East Coast is rising again.
Surfaced from Arugam Bay last evening. What a trip!! so much to explore enroute and once there, peaceful fishing villages and the Indian Ocean waves that has put Sri Lanka on the world’s surfing circuit as one of 10 best surf spots in the world.
Some of us in Colombo have been waiting for terrorism to end to get across to Arugam Bay, whilst surfing loyalists who know the waves so well have continued with their annual pilgrimage to `AbaY’ through it all. Some I chatted to have been coming here for over a decade always returning to their favourite haunts – Stardust hotel, Hideaway, Aloha Cabanas, Galaxy Lounge and the list goes on.
Peak months for surfing is July/August and this year, business seems to be looking up for the guest houses on the strip as surfers from Australia, Japan, Britain, Germany… are all out there early morning to catch the `swell’ and ride the waves. There are several surf points – Ulla, Pottuvil point, Peanut farm, Surf point, and Crocodile Rock – of which some are more suited for advanced surfers. Plenty of encouragement though, for beginners with many places renting surf boards and providing surf lessons. There are some interesting beachside cafes and restaurants – Café del Mar, Siam View, Mambos, Geckos (for yummy home made ice-creams. Dark chocolate and Arrack flavours are my favourite!). Most prefer the spicy Rotis served at the local eateries in town.
Arugam Bay is not all about surfing as this non-surfer is happy to note! Enroute off Buttala, there is Buduruwagala and Maligawila – sites of ancient Buddhist rock sculptures set amidst dry zone wilderness. A trek to Kudimbigala – a jungle monastery dating back to the 2nd century was one of the highlights of my trip. Winding pathways through jungle and up huge boulders was utterly adventurous and nerve racking at times with sightings of bear droppings along the way. Felt safer knowing that our expert guide was by our side! Just before entering Pottuvil, the roadway runs through the Lahugala National Park. From the roadway, we were able to spot elephants on the banks of the lagoon. There were plenty of birds including Malabar Pied Hornbills, Wooly-necked storks and Serpent eagle. Couldn’t go into Lahugala and Yala East since it’s closed at the moment to the general public. Both parks are due to open in a few months which will make it a must for nature lovers to come through here.
The coastal villages in this area – Pottuvil, Arugam Bay, Panama and Okanda – are all peaceful villages where Muslim, Sinhala and Tamil communities have endured much hardship over the years due to three decades of conflict and the devastating Tsunami in 2004. Recovery after all this has been hard, but hope is more vibrant than ever with the prospect of peace. Hindu pilgrims in their hundreds are once again back on track through here on their `padayatra’ pilgrimage to Kataragama. The raodworks on the A4 leading to Pottuvil is almost complete cutting short travel time. Hotels and guest houses are slowly adding more rooms and cabanas. There is development in the area. Not too much I hope, as it will spoil the laid-back lifestyle that people of Arugam Bay have come to know and love.