Monday, 1 November 2010

The Biycycle Diaries - Mannar

Hot, dry and dusty - this is an appropriate a description as you could give to Mannar, a small island off the North Western coast of Sri Lanka. And thank goodness for that, as it meant it was the dry season. That's right, I had managed to sneak into the north of Sri Lanka before the onset of the NE Monsoon (the same monsoon that makes Tamil Nadu in India as wet as a bucket) which meant no mosquitoes, 45C heat and plenty of opportunity to explore this tiny patch of land without the threat of torrential rain.

My precious bone shaker while I was in Mannar. Far too small for me, dodgy brakes and a pain to pedal as there are no gears on the bike, but what a great way to get around. Until the wheel punctures :(

Still, I managed to see a little bit more of Mannar, and now with the current peace looking as if it will hold for the next few years, it was a great time to explore this remote part of Sri Lanka.

Cut off from pretty much the rest of the world, Mannar is really a land to itself. Different from much of Sri Lanka, and even from the rest of the north. The island also has a distinctly Catholic feel that adds something special to the local identity. The beauty of Mannar does not come from the lush green that usually characterises much of Sri Lanka, nor does it come from the verdant beaches that the rest of the country is famous for. The beauty of Mannar comes from its stark nature. Remember, this place is quite unlike anywhere else in the region. It is dominated by the heat, and unlike the rest of the country, seems to operate on its own timetable, with mornings and dusk being very busy times, while the middle of the day is devoid of humanity - only crazy tourists on bicycles decide to brave the heat of midday in order to take photos and explore...

This is my fourth time to Mannar, but my visits, as always, have been far too quick and far too rushed. Unfortunately, I do not know the next time I will be able to return, nor how much of my family will remain on my next sighting of this land. The last remaining sibling of my father lives here, which is why I spend so much time actually travelling to this remote part of Sri Lanka. Next time, I could well be bringing my own family here, so it is probably my last visit to Mannar that I will make as a free man. Life changes, I suppose I must grow up, but throughout my twenties, Mannar has been a very cool place to always visit. But onto the rest of my Sri Lanka tour...

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