Friday, June 27, 2014

Trinco, a beach of fish

On the east coast of Sri Lanka, 6.5km north of the town of Trincomallee (or Trinco as it gets called) was the beach at Nilaveli.  It was bliss because it was missing a few things we have become used to experiencing on the beaches in Asia
  • There was NO rubbish on the beach
  • There were NO crowds
  • There were NO beach hawkers trying to sell you things.  There was one lady waking up and down with sarongs, but she stood 20m away from you, briefly waved the material and when you didn't look interested she wandered off again
The water itself was warm enough to be inviting, but also cool enough to be refreshing.

Trinco Beach

Trinco Beach3

The water was so clean and clear that every time we got in the water we saw fish either swimming or jumping out of the water.  One of the highlights was in the early evening, as the sun set it illuminated schools of fish jumping out of the water.  In some schools there would be hundreds of silvery fish, jumping in and out of the water as they made their way across the bay.  Being on the east coast there were no golden sunsets, but the light on the fish was a far better experience.

The fish were an important part of daily life on the beach.  There were local fishermen wading in and throwing out nets to bring back in a small haul of fish which they put into woven baskets they carried.

On a larger scale there were fishing nets set by boat, which were brought back in by teams of men (and the occasional tourist) hauling in the rope in a syncopated rhythm – pull, pull, small step, small step sideways.  The overall operation managed by the man in the boat indicating which side needed to adjust their method to bring the net in straight. There were a few big fish in the red nets, but a large portion of the catch were quite small.




There were not many people on the beach, and this was the start of the high season.  The area suffered badly due to the long civil war from 1983 to 2009. Just as the tourists started coming back after the 2001 negotiated ceasefire, the 2004 tsunami wiped the area out and killed hundreds of people.  Fighting then broke out again in 2005 and it wasn't until 2009 that a victory over the Tamil Tigers was declared. The area is slowly coming back onto the tourist map.  There has been limited investment in hotels and beach-side dining, but that is rapidly changing.  It was interesting to note that there were, as always it seems at Asian beaches, quite a large number of Russian tourists.

A group of Sri Lankans did arrive on the weekend.  They preferred to swim in the pool and when they did go in the sea it was always in a group and never too far out that their feet didn't touch the seabed.


Nearby there was a war cemetery which we walked to one morning.  The caretaker told us there were 5 New Zealanders buried here and pointed out various graves to us.  Trinco was attacked by the Japanese airforce in 1942, and a large number of the graves relate to this period, while many of the remainder relate to lives lost in the water around Sri Lanka.  After the fall of Singapore Trinco became a naval base of importance for shipping in the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean.  As in any war cemetery, most of the graves were for young men aged under 30.


There was no shortage of wildlife – this crab was bigger than both Andrew’s feet put together.


Even though it was a long haul by train for us to get there, it was one of the best beach times we have had. 


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