Ploomer’s Arugam Experiences

Sept 2nd, ’09
I arrived at Arugam Bay, a few kilometers below Pottuvil. Most of the tourists that make their way here are surfer types as this is reputed to be the best surfing in Sri Lanka. From what I have
read it is best suited for the beginner to intermediate level crowd. I thought about giving it a shot but not this time. If I start surfing I want to devote some time to the exercise rather than spending a day twisting and drowning in surf.

After viewing a number of guesthouse/hotels I finally settled down at the Surf & Sun. A fairly nice place but it does feel a bit overpriced as does all the accommodation in the area. Everything is much more expensive in Sri Lanka than most might think but perhaps the prices are justified due to inflation, taxes, etc. ($20 for one night). There is no hot water (not that it is particularly necessary) and the food in the restaurants is pricey as well.

I do like random and the Surf & Sun has a bit of that. One of the owners is a woman from Iceland (been here for six years) and they have a pet owl. I was told that a member of the Sri Lankan Navy found the baby owl when it had apparently fallen from its nest. It was injured so he took it and gave to the owners of this hotel. I have to admit that I am quite taken with the bird as it is a beautiful creature. Every day they let it out for a bit of exercise but she never ventures very far and, according to Ms. Iceland (Mina), she will not fly away even though it is healthy and capable of doing so. They used to leave it out for long periods of time but a recent attack by a nefarious gang of ravens prevents her from being free all the time.

While sitting in the restaurant one evening I happened to spot a rather gigantic scorpion milling about. It was about the length of my hand. I mentioned this to some employees and they quickly put an end to its life, not the result I intended. I was informed that they are not dangerous but they sure are scary looking. I am fine if I notice one from afar but if one were to startle me I am quite certain there would be a rather dramatic loss of bowel control and a series of little girl like screeches.

I have spent the last couple of days exploring the surrounding area. In fact, it was not until today that I finally took a dip in the Indian Ocean. The day after I arrived I went for a drive and basically spent a few hours exploring random side roads, open pastures, and narrow woodland paths dotted with bushes ( I have the scratches to show for it). This is when having the motorcycle really pays off as it allows one to do a bit of exploring and see things most folks do not. I was rewarded with beautiful deserted beach scenery and some fun trail riding. That night I spent some time at Crocodile Rock, a series of rounded rock formations right on the beach. There is a lagoon on the other side of the beach but, disappointingly, the reptiles were nowhere to be found. I did get to see a couple of elephants, although I probably got a bit closer than I should have. When the two were privy to my presence they quickly moved off, as opposed to trumpeting like lunatics and stomping me into the dirt. As the sun went down I was lucky to get some fairly good shots of the backdrop.

The next day I drove south and made my way through the dismal town of Panama, through Kudimbigala Forest Hermitage, and on to Okanda, a place with an end of the earth feel. Kudimbigala is a remarkable place. It is a 4700 hectacre site of rocky outcrops, hermit lodgings (for meditation I presume), and small Buddhist shrines. I made my way up to what I perceived to be the highest rock and spent a couple of hours taking in the scenery. At the top of this not so easy to reach high point is a small dilapidated and forlorn stupa with a small statute of Buddha encased inside. The stupa was not so easy to reach and I think maybe it was not meant to be visited. I had to climb between large rocks as well as through trees and brush to reach it. There were steps leading up to an adjacent rock but not to the stupa itself. I was feeling a little bit like Indiana Jones so I went for it and was rewarded with some breathtaking scenery. It was sublime. Once again, I found myself yearning for a companion to share this fantastic panorama but, alas, all my chums have decided to establish lives and settle down. Bastards and assholes. All of them. You know who you are. After that I ventured a bit farther on to Okanda, a town that feels a little bit like the only stronghold of a few survivors after Armageddon. From the looks of it appears to serve as a de facto landfill. The beach nearby, although thankfully not strewn with litter maintains the end of the earth vibe. Just to punctuate the feeling there is a boat resting on the beach looking forward to a future of slow disintegration. A marvelous place but exceptionally desolate.

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South of Arguman Bay there is a rather significant military presence placed there I was told as a a??securitya?? measure (not really sure what that means). While driving on the dirt road past Panama I stopped along the road to stand atop a small rock formation and see what I could see. I felt completely alone but this illusion was shattered when three Sri Lankan soldiers came out of the woods to investigate my presence. They did not say too much. I think they were curious as to why someone had stopped. There was no check point in the immediate area so I am not exactly sure where they came from. Nothing like a little military peek-a-boo to remind one of the recent hostilities. After that I stopped two more times to give my name, nationality, and passport number. It appears to be nothing more than a formality but who the hell knows. I was told that you cannot venture farther than Okanda due to a??securitya?? reasons (still no idea what that really means). There are two national parks in the area so perhaps they are clearing mines or people or both. A soldier informed me that the parks would be open in a month. Cana??t wait.Along the way I sp otted many peacocks but the shifty birds thwarted all attempts to capture them on film. Whenever I stopped they immediately took off.

The town of Arugam Bay is a bit a ramshackle group of huts and hotels (more like guesthouses) along a dirt road. Pretty is a not a word that comes to mind. Actually, the place is kind of a mess but considering this was the site of some significant tsunami damage I suppose that is to be expected. It is a bit of a shame that folks were not a little more careful about how and where shops and guesthouses were erected but it is nice to see that the place made a comeback. The government is in the process of upgrading the roads in the area so I have a feeling the place may look much different in a few years. Right now the area past Arugam Bay and before Pottuvil (the town just to the north) has a barren wasteland feel to it, not that that is necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it is actually kind of cool and makes you feel like you are entering a far away land.


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