Bastion’s hostel close to at Chundkuli Junction in Jaffna provided an excellent room and base while I had a good look around the city. There remains a huge military presence all over the city. Every junction or significant landmark was manned by armed soldiers. It seemed nesomewhat incongruent. The war is over. The LTTE are long gone. It seemed like the military were clinging on to their salaries in the name of ‘security’. It is overkill and which causes resentment amongst the residents. On the upside the military help prop up the local economy with their spending. In time tourism will fill the economic vacuum the departing forces will leave behind. Meanwhile it feels like martial law. When I took a photo of an armed patrol I was told to delete the picture off my phone.
Jaffna itself remains an important city and trade centre albeit cut off by air and rail. Once the ‘rehabilitation’ is complete the city will regain its place as a major player in the Sri Lankan business world. The Dutch fort on the seafront has massive walls but sadly there is little else left as it was heavily shelled by both sides during the war. It remains currently occupied by the military. I visited the railway station which had been home to many displaced families and now evicted prior to work starting on a new station.
Riding up Temple Road I went past the back of the Nasar Kandasamy temple and saw a large congregation at a meeting hall. I was invited in to view the wedding taking place. I was taken aback by the hospitality afforded to me and introduced to a number of VIPs. I was offered food and drink and told to get as close as I wished to the stage to take photos. I was somewhat embarrassed by such generosity but snatched a few pictures with as little imposition as possible.
I particularly enjoyed my visit to Jaffna and met some great, very warm hearted people. Incredible when one realises the suffering endured by people during the war. At one point when the LTTE knew that the city would fall to government troops they forcibly marched all of the citizens out. The Sri Lankan army then occupied an empty city. I spoke with one man when visiting a temple whose younger brother, a high school student, disappeared. There remains a large number of people who are unaccounted for.
Jaffna retains an South India vibe. It has much in common with Kerala and has a majority Tamil, Hindu population.
For my part I discovered beautiful Hindu temples and excellent food. I revisited the Nathan Food Center in Temple Road for some wonderful tea, roti, buns and sweets. The best!
I met a pair of German touring cyclists and advised them to stay at Bastion’s. they looked quite dishevelled and exhausted. Their bikes were caked in mud. We compared notes and they advised that the Western coast road that ran South of Jaffna Lagoon was in a bad way and practically nonexistent. I told them of the military zone to the North and which radically altered their planned route.
I set off from Bastion’s and waved goodbye to the owner. After a slight mistake as I rounded the coast I found a brand new road that crossed the Lagoon via a good bridge. Once on the other side my problems started. There was no road…