Posted by: sinhalaya | December 14, 2009

Day 2 Arugam bay, Kudumbigala Monastery and Getting back to Batti

After a short hiatus we are back with more on our backpacking venture. Expect more posts on more travels in the near future. You can also view a short grainy video of our stay at A’Bay here.

Day 2 saw us still at Arugam Bay and wondering what to do next. Consulting the trusty Lonely Planet Guide it was found that there is a rock monastery built in the middle of the jungle many centuries ago. The place is called Kudumbigala and further searching on the internet provided us with more information on it. Lonely Planet had never been there due to the area being closed in times of war. Naturally, we jumped at the chance.

Getting to the Monastery

The monastery is located roughly 30Kms down the road south of Arugam Bay. The road heads from Arugam Bay to Panama, which is about 16 kms away. We didnt stay to check out the sights at Panama because we were on bikes and had to hurry to have sufficient time to cover the distance.

From Panama, we took the Okanda road to Kudumbigala. This road was closed until recently due to the war so the land beyond is virtually deserted. The turn off to the Monastery is exactly 12 kms down this road. The terrain is rough and dry. And at the time, the lands were blasted by months of relentless hot sun. Ensure you take sunglasses, plenty of water and sunblock. If you are taking a jeep you can go cross country across the fields. We tried it on push bikes, but the land is a bit too rough for Lumala’s.

The road winds alternately through brackish forests and vast open plains. It is mostly level and flat. Perfect for biking. We took lumala ‘cruisers’ with a laid back riding positions. The total distance from Arugam bay to Kudumbigala and back is roughly 60 km. You can hope to hitch rides on Lorries in between Panama and Arugam Bay. But best be confident that your body is upto the task of riding the whole way.

As you go further South, you begin to notice a change in scenery. You will start seeing massive rocks and thicker forests in the horizon. The huge clitoris shaped rock is where the monastery is located. At this point, you will have reached the sounthern-most edge of the East Coast. You are now venturing into the immediate vicinity of East Yala.

At the 12km mark on the road, you will see a road leading off into the forest on your right. It is a dirt track and a signboard carries the monastery’s name on it. Follow this road to the end.

The Kudumbigala Rock Complex Monastery

The monastery itself is a sprawling complext of caves and buldings of beautiful and ancient looking architecture. Unlike other polupar locations of archialogical interest, Kudumbigala looks virtually untouched and rather wild. We spent a happy few hours exploring this vast complex. You can even come and stay here if the necessary police permission is obtained from Pottuvil or Panama. Bring your own food and other necessities.  The lone monk we found near the top of the complex told us that free lodging (or meditation cells) can be provided to all comers.

There is an STF (Special Task Force) outpost at the foot of the rock complex upon which the Monastery is located. The soldiers are extremely friendly and are up for a chat. Fresh up by dousing yourself with some unbelieveably cool water from the well nearby. Beware of monkeys. The critters are everywhere and will snatch your unattended belongings if half a chance is presented.

Walk about and even meditate and spend some time in the rock complex. The atmoshpehere is extremely soothing and calm. The view from the top of its rocky peaks are awe inducing.

You can see right up to the coast in one direction and an endless expanse of rocky outcroppings and green canopy in another. Beware of wildlife. The area is said to be alive with bears, snakes and elephants.

Traveling at night exposed is probably not advisable.

Chilling at A’Bay

There really isn’t much to do at A’Bay itself off-season other than chill on the beach or take a leisurely walk down to the fields surrounding the town. Food can be gotten at many establishments along the main street. Food is nothing exceptional, except for a few guesthouses that serve some nice rice and curry dishes. If you’re on a shoestring, you can go over to Alira’s place on the sea side of the road. He has decent food for cheap prices.

At the time we vistited, nearly a year had gone by without and rain. Most of the local farmers have dry land which, at the time of year we were passing through, should have been covered with water. They were being employed by the government to rebuild/renovate the local roads. The only people we passed on the highways were the occasional groups of men and women laboring away in the heat.

Getting out of A’Bay

Getting yourself out of Arugam Bay on time might be a problem if you depend on public transport. The last bus that leaves from Pottuvil, the closest town (3km north), is at about 4:30pm. Due to this you might want to take the first bus out in the morning, which gets there around 5:20 and leaves at 5:30am.

Traveling by bus in the blistering heat isn’t something you want to willingly experience. The 5:30 bus, which we took on the third day, will get to Batti around 10:30am. You will pass many checkpoints on the way there. Something to note is that unlike in Colombo, not everyone gets off the bus when it gets to a checkpoint. Only those who are standing usually get out of the bus and stand in line to show their ID. If you do leave your seat to stretch your legs, be warned that some other dude is bound to steal your seat. We found this to be strange considering Sri Lankans’ famed hospitality. But we put it down to post-war territory resolution problems.


  1. fun!

  2. Clitoris shaped rock…????

  3. “clitoris shaped rock” ????? LOL.

  4. I see people have beat me to the comment, ‘clitoris shaped rock’? 😀

  5. cool pics… too bad the animals hate ya! 😛 😀

  6. […]… « Why go to …Arugambay? […]

  7. What I can say is very nice and helpful as well as informative post…really help me very much more!! Thanks..

  8. Yep what an intriguing shape for a rock 🙂

    I like the view from Kutumbigala..Love to go there. Thanks for the detailed post!!

    BTW you guys missed the beach front and lagoon at Panama ?

  9. man….awesome…

  10. […] to the Kudahs Day 3 and 4 of our backpacking trip saw us heading out from Pottuvil at 5:30am on Wednesday morning to reach Batticaloa around […]

  11. […] 3 and 4 of our backpacking trip saw us heading out from Pottuvil at 5:30am on Wednesday morning to reach Batticaloa around […]

  12. […] 3 and 4 of our backpacking trip saw us heading out from Pottuvil at 5:30am on Wednesday morning to reach Batticaloa around […]

  13. […] 3 and 4 of our backpacking trip saw us heading out from Pottuvil at 5:30am on Wednesday morning to reach Batticaloa around […]

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