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Mannar

We had asked around and the locals told us that the Puttalam Mannar road crossing Wilpattu National Park would be passable as it had not rained for weeks.  We started Tuesday morning for our trip along the coast up north.  For the first 10 kilometers there was a small strip of tar after that it was a dirt road.

Eingang zum ParkZwischenhalt im Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

noch 95 Km bis MannarBeim Armeeposten

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Der leere Wassertank

Der leere Wassertank

Plakat mit den verschiedenen Landminen

The trip was very impressive, huge areas of dense jungle followed by dry scrub land and in between large meadows that fill up with water during rainy season.  Next to a jackal and lots of birds, there were no other animals crossing our way.  Wilpattu National Park covers a huge area and during war there was a lot of poaching going on and therefore the animals kept hiding.  

After we had crossed the park the first settlements came up, mostly refugee camps where the people lived in simple palm leaf huts.  Nothing you want to take pictures of;  also not from the mine marks and the uncountable number of ground bunkers.

We saw rice paddy fields of a size we had never seen before in Sri Lanka and as soon as the area will be cleared from mines and the people can cultivate those paddies again, it will be a big change for the better.

Before the end of the war two years ago, the area had been one of the last strongholds from the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) and especially around Mannar Peninsula, there was fierce fighting because of the proximity to India.  A lot of houses were still damaged and one could tell from the black trunks of the trees that there had been large fire blasts.

Other than the already mentioned Mhadu Shrine – again a not very impressive church on a huge compound – we also looked at the Giant Tank, a water tank that was literally gigantic but empty of water at the time.  The north east Monsoon starts usually by the end of October and the people were waiting for rain. 

At the tip of Mannar Peninsula we learned that the Navy was offering boat trips to the so called Adam’s Bridge that once connected Sri Lanka with India.  There were 18 islands left, nine under control of the Sri Lankan Navy; the other nine under Indian Navy control.  The last boat of the day had just left ……………..

Radwechsel

Beim Nachtessen

To go on the boat trip early next morning triggered some discussions and we realized that neither Humaid nor Roy were keen to go on the open sea.  The reassurance of the Navy personnel that along with two soldiers in our boat, they would send a second boat with three rescue swimmers and a diver, helped to convince them.  Maybe my remark, that the Sri Lankan Navy would not want to lose two Swiss tourists in the sea, helped also? J

We drove back to Mannar, enjoyed the local cuisine and spent the night at the Star View Hotel, a modest but clean accommodation.

Message of the day : I think Humaid has one more question.

Der reparierte Reifen

Roy im Boot

 

 The plan was to start early in the morning and as we came out of our room at 6.30 a.m. Humaid pointed to the flat tire of his car.  The men installed the spare wheel within minutes but to find a garage where the tire could be fixed took a while.  So we did not start until 9 a.m.

The boat trip to the Adam’s Bridge was great.  A sign at the Navy harbor had posted that only sober, and taller than one meter people were allowed on the trip.  The vegetation on the large sandbanks was not higher than 80 centimeters; therefore, the second rule made sense, no way could the Navy have lost someone.  But there was no shade and it would have been fantastic to go for a swim in the shallow light blue water.  Sadly, in the presence of six young soldiers, only a pipe dream.  We stayed for half an hour and then went back where Humaid and Roy were happy to be back on solid ground.

Beim Anziehen der SchwimmwestenDie zerstörten Eisanbahnschienen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Auf der Sandbank

 

Die Soldaten mit unseren Booten

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 We had been surprised by the size of the sandbanks and a keen swimmer would still be able to go over the Adam’s Bridge to India, if it would not be for the Navy of both countries.

It was already early afternoon when we set off for the coastal road to Jaffna as it was our wish, against some hesitations by Humaid.  He had asked each and every person that crossed our way about the conditions of the road and not received two identical answers.  The soldiers at the first road block told us it would be “no problem” to go on that road to Jaffna.

We had learned on earlier occasions that in Sri Lanka “no problem” does not necessarily mean there is NO problem;  it’s more like NOT ONE problem.  It could involve several problems ……………

The 100 kilometers took us five hours and that being after we covered the first 25 kilometers in less than 20 minutes as that part of the road was paved like an airstrip.  After that, we were on dirt roads all the way up to Jaffna.  The scenery was almost identical to that along the road from Puttalam to Mannar.  A big variety of birds, a fox and a couple of monkeys was all we saw in the shimmering heat.  The vegetation became sparse and most settlements mentioned on our map did not exist.  All we saw were signs from the respective Army regiment stationed there.

We were asked at a checkpoint:  where from?  where to?  and why so?  The soldiers were very friendly.

Die TrinkwassertonneGruppenbild beim Boot

 

 

Only one time there was big excitement and loud shouts.  Michel had opened a bottle of water at a checkpoint and opened the lid of a black bin to throw the plastic seal in.  In a bit of tense mood because of all the checkpoints and mine danger warnings, we first thought he might have triggered something when it became obvious that it was not a waste bin but the drinking water bin for the soldiers!  Pointing at the words written in Tamil, Roy told Michel: ……… it says there!!

We made slow but steady progress without any problems.

It is symptomatic that the locals divide the time in “before the problems started” and “after the problems started”.  The problems are a 28 year lasting civil war that scarred the North of the country badly.  From 160`000 residents of Jaffna, more than 100`000 fled the area.  There were huge neglected paddy fields, torn houses and refugee camps with palm leaf huts.

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