Anawilundawa and Anamaduwa. Earthly pleasures and a stairway to heaven.

It’s time for another weekend getaway, and this time I travel towards Puttalam en route to Anamaduwa. With an early start to avoid the weekend traffic, it’s nice to be back on the road again. Since it’s a long weekend and we are in no hurry, it seems like the perfect day to stop for a while at the Anawilundawa Wetland Sanctuary.

Unknown to many, yet paradise to birders, this 1400-hectare sanctuary is surrounded by three eco systems: the coast, mangroves and fresh water lakes. Hence, there is a huge diversity of resident and migratory birds that makes this such an exciting destination for bird lovers. This sanctuary is also used as a nesting site for egrets, storks, cormorants, ibis, pheasant-tailed jacana and the purple swamp hen. More recently the Fulvous Whistling Duck has also been spotted here.

In fact, according to a study done for IUCN, there are 290 species of plants, 168 species of birds belonging to 56 families, 78 species of butterflies, 13 species of dragon flies, 47 species of fish, 11 species of frogs and toads, 34 species of reptiles and 21 species of mammals including the Toque monkey, Slender Loris, the elusive Rusty Spotted Cat, the Fishing Cat and the Indian Otter.

Apart from this rich biodiversity, it is the topography that enhances the beauty of this calm and tranquil sanctuary. The lakes, now partly covered in dewy lush green water plants glisten in the early morning light. The various calls of the early birds echo across the lakes. Large, shady trees are a perfect cover as we stop to admire and enjoy the surroundings, whilst nibbling on roast beef sandwiches and drink iced coffee.

Another 20 minutes from here and we arrive at Cadjan Earth in Anamaduwa. The Lake Villa faces a large man-made ‘villu’. The villa itself is an open-plan area covered with a woven cadjan roof. Two double beds in the centre are flanked by armchairs, wooden benches and even two rocking horses, while a deep cement bath tub on one side is filling with fresh water.

The wind blows across from the lake and the sound of rustling trees that make up this 100-acre plot of land is an antidote to the heat of the day. I curl up in a hammock secured to two large neem trees (Azadirachta indica), whilst birds and butterflies fly around me in gay abandonment. A family of ducks swim across the lake to the island in the centre. Probably seeking some respite from the sun.

Cadjan Earth is built within unkempt land comprising margosa, tamarind, and mango trees, man-made lakes, and vegetable plantation. This is a deliberate attempt by its owner to preserve the natural habitat of the wild creatures that call this their home. Perfect!

About 30 minutes from here is the Parama Kanda temple, once known as the Achcha Giritha Tissa Pabbatha, or Tissa’s bear-like rock. However, no one is quite clear as to how this came to be known as Parama Kanda. Historians have found evidence that mention Watta Gamini Abhaya, also known as King Walagamba (89-77 BC), to be the founder of the temple, who together with his heir Tissa, functioned as active patrons of the temple. They have also found a King’s decree that declares taxes from water and fisheries in two surrounding cities be made towards the temple’s benefit and for bare necessities of the clergy. Apparently, the temple had been an offering to arahats or 
Buddhist ascetics.

We climb rough stone steps to get to the top. Dusk is falling and we need to hurry. The ascent is tedious as each gigantic boulder seems bigger than the last and the steps get steeper as we climb. One of boulders, the ‘rahat gala’ is believed to have been where the ascetics resided. But it is the topmost rock, the ‘maha gala’ that is absolutely spectacular. It is hard to imagine how this rock happened and how it has been balancing so precariously for time immemorial. Standing at the very top is that much closer to the heavens and it truly is a feeling of being at the top of the world! The panoramic 360-degree view of the land below is just as spectacular.

The sun sets turning the sky into a palette of colour. The full moon rises from the other side of the mountain slowly lighting up this timeless evening. It is time to get back down.

Devotees begin trickling in to the temple premises at ground level. The permeating smell of incense mixed with coconut oil that is used to light the hundreds of pahan adds to the calmness and peacefulness of the night.

The shrine rooms under an overhanging boulder besides a Bo tree are devoid of visitors and that allows us to browse through beautiful frescoes and paintings depicting the Buddhist teachings from different periods. There are murals to depict visions of a Buddhist ‘hell’, which I have now encountered in several other temples.

One evening is spent at the Wilpattu National Park, which is almost an hour’s drive from Cadjan Earth. Although we hardly saw any wildlife apart from a lone leopard observing us from across a ‘villu’, it was nice to enjoy close sightings of the Changeable Hawk Eagle or Crested Hawk Eagle, a White-bellied Sea Eagle and a Crested Serpent Eagle.

Back at the villa, the entire pathway is lit with lanterns. The light of the moon reflects on the waters of the lake making this night even more surreal. A bottle of champagne is popped open as an anniversary is being celebrated. What a perfect ending to this delightful weekend.

This weekend has been lazy and relaxing with time spent cycling, walking and just chilling. The food is local, fresh and delicious. This is definitely a place to revisit.

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