The A4 near Beragala
The A4 is the road across the middle of Sri Lanka, from Colombo to Batticaloa. It is a strange and beautiful road, you can absolutely slide down it from the hills, clocking over 100k with visibility of about a kilometer ahead. Around Monaragala it is carpet, just flat tar with nobody on it. Coming back, however, it winds into the hills, past waterfalls and shrouds of mist. It only disintegrates into the usual chaos around Ratnapura, as you hit the traffic and stress snaking out of Colombo. Where to begin.
The road actually runs down the coast from Batticaloa to Arugam Bay. I’ve taken the bus down this route, but all I remember is smacking my head into the metal as I dozed off. So let’s start in Arugam Bay. Getting to A-Bay used to take like 8 to 9 hours. You’d pass the military checkpoint at Siyambalanduwa (where they’d search everything) and then the road sorta dropped off. There was literally a ledge and the road pretty much disappeared. But not no more, now it’s carpet, till Pottuvil. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The roads in Pottuvil are quite bad.
Bullock cart leaving Pottuvil
They built a bridge to Arugam Bay years ago but they never built anything around it. So you’d be hammering down a first world highway for like 2 minutes and then grinding into gravel on either side. The road is the bumps for a while, but then it levels out. The thing about these war towns is that they’re still encircled with camps. There aren’t really checkpoints anymore, but the guys sometimes pull you over for a ride. On the way out of Pottuvil they ask me if a guy from the Civil Defense Force can have a ride to Siyambalanduwa can have a lift. Of course. His name is Udaya, and he’s leaving the force for work in Egypt. Like, tomorrow. I give him a lift to Monaragala where it’s easier to catch a bus. He said there isn’t too much work in the military vein now, mainly cleaning. Makes sense.
One of the waterfalls you pass, near Koslanda
The road, once it gets good, is really fast. It’s Avurudu (New Year’s) and there’s no one on the road. Sometimes a family will pass, walking, the father holding a child, everyone usually in new clothes. You can just go. There’s no potholes and you can see for thousands of meters ahead. Until you hit the hills. Once you get into hilly country the road gets windy, the drops become precipitous, the air wet and misty. A group of drunk shirtless men pull me over near the Diyalunda Falls. I’m a bit worried, but not. They seem OK. They’re just wasted. The guy finds out I’m from Colombo and asks for a job. He says he learned English and everything but he can’t find work. I’m like ‘I don’t have a job either.’ He smiles and they let me pass. There’s no one on the roads except families and these packs of drunk, shirtless men.
Passing through the hills I cannot see anything at times, just mist. When it clears however, the scene blows my mind. I don’t know how to photograph it, it just washes out into grey. But it’s not. The mist is a living thing, like driving through a cloud. I get out just to gawk. It feels like I’m parked in the sky. You can’t go too fast, but why, anyways? Once you get out of the mist the road is amazing and still winding. You can go fast, but it feels a bit insane. It’s wet and you’re literally sliding down the hills at speed. But damn fun. If I had an Audi I’d be wetting myself. Then you get near Ratnapura and it’s traffic and chaos and suck. I turn off a B road to my Achchi’s (grandmother) house. And that’s the end of the A4 for me.