Donkeys, Cows and Wild Ponies in the razzmatazz of daily life

From Eluwankulama village south of Wilpattu NP, we catch the early morning bus at 6:30am from the roadhouse and start the long but beautiful journey up north. What’s great here is that the public road B379 towards Mannar goes through the national park and with a bit of luck, one can spot some animals (without actually paying the entrance fee and other cost associated with the national park). Arriving in Mannar, one will inevitably stumble upon the countless donkeys rambling around throughout the city. It’s a lovely little but busy town by the water with an odd Baobab Tree and the Portuguese/Dutch Fort as its main attraction.  We make new friends with a elder Tamil who tries to teach us some new vocabulary and astonishingly it actually works: மாடு (madu) means cow,  බූරුවා (kaḻutai) means donkey…

A few hours and another journey in a crammed bus later, we arrive in Jaffna in the north of Sri Lanka. Not only geographically but also the whole atmosphere here feels much closer to India than to the rest of Sri Lanka (albeit I have never actually been to India;).

It seems totally chaotic to us. Not least b/c of all the cows – though super relaxed – wandering around in the middle of the extremely busy streets, full of honking buses, scurrying tuk tuks, bicyles and also pedestrians – here are no sidewalks! There’s litter everywhere and sewage flowing along the sides of the roads and houses where you’d normally expect the sidewalks but again – here are no sidewalks. A beggar grabs Daniel’s hand, trying to get his ideas across. And still, Jaffna is excitingly intriguing to us: loudspeakers on the lampposts playing music around us, fiery sunsets, eclectic smells and mystic lights. Whether it has to do with the absence of any other tourists or the fact that we seem to be the tourist attraction here (being asked for *selfies* constantly), I’m not quite sure 😉

From Jaffna, we take a bus that literally flies over the water and across a couple of (connected) islands to a pier from where we catch a ferry to the small island of Neduntivu (aka Delft). And that’s a world away from the hustle and bustle of Jaffna. Delft simply beguiles us with it’s secludedness: temples and churches but no cars, no shops, no restaurants, no water (as we shall find out the next day when our own supplies dry up), (almost) no electricity, no people – just the local population and a handfull of day trippers who leave with the last ferry at 2pm. We’ve heard of a guy called Anton who rents out one of his rooms. It’s called “Island Hut” and this is where we stay. Quite a rough accommodation but Anton is a really good guy, super friendly and assuring us he has cleaned that bathroom himself so we decide to simply not take hygiene so seriously for the next couple of days + it helps the lightbulbs are not too strong either 😉

Anton organises bicycles for us to explore the 8km x 6km sized island from sunrise to sunset. The hospitality we experience from the locals is overwhelming: the Sri Lankan Navy invites us for breakfast and dinner (with the Commander! who seemed to really take pleasure in conversing with us) , two young fishermen climb up the palm tree to open some coconuts for us and save us from running completely dry during this extremely hot day. The south of Delft island is completely uninhabited, we encounter wild ponies, colourful butterflies and beautiful birds, watch the countless cows and goats go after their business (or whatever it is they actually do in no man’s land)…

I can’t quite describe or put in words exactly how I felt about this amazing day but it was a wonderful experience to feel so so far away from everything, surrounded merely by nature and people who we somehow managed to communicate with in a meaningful way, although we don’t share the same language, culture or customs.

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