Arugam Bay and the east coast
Trip Start Sep 19, 2010
54Trip End Sep 19, 2011
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We caught the bus to Wellawaya at about 9 AM and yes it was a wreck and yes it was jam packed. But this was the norm here and we were getting used to it. It took us an hour and the ride hair raising. As I have mentioned in earlier blogs, the bus drivers here are crazy but they get you to your destination quicker than a train or a car. From Wellawaya we quickly got another bus to Monaragala. This journey also took an hour. From Monaragala we took our final bus to Arugam Bay. Unfortunately for me a drunken Sri Lankan man sat next to me. He was well sozzeled. Now I'm no prude and you all know it, but it was just before lunch time on a Saturday. If it had been Saturday evening so be it and good luck to him, but it wasn't and I was the one sat next to him and I was in no mood to have him sleeping on my shoulder, which he tried to do several times. At this I just elbowed him over and he tried sleeping on a Woman's shoulder. She was in no more of a mood for him as me and smacked him in the nose. I sat the rest of the trip cursing my bad luck. There must have been 70 people on that bus and I got him, typical. On airplanes it's always me that has the little kid sat behind kicking my spine in for several hours, Why bloody me????
We were dropped off at the road side in Arugam Bay. Arugam Bay is famed for it's surfing. In fact the British surfing association count it as the third best surfing beach in the world. It is off season right now and the town was pretty quiet. It is also off the tourist trail and not many people venture here. As we donned our backpacks and started walking a guy came over and asked if we had a room. We said no and he said he had Cabanas right on the beach for Rs 1000. That's about £6. We said we would take a look and found them to be perfect. Our Cabana was large with a veranda and above this a balcony. Again it was made from Branches and weaved palm leaves, very rustic. Cathy found that the water coming out of the taps was brown and was not happy about this. The owner assured us that it was clean and that he showered in it ever day. We stayed here for two days and had a lovely time. I swam in the sea every day and it was very enjoyable swimming in the huge waves of the bay. I can't imagine what it's like when the waves get really big in April when the surfers return. On our wanders around the bay we came upon The Tri-Star Hotel it boasted the only swimming pool in town. Cathy went in and asked what the rate was. It was Rs 3000, just a little too much. But we reckoned that we had such a good deal with the Cabana that when you evened it out it was in budget. So we spent two days here and enjoyed the only swimming pool in town and Cathy and I were the only two people during our stay to use it. Well we were about the only people staying there!!
Our next destination was Batticaloa known locally as Batti, half way up the eastern coast. At this time of year it's monsoon season for the east coast. But we had been to several countries over the years during monsoon and it's generally fine with the odd thunder storm in the afternoon. So we jumped on a bus Batti bound. This took tree hours and on arrival we jumped in a tuk tuk and went to find a hotel. There are only a couple of hotels in Batti and Cathy almost ran out of the first one. She said it was a complete and utter sh*t hole. Absolutely filthy and to make matters worse they wanted Rs 2500. At the second Cathy waited 10 minutes at reception and no one once approached her. At this she stormed out, she also said it would have been as disgusting as the first if the lobby was anything to go by. Ok so now we got a problem, we are stuck in Batti with nowhere to stay. You see, Batti is about as far off the tourist trail as you can get in Sri Lanka. We could tell that by the way the people here look at us in open wonder. Batti was an LTTE (that's Tamil Tiger to you and me ) controlled town for many years during the Civil war that raged in Sri Lanka for 30 years. As a result no Government money was spent on this outlaw town for 30 odd years and it was evident. Even if the hotels had been nice there was nothing in town to stay for, that much was obvious.
I think I must talk about the civil war at this point. I feel that I could not do a series of blogs on Sri Lanka and not mention it. So once again a history lesson as Warren G. Limbert sees it. and it is just that, I don't have a history book in front of me. This is what I know and believe to be fact (as I see it ).
The Sinhalese are the native peoples of Sri Lanka and are 75% of its population. After the British pulled out in 1948 the Sinhalese took over power and in the coming years started making life very difficult for the Tamils. In other words they would not give them Government positions and the like and reserved the best jobs in the land for Sinhalese. When the Government brought out a law in the 70s that Sinhalese was to be the first language of the country not English, there was outrage in the Tamil community. They didn't speak Sinhalese, only Tamil and English. As a result there was wide spread ethnic rioting though out the land. Over the decades this cycle of rioting kept occurring getting steadily worse. The Tamils were feeling more and more alienated. Many relocated to areas that had a Tamil majority and many left the Country altogether. At some point in about 1981 a group of Tamils formed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelan (LTTE) These were freedom fighters with a just cause in my eyes. But they soon resorted to terrorist tactics killing women and children in cold blood. So for me they lost their freedom fighter status and just became rabid terrorists. Deadly one's at that. They even had squads of suicide Commandos, these they called " BLACK TIGERS" The Tamil Tigers wanted an autonomous state within Sri Lanka that they would call Eelan. What they wanted was the northern and eastern parts of the Island for their state. This constituted one third of the Island and for a minority group like the Tamils being only 15% of the population this was never going to happen. So war raged for 30 odd years in the eastern and northern parts of the Island with terrorist attacks happening everywhere. I'm getting bored now and I hope you have a better understanding of the situation, so I will be brief. The Sri Lankan army pushed the Tigers up to an area in the north east of the island. The war was all but over. The Tigers were just about defeated. The army kept up the pressure and had them cornered with their backs to the sea. The Sri Lankan army showed no mercy ,they had been fighting these terrorists for more than 30 years and they were going to end it for once and for all. The worlds media said the Sri Lankan army must stop the attack. But there was no way that was going to happen. Any Tiger that did not surrender was killed on the battle field to the last man. That was two years ago now and peace has returned to Sri Lanka thank God. Lets hope the Sinhalese have learned a lesson and will be fairer to all Sri Lankans.
On our travels around Batti you could not help but notice the military presence. What I mean by that is the Sri Lankan army were everywhere you looked. Thousands of them in just this one town. It was obvious that the Government has no intension of letting the tigers roar ever again. I was in Kashmere about 18 months ago and that was very much like Batti for the sheer scale of military build up in such a small place.
So getting back to my tale of woe. We delved into our tatty 8 year old guide book of Sri Lanka and read that about 20 Km up the road there is a little town called Passekudah that sits on a pretty little beach. On this pretty little beach there are a few good guesthouses. Perfect we thought. So we asked our tuk tuk driver to take us there. This he did and we found one of the guesthouses. It was not up to much but we had no choice but to stay. This place did not have a mozzie net and Cathy was none to pleased. We have gotten used to sleeping under mozzie nets in the last 4 months and in these parts of the world they are essential. The beach was not up to much either and we went to bed that night with our spirits pretty low. Never let anyone tell you traveling is always one big party because it's simply not true. The trick to traveling is picking yourself up when you get low, and more often than not the answer is to move on quickly. This we did early the next morning.
I am writing this blog from Burma and I am having trouble with the Internet, so no pics for the time being. I have found a way to log on to my travel pod site. The Burmese Government have bocked the site, don't ask me why??