here in what I believe is my great grandfather, Thambiah’s house and where my mother was born. House itself is small. Our driver informs us that houses in those days were small. My granduncle’s house was next door.


There was a barbed wire fence separating the land here and a flat piece of land beyond the back fence that belongs to the family. There were cows grazing the land. The well on the land took a central spot.

I almost felt today that I did what I came here for. I found my roots. This is our family land and this is where they lived as farmers.


Day Twelve – Trip to Nainativu

12 April 2013

We had an early morning start to catch the 10:30am ferry that was taking us to Nainativu which is a 20 minute boat ride from Jaffna. We were going there to visit the Naga Pooshani Amabal Temple.
The original ancient temple was destroyed by the Portuguese in the 1620s. After defeating the army of the last King of Jaffna, Sankili, the Portuguese went on a rampage destroying many ancient temples, probably in their quest to spread Christianity to the ‘heathens’. The current temple dates from 1788 (the year the first fleet arrived with upstanding citizens to Australia) and the towering gopuram was built in 1935.
Our boat trip was in a traditional boat and was quite and experience. The boat had been previously arranged to pick us up. One of my cousin’s husband comes from Nainativu and we were going to experience the warm hospitality of his relatives.
We spent some time at the temple. It was fairly popular and people were coming from all over to attend services here. In the compound of the temple there were a few cows roaming freely. The devotees feed them bananas which the cows seem to devour with great pleasure. Dogs abound in numbers at this place too.
Our cousin’s people arranged auto rickshaws (tuk-tuks) to take us around the island. They picked us up for lunch at a relations place.
Lunch was incredible; it was easily one of the best meals we had. These relations really put on a good spread. Charles and I retired to the chairs in the yard to try and have an afternoon nap.
After a few hours (to allow Jeeva and Bala to have a nap on the bed that was in the lounge room), we bid our farewells and headed back to the jetty. It was a real hot day. My pores were spurting sweat. When we got to the mainland, we hopped on the van and were heading for Karainagar. This time we made the crossing by ferry. The ferry point was much nearer to us and to save time we decided to load the van on the ferry for the trip across. The ferries are well patronised, mostly by motorbikes.

We headed back to the hotel for a shower, clean-up and quick rest before heading to Jeeva’s relative’s house for dinner. Again we were thoroughly spoilt. The hospitality of the hosts was incredible. We all slept well on this day.

Day Eleven – Back to Jaffna via Mihintale

11 April 2013

Got up at 5:30 this morning to have a wonder around the vast grounds here in Chaaya Lodge. In the morning it is peaceful and tranquil.
There are water lilies growing in the middle of the manmade lake. The water is very still. There are various water birds about.
It is also the time of the morning when the monkeys are active, swinging from tree to tree and having some breakfast. There are sort of beige coloured and furry with a black face.
At about 6:30am, the sun had come up and shining rays were breaking through the foilage.
We had breakfast, packed our bags and hit the road. We were heading for Mihintale. The road to Mihintale is littered to various ancient archeological sites.
Mihintale is know as the place where Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka in 247 BC. Mahinda, the son of Ashoka, the Buddhist king of India was sent to Sri Lanka to spread Buddhism. At the entrance is The Kantake Chetiya dagoba. It originally stood above 30m.
Proceeding towards a flight of steps that lead to the upper terrace, you come across the Conversation Hall. Then we went up a flight of 1850 steps to the upper level.
At this level stands the somewhat smaller Ambasthala dagoba.

I decided to further climb a bare rock outcrop callled Aradhana Gala (Invitation Rock) where Mahinda preached his first sermon. I wanted to get a good view of the area around this place. It was truly breathtaking.


From here you got a good view of the Mahaseya dagoba which can be seen for miles around. It is reputed to contain some ashes and a single hair of the Buddha.

After visiting Mihintale we started making our way to Jaffna. In Jaffna we had a short rest before embarking on a trip to Point Pedro which is at the extreme North-East of the island. We went to a well at Nilavarai. In Hindu mythology, Ravana needed water for his troops. He drew an arrow and shot it into the ground to create the well. No one knows how deep the well is. It is reputed to be connected to Keerimalai Springs that we visited earlier by some underground channel.

We made a trip through a coastal town called Velvettiturai. It is infamous for being the birthplace of Velupillai Prabhakaran, founder and leader of the Tamil Tigers. His birth home had been demolished by the army. All that remains is an empty block of land.

We watched the sunset at Point Pedro before heading back to Jaffna, which is about 32kms from here.


Day Ten – Trincomalee to Habarana

10 April 2013

We had an early start at 5:30am to witness the sunrise at Trinco. Unfortunately, our cameras fogged up when it was taken out of the air-conditioned room. So we don’t have great pictures. The sunrise here is truly striking. We left at 7:30am for a temple called Thirukoneswaram. This temple dates back 2500 years. It was patronised by the great South Indian kingdoms over the years. It is one of the pre-eminent Hindu shrine in Sri Lanka. The entire ancient temple was carved out of solid rock. Unfortunately, the Portuguese destroyed the original temple in 1624 during their rampage through the north. The rock from the temple was used to build a fort and the rest of the rock was shoved over the edge. In the 1960s, Arthur C Clarke found the ruins of the temple underwater and recovered some significant pieces.

In 1950, the local Municipal Council was digging for a well nearby in Trincomalee and found a stash of ancient statues buried in the ground. It was suggested that probably some concerned devotees buried these statues from the ancient temple before the Portuguese destroyed the temple. The statues were enshrined in the modern temple in 1952. The temple is located high above a rocky hill overlooking Trinco.


In the temple ground, I chanced upon a very friendly cow that seemed quite young. It came up to me to greet me.


Monkeys abound on the trees above and in other places.

One of the features of the temple is for women to tie tiny cradles made of wood onto trees in the hope that they will have a baby.

We needed a group shot here. So hell why not!

We got back to the hotel after that to have breakfast and hit the road to Habarana which is almost in the centre of the island. We stopped for some fresh coconut drink that Charles immensely enjoyed.

One of the things you will notice while driving on the roads here is that there are cows everywhere. The cows are let out of the farm and there is always a leader in the pack. All the cows follow the leader to a grazing ground and return later in the afternoon back to the owners house. We actually chanced upon a cow waiting at the front gate of a house to be let in.

Some of these cows actually lie down in the middle of the highway like as if they are playing ‘chicken’. You soon notice that the cows command a right of way. All vehicle traffic take pains to go past them in a safe manner. We stopped by at a guest house for some afternoon tea. The scenario at this place overlooking a huge ancient manmade lake is quite idyllic.

The road to Habarana passes through several national parks. While passing through one of these parks, we spotted a young elephant having a feed by the side of the road.

After a short drive, we reached Chaaya Lodge, which is a sister hotel to where we stayed at Trinco. Again, it had typically the same sort of open feel about it.



Day Nine – Trip to Trincomalee

 9 April 2013


Trincomalee or Trinco as it is popularly known is on the north-east of the island. We left Jaffna today around 7:30am hoping to get to Trinco by 1pm. We had a consensus that we will take the coastal road through Mullaittivu. We came through Kilinochchi (which used to be a Tamil Tiger stronghold) before branching towards the coast.

Unfortunately, the coastal road through Mullaittivu is not the best. Mullaittivu is where the Tamil Tigers had their last stand and succumbed to superior numbers of the Sri Lankan Army. Most of the road here is dirt road or road that is rough and bumpy. It took us a while with a few handy hints from passersby before got to the road proper for Trinco. We were booked into a hotel called Chaaya blu. It is a beautiful hotel with a fantastic setting.


The hotel has a very open setting with view looking out to the ocean. There always seem to be a gentle breeze blowing in. The sea has a beautiful blue colour.

Our rooms are comfortable too.


We had a lazy day, by the pool or beach. Dinner was a buffet which had an incredible variety of food. I really ‘pigged out’. The others have refrained from calling me ‘porky’. Charles had a very healthy vege meal. He was very controlled with his meat intake at dinner. I checked, he is not running a fever.


Day Eight – Tour of Jaffna

 8 April 2013

We got up at 5:30am to have an early morning walk to the waterfront. One of my cousins came with me. Fishing is quite active in the waters off Jaffna between the mainland and Karainagar.

Again, we also passed by homes that were destroyed in the war. Some of these homes with have been quite magnificent during the good times but now are in a sad state. This is quite widespread.

We returned to the hotel after an hours walk to have breakfast. The we were on the road for a tour of Jaffna. We drove through some areas were some of the worst battles took place during the civil war. The devastation is quite confronting. We were heading for the Keerimalai Springs which is adjacent to an ancient temple.

The springs are meant to have curative properties. We had a swim here. The adjacent temple was built in ancient times but was first destroyed by the Portuguese in 1620. It was rebuilt again in about 1894. Some ancient structures are still visible today.

The Sri Lankan army occupied the temple at various times but in 1990 in was destroyed by aerial bombing as retribution. The destruction is quite extensive.


We came by a dog in the temple compound have a good snooze on a mount of sand. He was very comfortable and was enjoying his sleep under a shady tree.

We also went to another ancient temple (most of these temples date back to several hundred to a 1000 years). This is a famous temple that was struck by indiscriminate bombing. This temple has quite exquisite workmanship on the front gopuram (tower). This temple is the Maviddapuram Kanthaswamy temple.

We stopped by for lunch at what seems like a reasonable place. The air-cond in the place wasn’t the best but what caught our eye was the notice on the wall.

We returned to the hotel after lunch. I chilled and had a snooze. Charles decided to follow the ladies on a shopping trip. Our dinner was at a local restaurant called ‘Taste of Jaffna’. Food was good. In fact the food in Jaffna is great. We our off tomorrow on a 2 day trip to Trincomalee.