6 days in Sri Lanka
Trip Start Oct 30, 2005
59Trip End Jun 19, 2006
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After a pleasant hour or so watching series highlights of Steve Waugh's Australians overpowering a West Indian side teetering on the edge of senescence but as yet still possessing a few fangs, I stealthily souveniered a CCC menu and strolled off into the Colombo sunshine - a little lighter in pocket, perhaps, but heavier (and happier) everywhere else.
Today was my last day in Sri Lanka before venturing off to the Middle East, and I felt a low-key exploration of Colombo was just what I needed after having just returned from a whirlwind 3-day reconnoitre of central Sri Lanka, through the Cultural Triangle
One of the biggest thrills I had, however, was on the first morning, visiting the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage. Every day at 10 am (at which time I had fortuitously arrived), a parade of pachyderms young and old makes its way out of the orphanage and across the road into the river, for their daily bath, all under the watchful eyes of their mahouts. And to be honest, it was the most captivating sight, almost Jurassic. I sat and watched a herd of 60 elephants wallowing in the river, having mud fights, and bellowing to each other, for over an hour - utterly entranced. There is something ineffably tender and gentle about elephants that belies their bulk and appearance.
I followed this excitement up with a leisurely amble through the Kandy Botanical Gardens, where for the second time that day, I was blown away. Over 100 years old, the Gardens possess a diverse and eclectic collection of flora (plus an enormous colony of fruit bats), all immaculately landscaped and maintained, and redolent with such lushness that I easily whiled away an afternoon amongst the trees and gables. I would've stayed longer, but Buddha's Tooth awaited me in Kandy, and so i was off to the sacred Temple of the Tooth to visit one of Buddhism's holiest relics.
The next two days were spent enjoyed the history and culture evidenced by the fascinating ruins of Anuradhapura (1st capital of Sri Lanka) and Polonnaruwa (2nd capital)
By the final day of the breakneck jaunt through Sri Lanka's history, we were approaching the hottest day of the year, and duly Wednesday found me embarking on an ambitious plan to scale the heights of Sigiriya at midday, the hottest time of the day of course. Sigiriya was the site of a summer palace for one of the kings of the Polonnaruwa period, and the massive promontory rears up out of the surrounding jungle like a proud ship on a green ocean. A series of staircase lead up to the palace ruins atop the summit, and wend past a cave containing some of the most beautiful fresco paintings ever found in Sri Lanka. And so, after appreciative cooing noises at the splendour of the frescoes, I was to be found clambering and sweltering my way through 40 degree heat towards the summit, ignoring the brief attack of vertiginous terror the gripped me as I climbed up a precipitous and uncomfortably narrow iron staircase up the final 50 metres
Sri Lanka had appealed to be greatly these last 5 days, and every day I spent made me acutely aware of how little time I actually had in country. It has been wonderful to stay with family friends here in Colombo, the Haradasas, and their welcoming and comfortable home. They have been very kind and generous to this bedraggled traveller, and it was lovely to find myself in a cosy house with a wonderful family.
Sri Lanka itself felt quite familiar, but it wasn't until a couple of days after I arrived that I realised why. Aside from the obvious similarities to India (my recent home for 4 months), Sri Lanka instead actually reminded me of New Zealand! If you regard India as Australia, then Sri Lanka is definitely a sub-continental NZ, possessing of the same island personality
For this reason alone, and there are many others, I will have to come back to Sri Lanka. I've barely scratched the surface of what this incredible country (Rome's Taprobane, magical Serendib, Ceylon - the Pearl of the Indian Ocean) has to offer, and I know there s much more to discover here.
In the meantime, I finally leave the Sub-Continent behind and continue on to that most politically fractious of regions, the Middle East. First stop is Sharjah, as a transitional layover, before immersing myself in the ancient history of Egypt. Just think, this time next week I'll be at the Pyramids! Not too shabby eh?
Cheers, and love