Trip to heaven and back
News from the east of Sri Lanka is not always pleasant, but tucked
away amid all the strife is a paradise called Trincomalee, says V.
Natureâ€™s Splendour: The serene waters are a feast to the eye
EXPERIENCE : I wake up with a start to hear the phone ring. I
pick it up with a half-awake â€śhelloâ€ť, and then realise it is the alarm I
have set. It is 4.30 a.m. and I am just 30 minutes away from being
picked up en route to Trincomalee, better known as Trinco.
I doze off for the first quarter of the journey from Colombo to
Trinco and wake up to catch glimpses of lush paddy fields and the clear
blue sky. I watch the scenes whiz past and feel the calming impact on
Nature on my strained city nerves.
Having been in Sri Lanka for a year now and having travelled
extensively, the countryâ€™s natural beauty has never failed to fascinate
me. I have waited for this day. The day when I get a weekend in the
strife-torn east of Sri Lanka, which is known for its unspoilt beauty.
Driving through Kaudulla National Park is refreshing. The wildlife is
spectacular. Suddenly there is a shout: â€śLook left.â€ť I swing my neck 180
degrees and what I see is worth a thousand snapshots - a serene blue
lake. The van slows down. Ralph, my Dutch friend, is busy clicking away
with his camera, while I soak it all in.
The whole point of this trip is to donate a maternity bed and trolley
to a hospital in Gomarankadawela, a village desperately in need of help.
My van follows the truck carrying the beds.
The movement is stop and go, thanks to the numerous checkpoints. But
I appreciate it. It gives me more time to drink in the surroundings. We
get to Trinco around 2 p.m. and whatâ€™s that near the urban council?
Stray dogs? Nah, they have spots on them and antlers! It is spotted
deer. I click away with Ralphâ€™s camera while everyone admires the herd
from the other side.
We have got to get to the village soon. It is 40 km away from Trinco.
There is only enough time to cross a few checkpoints and reach our hotel
on Inner Harbour Road. We drop our bags off and head out only to be
stopped at the same checkpoints all over again.
The road to Gomarankdawela winds through miles and miles of dense
jungle with no sign of human habitation, except for soldiers in combat
fatigues. They smile at you in unison as you drive past. Sri Lankans
always have infectious smiles to greet you.
The whole village seems from a different era, thanks to the total
absence of signs of commercialisation. We park at the hospital. The
staff are thrilled to see the beds. After donating the beds, we head to
a school where my friends are planning to donate bicycles.
We learn from the headmaster that there are students who travel from
as far as 12 km to study. We step out from the headmasterâ€™s room to see
all the children lined up with baskets of fresh flowers. It is Saturday
evening and time to pray.
Dusk is nearing and we head back to Trinco. The sun is setting at a
distance and the sky is running riot with all the colours you can
conjure up. Not far away, cutting their way through tall grass, weary
soldiers return from a patrol. Loaded guns in hand, watching each
otherâ€™s backs, they head towards the road. It looks like a scene right
out of â€śApocalypse Nowâ€ť.
The next day, we have a guest over for breakfast, a young Sri Lankan
Army Major. Heâ€™s the one who identified the needy village and gave us
the opportunity to help them. He offers to join us to Koneshwaram Kovil,
a Hindu temple perched atop Swami Rock, a 130m high cliff with a
breath-taking view of the sea. The often talked about Loverâ€™s Leap is
The tag comes from the tale of a Dutch officialâ€™s daughter who,
watching her finance sail away, decided to make the fatal leap. People
say death is guaranteed if you fall off that point. Either the sheer
drop or there are the electric eels to finish the job. I walk over, look
down, and see a school of fish just under the surface of the water.
Peek at history
The Major takes us to the Officersâ€™ Mess at Fort Frederick. Thereâ€™s a
whole wall documenting the history of how the Fort had been taken over
by various European colonisers.
In fact, Lonely Planet says: â€śTrinco has the most convoluted colonial
history.â€ť The Major points to the harbour, considered Asiaâ€™s best
natural deep harbour. It has the capacity to conceal some 300 ships and
thus is strategically vital.
We walk out towards the beach and see a sign saying â€śfor officers
onlyâ€ť. But the Major says: â€śGo ahead and soak yourselves in the sea.â€ť
The water is so clear that even without any snorkelling gear, Ralph
spots a stingray around him.
I make my way into the water. Head above the turquoise water, feet
sunk in the grainy white sand, I look around at all the natural
splendour Trinco is blessed with and ponder over what could have been.
Courtesy: The Hindu