Friday, February 27, 2004

Kandy, Sri Lanka--Day 28

There’s something about waking up to a phone call in the morning. As I rolled over and grabbed in the direction of where the horrible noise was coming from, all I could think of was who is calling ME? Only Ruberu…

And it is Ruberu. He’s at the hotel and hour early and shouldn’t we get on our way? Yes, I tell him as I sit up looking at the clock. Its 7am which means that he is an hour early. Ok that’s fine I say as I get up and get dressed, finding that I can hardly see anything due to the fact that I still had my contacts in from the night before.

We first set off to Dambulla in which there are these beautiful temple caves, and really not all that much else. Ruberu dropped me off and said he would meet me back in the parking lot when I was done visiting the caves. Out at the entrance to the caves was a HUGE golden Buddha (supposedly the biggest sitting Buddha in the world…who knows if that is true!) as well as an overpriced Buddhist Museum which I decided to skip. So up I went on sort of a hike up to the top of these hills here the cave temples were. After leaving my shoes at the shoe minder’s outside f the temple, I was able to walk through the five caves at my own pace (I was firm with the “guides” outside that I didn’t need any help). IN the caves were numerous figures of Buddha, either sitting, standing and even reclining. In one of the sacred caves there was even a leak in the roof in which the water is collected constantly (even if there is a drought) and used for religious ceremonies. Pretty neat. There were also a lot of monkeys around, which would follow you in hopes that you had food to give them. Um, hellooo, like I am going to give food to rabies-on-feet. Apparently this didn’t seem to be an issue for several tourists around me so the monkeys got their fair share of bananas and bread anyway.

After Dambulla we headed to Sigiriya, which is this AMAZING rock fortress atop of this HUGE rock, which was built over 1500 years ago. Again Ruberu dropped me off and I was to meet up with him in the parking lot when I was done. When you first walk into the site, you come across the amazing terraced water gardens that were just spectacular in themselves. After a long walk towards the huge rock, you finally came to some steps going in and out of various boulders and rocks as you made your way closer to the huge rock, on which the fortress lies at the top. I could see the lines of people walking along various paths on the rock but I couldn’t see how on earth you got to the top.

After climbing up a huge flight of stairs, I stopped to get a better view (and to catch my breath) and it was just awesome looking down onto the gardens. I then made my way up a modern spiral staircase into a room with several 5th Century (I think it was the 5th C…) paintings of women adorned with gold and jewels and not much else. Basically they were 5th C pinups that had been painted on the walls and were still in beautiful condition. After viewing these I went back down below and there was the Mirror Wall, in which writings about the women were scrawled back in the day (basically 5th C graffiti). It was really neat.

I then made it across a very narrow and nail-biting walk to the main entrance way to the fortress along these rock cliffs (not recommended for those with fear of heights that is for sure!). I found myself at the base of the fortress, which was about halfway up the huge rock. At the base are lion’s paws and the original stairs that led up to the top. Apparently back in the day there used to be an ENTIRE lion on the side of the cliffs and you would start by walking through the paws and end up coming out through its mouth at the top. Unbelievable!

I climbed up to the top following the masses of school children, Asian tourists and a surprisingly large number of Sri Lankan tourists and after a long climb (all the while trying NOT to look down!) I made it to the top. The heat was overbearing and I was exhausted, and had no water to drink but the view made up for it all. It was amazing. This wasn’t just a fortress, it must have been a palace and you could see the ruins of the rooms and there even was a massive SWIMMING POOL at the top which was is still filled with water. There is also a throne crafted out of the rock for the King. It was amazing, and well worth the trip.

After exploring the fortress I made it back down to the base, and then back down to the gardens at the bottom. Looking back up it was hard to believe that all of that was actually up there! I tried to head back towards the parking lot in a different direction but was scared off by some horrible looking monkeys who got into that I’m-going-to-bite-you crouching position so I ran away (literally) and then found the parking lot and Ruberu who was excited to see what I thought of it, picking up a bottle of water from a vendor on my way back to the car.

It was time to make the long car ride back to Colombo, which was long but still very interesting. I spent most of the ride back convincing myself (and un-convincing myself) that I have Malaria since I got a mosquito bite on my elbow. J Honestly, I kept thinking about it and then would remind myself that I was sick from something that I ate, not because of my mosquito bite but to my horror my guide book says that you can have Malaria and not even feel that bad. Great.

We stopped at a lunch buffet on the way back to get something to eat and I sat eating a nice lunch of curries and rice (thanks to my stomach which was feeling much better) and then we made it back to Colombo around 4:30. Ruberu was to have the day off tomorrow (they work in 24 hours shifts!) so I wouldn’t be seeing him again. I thanked him for everything and went straight up to my room to get my swim suit and to go jump in the pool.

The pool was great and the rest of the daytime hours, which wasn’t much, I spent sitting by the pool. For dinner the restaurant has seven restaurants, and I wanted to try some good Sri Lankan food. However I saw a Japanese restaurant and went to peek in and see what the had to offer and before I knew it I was seated and drinking fruit juice! Ugh. So I had some Japanese food for dinner (which was actually really good) and THEN headed over to the Sri Lankan restaurant and ate dessert there outside under the stars which was much better than in the Japanese restaurant, where a cheesy Japanese soap opera was playing on the TV.

Completely full, I headed over to the Karaoke Bar just to see what it was like (turned out to be nothing more than a small room with several sketchy looking men in it) and then I opted to go back to my room instead of hanging out with those fellows and get some sleep.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.