When our old train finally makes its rattling way into Batticaloa railway station, we still have images of the impressive archaeological and cultural highlights of the Sinhalese interior on our minds. We step into a completely diverse world now, and install ourselves near the banks of the lagoon that divides the outer island of Kallady from the mainland. It turns out to be a good base for exploring the surroundings: quiet, yet not too far from all that we want to see. There is the old Dutch fort, which was initially constructed by the Portuguese in the early 17th century and captured by the Dutch two decades later. We cycle past a big manifestation with armed guards, and find the fort busy as it is nowadays home to local government offices. We climb the ramparts and walk the star-shaped fort, which stands at a strategic point on the lagoon controlling access from the ocean just beyond the islands. We find cannons which the British placed here after they took over the island.
From the Dutch fort, we cycle to the much newer Anaipanthi Pillaiyar Kovil temle, a Hindu temple on the same island of Puliyanthivu. We happen to see the consecration of a car, where a Hindu official throws flowers over the car, paints the swastika on the windshield, and see the happy owner drive off. The main tower has an abundance of bright colours, deities, four-headed elephant gods, and keeps us busy for a while to look at. A few minutes away, we find a reminder of the colonial past when we enter the empty grounds of Saint Mary's cathedral with its blue facade. After cycling past the white clock tower, we cross another bridge, and find the local market which turns out to be very quiet. It is time to cycle to Kallady again, crossing the busy bridge, where we finally make it to the beach - our first glimpse of the ocean since our arrival in Sri Lanka.
It is hot enough for us to strip and dip into the refreshing waves, before we ask locals where to find the nearby Hindu temple. They appear not to know it, and eventually, we find it ourselves. It is remarkable in that the main tower was undercut by the destructive 2004 tsunami: it seems to hang in the sand at a precarious angle, ready to fall. As such, I find it a much more impressive memorial to the devastation than the nearby memorial which I find the next morning and which turns out to be closed off. We cross the bridge to the mainland again, and cycle alog the lagoon to the far north, where we find the lighthouse surrounded by locals who are out for the afternoon. We buy an ice cream, chat with the Sinhalese, look out over the sandbank on the other side of the lagoon, and when the sun is low enough, cycle back on the relaxing banks of the lagoon. The next morning, I would again visit the same sights but with the better morning light, before we board a bus taking us further south.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Batticaloa (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Batticaloa.
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