. It has been tended to by a succession of guardians, uninterrupted for its lifetime in sri lanka. You can't get close to it, and there are a lot of pilgrims making offerings and praying. It is an interesting sight, but I am very tired of commercial religion, and there are a lot of things that infuriate me about the whole situation. I headed back to my hostel and had no fewer than 7 offers of free rides from men, was given 5 phone numbers and had a tuk tuk follow me asking me for dinner. In sri lanka the trend is opposite of the rest of south east Asia, local guys date western woman and its age appropriate. I can see the appeal most of the sri lankans are quite beautiful and extremely charming, but the older ones are relentless, pushy, creepy and gross. It is exhausting to say the least. It also means that by 7pm i turn into a pumpkin and retire for the night. The next day i took the local bus to the town of mihintale. It was a place I really wanted to see but is not on the usual tourist circuit so it was a bit of a bugger to get to. This is the village where Buddhism was brought to sri lanka from mahinda. It is home to sri lankas first monastery that still has monks living in caves at the location. I began my exploration of some ruins when I met a man named bashayke. He was fluent in English and very intelligent. He wanted to take me around the sights for free. I naturally refused, and he asked if he could walk with me and explain about Buddhism. I told him sure, and so started a great partnership.
He wanted to talk, and talk he did, about the commercialism of his faith (Buddhism) the different sects evolving, the government corruption, the corruption in the temples, of greed, violence and assault. He bore his soul and inner most thoughts to me. At one point he was in tears talking about how his faith in his faith was faltering for the first time. He confessed that he had been bottling up these feelings for years because he can't voice them without it being reported to the authorities and higher monks. I asked him why he felt he could trust me and he said it was that my eyes smile when I smile. Sri lanka has been testing my emotional limits these last few days. He then took me around the village. I saw old ruined monk caves that had tenants 30 years ago, ruins let alone by people so that nature was claiming it back, I went to the oldest monastery where we mediated on a rock overlooking a pond under the guidance of a true minimalist monk living in the caves. I was able to see how they lived and got an introduction to walking meditation which I found much easier than the sitting kind. We saw turtles, snakes, eagles, kingfishers, horn bills, moon gooses and giant frogs. It was a great day. I had planned on spending 2 hours going to a temple on the hill and after 5 hours with my new friend I still hadn't made it there. After a lesson on opening the mind and the minimalistic stance on life I started my climb to the temple which was run by the corrupt monks of a different sect of Buddhism. The contrast between the two was intense. The temple had a 5 dollar entrance fee, donation boxes every few feet, monks ready to give tours and explanations of the area for a price, everything was a flash of wealth. Dont get me wrong it was stunning and represents a very important part of sri lankan history. Its just frustrating to see time and time again people who have nothing scrimp and save to put gold on a statue or a plate of rice in a shrine. Its irrational and illogical. I could go on for hours about my opinion and reasons for my distrust of organized religion but ill save it for another time and place. I climbed the "meditation rock" which was a challenge as you have to do it barefoot (its scorching million degrees of hot rock) in a skirt with small notches for your feet. But as expected the view was stunning, I was alone minus a pesky monkey who stole my samosa! My last few days in sri lanka have been nothing like I expected, in a good way. The reality that this adventure is coming to an end is setting in with an uneasy comfort.
I was really sad to leave jaffna, I really had settled into the life style more than any other place (aside from Burma where my heart still belongs). But the reality that my days are numbered is settling in for the first time and I decided to crunch in as much adventure as possible in my last few days. I bused to a city called vavuniya and from there took the train 15 km (an hour!) To anuradhapura. This is one of the ancient cities, it was the first capital of sri lanka. There are many temples, ruins, dagobas and towers. However its very spread out and has a large entrance fee. I decided to walk to a couple of the free temples. I really under estimated the size of the city and the heat and only made it to one place. But it was great and I am happy with it (all the Buddhist temples are melding into one, a good sign that its time to head home). I picked the sri maha bodhi tree which is a tree grown from a cutting of a bodhi tree from India over 2000 years ago. It is the oldest historically authenticated tree in the world