Spending a vacation in a certain area certainly means that you learn about its history, its triumphs and devastating loses and Passikudah was no different. While we happily planned our holiday to the gorgeous beach destination was where really unaware of the absolute devastation that had been wreaked on the area over the last decade.
This started with the cataclysmic 2004 Tsunami that barreled over the country side killing thousands of villages and destroying nearly everything in its path. We had the privilege of visiting the area on the 10th anniversary of the disaster and the thing that struck us the most is that everyone that we met in the area had lost someone they knew, a family member of a neighbor. It certainly was not just the loss of human life that effected the generation that survived but the loss of their ancestral homes that I think they still pine for today. But they are wary of rebuilding their homes so close the shores of the Passikudah and Kalkudah beaches. In the eastern parts of Sri Lanka over 50,000 people lost their lives and it is said that the wave barreled on to the coast and nearly 2 kilometers in land on its path of destruction.
But the nightmare was not over for the Sri Lankan people, due to the destructive force of the wave the main roads used to access the tourist and rural areas were damaged and there was no access to relief items and medication which was so badly needed. When we asked why there was such a huge loss of life when there had been warning issued by the government, we were told that the rural population did not know what these things were and then the waters on the beaches began to recede into the sea the villages walked out into the shallows to investigate the new phenomenon. Many villages simply stayed on the beaches to watch their friends walking towards to horizon but this would prove to be a devastating mistake and these would be the first victims of the Tsunami. But the area has rebuilt and tourism has started the finally return to the area but there was another tragedy that we were completely ignorant of and this was the Sri Lankan civil war against the Tamil Tigers.
For over 25 years, the war caused significant hardships for the population, environment and the economyof the country, with an estimated 80,000–100,000 people killed during its course. During the early part of the conflict, the Sri Lankan forces attempted to retake the areas captured by the LTTE. The tactics employed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam against the actions of Government forces resulted in their listing as a terrorist organization in 32 countries, including the United States, India, Canada and part of the EU. After decades of fighting, four failed cease fires and rounds of peace talks after the governments Eastern front assault the presence in the East was reduced to a 140 square kilometer pocket of jungle land in the Thoppigala area north-west of Batticaloa.After the 3-month long Battle of Thoppigala, the Army captured the Thoppigala peak on 11 July 2007, ending the LTTE’s military capability in the Eastern Province. (Wikipedia) I was going to put some of the war photos that I had sourced but they were all together far to disturbing!
This civil war raged throughout the Tsunami disaster and even further prevented aid from reaching the worst struck areas in Sri Lanka. Eight years after the ending of the war the military presence of the Sri Lankan army can still be seen throughout the eastern country side with military bases dotted along the rolling hills of Myneria and Dambullah and you don’t travel far to find armed police officers patrolling the streets of the villages.
On the fourth morning of our visit to Sri Lanka we walked along the Kalkudah beach and marveled at the beauty of the coast line before us. The grey weather had turned the waters in to a swirling mass of gun smoke greys but the water lapped quietly and did not betray the dark looming danger of the sea that the people living on it edges witnessed ten years ago. But the unpredictability of the weather is undeniable.
After our stroll along the beach we headed to the local landmark called Elephant Rock. During the more sunny days this area is well known for its amazing fishing and diving spots but in the rain is can be down right dangerous. We slowly made our way to the site via the unkept dirt roads in our Tuk Tuks, the roads were still half submerged and full of potholes. As we made our way along the coast line we came across the new areas that are being earmarked for hotel developments and plots of land owned by foreigners. And as we came across the last ridge we also saw the approaching weather coming over the stormy sea. I will be completely honest and say that I did not see the elephant in the Elephant Rock but we could not stay long before the ominous clouds where upon us and we had to dash for the Tuk Tuks.
As the rains lashed at the covered roof of our blue Tuk Tuk we knew that there was no way we where going to get back to the hotel with out getting stuck! And the thoughts had barely escaped my mind when the Tuk Tuk spluttered and died in a rather large puddle! No matter what we did there was no way to get this thing started again. Daniel was starting to get tired and he was cold so I sat and recited one of his favourite books to him, this helped but didn’t get us out of our predicament. Thankfully our friends were in a newer Tuk Tuk and they came to the rescue to get us to the tar road but 6 of us where not going to fit in to one Tuk Tuk but once again we were rescued by a lovely couple who were staying at the same hotel with us and before long we were all warmly dressed and very thankful for the small mercies of 4×4 vehicles!