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Unawatuna - Ella - Arugam Bay - Pasicuda - Trincomali - Nilaveli

Oh, how much interesting I have been reading about the Eastern part of Sri-Lanka! During my first trip to Sri-Lanka I failed to come there and thought it was a big omission. Having settled down here for the second time and for long I categorically decided for myself – I am coming.

Any trip in Sri-Lanka it is better to start early in the morning, the earlier the better. First, the roads are half-empty and it means that you can drive faster, second, it is not hot yet and you can drive with open windows instead of conditioner, and last, third point, arriving at site you still have light time of the day, which you will agree is more pleasant than to hit the sack right away.

At 6 in the morning, the vigorous driver picked our family up from home. On the way we dropped into the hotel for my new acquaintance Samantha. This masculine name is rather widespread in Sri-Lanka. As it cleared up afterwards, due to his long service as an officer in the East of the country he became indispensable for us at passing checkpoints on the roads. But for that moment I did not know it yet and he was just a new Lankan acquaintance, not really looking like a Singhalese. Many Lankans, living in Colombo, working in offices and moving in cars start turning pale rather fast. As a result the tone of their skin becomes paler than a tourist has after a 2-week beach vacation. If you add to fare skin slightly European-like face features, then you can safely consider Samantha of any nationality but Singhalese. Already by 10 o’clock we got to the guest-house of my business partner in Ella, had breakfast, took a shower, got limbered up and already on two vans we went off to Arugam Bay

In our van my family and Samantha. In another van Sana with his team and two German girls, who came to Sri-Lanka for spiritual purification – Sofi and Jeni. The upcoming 5 days of the trip seemed to me through rose- colored glasses. After about 30 minutes of driving another minivan suddenly got broken – heavy overheating of engine.

«The train will not travel farther» I thought, and so it happened. Half an hour on the phone and a new van was found, we had to wait for it only for half an hour, which appeared to become two hours. Traveling without adventures is not traveling. To while away the time somehow I took a bottle of arrack out of the boot and suggested to drink it in Russian style, this is straight from the bottle. Samantha was among the ones who supported me most actively. We drank for the first adventure and for the further successful drive. All at once there came to mind different road stories, in a word tense atmosphere disappeared. And here Jeni gets out of the second (broken) van – I had not met her before that – we got acquainted, changed with standard questions on who is who and where is he from. She have heard that Russians like drinking and was not surprised, but here a mise en scene is composed. Jeni turns to a content with life Samantha who at the moment just had torn the bottle of arrack away from his mouth and ask him half-convinced: are you also Russian? A Pause, baffled eyes of all around, laughter, Jeni, feeling that she said something stupid starts justifying herself in front of Samantha, really you are white skinned, face features European, drinking on the road straight from the bottle. Laughter turns into hysterics. We, of course, explained her everything, but since then Samantha became “Russian”, what, by the way, made him very proud. 2 hours high in the mountains, among tea plantations, in a good company slip away, as if they were about half an hour. The new van arrived and here we are going again. We got to Arugam Bay by 8 in the evening. On the way Samantha called his mates in Arugam Bay to look for the overnight place. Unfortunately it did not help. Well he found us the place of course, but what a place, ugh. A made of strange something hut with straw roof, all in web, matrasses really ROTTEN, sheets dirty and with blood spots of killed mosquitoes. There was no water in the shower, and the shower itself, a piece of pipe instead of it. The search of rooms in nearby hotels did not help. All were busy up to roof. We had to accept humbly what we had. After some argumentation with the host I persuaded him to change our sheets. The hut for children was near, and there was even water supply, We could eat only in one guest house on the coast right opposite the surfers beach. There was quite civilized, and food was not bad, and all rooms were busy. And busy is a too gentle word for it. Having walked up to the roof to enjoy the beauty of the starry sky, we realized that all the roof was covered with matrasses and between them lie surfing boards. It’s a pity I did not ask how much was such an accommodation. So, as I understand we had back luck that day, got onto inflow of visitors.

Having come back to our huts and putting the tired children to beds, we understood that in clear mind and healthy memory we shall not sleep in our “suit”. There we had to take a medicine of arrack. At about 6 in the morning I was awakened by unnaturally loud shrieks of crows, I had an impression of hundreds of them. My puzzlement was cleared away by Alyonka, who came back from the beach. As it appeared to be, the guest house was situated accurately opposite the fishermen beach where fishermen returned to from night fishing. Carts, loaded with fish, were towed by oxen. As you know oxen are unpretentious animals and absolutely peacefully relieve themselves as and where they want. As the result the first impression of the beach was awful. Plenty of boats unloading fish, some loaded carts, a pile of manure, flocks of crows trying to pick fish and unbearable stinking of all these smells together. Well, hello Arugam Bay!

For a breakfast we went to the guest house, where we had dinner. It was impossible to walk on hot sand without flip-flops. Having left behind the fishermen bay we came to the surf point. Yes! At last I saw what everybody seeks for in Arugam Bay. Long waves, running almost parallel the beach, and surfers. I am not a fan, but I understand that such waves are not common all over Sri-Lanka. They can ride on one wave 400 meters. I understand skiers: slipped down the mountain, got lifted back with chairlifts. But here I rode the wave or some waves, got out of the water, the board under the arm, and walk along the beach half kilometer to do this once again.

After the breakfast and lying on the beach we came back because there was expected a long drive to Pasikuda. At the room we met two impatiently hopping surfers, they were promised our rooms, and they were waiting for us to throw their things into and to run for catching the wave. Having politely explained that we need two more hours I drove to see a piece of land not far from Arugam Bay, to the place named Panama. There is still located a military base but it is already possible to take land for lease. Beautiful area, especially a one-kilometer private beach, between the lagoon and the ocean, framed with boulders. Might be so that after 5 years they will build a hotel there, so much beautiful it is. When I came back to the guest house I found Alyonka at a loss. “No place to have meals here”, she told. “We went outside and even caught a tuker, but there are no cafes where we could eat”. Well, if there isn’t any we must do without. To a joy of waiting surfers we packed things, spared the rooms and started. After half an hour of driving we understood that the road which we considered to be bad entering Arugam Bay, was good in fact. Today’s road was just rather the worse for wear. Speaking plainly it wasn’t there. Driving along unsealed road is normal, but all that was accentuated by the fact of pieces of asphalt having not broken completely during the 30-year war. Average speed of such driving since then did not exceed 20 kilometers per hour. Landscapes, appearing as a rule on the right side, at the ocean, sometimes were just overwhelming. Yes, I agree that you will not find such ocean in the South or in the West, it is really beautiful. Very often we met new buildings of Hindu temples.

In the East the majority of population is Tamils and Muslims. God Ganesha is very much worshiped in this area and entering some house most likely you will see Ganesha rather than Buddha. What has astonished me in a whole during this trip is great number of road building works. I have not seen such a massive rehabilitation of all the roads nowhere in the world. The theme of roads in Sri-Lanka is vivid actually. The present government understands pretty well the importance of roads in development of the country. The echo of the recent war is felt at every step, constant check-points, checks, bunkers. The farther to the North, the more of them. Here exactly we could estimate the irreplaceability of Samantha. In a whole it looked like this: we are stopped, he shows his card, they salute and we go on driving. Many people are hustled. As I understood unless him we could had been driving twice as long. By the evening we got to Pasikuda. It also has a lot of flattering references, but in reality it is a God forsaken place. I am still sorry that I did not think to take a photo of the place named ‘guest house’.

Kishok Guesthouse - Western and Eastern Food Restaurant said the sign plate. May be some time ago it used to be but when – it’s hard to say for me. Surrounded with a semi-abandoned garden there stands a house of old grayish yellow color. Fungus completes the ornament, adding some surrealism to it. There are 5 “rooms “ in the house, 3 of them are with “shower”. A mosquito net is one for all. Corrosion, dirt, spiders palm-sized, in a word real life as it is. The host, old man Kishok of uncertain age below 60, with a face reminding 5 year old dried fruit. He did not give any clear answer to the questions and Alyonka was very close to get into hysterics. Praise Ganesha, Samantha bokked 2 rooms in the guest house 200 meters away from that one. Together with him we decide to have a walk and to look what was there. And what a happy moment, the guest house named Vasuli reminded me the great gross master Ostap Bender* and his immortal lecture in Vasuki. I do not know how old Vasuki looked like. But those ones looked very civilized. I even decided to add them into the data base Lanka-Houses, in case someone wanders in these place. They even had 2 rooms with conditioning. But as it seemed to be the only civilized place all was occupied. In the morning we went to the beach. If you google a bit you will find immediately a couple of beautiful photos with description of how fablonic it is. I do not not what is jamming about it. The beach is in the bay. Water is absolutely still there, dead calm. The depth at about 50 meters off shore is up to waist. For Lankans who in their majority can not swim this is a real paradise. We came and left after one hour. Those who stood in the water kept standing. I suspect that they relieved themselves also there. Tamils are not so neat as Singhalese, you can expect anything. You can meet floating in the water ice-cream and candy wrappers, cans. And the beach is just covered with garbage. Nevertheless plenty of buses kept coming and unloading new parties of swimmers. Samantha risked to get into the water together with me, but the rest of Singhalese pals just looked and turned away. Here is a nice Golden beach. But land there is sold for candy money. The land in 5 minutes walk from that beach: 1 acre – 1000 $. But no water supply, electricity, though they are 500 meters away and you can arrange electricity, as for water – you can make a well. Returned back to the guest house, packed and went to Trinco.

After about 2 hours of driving along the same antiroad, we got into a jam. Plenty of buses, plenty of people, a bunker, in other word – nothing is clear. We get out of the van and go ahead to look at what is going on. F-U-C-K, the road meets the river, but the bridge is absent, it was destroyed during the war. People at the river is a great many, all with bales. At another bank I notice the ferry. Well, not the ferry, most likely the raft. At the end of the line on our bank there stands a regular bus. A huge one, as the ones driving all around Sri-Lanka. What was hard to imagine for me is how that regular bus would load on the raft. It did, I even took a photo of that. The procedure is very simple. All the people got out, unloaded the bales and transported them in turn. The same was done with two our vans. We got stuck for at least three hours for this crossing, and it was 3-4 hours to go to Trinco from this crossing on such a road, as it appeared to be afterwards, 5 hours. So, moved to another bank, and there is a shakedown, passport control, but Samantha rescued us again. We loaded and went off. On the way we stopped in one town, do not ask me the name, but there live mostly Muslims. And they cook a stunning brew of beef legs. Samantha told me about it twice. He says when he comes to this town he goes to that place and eat. So did we. Beef legs are cooked since morning, by 6 in the evening the soup is ready. Rich, with plenty of spices, tasty and nourishing. In the essence it is hot aspic. As usually, by the evening we got to Trinco. I knew a couple of hotels by the words of my acquaintances, but the aim was to find a budget settlement. We did not find any guest-house, we found a hotel. An old, abandoned 4-storeyed building with own territory on the ocean’s shore. The house from inside and from outside reminded a soviet recovery centre of a poor category. Four boys fooling around the territory and likely having to take care of it, were very slow. They went for the key threesome, cried something one to another, brought the wrong keys, ragged, in short, were very active, or better showed their activity. They were joined by two managers and a chef. In a word, a complete zoo. They gave the rooms, though it was stinking in two ours and there was no promised hot water. In the result after some n-time of arguing we were given 1 room, but clean, light, with hot water and rusted shower. Let it be. There are no mosquitoes in Trincomali. At all. We slept without mosquito nets, even children had not any bite. I remember they told about some angry flies, but we did not find them.

For the morning there was planned Puja. Puja is a Hindu ritual, in honor of gods, among them is one of the most worshipped Ganesha. You have to go on an empty belly, in light, better white clothing, after having a shower or a bath. Prayer starts after the sun rise and lasts for about one hour. At the end, the priest puts a scarlet point on your forehead. And strings-bracelets are tied round your hands. For Sana that was the main reason to come to Trinco.

I knew a couple of hotels by the words of my acquaintances, but the aim was to find a budget settlement. We did not find any guest-house, we found a hotel. An old, abandoned 4-storeyed building with own territory on the ocean’s shore. The house from inside and from outside reminded a soviet recovery centre of a poor category. Four boys fooling around the territory and likely having to take care of it, were very slow. They went for the key threesome, cried something one to another, brought the wrong keys, ragged, in short, were very active, or better showed their activity. They were joined by two managers and a chef. In a word, a complete zoo. They gave the rooms, though it was stinking in two ours and there was no promised hot water. In the result after some n-time of arguing we were given 1 room, but clean, light, with hot water and rusted shower. Let it be. There are no mosquitoes in Trincomali. At all. We slept without mosquito nets, even children had not any bite. I remember they told about some angry flies, but we did not find them.

For the morning there was planned Puja. Puja is a Hindu ritual, in honor of gods, among them is one of the most worshipped Ganesha. You have to go on an empty belly, in light, better white clothing, after having a shower or a bath. Prayer starts after the sun rise and lasts for about one hour. At the end, the priest puts a scarlet point on your forehead. And strings-bracelets are tied round your hands. For Sana that was the main reason to come to Trinco.

The beach in Trincomali did not impress me. Yes it is wide, yes it is big, and the sea is calm, only this black-and-grey sand, floating in breaking waves making water looking dirty. Water is transparent but not ideal. First time when I saw so great many of medusas. Okey, I was not impressed by it. Ow, after such a long way I started understand more clearly that there is nothing such in the East which is worse expressive stories and ohs and ahs of delight. Probably I was looking wrong, probably people look for something else. But grey breaking wave and dirty beach did not want to associate with paradise in my mind. After Puja we come back to the hotel, have breakfast and start to Nilaveli. Nilaveli is our final and most distant point of destination. Having checked 3 hotels we find at last the one which suits us, for quite reasonable 45$ a triple, where we stay four. A cosy hotel, with a pool, but due to deficit of the staff, it means 1 waiter for 50 people, we are waiting for the dinner for about 2 hours. The beach is cleaner than in Trinco. But sand with water are same. Next day I catch a dive-guide and make a deal about two dives. The price rises up to 100 bucks for a dive. In the result we agree about 110 per two dives. Two dives it not enough to make conclusions. The water unfortunately is a bit turbulent. As the dive-guide explained to me, it is not the best time now, September is the high time. We come back to the hotel. All the family is together, it’s time to go home, to Unawatuna. It will take 11 hours as the road goes via Colombo. And it means that we shall have to cross the island twice. I traveled trough all the coast of Sri-Lanka from North-West to North-East, they do not permit entry to the North yet, when the do I will go there. In the hotel’s restaurant in Nilaveli we got acquainted with a Singhalese family. The mother of the family has been working in tourist business for a long time, she works for an English company. One of the conversation topics were beaches of Sri-Lanka. I was very pleased that she agreed completely to my opinion. Most beautiful beaches in Sri-Lanka today are in Tangalle and Tissa. Shall I come back to the East once again? Not sure. Probably, when there are more guest houses and minimal service. Probably, when the beach is cleaned of bottles and fruit peels, and fishermen do not fish right on the beach where people sunbathe, especially children. When the roads are rebuilt and take away check-points. If I am sorry that I went here? I think not. It’s a pity that a dream of the beautiful and attracting East collapsed like a house of cards. But in spite I made my own opinion. I am home. In Unawatuna. I have already spoken to representatives of local business. There was created the first itinerary of other Sri-Lanka, which I would like to show people very much. It is a 2-3 day trip from Unawatuna: Una-Tangalle-Ella-Una.

* the protagonist of a very popular in the Soviet Union satiric novel, famous with adventurism and big cons and specific sense of humor, sometimes ironic sometimes cynic.

Unawatuna


16.09.2009


Lanka-Houses.com
Welladewala road, Unawatuna, Sri Lanka
Google map: http://goo.gl/maps/fxlDA
Phone: +94779804839
  More: Tangalla. Turtles, children, parents. (video clip)