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Casuarina Beach on Karaitivu Island

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You’d think that, for a long, narrow strip of land which juts out into the Indian Ocean, finding a beach on the Jaffna Peninsula wouldn’t be a big hassle. But reaching the two beaches we visited during our time in the north required a degree of planning and force of will normally required for tasks like composing a symphony, or cooking a seven-course meal. To arrive at Chatty Beach, we had to rent bikes, ask seventy guards for directions and battle through an unbelievable headwind for miles. And getting to Casuarina Beach was no easier.

Darmatic Beach

Karaitivu was the second of three western islands we visited during our stay in Jaffna (the others being Kayts and Delft). We arrived at the bus station equipped with a map, and freshly educated in pronunciation by the owner of our guesthouse. “Ka-rye-tee-vah! Faster! No accents! Like it were one crazy syllable!” Alas, the guys working at the bus station still had no idea what I was saying. Giving up, I just pointed at the map. “Ah, Karaitivu!”

The two attendants helping us were soon joined by a curious cadre of four other bystanders, all discussing which bus we should take, and where we should really be going. One guy was convinced that we’d do better to visit Nanaitivu — another island which he considered more interesting. And amid all the discussion and confusion, we nearly followed him onto the wrong bus.

The twenty-kilometer ride took over an hour to complete, and we were dropped off in a dusty town with one store and three people. Now, just an easy mile-long hike separated us from the crystal blue water and white sand of Casuarina Beach. On arriving, we were overjoyed — exactly as we had hoped for! A gorgeous stretch of sand extending for kilometers along the northern coast of the island, bordered by the shrubby Casuarina trees which lend the beach its name. We decided to escape local bathers, and walk towards the lighthouse on the northwestern tip of the island before sitting down: a plan that would be our undoing.

A few minutes before reaching the spot we’d chosen to set up our towels, the skies suddenly darkened. This had been a sunny day! After the stressful journey to even arrive at the beach, the rain began almost the instant we sat down. Having fun, Jaffna?! We think you’re hilarious, too!

We swam for a bit under the rain, but soon packed it up and started back home. Sigh. It wasn’t the most successful of our day trips, but despite the trouble, it was nice to see such a pristine bit of nature. With a bit better luck and (especially) our own transport, it would have been a great day out.

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March 30, 2012 at 10:18 am Comment (1)

The Royal Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya

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I was a little agitated by the $10 entry fee for the Peradeniya Botanic Gardens, but it didn’t take me long after entering to realize that it was money well-spent. Peradeniya’s are the most fantastic botanic gardens I’ve ever seen. Trees the size of sky-scrapers, flower bushes exploding in incredible color, giant palm trees that bloom just once in 45 years, and cannon ball trees with heavy round fruits were just some of the highlights. I’ve never been so bowled over by botany.

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The origins of this 150-acre park stretch back to 1371 when King Wickramabahu III established a residence here, and remained part of the royal grounds until the end of Kandyan independence. But although the British destroyed the palace, they also protected the area by designating it an official botanic garden.

We spent a happy couple hours exploring the park. Alone, the famous orchid house was worth a half-hour. Over 500 varieties of the fragile flower are nurtured here. Outside, we passed under trees with bending branches supporting fruit bats the size of Smart Cars. After venturing onto a wobbly suspension bridge extending over the river which borders the garden, a long avenue lined with royal palms led us to The Great Lawn, whose lone, lonely resident is a beautiful Java Fig Tree.

I’ll stop prattling on in the hopeless attempt to describe the garden’s beauty with words, and let our pictures do the talking. Suffice to say, if you’re anywhere near Kandy during your trip to Sri Lanka, plan in a stop at the Peradeniya Royal Botanic Garden.

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February 19, 2012 at 12:48 pm Comments (8)
Casuarina Beach on Karaitivu Island The twenty-kilometer ride took over an hour to complete, and we were dropped off in a dusty town with one store and three people. Now, just an easy mile-long hike separated us from the crystal blue water and white sand of Casuarina Beach. On arriving, we were overjoyed -- exactly as we had hoped for! A gorgeous stretch of sand extending for kilometers along the northern coast of the island, bordered by the shrubby Casuarina trees which lend the beach its name. We decided to escape local bathers, and walk towards the lighthouse on the northwestern tip of the island before sitting down: a plan that would be our undoing.
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