Buses, temples and a lot of climbing!!
Trip Start Aug 11, 2013
15Trip End Sep 17, 2013
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Where I stayed
What I did
Anuradhapura, Sigiriya and Dambulla
Hoping the internet doesn't cut out as I'm typing this, as it has a couple of times while I've been trying to log on!
Since I last wrote, I had a Friday at NIMH, where I worked on the LDU (learning difficulties unit). Here only a handful of people live... Two young boys one with ADD and one with Downs Syndrome, an older boy with some other difficulties (unfortunately who remained locked in his 'cell' so only saw him through the bars on his window) and the mother of the oby with ADD, who has some learning difficulties too.
So this session was really challenging because their attention span has a duration of about 30 secs, and that's when you can even get their attention in the first place! It was only myself and Felicity on the ward.. so we started by getting out some colouring and painting things for them to have a go at. I used this to teach the mother some english which she really enjoyed and did for the whole session.. The boys did it for about 5 seconds. We did some games like ten pin bowling and used some musical instruments so they got a lot of sensory attention, but it was certainly not easy. The boy with downs syndrome can also become aggressive which is hard t deal with since you know he isn't doing it on purpose.. I got a few hard smacks though haha but he soon calms down!
So after my morning of work, I got the 3 buses home to pack my bags for our second weekend off - our first weekend exploring on our own! Myself and my housemates (George, Paula, Dafne and Emma) joined the girls we're close with from the other house in Ethul Kotte, and began our journey to Anuradhapura! This involved a half hour bus to colombo, followed by and 8 hour bus to the town, then a ten min tuctuc to the guesthouse we stayed in, When I say buses - don't picture a nice organised Arriva - they're like cattle trucks. hundreds of people packed on, standing on you, leaning over you, and the drivers are mental! But we got there - alive - around 9pm. We used the wifi at the guesthouse for half an hour (luxury or what) and got a good nights sleep (6am starts every morning are slowly destroying me! Especially when we are so non-stop!)
--- interruption -- my friend amy has just called me and there is a bloody crocodile in the drain on our walk home -- wish me luck for my walk back!!
Anyway.. We woke early the next morning to explore the ancient town of Anuradhapura.. ON BIKES! It was so much fun!! Kind of scary at first with the traffic and what not, but as we went out into the ancient part, there weren't many cars.
The first site we saw was Mirisawatiya Stupa (a stupa is a huuuuuge white dome, which is a place to worship buddha - outside of the dome there's nothing inside). It was so stunning, honestly like breath-taking. They're just so big and perfect - and you can just feel the dedication that the Sri Lankan people have for their religion. It really is impressive.
We biked on to Ruwanamweli Dagoba next - built following an ancient war in sri lanka, to show the leaders remorse for killing so many people. It is the oldest stupa in Sri Lanka and is 295ft tall and 298ft wide. The outside of the dagoba is guarded by 338 stucco elephants (better explained by photos) again it was really amazing to see - but lots of cheeeeeky monkeys were about who wanted our bags! Also, as you can't wear shoes around the temples or their surroundings - our feet got SO burnt! Even the local people there for worship were running and hopping around, so imagine how we were! It was a definitely touching 40degrees and the floor was boooiling!
After this we biked to the 'two ponds' (Kuttam Pokuna) which look a lot like the ancient baths in Bath. They were built in the 7th century and were basically the washrooms for the monks. Here there were some cobra charmers - who weren't the most skillful! Their cobras kept escaping and diving towards us, which was so scary so we soon left!!
We biked just down the round to see the 'Samadhi Buddha' statue next. One of the most famous in Sri Lnka - not for it's size (only 7ft tall), but it ages from the 4th century and the face shows 'the highest degree of internalisation and calm' (apparently?!). There's also a stone roof over the buddha for protection.
Next we biked another few kilometers to the worlds oldest tree (or so they claim). It is called the Sri Maha Bodhi - and is said to have grown from a twig cut from a bondhi tree which Buddha sat under to find enlightenment. The tree is a reeeeally big deal to pilgrims who travel to worship it... Huge security and what not, and it has a temple built around it so you can just peek at it through glass openings. Worshippers bring offerings like blossoms, beautiful lotus flowers and incense so it really is a beautiful site to see. We were also blessed by a monk who tied white string around our wrists and put a bindi of white chalk on our foreheads - it was really nice. When you're around places like that you just feel so appreciative and so in awe of the dedication these people make to their faith, it's really lovely.
To end our 1,000mile bike ride we visited the ruins of the 'original' temple of the tooth and a hindu temple - which were basically rocks on the ground! (can you tell I'm getting tired writing this now?! :) )
We headedback to the guesthouse, washed and had some dinner. In restuarants here no matter whaaaat you order it takes a minimum of an hour - so we just chilled while we waited.
We then got a 2 hour bus to Dambulla (half an hour from Sigiriya) to stay the night.
I think my nights sleep would have been better if I didnt find 4 frogs in my room - but we had a tv!!! and watched a some kind of sri lankan version of pop idol which was pretty amusing!
Another early rise and we were on our way to Sigiriya rock! We climbed its 984ft in the boiling sun which wasn't too easy! But it was certainly worth it for the views we saw! On the top of the rock is a derelict fort and on the way up in small caves you can see wall paintings. It was truly breathtaking to reach the top and look out over miles of Sri Lnka - and see the mountains in the distance - so so beautiful - got some great photos!
After that, we hired a tuctuc driver for the day, who took us to a wood carving factory, a batik fabric factory and a spice garden. They were amazing!
I could have bought every item in the wood factory, but it was pretty expensive (did get an elephant though). We watched them in the workshop and saw how they make the amazing statues, and also using natural paint from mixing different wood shavings with lime juice and things - really interesting. - I'm such a geek aren't I?!?!
The batik factory was also interesting. Women making huge fabric art pieces, using boiling wax and paints.
Then the spice garden was stunning... Cocoa, lemongrass, vanilla, sandalwood, aloe vera, peppercorns, cinnoman - everything! And great explanations of their cosmetic and medicinal uses by a guide who spoke decent english.
Although the weekend was just as exhausting as our working week - it was such a privalege and so good to get to see so much.
Anyway - I've got to run, I'm falling asleep and its only half 6!
Hope all is well at home!
Lots of love xxx