11 July 2010

A Journey from East to West & The Puttlam Peninsula

Sri Lanka is a land of temples and a temple is often the dominant feature in any village no matter how remote it may be.  The south is dominated by Buddhist Temples and the East by the Hindu Kovils and Muslim Mosques.  There are many temples in Mahiyangana as well and we visit a couple that are quite stunning before we say good bye to this town.
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Along the road journeys it is also quite common to see massive Buddha statues.  Here’s one that dominates the landscape from a top this massive rock.Veddas We have a long drive to the Puttlam Peninsula across the island, driving up and over the hills once more, this time stopping for lunch in Kandy, one of our ancient capitals.  We check in to our hotel in the late afternoon.  It is a beautiful location, overlooking the Puttlam lagoon but it is the hottest we have encountered it during our entire time on the road. P7080421 Fortunately, it cools down a little at night and we have dinner at the little table you can see in the picture here!
The next morning we explore the peninsular.  It has a great laid back feel to it but it is also quite stark and is sparsely populated with large coconut plantations and more randomly scattered Talicot palm trees.  Occasionally we spot a massive mansion in amongst the coconut palm.  Holidays homes of the rich plantation owners who reside in Colombo. Veddas-5One of the points of attraction here is the Shrine of St Anne’s at Talawila, which has a long history.  While there are many stories about its origins, one of the more popular ones is that of a European sailing ship that was ship wrecked around here during the 18th century.  The vessel was dedicated to St Anne and was carrying her image.  The sailors asked for her protection and came ashore at this spot carrying a replica of her image.  They vowed they would return and build a shrine on this spot to St Anne who they believe had given them protection and saved them from the seas.Veddas-4Today, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from all walks of life visit this popular shrine, which is believed to have special powers, especially for women who hope to get pregnant!  The festival of boats and the feast of St Joseph,held in March are popular & festive times around here.  More than a hundred brightly decorated boats are drawn up on the beach, the fisher folk stay in tents on the beach and other pilgrims in tents around the gardens of the shrine.   Even as we walked around and explored we saw plans of a lot more development scheduled in the area to P7070410accommodate the pilgrims who visit from all across the island.   There are little bits of historic remnants of the colonial period around the peninsular as well, like this little Dutch church we ran across.
We also visited the village of Kalpitiya on this peninsular famous as the gateway to see dolphins.  Unfortunately, we have arrived at the wrong season and the seas are too choppy for us to take a boat ride out to the ocean.  We look around the harbour.  Deep sea fisherman are getting ready for their two week journey out to sea.  Some of them were mending their nets and others cleaning out some of the dried fish they had brought back with them. Veddas-1 I had always wondered what this peninsula was like.  Now I know.  It would be lovely to have leisurely explored it further on a bike and I wondered if there was a cooler season when I could revisit!
We set off for Colombo the next day.  We make a few stops along the way and the first is to visit the Muneswaran Hindu Temple near a town called Chilaw on the west coast.  Another famous temple, this time for Hindu devotees, it is quite stunning inside.  We are taken around by one of the temple residents and I am amazed at his excellent command of Sinhalese, given he is Tamil.  He gives us a great tour and I am allowed to take photos as memories of this sacred place.
Its time for our lunch stop.  We are planning on visiting my uncle (my dad’s brother) who lives on the coast here so we say goodbye to the temple and head south.
P7080445 I dislike feeling at home when I am abroad.  ~George Bernard Shaw

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