Sand, Safari, Slow to get anywhere Sri Lanka

February 21, 2013 at 9:55 pm (Travel)

DSC_0158-001I seem to have lost my camera along with all my photos from Sri Lanka.  That’s why I haven’t written the blog until now.  Was kinda hoping my camera would turn up… but it hasn’t, so I will have to make do with Martin’s photos.  The camera did make it back to Germany and has been misplaced somewhere in this country.  Kicking myself that I didn’t at least load the photos straight away.

Sri Lanka was definitely an experience.  The country is simply beautiful and has a lot to offer but is somewhat lacking in infrastructure.  For example, we weren’t able to send any postcards because we simply didn’t find any, buses don’t really run to a schedule, trains may be delayed for two hours without any notice and hotels book your taxi and then take the majority of the profit.  The country did make up for this with its delicious food and smiling personalities.  I also loved being able to wear thongs every day!  (flip flops for you English people out there…)

After a mega transport transfer (Bus * tram * taxi * bus * bus * bus * plane * bus * shuttle * plane * taxi * train * taxi * taxi) we arrived safely at our first stop 27 hours later.

First we took a half day trip to Mihintale where it is believed that Buddhism was born in Sri Lanka.  This was a lovely first day introduction to Sri Lanka culture as it included tuk tuk driving, haggling for prices and our first tour of a historical site.  (Occasionally with me playing the second best tour guide offering translations for Martin)  The views from the Aradhana Gala were amazing.

DSC_0210-001The next day we visited the historical site of Anuradhapura, where we were actually staying.  Anuradhapura was the capital of the Sinhalese Kingdom from the 4th century until the beginning of the 11th and a very large historical site.  We decided, after much debate, to take a local guide for the day and avoid the US25 dollar UNESCO heritage site fee.  Unfortunately we weren’t able to see everything due to recent flooding and we’re not 100% sure if we really saw everything worth seeing.  However, we definitely saw enough of the historical site to make us feel the visit was worthwhile and we did not leave disappointed.  I particularly liked the moonstone and we spent the rest of the trip looking out for more and comparing them.  🙂

New Years Eve 2012 was definitely a day to remember.  First we shared a taxi with a lovely French couple down to Sigiriya, one of the highlights of the trip for me.  This massive rock, known as Lion Rock, was used as a palace between 477 and 495 by King Kashyapa.  He must have been a crazy man to build a palace on top of it if you ask me.  The outline of the rock was simply spectacular and the frescos of women with amazingly perky boobs were quite impressive too.  We paid thirty US dollars to visit the site (which we felt was OK for what we saw) , Sri Lankans in comparison, however, pay 40 cent.  Milk the tourist I say.

DSC_0288Straight after Martin and I travelled to Dambulla to visit the Golden Temple.  This temple was very impressive as it was a series of five caves filled with lots of statutes and paintings.  Every piece of the wall including the ceiling was covered in decoration and the amount of Buddha statues did feel a tad obsessive.  Next we took our first bus ride to Kandy.

We welcomed in the new year in a backpacking bar that Martin found recommended in his guide book.  I was amazed that we were able to stay awake until midnight after such an action packed day.  We danced with the locals, watched the Sri Lankan version of fireworks and had a lovely stress free New Years.

Stress free isn’t quite how I can describe our visit to The Temple of the Sacred Tooth the next day.  I am not sure how I can put this experience into words.  The temple was absolutely heaving with people, with pilgrims, desperate to show their respect.  We were pushed, we were shoved, we were squashed.  I never been anywhere so crowded or anywhere where the people behind you got up so close.  I had some woman’s rather large stomach in the nape of my back.  It was absolutely insane and at the same time made a rather big visual and physical impact on both of us.  Respect for one another, calmness and finding enlightenment were far from what we experienced during our visit.

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In Kandy we also visited an old English graveyard where a poor man literally had written on his gravestone that he was killed by an elephant, walked along the shore of Kandy lake and visited a ‘traditional’ Sri Lankan dance show.  We were a bit disappointed with the show as it was a ‘Kandy must see’ but we felt very commerical and the dancing not particularly good.

DSC_0694After Kandy we headed into the hills to Dalhousie in order to take the pilgrim route up Adam’s Peak (2243m).  This majestic mountain is important to Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians who believe in turn that the footprint at the top belong to Buddha, Shiva and either Adam or St Thomas. We were keen to climb the 1400m ascent and began at some ungodly hour in the morning so that we would experience the sunrise at the top.  Amazingly there were concrete stairs the whole way up and we made it to the top with time to spare.  Disappointingly the sunrise was non-existent although we were glad we did the walk.  Coming down was awful.  I really struggled with my little legs and often steep or larger than normal steps.  Impressively locals were carrying backpacks of stones up the mountain for the grand total of $1.50.  Hard work for very little pay.

Bleary eyed but buzzing from our walk we ventured further into the tea district to Nuwara Eliya.  This town, highly influenced by the colonial era, was much cooler than other places we visited and even I was forced to wear shoes again.  We stayed in an absolutely lovely guesthouse, which was good considering it decided to rain most of the time we were there.  We went on a very interesting tea factory tour at Pedro Tea Estate and particularly enjoyed our bus ride there, full of young school children amazed to be in such close contact to two young ‘white’ skinned people.DSC_0759-001

After a massive travelling day we made our last stop (before heading to the beach) at Embilipityia, which we used only as a base to go on safari at the Udawalawe National Park.  This time we did see the sunrise 🙂 and also managed to see lots of elephants, wild peacocks, monkeys (although to be fair we had seen tons of these already) and a couple of jackals.  We were disappointed not to see more animals because it seemed to be elephant, after elephant, after elephant.  However, they are truly magnificent creatures.

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The bus ride down to our beach hotel is one I would rather forget.  I felt pretty average when I got on the bus and it only got worse… it was pretty awful and I was very pleased to finally arrive at the hotel.  I spent the rest of the afternoon and night in bed and Martin was jealous so he joined in the party with the two of us taking it in turn to spend time with the toilet.  I managed to slowly recover and we thought Martin was on the mend too… not the case.  He was pretty much sick the whole time there and put a dampener on our much awaited beach time.

We had a lovely last Sri Lankan experience on our way to the airport.

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Our taxi driver invited us to visit his family in their home because he lived very close to the airport and we had an hour (or so we thought) to spare before check-in.  It was interesting seeing the house, complete with bright pink walls.

Not such good news at the airport with a delayed flight and a four hour waiting line to check-in.  Just our line, the one to the left seemed to be moving along nicely.  We finally got up to the desk and the airline had no record of our reservation.  That was a tad scary, but luckily I had printed out our e-ticket and we were finally on our way.

It was an amazing trip, with an amazing man and I would love to visit again to have a proper beach holiday and see the north and east coasts… needs to wait a few years though before I will be ready to embark on another crazy, Sri Lankan style holiday.

This weekend is my last in Darmstadt for SEVEN weeks.  Lots to look forward to including a weekend in Strasbourg to visit Conny, skiing in Austria with teachers from my old school in Pfungstadt and Easter in Oslo with Martin.  🙂

xoxo

P.s  More photos?  Check out https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151463027585589.527001.509745588&type=1&l=8e715b5295

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