April 25, 2013

The Ocean, the Sand and a Lighthouse

Something to listen to while you read-

As part of my short visit to Sri Lanka, we (Andre, Cheryl, Erandhie and I) drove across the country to the beautiful Passikudah bay. Staying on an island was quite exciting. Just 6 hours in the car, and we reached the other coast. 

The East coast wasn't exactly the ideal tourist destination during the time of political unrest in the country, but since the end of that, the East coast is getting it's due attention. I'm quite glad I got to visit now, as apposed to a few years down the line when the bay will be lined with resorts and every sq foot of the white sands will be covered with beach towels, and sun burnt holiday makers. 

A coral reef acted as the boundary for the bay, which was a few miles across. The reef acted as a barricade, causing the ocean waves to break far away from the beach. This in turn made the bay absolutely calm. In fact, so calm that the sands were barely displaced and we were able to wade out about 50m into the water. We swam up to the boat in the picture and not realising that our feet could still touch the bottom when we reached it.

The sun was strong, and thankfully my sunblock was able to fight against it. We stayed at the beach for most of the morning. With barely any other people there, it was almost like our own private beach. I've always preferred mountains and lakes to the seaside, but this beach would be a high contender to any fresh water landscape. 

In the afternoon, the sand is hot enough to burn holes through your feet, so we decided to drive down alongside the Kalkudah beach, a much larger bay just south of Passikudah. This beach was quite desolate too and the land around it equally empty-perfect plots for beach houses. :)

We came back to Passikudah and walked up to the northernmost part of the bay to watch the sky and water change colours as night set in. 

The full moon night was the perfect setting for another swim before we headed back for dinner. We had the company of some flying fish in the bay whose translucent fins/wings became a shimmering silver in the moonlight as they jumped in and out of the water. It was slightly scary at first.

Being on the East coast meant that we couldn't miss the sunrise. We were up around 5:30 and went first to Kalkuddah bay hoping for a better view. Unfortunately, the edge of the bay blocked the horizon. We saw the first of the rays as the fishermen were getting their boats out and so we had to hurry to the other side before the sun came up.

We walked as far down the bay as we could. There was a reef just a little out into the water, so the waves brought in so much dead coral and seaweed. The beach was full of it. We managed to watch the sunrise. We had a family of dogs watch with us. 

It was quite a different beach. I picked up loads of interesting dead coral and some weird sea weed too. We waded into the water (which was really clear) and picked up more shells, driftwood and things. 

What we got to do next was one of the highlights of this trip. We took a boat out of the bay to the coral reefs and went snorkeling. It was my first time and hence had nothing to compare it to. I was amazed at the variety of coral and fish. Spent the whole hour and half under water enjoying every bit of it with some scars to remember it (had a nasty encounter with the staghorn coral!) I cannot wait to do this again and possibly some scuba diving too in the future.

Once we had packed up and checked out of our rooms, we drove down the coast to Batticaloa. This area has a number of large inlets. Not sure if some of them are fresh water. At one point, we were driving with water on both sides of the road. The quaint coastal town is spread out across the scattered land. Lots of bridges and boats to connect it all. We went to the lighthouse and we pleasantly surprised that we could climb to the top. It wasn't more than 60ft to the top. The rickety rusty ladders and a few glimpses of the view from the tiny windows only made it all more exciting. 

The view was amazing. We could see across this lagoon and a sandbar that divided lagoon from the ocean. The lagoon was really shallow. In fact, you can see some people in the water quite far from the shore who were standing. In the map you can see where we were and where the sandbar is. We just had to go to that point. So after we climbed back down, we took a boat across.

That beach was so untouched. Just a few fishermen, their boats and some man-made huts for them to rest in. Apart from the fisherman, the only other occupants of the beach were a number of dead jellyfish. It was a bit sad to see so many washed up on the beach. Finding Nemo taught me that it was ok to touch the tops. But on further research, these species don't sting. 

We walked along the shore, posed with the colourful boats and waded into the water. At one point, we couldn't get in touch with our boatman so we may have had to join the fisherman for dinner in case we ended up being stranded. 

We drove back to the West coast after this. A bottle of coral and shells sits on my desk as my souvenirs from this place. 

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