Trincomalee Harbour situated on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka is the fifth largest natural harbour in the World. It is steeped with history, legends and beauty and its strategic placing in the Bay of Bengal has shaped its long history with many battles to take control of the harbour.
To trail the edge of the bay from the narrow peninsula where the Koneswaram temple is located to the Foul Point Lighthouse in Mutur, is around 45 kilometers. As you take the curving route many bays and coves are found along the shoreline: China Bay, Marble beach and Clappenburg are places that have earned their name for been wonderful places. Adding to its vast historical and natural heritage are a number of forts, temples, lighthouses, naval dockyard, piers, jetties, highlands, islands and wrecks.
My favourite is an early morning walk along the beach and onwards a ridge where Koneswaran temple is perched on Swami Rock. Access to this Hindu shrine is through Fort Fredrick (built by Portuguese in 1623). As the fort is occupied by the Army almost entirely it cannot be explored easily. The road leading to the top is lined with large shady trees. At the summit there are great views of the sea, especially at sun rise. A small group of deer were roaming under the Banyan trees and the shrill of the peacock call was heard from a distance. Just below and on to the right of the shrine is a huge rock with a sheer gap through which you can see the sea about 50 meters down. According to Ramayan tales the rock was split in to two by King Rama in a bout of anger and frustration at the delay in fulfilling his desires. The place which is also known as the Lover’s Leap has recently been fortified with a series of pillars to prevent accidents. I was trying to get a glimpse of the rising sun through the concrete fence. Seconds later loud chiming of bells and a burst of chanting commenced the morning rituals. Trailing further down I found a wonderful low seat and the view from there was undisturbed. The sun was a red ball against a silky sky. Below across a dazzlingly sea a few fishing boats were sailing quietly. Two Navy boast were patrolling, their engines at full throttle can be heard even before they are spotted. At the far end of the bay you cannot miss the lighthouse that has been guiding seafarers for decades. The Foul Point Lighthouse stands 32 meters tall with a diameter of 25 meters at its base. Two other lighthouses built by the British (Chapel Hill and Round Island) are lying side by side on two small islands inside the harbour. These were not in my view.
As I continued my morning walk trailing the same route I took before I come in close proximity to the Dockyard. With prior permission visitors are allowed into the Naval Dockyard where Fort Ostenburg and Hoods Tower Museum can be explored. From there you can also see the Great Sober and Little Sober islands. People say the drunkards from the ships that came into the harbour were sent to these two islands where cut off from the mainland they were able to sober within a few weeks.
Taking a turn and heading towards my hotel, I am greeted by a pleasant lady near the court complex. I had bought some buns the day before from her shop on Dockyard road. She recognizes me and leads me to her humble home where she offers me plain tea and bread. Easily I fell into conversation and got to know her family.
She has spent most part of her adult life in Trincomalee having moved in after marriage during the 1980s. I am warmed by her candid rantings and very pleased that she made it through the many years of war. She recalled a Sinhala family that trusted their home in her care, how it was nearly destroyed during the height of troubles in the late 1990s. The place fell vacant thereafter and she was offered at a very low price since the owners had by then moved South. Her two children have found jobs, gotten married and moved on. The couple is doing business – a small grocery shop and bicycle repair center run side by side. Their house extends in a tapered narrow strip and at the rear is a small well stuck in a tiny garden, just four by four feet. Happy and content with life the two of them have enough to spare for a stranger like me.
There are many places for meals in Trinco but I had made a friend to whom I can come back to enjoy some home-made pol-sambol and roast paan.