Saturday, October 29, 2011

Journey to Jaffna by Road (Through A9)


Jaffna has been out of bounds to foreign travellers for almost three decades, is fast becoming a must see destination for tourists interested in the history and culture of this peninsula. An ancient kingdom with many archaeological and natural wonders the arid plains, lagoons and desolated wilderness of the Jaffna peninsula present a vivid contrast to the lush scenery and busy towns of the south.

I started my journey from Capital Colombo to my native place Jaffna. This is my second trip to Jaffna after the war ended in May 2009; however this was different than the previous trip. This trip is purely a fact finding mission and filling the long term gap of my blogging. I have to mention here, that there are private Air conditioned busses going to Jaffna from Colombo (Wellawatta area) through Vavunia and Anuradhapura. The fare per person for a reserved seat being Rs 1,500/- and the journey takes around ten hours for this 396 Km trip.

The difference becomes apparent on the long journey by road northwards from Colombo to Jaffna. The first stretch along the A1 and A6 highways, then join the famous A9 at Dambulla. Gradually the tidy scenery of the south changes from fertile plains of paddy fields punctuated by peaks of bright green hills to tangled thickets of woodland. Both sides of the road have been cleared of bushes and occasionally can see scattered palmyrah trees in the distance. The wild undergrowth besides the road changes to stark dry plains where palmyrah palms proliferate.At the Elephant-Pass, where the road spans the lagoon and a sign, welcomes the visitors to Jaffna.

The final approach to Jaffna is slow due to the condition of the road. The road leads to vast open spaces and small hamlets, until buildings begin to block the view of the vegetation. There is a beautiful arch across the road signifying the entrance to the town. There are broad billboards advertising products in Tamil and you can see some solid colonial houses stand-alone amidst the ruins of others.

As road progress through the outskirts of Jaffna, activities of the people increases and the newly opened business are attracting customers. The A9 road, swings through crowded suburbs where guesthouses and small restaurants are flourishing in former residences. It runs into the town centre past Government offices, Court Complex, Town Hall (Verasingam Hall), Thuraiyappa Stadium, Jaffna Library, main bus stand and the ruins of Jaffna Fort with the view of the Lagoon. The causeway there stretches to Kayts enabling the road (B52) to continue to the jetty for ferries to Nagadeepa and the Nagapooshani Amman Temple.

Development in Jaffna during the past two years in a slow phase, however there is an air of courtesy as well of Commerce. The Jaffna Town quietens at the night but the stores are packed with fascinating mementoes, where huge Jaffna mangoes and unusual sweetmeats from the market or palm products like jolly shopping baskets made from palmyrah leaves. The sight of classic 1950’s motor cars parked in the towns taxi stand reminds the visitors that, although Jaffna has all the hustle and bustle of Colombo and remains a unique and historical city. The journey was well worth through Kandy Road (A9) and brought me my childhood memories. Hope the visitors going through A9 can see more than they expect.

Note:
A travel portal with comprehensive information about Jaffna @ http://visit-jaffna.blogspot.com/

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