The waves crash in the distance as my friend and I board the train to Jaffna. Still half asleep at 5 am, we settle into our seats for the 8-hour train ride.
I am anxious and excited about this trip for many reasons. I have never visited this part of Sri Lanka due to the civil war that was on for more than 20 years. However I am excited because I have heard so many stories of this area from my mother who was originally from there.
The Northern and Eastern part of the country was out-of-bounds for many years because of the war. The Tamil Tigers, the terrorist organization was fighting for a separate state claiming discrimination. Most often the heavy fighting was confined to that part making it hard or almost impossible for anyone to get their. While the rest of the country did their best to carry on despite the war and the bombs that would go off from time to time in the city, the North and east were the most adversely affected.
However, the war was finally over about 5 years ago, and now with people moving back and trying to get their lives back on track, the North and east have become an attractive tourist destination.
Even though my older sister was born in that part of the country, I never had the opportunity to visit. This trip made me feel like I was embarking on an adventure that might result in finding my lost roots.
My friend Sue and I had debated for days about where we should go. Finally we settled on the 4 day trip to Jaffna and mapped out our journey which was going to involve a lot of photography and food.
After a very bumpy 8 hour train ride, during which we passed palmyrah trees swaying to the wind, bullet ridden walls and houses that were destroyed during the war, we finally reached our destination. Barely able to contain our excitement we stepped out of the train and headed to our hotel. The hotel I picked was close to the area my mother frequently mentioned in stories.
After having settled into the hotel, my friend and I finally headed out to explore the streets. After experiencing the heavy traffic and crowds of the city, being in Jaffna was like a step back in time. The popular mode of transport was bicycles or motorcycles. There would be the random car or van which will whiz pass. School girls, boys, teachers, everyone rides a bicycle around. When it rains they still ride around holding an umbrella over themselves.
While at the beach one day we met a group of school children having a picnic, who were from a village and were on their way to Jaffna to see the only escalator in that area. I was sad by that. The fact that they would make a field trip to see an escalator, something we don’t really even think about as we step onto it.
I have to confess that through a tourist perspective there is not much to do and the city is being hyped up because of the war. However I enjoyed my trip because to me it was more about seeing a city that I have heard stories about from my family.
We spent the four days doing a lot of walking and exploring and taking pictures. The highlight for me was being at the most northern tip of the country. Here are some of my favorites I captured.