Yet another stop– another ‘last’ stop. Yet another beach on our 4-day traversion of the eastern coast of paradise. We had already done the rounds of the usual spots– the glamorous ones you see in the brochures in their technicolour glory. This one was to complete the set more than anything else really…Well, off we go then.
And so we stopped at Nilaveli, stepping onto the scene as most people were packing up, our heads still waxy from our dip at Passikudah earlier in the day. The sun was low on the horizon, just like my expectations for this stretch of shoreline, and my patience after four days in a damp, salty van with my siblings. Three-quarters of an hour till sunset, at most…might as well make the best of it. Trudging through the carpets of green speckled with purples and pinks and into full view of the beach, we feasted our eyes on the view splayed out before us.
Not the bustling activity of Arugam Bay, or the placid serenity of Marble Beach…there was a quiet sort of beauty here. Comforting, cosy somehow. By now, we had the whole area almost to ourselves. Blessed, blessed bliss.
The whisper of the sea was merciful silence after the joyous shrieks still bouncing around in my skull. In no time at all, we had left our worries and cares sinking in the sands and run away to greet the waves: so solid one moment, and then gone the next, shimmering in ever-shifting blues and greens, with just a hint of grey, almost a foreshadow. Encapsulated in the silky warmth and taking in the horizon, the coconut palms swaying to the rhythm of the waves, the gulls swooping overhead, we drifted away from each other, and into our own watery worlds. The occasional piece of coral would float along on its merry way, bobbing a greeting.
Soon, the sun joined us on our dip in the ocean, and its warmth prickled our necks even as it was getting doused beneath the waves. The last of the sunlight lit up the cotton candy in the sky, and the waves below, now burnished orange and gold, looked like a melted pool that had rained down from the heavens. A steady wind was picking up, stippling the water with flecks of copper. The air seemed to grow little stings, and the warmer water currents were our last respite before we returned to reality, and to land.
The sea was roughening. The sky was darkening. The hills of water now rose to mountains, the cold winds they slammed into the shore a mere fraction of their sheer force. And who was here to greet us but the moon, in its full luminous glory. The glossy black sheets of water crowned with foaming surf glimmered under the asphalt clouds, as we lit a small bonfire that made a valiant effort to shed some warmth on us.
I sat there in awed silence (and hunger, dinner was still on the way), and marvelled at the raw power of the ocean. Unfettered, unbothered, it heaved and swelled at will. The waves, now much more frightening and unwelcoming, rose and crashed over each other in their hurry to reach the shore. The roiling waves were however no match for the roiling in my stomach, and cheese kottu has never smelled so heavenly!
Turning away from the sea, I was suddenly very aware of the people around me. Witnessing beauty in nature so profoundly really did make you appreciate it in people, to see them with refreshed eyes– and heaven knows you need it after spending half a week cramped up in a van together. I came to this place tired and cranky (talk about vacation frustration), but left feeling like I had uncovered some great truth of the universe. Having seen the beauty in the mundane so clearly that one time, I have been trying to find it wherever I look since then.
Somewhere between then and now, the time has passed like that fleeting golden sunset.
It has been years, and I’ve seen the sea countless times since, but these salt-scented scenes still cling to my mind like the last grains of sand stick to your feet, and I recall them to this day as clear as they were when I lived them. And they never seem to get old, even when the rest of the memory does: most of those people are not in my life anymore– some of them are not here at all.
But at that moment, Nilaveli was the most beautiful place on this moonlit Earth.
By Rtr. Ramona Perera