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The Bizarre Landscape of Ussangoda

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East of Tangalla, a barren landscape sits in the middle of an otherwise heavily forested area. Dark red soil and an utter lack of trees are the hallmarks of Ussangoda, a region thought to have been hit by an ancient meteor. It’s hard to imagine another explanation for this strange anomaly of nature.

Bizarre Beaches

The walk from the main road, where the bus from Galle dropped us off, to the small park took longer than expected, but only because we were detained by a group of Sri Lankans playing cricket. I decided to try out the sport, and picked up a bat. Whiff! The ball sailed right past me and struck one of the wickets… which, judging by the overjoyed reaction of my 8-year-old opponent, I took to be a rather embarrassing failure. Hmph. My next swing made up for it, as I sent the ball far off into the brush. Cricket: mastered. 8-year-old: conquered.

The empty plain of Ussangoda borders the ocean, with lovely cliffs that drop off onto the beach. We clambered down, disturbing the privacy of a few enamored couples, and found an empty patch of sand. I tried swimming for a bit, but the sea was too rough and, after being upended by a monster wave, I retreated for the safety of my towel.

This was a fun and easy excursion from Tangalla into a surreal patch of nature, and definitely worth the pocket change it required to reach. On a calmer day, with a bit of swimming on a largely isolated beach, it would have been perfect.

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April 23, 2012 at 11:15 am Comment (1)

The Deer of Trinco

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Our first day in Trinco, while we were walking up Fort Frederick Road, we spotted a small deer in a park. Of course, deer are skittish, but we were unusually nearby and no “danger alarm” seemed to be going off in his head. Then we noticed another deer, walking alongside dogs, and another approaching a group of people. Then we saw someone petting one. Then I pet one. And after that, we watched a couple guys share their rice and curry with one. And that’s when I figured out there must be LSD in my water.

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But I wasn’t drugged, nor had we fallen into a rabbit hole and emerged in a Disney-esque land of wicked queens and singing chipmunks. Trincomalee, for whatever reason, has a large population of spotted deer who are perfectly comfortable and even sociable with humans. They’re especially prevalent inside Fort Frederick, but can be seen all throughout the city, foraging for grass and begging like dogs for food.

Cool. Every time you think you’ve basically figured out Sri Lanka, you get taken completely off guard.

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April 1, 2012 at 1:08 pm Comments (0)

The Enigmatic Stupas of Kadurugoda

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A collection of small stupas found a mile east of Chunnakam, Kadurugoda is a rare island of Buddhism in the Hindu-dominated peninsula of Jaffna. We hired a tuk-tuk to the site, shortly after visiting the Keerimalai water temple.

Stupas-of-Kadurugoda

Around twenty mini-stupas made of coral are scattered about Kadurugoda. They’re thought to have been built around 2000 years ago, and were rediscovered and excavated by an English judge in 1917. Valuables buried around the site, and protected inside the stupas, included coins from pre-Christian Rome and early Indian kingdoms, indicating Jaffna’s status as an international maritime port way back in the day.

Unsurprisingly for a Buddhist site in the heart of Hindu-land, there’s a lot of contention surrounding the purpose and meaning of the stupas, and everyone seems to have a different theory. The most likely explanation we heard is that the stupas, which originally numbered 61, are the burial sites of 61 holy men who had died in a plague. And the presence of Buddhist architecture in the north of Sri Lanka is no real shocker — back then, the religions intermingled more liberally, borrowing ideas and even gods from each other. It’s likely that Hindus even used this site to worship.

Regardless of their meaning, the stupas of Kadurugoda are an amazing relic of the past, and well worth the short trip to Chunnakam, just ten kilometers north of Jaffna.

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March 31, 2012 at 12:02 pm Comments (2)
The Bizarre Landscape of Ussangoda East of Tangalla, a barren landscape sits in the middle of an otherwise heavily forested area. Dark red soil and an utter lack of trees are the hallmarks of Ussangoda, a region thought to have been hit by an ancient meteor. It's hard to imagine another explanation for this strange anomaly of nature.
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