A Sri Lankan sojourn
Arthur C. Clarke, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, describes Sri Lanka as a ‘small universe with as many variations of colour, scenery and climate as some countries a dozen times its size.’ The futurist and author should know as he settled here in 1956 and lived here till his death in 2008. Snapshots from a road trip that zigzagged over 1,000 kilometres, covering some very exotic locations of this island steeped in history.
The sea, on a platter
On the west coast of the island is the capital Colombo which is also its commercial and tourist hub. The sea is never far from most parts of the city, more so if you check into one of the better hotels. The waving palm fronds, the crashing waves, the catamaran swaying in the distance and the unending blue of the ocean… very few places in the world bring you the sea like Colombo.
NUWARA ELIYA (160 km from Colombo)
Discovered by a hunting party in 1818 and later on established as a summer retreat, Nuwara Eliya rises almost 2,000 metres above sea level. The famed tea plantations meander on both sides of the road. But what will really make your day is a visit to the elephant orphanage – where jumbos in different kinds of distress are cared for and taught to stand still when being bathed by tourists.
KANDY (80 km from Nuwara Eliya)
Holy tooth and orchids
The many ancient temples and monuments that dot the city are the remnants of the over 2,500 years of rule by different royal dynasties. The most famous among them is the ‘Temple of the Tooth’ where Buddha’s tooth is preserved. The Royal Botanical Garden with its 300-plus varieties of orchids is another attraction that you cannot afford to miss.
TRINCOMALEE (190 km from Kandy)
Into the blue
Trincomalee’s biggest attraction is the Pigeon Island – just a kilometre off the Nilaveli beach – which the British used for shooting practice during the Second World War. It is still quiet and almost haunted and is among the largest deepwater harbours in the world. You can pick up the essentials of scuba diving from the local experts and go coral hunting.
YALA (360 km from Trincomalee)
Big game time
The drive from Trincomalee to Yala throws up one scenic landscape after another in quick succession and you would wish the journey would never end. The Yala National Park covers a massive 979 sq km and is the most-visited big game sanctuary in the country. Unlike many national parks all over the world, here you come across giant tuskers and leopards from close quarters.
GALLE (180 km from Yala)
Of forts and men
Wherever the Dutch have landed, they have left behind an architectural legacy that transcends time. The quaint old-world charm will not fail to tug at your heart and the people are all warm and friendly. A lasting edifice to the European prowess of building impenetrable forts, the Galle Fort is also a world heritage site. Many years ago, Ibn Battuta too found Galle hugely impressive.
From Galle, Colombo is just a half-day drive of 120 km. The scenery changes unhurriedly from the heritage and history-strewn to one of high-rises and other conveniences. Nevertheless, the island does evoke a pleasant conviction that progress and development can happen hand-in-hand with preservation of natural wealth and resources.
Article first appeared in ‘Go Now’ Magazine, a travel and lifestyle magazine published from New Delhi. Text by Thommen Jose / Photographs by Raushni Abraham, www.facebook.com/PointBlankPhotography