At Uddapuwa between Mundal Lagoon and the sea, the terrain changes dramatically as you enter the Dry Zone. The fishing villagers here are descendants of a north Indian warrior caste who settled on this coast over a thousand years ago. They were the first converts to Catholicism when the Portuguese arrived and mass baptisms were held during which the converts acquired surnames like Mendis, de Silva and Fernando—though despite Christian influence, Uddapuwa is home also to a notable group of small Hindu temples along the coast.
The A3 coast road continues to the town of Puttalam, another busy fishing settlement whose proximity to the north has made it a major collecting point for Muslims evicted from the north by the Tamil Tigers. At Puttalam the A 12 turns inland to Anuradhapura, offering an alternative route to the Cultural Triangle. En route. the road passes Wilpattu National Park. Wilpattu is the largest national park in the country, and before the civil war was also one of the most popular, famous for its leopards, as well as plentiful other wildlife. Its proximity to the front line of the war, however, led to it being placed out of bounds for the duration of the conflict, and although small parts of the park were reopened in 2003, work to restore damage to the park’s environment and wild life continues.