From Anuradhapura we drove east, stopping at the Minhitale monastery complex, which as usual, had a sufferfest of steep steps as a precondition of entry.
The roads in these provinces are wide and almost bereft of the usual chaos of the south west, so travel could reasonably be described as pleasant as we made our way to the coastal town of Nilaveli on the off chance the sea would be calm enough to allow a boat trip to the Pigeon Island National park (it wasn’t).
Trincomalee, the main city of the north east is known for its massive natural harbour, the world’s 5th largest. Accordingly it has been historically of significant strategic naval importance, and has changed hands on many occasions. Trincomalee is a large Tamil dominated city, with the most obvious evidence of this being brightly coloured temples and a profusion of South Indian style food.
We stayed on the beach in town, and in the traditional Sri Lankan way,were heavily dissuaded from swimming. There always seems to be drownings in Sri Lanka, probably because most locals aren’t strong swimmers and the beaches are generally steep with associated current. There is generally no local concepts of gutters and rips, so identification of safe areas to swim usually means that which is below knee depth.
In the late afternoon we wandered to the Koneswaram temple which is a large Hindu temple on high cliffs (Swami rock) which you reach by walking through Fort Frederick (the latest incarnation of a 16th century Portuguese fort). We arrived at the same time as an entire girl’s school..March being school excursion month which delighted the sweet sellers and trinket pawners who lined the path.
The next day we drove down the coast road, through the least developed part of Sri Lanka which is only just recovering from the devastating effects of the civil war. Accordingly its without tourist infrastructure and is largely agrarian, giving an insight into how the country must have been 30-40 years ago. Things are rapidly changing however, with our destination, the backpacker hub of Arugam Bay, being at the forefront of the transition.