Daily Archives: February 18, 2013

Elephant Pass



Following a night at an unremarkable (crappy) hotel I tackled the road North with some enthusiasm. I stopped to see pilgrims descending in the early morning mist from a shrine high on the rocks.

I made good time and despite roadworks and a major military checkpoint (with personal interview) I found my way to the old LTTE (Tamil Tigers) ‘capital’ of Kilinochchi.

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The road is being heavily upgraded and renewed so there were lots of roadworks to negotiate. North Sri Lanka remains a military zone and there are countless army bases and checkpoints. Every significant geographical feature threw up a heavily guarded army post or base. The land became increasingly bleak and the scars of war were everywhere. Buildings are deserted and pockmarked by shellfire.IMG_1372
What initially looked like good ground for camping became a no go area with areas marked out as minefields. Close to the road people in protective armour were working to clear the mines. I stopped to have tea at a transport cafe at Elephant Pass and which joins the Jaffna peninsula with the mainland. Historically it was the place where elephants would travel down from the Indian mainland into Sri Lanka. Now, however, it is known as the scene for two major battles between the LTTE and government. I cycled to the North coast and set up camp at a deserted Sri Lankan army post on the sun drenched beach which stretched like a ribbon of golden sand in each direction.

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Cultural triangle: Anuradhapura



I considered using Dambulla as a base and making day trips out. Kandy and the Tooth Temple was a particularly attractive option. However, and on balance, I felt that it was not practical. Kandy would add several days to my trip on account of the distance and climb. Furthermore Kandy is a bit of a tourist trap and a city in the same manner as Colombo. I decided to stay on track and continue my cycle tour by heading North towards Anuradhapura and ultimately Jaffna.
Once again I was treated to a downward ride. It felt like the right decision.

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I reached Anuradhapura by the early afternoon via the Hospital Road. I took my lunch on the bank of a river either side of which were enclaves for monks. Their saffron and green clothes were strung out on long washing lines.

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I scouted around the site of the ancient city to see what could be viewed without incurring the $30 tourist ticket charge. The sites are over quite a large area so access on my loaded bike was quite good and was able to visit several museums with antiquities displayed outside.

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To be fair I did not give the city the attention it deserves but with the evening fast approaching took the road North out of the ancient capital.