Northern Sri Lanka: Jaffna and Kalpitiya
To get a full perspective (at least as much as possible) of the variety Sri Lanka offers, a trip to the north proved imperative.
For many many many years Sri Lanka was enmeshed in an ugly and bloody civil war, which ended horribly in the north for the minority Tamils. The north and south cultures are very different, as we saw the further north the more conservative- with Jaffna being the most. And Hinduism replaced Buddhism as the primary religion.
We took the train to the Jaffna from Anuradhapura. Again easy and nice traveling for us. But this is not on the primary tourist circuit at all. We walked to our hotel and the roads seemed a bit foreign - still the regular chaos but locals seemed more reserved. We decided to go to the old fort (the site of a particularly nasty siege during the war). The structure was constructed by the Dutch and then added to by the British out of coral and limestone. It is relatively dilapidated but still has good views from the ramparts.
The next day we decide to head to an island up north, Nainativu. It is a tuk tuk to bus to boat trip, and is one of our most fascinating expeditions.
We entered the Nagapooshani Amman temple and were whisked into a warp. Gage and I had to take our shirts off, Lill had to cover arms/legs and we entered the area where the pujas (worshipping) occur. We participated with a very friendly group.
We then headed outside and some elders beckoned is to join them in a different building. When we entered we were directed to take a seat with the 100+ others there for lunch. Tourist attraction this was not! Sitting cross legged on the floor we were handed our banana leaf plate and then the servers came by with massive wheeled pots of dal, rice, chapati, and greens. No utensils of course - eat with your right hand! It was delish and the audience was delightful - families, old, young - and us.
When we finished we followed the others and pushed our plate through a hole in the fence for the ravenous cows to eat, and washed our hands. It was quite an experience. Unforgettable.
There was a Buddhist temple nearby, Nagadeepa Purana Viharaya, built by the military. It looked more like a political statement vs something that was used - it was deserted when compared with the cacophony at the Hindu temple.
We left on the boat again surrounded by worshipers, a motorcycle, and random others.
The next day we went to the sacred waters on the north shore, Naguleswaram Sivan Kovil (note: the bus does not go there directly). Gage and I swam in the men’s side, apparently the women’s side was pretty nasty so Lill skipped it.
We also stopped at the mammoth Nallur Kandaswarmy Kovil (just a few blocks from our guesthouse). The ceremony there was much less involved - either because it was a weekday or something else. But the place is stunning anyway. They have a crazy air pressure drum system that plays the drums during the day - very creative!
We finished up in Jaffna wandering around the market for awhile, the fruit and spices were great!
Bananas moved around by super strong guys that are not big!
We quite liked out accommodations, great place for Gage to study!
Off the next day to Kalpitiya, by train and car service. Our goal: kitesurfing! It is supposed to be world class place to do it, so three of us are on it (Celia rejoins is after completing her volunteering in Colombo and environs).
The results: Gage is a natural, Celia is a burgeoning learner, and I…at least I got to my feet and was dragged along for a few seconds. All in all it was great fun, will definitely continue. Thanks to “Super” Mario Apolo for letting us torture him during the lessons!
We are off the next day to Africa, sad to leave such a wonderful country but sure we will be back!
(flying over Mogadishu, Somalia is the picture on the right...)