sri lanka photography

A last visit to Haputale in the Sri Lankan hill country

With my two-year stay in Sri Lanka coming to an end, there was time for one last trip with my partner. Deciding on where to go was an easy decision and after booking our train tickets, we headed for the cooler hill country and more specifically the small town of Haputale, perched on a ridge with astounding views. 

Morning view, Haputale

Shortly after sunrise. 

Path, Haputale

Tea plantations make up for most of the surrounding scenery.

bush fires, Haputale

Bush fires at night. 

Bus, Bandarawela

On the bus in nearby Bandarawela.

Love, Haputale

A short message on the window of an abandoned vehicle. 

Most guidebooks will point you to Ella, but I’d recommend Haputale over it any day. Leisure Mount View Holiday Inn is also the best budget accommodation I’ve come across in Sri Lanka. If you’re on a bigger budget or in a larger group, Kelburne Moutain View Cottages will be equally hard to leave. 

It's not a road trip without some car shots

By the end of the trip I had driven 1500 kms in the old Toyota Corolla. Despite being stopped on more than one occasion by the police, often for no apparent reason, no fine or bribe was paid for once. On one occasion my patience was properly tested as I had to wait 45 minutes and play an odd bluffing game before getting my license back.

The only small mishap was the windscreen ending up with a big crack - I’m not sure how it happened, but I suspect it was due to a change in temperature, the AC blasting on the screen after the car had been sitting in the sun a while. 

Some of the shots featured on the previous blog posts are part of a couple of small projects and series on Sri Lanka, but most are outtakes. The projects and series will soon be up on my new website which I’m currently putting the finishing touches on. 

Saint Anne's church, Kalpitiya

Taken on the coast behind Saint Anne’s church on Kalpitiya. 

Car roof reflection, Jaffna / Velanai causeway

Taken on the island of Velanai,just before the causeway linking it to Jaffna. The sky is reflected off the roof of the car. 

Rearview mirror, Velanai island

Taken on the desolate and flat island of Velanai.

Final stop, second part: Jaffna surroundings

At a Hindu festival on the small island of Pungudutivu, near Jaffna

During my staff in Jaffna I ventured out of town on a few days. I made a trip to Point Pedro, mainly to see the old, abandoned Saint Anthony’s church and its graveyard, now swamped by sand dunes.

Graveyard on dunes, Point Pedro

I also ventured to Nainativu island to have a peek at the Hindu temple.

Cow, Nainativu

The journey there involves crossing a few causeways linking small, desolate islands off the coast of Jaffna and a final 20 minute ferry ride to Nainativu island. On the way there I stumbled across a Hindu festival and observed the locals give one of the many shrines its annual and highly celebrated outing on a chariot around the temple (photo at the top).

Nainativu itself is practically empty bar the temple, a few shops and houses and a recently built Buddhist temple. 

Shop, Nainativu

Finally, I also returned to Velanai island and explored the eerily, empty town of Kayts. 

Downtown, Kayts

Here are a couple of more shots from my outings. 

Ray, Point Pedro

Some recently caught ray on the beach in Point Pedro.

Shop under a palm, Jaffna outskirts

A small shop perched under the shade of palm tree on the outskirts of Jaffna. 

Second part of the road trip, first stop: Batticaloa

Kallady beach after dark, Batticaloa

Kallady beach after dark.

After a break at home in Colombo, I set off again on May 30th for Batticaloa, one of the main cities on Sri Lanka’s east coast. It’s surrounded by water, may it be lagoons or the sea, and despite its size, has a provincial feel to it. Most people get around the shaded streets by bike and no one seems in much of a hurry. It hasn’t got any particularly great sights to offer,  but the pleasant, friendly, laid-back vibe make up for it.

Its recent history is anything but pleasant though. It was occupied by the LTTE for a lot of the war and only freed in 2007. It was also severely hit by the 2004 Tsunami and there are still remnants of villages that were completely destroyed only minutes away from Kallady beach, popular with locals. 

Despite its difficult past, the people seem eager to move on, rebuild what they lost and rediscover their culture. The http://welcometobatticaloa.com is a good example of the city’s efforts to develop its tourism. I’ve yet to come across such a comprehensive website for any other place in Sri Lanka. 

Second stop: Kalpitiya, a big disappointment

Kalpitiya has been earmarked by the Sri Lankan government as the next big tourist destination. Grand plans to build an airport, an underwater theme park, a golf course and more are pencilled in. Nothing has been built yet though, and the main allure currently is dolphin-watching and kite surfing. 

I must say I really can’t see how this will all pan out. The accommodation is currently ridiculously over-priced (over £10 to sleep in a tent!), the beaches nondescript, dirty and lacking shade, and the sea nowhere near the turquoise blue shades westerners dream of from their office desk in the cold of winter. The town itself looks like one big construction site and the only nice building I saw, an old mosque, is abandoned and falling into disrepair. All in all, if you’re not into kite-surfing or dolphin-watching (which some say will be threatened by all the planned development), I struggle to spot the appeal of the place. Unsurprisingly, I only stayed one night before heading back to Colombo a day early for my partner’s birthday.  

Building site, Kalpitiya

One of the many building sites in Kalpitiya town. 

Puttalam's salt plains

According to wikipedia, the name “Puttalam” may be a modification of the Tamil word Uppuththalam: Uppu means salt, and Thalam means salt production zone. There are salt plains both north and south of the town. The northern plains are right next to an unusual sight in Sri Lanka: 25 wind turbines, run by an Indian firm. 

Salt production is a good money earner according to a local I spoke to. However, he also added that most of the plains were all owned by a handful of businessmen, many of whom got their hands on the land in shifty ways, taking advantage of the confusion created by the civil war.

 Salt plains, Puttalam

Workers rake the salt from a plain into small mounds.

Salt plains, Puttalam

The salt is then stored in wooden shelters. This particular one was falling apart.

salt plains

Both men and women work the plains, usually in the morning and late afternoon. However, they occasionally will work till the late morning by which time temperatures are at the highest. 

Housing near the salt plains, Puttalam

There is quite a lot of recently-built housing around the salt plains, mostly unpainted cement-brick houses.