Text by Patty Simon | Images by Dick Simon
Free day in Jaffna – alone. Our guide has to drive the car back to Colombo (8+hours) because we are flying back. Don’t get me wrong, we love our guide but the idea of being on our own feels good. We arrange a three-wheel ‘tuk-tuk’ driven by a lovely ‘tour guide’ with a few words of English who quickly learns to slow down for every potentially photographable bird, shrine, fisherman or bombed building. The best part was the inside of the vehicle… fully decorated with Catholic statues, pictures of Christ, holy medals, garlands and decals saying, “Jesus Loves You”. He asked if I was Catholic and after I said yes, he made it his mission to stop at every Catholic Church on our way, insist we get out and take pictures!
We head out on causeway after causeway connecting various peninsulas and islands. We are aiming for a remote island called Delft (from the Dutch colonial days) but like many things here, we can’t seem to get a straight answer on departure times. Bumping along with a cool, balmy breeze pushing away the impending heat from the noonday sun, Dick takes pictures of hundreds of shorebirds… eagles, ibis, flamingo and scenes of fisherman pulling in their night catch and colorful skinny fishing boats. We arrive at the ferry where I find a ‘find’ – bottle caps stuck in coral – so I take a photo and a few loose caps to add to my collection. We soon find out there are no more boats to Delft but we can still go to yet another temple complex on Nainativu. Fate once again has mercy on us. Little did we know the ‘ferry’ would be a local pilgrimage boat jammed with bodies all put underneath like steerage next to an engine decked out with hibiscus flowers (must be some offering to keep the boat afloat!). Nainativu is a mere 20-minute ride as opposed to an hour and a half, which would have been gruesome.
We walk toward the boats spying a blue crab or two, instructed to a shaded sitting area queue with many Hindus and Buddhists holding flower offerings.
Arriving, we are invited to squeeze into the back of a truck by Buddhist pilgrims who giggle. We arrive at a huge white stupa in contrast to rainbow multi gods (including monkeys and elephants) at the Hindu shrine down the road. We get “Buddhism Lesson 101” on differences of faiths. We are told Buddhism is more humanist where God is found in each one of us. One does not worship Buddha but lives by his example. Hindus believe in many gods for many reasons. Both believe in a form of reincarnation.