In the last post we explored Nuwareliya estates and temples around the hill region. From Nuwareliya lets pursue our journey towards Yala. It is like moving from high altitude to lower plains closer to sea level. Farms on both side of the road all the way along make the journey towards Yala a pleasant one.
On the way visit Raja Maha Vihara in Tissamaharama town. Constructed in 186-161 BC , this Buddhist holy place is a bubble shaped chaitya with dimensions of 550 ft in circumference and 150 ft in height. It is believed that sacred left tooth relic and forehead bone relic have been deposited in this vihara.
You could directly head to Yala Safari or katargama instead of stopping at Tissamaharama aka Tissa town but the ideal time for Yala Safari is early morning 5 AM and for Kataragama temple is at evening 6 PM ,hence i decided to hang around in Tissa town for a while. You could go for boating or walk around Tissa lake and have lunch in some motel. Make sure you try Kiri pani ( buffalo milk served with honey) which is famous in this region.
I would recommend to book your hotel in Kataragama than in Tissa since Yala Safari will start from Kataragama. After refreshing for a while in hotel left for famous Kataragama temple in evening. I have been to lot of holy places in India but this experience was unique. You can find people dressed in white dancing to cinema tunes,carrying pooja items, carrying Kaavadi ( Burden Dance) and marching towards temple.
The complex has three main temples. Leftmost is a Buddha temple,middle one is Hindu Vinayagar temple and right one is the famous Murugan temple. Same kind of forced secularism which we saw in Nuwareliya temples. Needless to say it is a holy place for Srilankan Tamils,Buddhists,Moors and other native tribes.
First i went inside Murugan temple and was standing in front of a screen. People kept coming inside,handed over their pooja items to the white army / moral police priest groups and kept moving. I was wondering why none waiting to see the god statue behind the screen. After 20 minutes i came to know from the priest that here Screen is the god . Came out in shock and went inside Vinayagar temple there also same story, a priest with his mouth covered in cloth was doing pooja to screen !
During pooja, all the bells in the complex are rung simultaneously to create some artificial spiritual experience. Only Priests of respective temples can see behind or go behind the screen for pooja. Pilgrims / visitors can only see the screen. This screen as god custom is not only followed here but also in all the temples in this region.
Later explored Kataragama town for a while and returned to hotel for overnight stay. Most of the hotels do provide breakfast pack for their guests who leave for Safari in early morning.Next day morning around 5 AM, collected my breakfast pack from kitchen and left for Yala Safari. You can find lot of jeeps heading towards Yala.
Entry ticket is around 4000 LKR for a foreign visitor including taxes and ticket for driver. Tho it is called Leopard Paradise, Leopards are hardly seen.It should be renamed to Wild boar paradise. You can find boars all the way coming close to jeep with the hope of getting some food and tourists throw something at them. Officials should take measures to control this behavior and tourists should adhere to rules.
Unlike other national parks, they dint ruined the natural habitat for laying roads. The path is hard and was shaking through out. I don't want to drag with lots of photos of birds and animals.Will just give an overview.
You would be amazed by the way guide spots little birds on the go which skips our eyes. They not only stop for you to click but also say the scientific names of birds.
As i said earlier , the ideal time to explore this forest is early morning. If you are interested in bird photography you would love it. You can spot birds ranging from peacocks to white owl.
Its not that you can't find these animals and birds elsewhere or can't go for safari elsewhere but the very idea of travelling inside forest early morning was interesting for me. "The best part in the journey is the journey itself"
After travelling for 2-3 hours jeep stopped for breakfast. It is like you have traveled around 20-30 kms all the way through the forest and reached sea in the end. The river which runs through the forest also connects with sea in this amazing spot. Shared my breakfast pack with the guide and it started to drizzle.
After breakfast,took a leisure walk along the sea and chatted with fishermen for a while. Later continued the safari and returned to kataragama hotel. It took around 5 hours. If you are interested you can opt for whole day safari as well. Later checked out and pursued my journey towards Matara city.
On the way to Matara, visit Hummanaya blow hole in a small fishing village called Kudawella. It is not well known /developed tourist spot, you need to go for a short walk through the fishing village and climb the rock. The villagers have setup a base to stand on top of the rock which is already around 20 meters from the sea. Due to strong wind waves go below the rock in various directions and when they clash each other out of pressure water travels upwards and comes out of the hole. I was waiting patiently for 20 minutes to click and it was worth it . Needless to say you will be drenched when water comes up. This is the only blow hole you can witness in entire srilanka and considered as second largest in world. Villagers told that during strong wind season and rainy days water will go for greater heights and they can hear "hoo" wind sound when water comes up.
Next , visit Parey Dewa in Matara city. It is Buddhist temple situated in a small island. Matara city was greatly affected during Tsunami times and they have setup a new footbridge connecting city and temple. The island offers a good view of city and sea. Later you can go for leisure walk along the city beach and explore the city.
That's it we have covered places from Nuwareliya to Matara. From Matara you can head towards Mirissa and continue your journey along the coast. Make sure you go for whale watching in Mirissa. We have already explored this coast in previous posts.
Your feedback and comments are greatly appreciated !
See you soon with another travel post.