The road south from Arugam Bay has been closed for years. We got some bikes for Rs. 200 and started pedaling down it. The landscape is desolate, dry and severe. Their building the roads, it seems, from scratch. The fields are barren. Water buffalo wallow in puddles and peacocks pick at whatever’s green. There’s nobody but military and construction workers and us.
We bike about 15 k to Panama, where there isn’t much. Bike another 10-15 through the scorching emptiness, protected only by youth and the motion breeze. I’m black as dirt now, but we didn’t notice. Then, after an eternity of barrenness, you get into the jungle. This is sorta where Yala East begins, I think.
Hidden away, there’s this rock monastery called Kudumbigala. After the heat and dust of the journey, it’s an oasis. Just to be in the shade. There were some STF (military/police) guys stationed at the bottom. They let us draw some water from the well. We poured a couple buckets over our heads and felt much better. The old monk up among the rocks and the caves was reading the newspaper. He said the place had been off limits and nobody visited anymore.
I saw some footholds on a rock and climbed it. There was a path leading to a jumble of rocks. Sadly, an overturned arrack bottle. I found a place in the shade to meditate. Halik is Muslim and asked the monk if he could locate Mecca and pray. That was cool. It was a really peaceful place.