Shutters down, once you step out from Buttala Town onto the winding road. Breathe
in the fresh air. Paddy fields and mountains dominate your view. A few road-side shops offer snacks for the journey. Look out for the fresh fruit vendors selling sweet mangoes from their gardens or king coconut for refreshment.
Desolate though it may seem, thin gravel paths lead to villages hidden amidst the thick foliage. On weekdays, when school lets out, one can see little ones clinging to their mothers as they chatter excitedly or groups of boys and girls engrossed in humorous conversations.
One rock face with a white dagoba on its peak stood out. Locals called it Aragala Kande (mount). Later we passed a board that led to the Budugallena Forest Monastery. The monastery dates back to pre-Christian times and is today home to many ruins and unearthed meditation caves used by monks of bygone eras.
If you are lucky, you might come across a motorcyclist transporting homemade ice cream. You could try them by the cone; there is usually just one flavour- either vanilla or chocolate. The cyclists are hard to miss with cones strapped on the front.
The Buttala – Kataragama Road runs through the Lunugamvehera and Yala (Block 4) National Parks. Chances are you’ll spot an elephant, deer or at dusk even a leopard. Motorists are warned to keep their eyes peeled and drive alert to hit the breaks at the sight of any wildlife. Sometimes there is a lone bull elephant on the side of the road, undoubtedly waiting in the hopes of receiving fruit, according to the locals. However, be warned not to get too close as it might be dangerous especially in musth. And as the Wildlife Department boards say, it’s best not to feed them. Watch out for the picturesque Weheragala Tank near the park.
As the day changes, sunset or dawn, the sky delights with rare colours. You’ll find some great roadside spots to sit and have a pre- packed meal while relishing nature’s serenity.
Closer to Kataragama there is a popular bathing spot near the Kataragama Bridge. Here sit on the flat rocks or enjoy the cool water in the shallows. Take care to be cautious when swimming away from the designated shallow spots. Cross the bridge and you are
in civilization once more. Directions to the Kataragama Kiri Vehera and Sella Kataragama Ganapathi Dewalaya or Lord Ganesh shrine are next. To visit these places one must leave the Buttala – Kataragama Road.
The final lap to Kataragama is shaded by trees, gusts of wind from time to time will release a shower of leaves from the green canopy creating a fairytale like scene. The journey ends at the Kataragama junction. Past an orange pandol built in 1987 is the statue of King Kavantiassa, a popular ruler of the Magam Ruhunu Kingdom to which the area belonged in ancient times: a sign that you have arrived in the sanctified destination where rests the sacred abode of the war god in the jungle.