More than an hour later and we were no closer to the gleaming white stupa we saw at the far end of the beach. The heat was intoxicating as we trudged across the sizzling golden sand of Arugam bay. Above, a rare sun ring glowed, on our left, bushes and trees, and on our right, the might of the Bay of Bengal, its waves several feet high, booming as it meets the carved sandy shoreline of the beach. Our feet were starting to get confused, do we go ahead or turn back.
For days, we stayed in Arugam Bay, a coastal town east of Sri Lanka. We wanted to sea the ocean. And indeed, we saw it. In its full might.
|SURFING SEASON IN ARUGAM BAY|
|A LOCAL SURFER RIPPING IT WITH HIS EUROPEAN COUNTERPARTS|
Surfing season was on, and every day, we’d saunter over to its southern end, the so-called Main Point, passing narrow dirt road alleys before emerging into the beach where a plethora of small fishing dinghy were docked, a few totally buried beneath the sand as the waves pushed and pushed the sand further inland. We’d pass a gnarly forest, populated by strange trees and thorny cactuses before rounding a bend and finding where everyone was.
|UPALI BEACH SURF RESORT FRONTS THE SURFING AREA|
|OUR HANG-OUT PLACE|
A knoll patched with spots of hardy grass right beside a bamboo-set surfing resort became our hang out place for a couple of days, sharing the spots with bikini-clad gals and guys who, I guess, were not into surfing as most of the dudes were out into the water, waiting for the perfect swells before riding the waves of Arugam Bay.
|LOOKING FOR SWELLS|
Indeed, the place is known for surfing. Arugam Bay, in fact, hosts two annual surfing competitions. Us, we were contented with watching, not having enough dough to rent a board, let alone enroll for a surfing lesson. Well, we’ve had our time on the board back in the Philippines, but it simply wasn’t for us. We did enjoy hanging out at the small hill, buying pea snacks from passing locals and sometimes heading further out to explore the dune until the sun was almost dipping down the horizon.
|THE DUNES BEYOND THE MAIN POINT SURFING AREA|
|SANDO STRONG BEER BY THE BEACH|
Right then, we’d head over to the only liquor shop along the main street, buy ourselves a couple of bottles of Sando Strong Beer, then return back to the beach, sit right at the edge of the ten-foot drop made by the waves along the shore, and watch as twilight turns into evening. We’d converse about past adventures, sitting with the same lone dog who’d seem to want nothing but curl up right beside us every single time. We’d look over at the south side of the beach, and wonder how long it would take to walk all the way to the white stupa at its far end.
|ARUGAM BAY’S MAIN BEACH|
One particular day, foreswearing our usual spot at Arugam Bay’s surfing area, we finally took up the challenge of seeing that stupa up close. With bottles of water, sunscreen, hats and all sorts of sun blocking appurtenances, we set off one morning from the Seahorse Inn where we were staying with our host biding us good luck.
|THE BEACH STRETCHES FOR MORE THAN FIVE KILOMETERS|
We walked, taking off our sandals and feeling our feet sink down the soft sand. We walked, watching newcomers try surfing for the first time. We walked, guided by a few stray dogs until they got bored. We walked, passing a few locals and tourists. We walked, until it was only us, the scorching sand and the angry waves.
|FATHER AND SON WATCHING THE WAVES|
We walked. And we walked. The beach, several kilometers long and very wide, an endless desert of soft golden granules mixed with a secret layer of darker sand beneath. It looked even more immense, but equally as desolate as Kalkudah Beach in Batticaloa.
|A 22-DEGREE HALO AROUND THE SUN|
The stupa still appeared as small as it had been when we started but we persisted. In silence, we went forward, one foot at a time, the only sound, the incessant waves, high as a small house and loud as the boom of cannons as it hurled itself on the beach. Hours passed, a faint sliver of a rainbow appeared in between clouds, then a peculiar ring circled sun, and finally, as we were about to give up with thirst, we arrived at the pine forest at the base of the stupa.
|THE STUPA, GETTING CLOSER AT LAST|
|THE MUHUDU MAHA VIHARAYA STUPA MARKS THE END OF OUR WALK|
It was blinding white against the hard blue sky and the golden sand of Arugam Bay. There was absolutely nothing extraordinary about it, except that it sits on a dune right beside the sea. Five minutes later, and we’re walking back towards the beach, heeding the waves calling us back.
Address: Panama Road, Arugam Bay, Pottuvil, Sri Lanka
GPS Coordinates Map: 6.843713, 81.832246
Arugam Bay Main Point Wave Surfing
Address: Arugam Bay, Pottuvil, Sri Lanka
GPS Coordinates Map: 6.839328, 81.839333
Muhudu Maha Viharaya Stupa
Address: Market Road, Pottuvil, Sri Lanka
GPS Coordinates Map: 6.868495, 81.840608