A wise person once told me to never take exactly the same trip to and from a destination when travelling for leisure.
Since following that advice I have been fortunate to experience some extraordinary adventures around the world. This trip from Colombo to Jaffna is one of them.
For some strange reason the journey began with a bus to Fort station. As they say, all journeys in Colombo somehow lead to and from Fort or Pettah.
It was your usual Colombo bus ride, somewhat fast, slow, sweaty and with plenty of people hopping on and off. Fort station is usually a bustling place, heaving with people during the peak hours, and a little more relaxed other times.
After navigating the crowds lining up and purchasing tickets it was then time to find the train, hop on and settle in for the journey to Anuradhapura.
On this particular rail journey it was scenic and there was plenty on offer to eat and drink along the way!
It was a hive of activity upon arrival in Anuradhapura train station. I've always thought it had a nice country feel to it, although it happens to be a major transport hub to the north. The ancient city of Anuradhapura is also a mecca for Buddhist pilgrims and tourists.
Sometimes when I travel there's a feeling I get when it feels right to break a journey and stay a night or two, rather than travelling onwards. This was a feeling I got when we arrived in Anuradhapura.
It was rather opportune because it gave an opportunity to pay a visit to the ancient city, spending some time wandering around the ancient ruins as well as visiting Ruwanmalisaya and the sacred Jaya Siri Maha Bodhi.
After a quiet time in Anuradhapura connecting on a more spiritual level, it was back to the train station to hop on a train to Vavuniya.
I've traveled to Vavuniya a couple of times. Those times I've been checked by security personnel due to the war - as in identification, passport, travel details and all of that. There was a different feel this time given the passage of time.
It was raining upon arrival but it was easy enough to hop into a tuk-tuk and venture straight into town. From there it was a bit of a search to find a suitable bus to travel up to Jaffna. Locals were helpful and pointed in the right direction. Admittedly there was a bit of hustle-and-bustle to the place, and the rain made it seem even more so. In the end we hopped onto a large air-conditioned bus that was half-full. As we headed north the bus got increasingly full. The journey was long, but it was also enjoyable with plenty of loud music, happy faces, a couple of stops along the way and plenty of activity on and off the bus.
We arrived early evening into Jaffna and settled in for the night. After such a long journey it was pleasing to bathe and enjoy a hot meal.
There was much to see and do. I recommend picking up a tour map of Jaffna that sets out all the highlights to cover. The places I really enjoyed were the Nilavarai Bottomless Well, Kathurogoda Ancient Vihara, Thambakola Patuna, and Casuarina Beach to name a few.
There are a number of islands that are scattered around the coast of Jaffna. I particularly wanted to visit Nagadeepa, which is a 20-30 minute boat ride from the Kites, Karikattuwan jetty. We set off early in the morning and the drive to Kites was breathtaking. There had been heavy rainfall in the days leading up to our visit, so the scenery was lush and vibrant.
Boat trips aside, Nagadeepa is a must visit. It's a beautiful island. You can tour the whole island in a tuk-tuk for a small price, and it is well worth it. I was particularly taken with the Naagapushani Amman kovil, Nagadeepa Purana Viharaya and the island itself. We spent almost a full day on Nagadeepa.
For the return trip to Colombo it was decided not take the same trip back. Instead we booked onto one of the luxury coaches that departs Jaffna at 7.30pm and travels overnight directly back to Colombo. The journey takes approximately 10-11 hours with a few stops along the way. Once you leave Jaffna there is an early stop to present your travel documents to the authorities and then you jump back onto the bus. This is the only compulsory stop where you must alight. The other stops are comfort breaks. The journey is actually fairly pleasant as the buses are smooth and comfortable. I slept most of the journey and arrived in Colombo feeling better than expected.
I will definitely return to Jaffna. I still want to visit some of the other islands, like Delft Island and to spend a little more time in the area.