Sunday, 20 February 2011

Trincomalee

So I woke up before the rooster and was on the pier by 5AM and there was my car and driver waiting for me as arranged by Upali. We started towards Trincomalee.

On the road

Military checkpost

Another checkpost

The highway

It was easy going and traffic was light, not surprising considering the hour. The road was a 2 lane carriageway with 2-way traffic. It was in good condition initially. At some point we stopped at a roadside restaurant and had some breakfast. Then on we carried, it was a 250km journey but the going was getting slower as the road detriorated. Also, the more east we came the more frequently were guard boxes erected by the road, these boxes could be simple makeshift things built by sandbags or by thick wooden beams or even  from tiles. The military was still ever present. I guess after so many years of internal strife with the LTTE it is hard to let go of the paranoia and unwind the security arrangement that is prevalent all over the country.

Arriving Trincomalee

When we reached Kantale, some 43km off Trincomalee, the road was so bad we could manage max 10-15km/h, it was just pothole after pothole, I reckon some persons would even become seasick in the way the road was rocking the car. It had not also helped that there had been some serious rainflooding a week earlier, I could still see all the temporary road repairs effected.  Eventually we arrived Trincomalee at about noon.


Hotel Welcombe

Hotel Welcombe

Andaman side of Trinco


Arriving Trincomalee is no highlight, the road is full of potholes and has barely any tarmac, a narrow strip in the middle on the road of which traffic on both sides are competing for. It makes one realize Trincomalee is a backwater and no surprise for me considering how close it is to Jaffna, the former LTTE stronghold. The visual impact of the port is impressive and reminds me a bit of the Norwegian fiords. The port is natural and huge and totally controlled by the Sri Lankan Navy.


Trinco city

Urban Trinco


I call up Mr. Jeyarajah who is our local contact. I meet him at the Welcombe Hotel who seems to be the only high class establishment in town. It is 3-stars and very quiet. We get in the car again and Mr. Jeyarajah shows us around town which does not take long as it is not very big. There is a fresh produce market and one supermarket and even ATM's available. The Gulf of Bengal side beach is marvelous with white sand beach reaching as far as the eye can see. Population majority Tamilian and spoken languages here is Tamil and Sinhalese. Mr. Jeyarajah himself is Tamil and speaks both languages fluently. When I ask him of where he lives he says he comes to Trinco only on business nowadays as he had moved his family to Colombo when the unrest was taking place.

Ashrof jetty from afar and a visiting passenger ferry

I can't inspect the jetty that is planned for Kalizma as I'm a foreigner, the ironical part here is that if I'd come with a ship it would be no problem. So, Mr. Jeyrajah drives me along the shores for me to get a peek on the Ashrof jetty that is the inside most jetty built in the Bay. It looks alright and clean. I am also informed that electricty and water supply is there and reliable so all seems to be ok considered from the infra structure side.

After doing our rounds of the city we head back to the Welcombe Hotel for a late lunch and I have some curries and crab in Indian "thali" fashion.

School girls after a long day

On arrival Trincomalee I saw advertised resorts and diving at the Tiruveli beach but it was some 16k's away and considering the time and the condition of the road I decided to leave these places, albeit interesting, un-visited. I instructed the driver to head back to Colombo.

I also passed the local airport but it is controlled by the Sri Lankan airforce and does not have regular flights to it. Mr. Jeyarajah told me has seen at times small 8-10 seater planes landing there.

After heading out on the "highway" again I get a call from Captain Bruno telling me he has received sailing orders, Indian Empress will depart next day at noon. I acknowledge and sit in the rolling car watching the local populace going about their daily business. When we get on better roads and start coming near Habarana I ask the driver to look for and stop at an ayurvedic centre.

Women doing the laundry

He stops at Araliya Herbal Spa that looks good enough and I get in and ask for a massage with a steambox treatment thrown in. They don't speak English so the driver translates and I get asked to enter the treatment room. I change into shorts and an old lady starts applying herbal oils accompanied with vigorous massaging. In an hour she has gone all over my head, back, legs and arms and she stops and I am asked to get to the steambox room.

There I am laid into a steambox that looks like a coffin with a hole in one end. My head is outside the box, thats what the hole is for. I lay on a trellis that is covered by herbs and steam is rising from below. On the bottom there is a water tray that is heated by fire and producing the steam. Either the time was too short or being a sauna hardened Finn I feel the steaming time was too short as I was only barely starting to break a sweat when they call me out and tell me the treatment is finished.

Oh well, all good things ends at some stage, from there it was on to the shower and through the cashier I continued the journey towards Colombo. The sun was setting now and it was getting dark, as we neared Colombo the traffic was getting denser. Nothing of the traffic scarcity in the morning, this was full on rush hour and we were making something like 40-50km/h at best. Eventually I arrived Indian Empress around 2200hrs after spending some 14hrs for the back and forth journey...



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