We woke up early and started our ride to Trincomalee on April 21, 2016, Benjamin Pages (the first French volunteer at Horizon Lanka) and I started our bike ride to Trincomalee from Mahaoya.
Due to our folly in selecting an unrepaired route to Batticaloa from Bibila, we were still paying for that decision as we had to continue the same route up to Batticaloa. But it was still adventure. Thanks to the former president Mahinda Rajapaksa government, it is hard to find an unrepaired main road in Sri Lanka anymore. If you accuse me of being a Rajapaksa loyalist, go ahead and do it. I admire the man for having the courage to end the war and develop the infrastructure in rural areas. Too bad he messed up his political future by trying to entertain his relatives too much. It is not your relatives that are count in an election. It is the people’s votes that decide your future chances. Being such an experienced and cunning leader, he messed up big time.
I don’t understand this. When you enter the North and the East of Sri Lanka, the lush greenery suddenly vanishes and you enter a semiarid climate. You feel this as soon as you pass Anuradhapura district boundary and enter Vavuniya from the North. It is the same when you enter the East from Ampara or Batticaloa. Is it due to natural reasons or due to the civil war that hampered any chance of enhancing of irrigation projects to the war ravaged North and East? I don’t know. I must ask my friend Mr. Weralupitiya, a retired civil servant who knows better.
From Chenkaladi, a small town in Batticaloa, the road was superbly carpeted. So, the ride became fun again. We were dog-tired and ate some bananas and gulped down several glasses of fruit juices here. Despite me not being able to speak in Tamil, the people were very amiable and helpful. This is a Muslim dominated area and there are a lot of Tamils too. But I did not see any of them being hostile to Sinhala people here. The psychological wounds of the long-drawn civil war are healing it seemed. What I believe is that the three main communities in Sri Lanka had more common things to unite than to divide. It is the dirty politics of our Big Brother, India that botched up the peaceful coexistence of the island. Local politicians rubbed salt into the wound.
We next went to see the much talked about Batticaloa Fort. According to Wikipedia, the Batticaloa Fort was built by the Portuguese in 1628 and was captured by the Dutch on 18 May 1638. Later, the fort was used by British from 1745. There is not much to see here except some remnants of the colonial times but if you are into colonial architecture, this is a good place I guess. Definitely not my cup of tea.
Next we entered Batticaloa city. I was surprised to see green trees in the middle of the city. Batticaloa does get a lot of rain but the temperature too is very hot. These green trees were a treat to the eye. In fact Batticaloa is an estuarine lagoon. The city is spread in the land masses in the lagoon. It is a very beautiful place with the azure Indian Ocean and the brackish lagoon. My only complaint is its extreme heat. You cannot expect everything to go with your tastes, can you?
There is no point in going to Batticaloa if you don’t spend some time in amazing Kallady Beach. Beach is cleaner when considering the number of people who visit it. But not to the standard you would like to. You could see kids flying kites here. The view of the blue sea is mesmerizing. I am not a much of a beach fan. Surely not after the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004 that devastated the coastal belt of Sri Lanka. I prefer the hills more. But here in Kallady, you sure will love the place.
As previously designed, we met Roshan Pratheepan, a young entrepreneurial English teacher, from Batticaloa. He runs some English classes in and around Batticaloa. Even though I wished to see him in action in one of his classes, we did not have time for it.