The plan was to finish the cultural and historic visit first and then go jump in the ocean to relax. Thats what got us to Galle and Hikkaduwa. But we did a lot of detours on the way; explored caves, got access to a lighthouse, visited a turtle hatchery to name a few.
To see the landscape change from chilly tea estates of Nuwara Eliya to dense forest of Yala and a dry rustic corner of Kataragama; more greens as we go and the heat and humidity of the coastal areas...These variations in the landscape in less than 8 hours of your journey was something that surprised me.
After Ravana caves; we continued from Ella as the roads snaked through many small towns and villages. The A roads are the NH like roads in India. We took a detour from a point to visit Kataragama. We had no plans initially but since Kataragama has a famous Hindu temple of Skanda(Lord Muruga) and is a sacred temple for Tamils; we decided to visit. The roads were dusty and it was not tarred; the sun was up; we still bore the heat and bumpy ride only to find the temple closed for the noon. We did not want to spend time waiting and hence walked behind the temple complex to a 1st century Kiri Viharaya.
What was interesting was that the Hindu temple was transformed to a Buddhist temple with Dagobas, prayer flags and the compound decorated with Elephant idols (sacred to Buddhists). Buddhists believe Lord Skanda is the guardian deity of Sinhala Buddhism and hence the influence. It seemed the temple is very sacred to Hindus; Tamils from all over Sri Lanka visit it once a year for the festival; it seems the scenes are gory since devotees indulge in violent ways to offer their prayers to God like piercing and nailing their body.
As we continued; it was amazing to see the road discipline in people except for the public buses (the drivers were harsh). On A roads; after every 5 km there were police watching for speeding and crossing the yellow lines. Another obvious thing was every other initiative (be it new roads, stadiums) was named Mahinda Rajapakse. People seem to prefer him since he ended Prabhakaran's regime.
Lunugamvehera Reservoir across Kirindi Oya on the way to Kataragama. Oya means River and this one provided water to the province of Uva where Kataragama is situated. The trees in the water were a shade of green that was enticing.
A canal fetching the water.
Dusty lanes; saw a huge monitor lizard walking along the road. Monitor lizards were common sight.
Entrance to Kataragama temple. On the background to the left is the sacred Bo tree; its one of the 8 saplings of Sri Maha Bodhi of Anuradhapura
The main temple of Lord Skanda. It was closed for the noon.
A huge oil lamp about 5 ft in front of the temple.
The Kiri Viharaya behind the temple. Walk to the dagoba was peaceful, trees lined both the sides and shops selling oil and blue lilies as offering.
The Vel in front of the temple.
A Langoor and her baby. Lotta monkeys around but they were well behaved.
Offerings to God. I liked the way it was organized.
Rain trees on a man made Tissa wewa at Tissamaharama at Hambantota. Seems these trees are like this year around. This town was capital of south during Anuradhapura period during 3rd century BC
After Tissa, we passed through Mathara. Mathara is famous for milk and honey. Its kiri and pheni in Sinhalese. There were roadside shops selling milk and honey in clay pots arranged in rows. Beautiful sight it was; I didnt take a picture.