Sunday, June 11, 2006

Colombo to Arugam Bay

Arrived in Colombo, very hot already although the people meeting us at the airport seem to think it is much cooler compared to Arugam Bay. The next day was our first experience in Sri Lankan road travel. We spent 10 hours in a minibus, crossing the island to get to the East Coast, going through beautiful scenery along the way, jungle, tea plantations in the mountains, elephants and monkeys, all this on a road that was just about wide enough for one vehicle. Interestingly, that doesn’t seem to stop anyone from overtaking trucks, tractors, tuk tuks, all this at high speed, with or without any visibility ahead, but it seems preferably in the middle of a curve, when you can’t see what is coming in the opposite direction. At first we all were noticeably nervous at the thought that we might actually not make it to the other side of the island in one piece. Somehow though, between breaking and moving on the sides of the road at the last moment, accidents seem to be avoided almost all the time. After an hour or two I decided to stop looking at the road and enjoy the scenery, which did actually work quite well. We did almost hit a dog a couple of times but them too must be used to these unorthodox driving rules.

After 10 hours driving, the last stretch of the journey sees conditions deteriorate more and more as we approach the Tamil region. The road turns into a dirt road (apparently the government doesn’t allocate money to the Tamil areas), there are more army check points, reminding us that although it is not spoken of as such, there is civil war in the country. At last, crossing a bridge we get to yet a bumpier road and then to our destination, Arugam Bay. This “temporary” road was rebuilt after the tsunami, and turns out to be neither really a road, nor really “temporary”. It is dark already but the place looks beautiful, the sea peaceful and it is hard to think that the houses around us are replacing other that were destroyed by a giant wave last year…

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