SRI LANKA: Experiencing the Wild North East

SRI LANKA: Experiencing Sri Lanka's Wild North East.

I've been coming to Sri Lanka for many years. Each time I would go I would stay in the South West or South as a civil war was raging on in the Northeast for years. This was my first time to venture with my very special, life long friends to the Northeast, former "Elam" territory as the civil war ended "officially" and there being relative calm in the area. When we crossed into the area it was like entering another world! 
Travelling on the Colombo- Ratnapura- Wellawaya- Batticaloa Highway (CRWB Hwy) we passed places with names which were all written in Tamil only. Street signs were in Tamil, and only some advertising signs in Singhala were just recently posted which looked out of place.   We drove past eerie abandoned villages, which were all burnt out, and the area was leveled for as far as the eye can see!

 It resembled a "ghost town" like in Western movies. Ramshackle structures with large signs reading UNHCR were posted on them were built here and there. A few times a police road block  would appear, and the police made us stop and which we were involuntarily made to allow a couple of passengers to ride along with us to the next town. 

We spent the night in a town called Passikudah. This town was trying to re emerge as new resorts were being built, but there was a definite tension felt in the air. Electric was on only a short time so we experienced the town mostly in the dark. We were the only visible ones with a motor vehicle driving in the town as everyone else used bicycles or went by foot.  My friend couldn't sleep well that night thinking that we would have uninvited encounters at night. He swore that he heard gunfights at night as there were still small pockets of armed resistance smoldering in different areas nearby.
My friend told me when we were standing in the queue at the liquor store that some of the customers rubbing elbows with us there were ex combatants! Signs warning of un-detonated mines were posted in many areas of the town in small cordoned off areas in barb wire, even on street corners.

When we were driving in the main street we would see some guys on bicycle riding in the middle of the street in a reckless fashion purposely defying the rules of the road, showing us that they were the ones in charge. Only a few people were able to speak, or attempted to speak Singhala when we asked for directions. Our other friend could speak some Tamil luckily so communication was not a problem.
Driving in the  town's unlit streets brought interesting experiences which I have never had before. A long procession of guys, with a few of them carrying a casket on their heads were walking along side the street going to a funeral. The thing I noticed more clearly was the brightness of their white sarongs waving as our vehicle headlights quickly flashed on them.

When we left the Northeast area a few days later we drove toward the interior of Northern Sri Lanka closer to Trincomalee and stopped off in a quaint restaurant made in a traditional grass hut building. We celebrated with some nice food and, of course many cans of beer!

The second half of our adventure took us to a lake in a very remote place, really in the middle of nowhere. Here we found a man who would ferry us with his small row boat to a special place in the middle of the lake where some hot springs were located. The name "hot springs" were really taken literally here as the naturally heated water came from deep under the earth and was near boiling point! There was a chart listing all the various minerals in the water and the rejuvenating effects it would have on the human body.

One would have to mix in a plastic bucket some cooled water with the water from the cauldron and soak your limbs in that bucket. It was still hot but felt good in a somewhat masochistic way!

Believe me, my legs and feet really felt remarkably better from soaking there for a while. It was worth the drive getting there!
I made it a new hobby of mine wherever in the world I travel to visit natural thermal springs and enjoy soaking for a few moments in them.

Whenever I visit Sri Lanka I get a different experience which makes that wonderful land of serendipity new each time. I look forward to my next adventure soon!


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