Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Terribly Beautiful road less taken…..

One road ends and another begins
 First I thought of it as just a rumor - this was many decades ago – as people were talking about a track which connects Puttlam to Mannar going through the jungles. Where one could run into elephants or bear and sometimes the roads were impassable. To me it was enticing as listening to a tale from the Arabian Nights. As time went by there were more whispers and then information began to trickle in about this track which has transformed into a road. Of course I could only listen as there was no way I could go down this road due to the LTTE problem. My fascination with this road grew even more when I read about it in Nihal Silva’s famous book “The Road to Elephant Pass”.
It has been many years since the war was over. I had traversed through sections of this road on many excursions to the Wilpattu park – you cross this road to go to Kudiramalai point - it is only recently that I got an opportunity to drive through the entire length of the Mannar Potuvil road.
It was a dream that was about to come true.
We arrived in Puttlam and drove straight through via Eluvankulama. It is a picturesque drive. There is not much traffic and with each mile you see civilization disappear and nature take over. At one point the well carpeted road ends abruptly and from there on it’s a dirt road. You drive a couple of kilometers more and you come to a navy camp near a beautiful stream which is actually the boundary of the Wilpattu Park.
 As the road goes through the park there is also a barrier manned by staff from the department of wild life.
It was here that my dream nearly got shattered to smithereens.
Because they closed the road at 5 o’ clock!!!
We did not know that! Damn it! And no one told us that!
We looked at our watches. It was 5.45
Our hearts sank with the setting sun.
Firstly we looked forward to experiencing this drive. Secondly if we were to turn back to Puttlam and go on the Anruadhapura road it would delay us by at least three four hours.
What were we to do?
I could understand the reasoning behind the road being closed at 5 by the Department of Wild Life. After all this was the best way to ensure that the lives of animals were not endangered.
But darn…. We sure were going to be screwed.
Fortunately for us the two rangers on duty took pity on us and allowed us to go through with strict instructions to not speed.
It was forty odd kilometers of sheer bliss. You drove through thick jungle. Fortunately for us the roads were not too muddy but the drive was bumpy. 
The jungle from my window
Tough roads
Nevertheless it was a wonderful experience even though we did not come across any elephants.
It was a slow drive with an average speed of less than 20 kilometers per hour. It took us a good two hours and a bit more to emerge from the Mannar end. We heaved a huge sigh of relief when we did. Because if the vehicle broke down or got stuck then we would have been stranded. And with no cell phone coverage that’s a scary eventuality to even think of.
Fortunately my trusty wheels did not let me down and I am alive to tell the tale.

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