Trip Start Sep 05, 2005
284Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Lake View Tourist Guesthouse
We knew it was going to be another long day of travelling today so we were up and ready to go by 6am. We were heading to Anuradhapura, another point on the "Cultural Triangle", and another town I was eager to see.
As Polonnaruwa was a 1-street town we figured it'd be pretty easy to flag down a passing bus but it wasn't quite that straight forward. 2-3 buses flew passed at high speed and we had no idea if they were going where we wanted as the destination sign was in Sinhala. After 40 minutes we gave up and took a tuk-tuk to the main depot 3km's away and found a bus within minutes.
The bus journey took 3 hours and was far from comfortable. We were heading north, closer to the conflict areas, although still 100km's away from the main fighting. However after the bomb attack in Anuradhapura 3 days previous, there were numerous stops by the military to search the bus and everyones bags. We were basically spared having to get off every time as we were the only foreigners. All the other men got off and the women stayed on. The road was also in a bad state. When we reached a pit stop town of Habrana it was as if we had been transported to Sub-Saharan Africa! Burnt terracotta red earth, wide flat plains and terrible roads.
Whilst on the bus I had spotted that there was a supermarket in Anuradhapura and we figured that they must have suncream! Salvation! Once the bus pulled into the outskirts of town I kept my eyes peeled for any landmarks from the LP and managed to get off directly opposite the supermarket. 10 minutes later, and £14 worse off, we not only had uber strength factor 30 suncream but after-sun cream as well!!!! The joy was indescribable.
The main area of hostels cluster around a "lake" area and boast of lake views. The one we finally settled on had a tiny slither of a lake view about a kilometer in the distance, through some trees. However it was cheap, had a friendly old man who looked after us and a few very good ceiling fans which came in very handy on an oppressively hot day.
After a couple of hours sleep to avoid the midday sun and some dairy lea and tomato sandwiches we were ready to hit the town. It was good to be in a modern town again so that we could get a few things in order. Sun cream was obviously first on the list but finding a UK-Sri Lanka charger was getting quite desperate as well as the camera batteries were running dry! Didn't take too long to find and I managed to find a USB SD Card ready (which I later discovered didn't work!) as I had forgotten a cable at home.
With little light left in the day we decided to pay a visit to the Bodhi Tree Shrine in the centre of town. A huge tree grown from a cutting from Bodhgaya, India and of huge spiritual value to the Sinhalese. I was expecting more to be honest but it was a good diversion for about an hour and we were even given fruit by the army personnel manning the gun turret! We headed back to the guesthouse for another excellent curry (especially the dahl) before going to bed at 8pm in readiness for an action packed day tomorrow.
After hiring bikes in Polonnaruwa I figured it'd be a good idea to do the same here. The ruins were much more spread out here so it was going to be a long days bike riding!
Polonnaruwa had set a very high standard and ultimately Anuradhapura didn't match up. The ruins weren't in such a good state, although the carvings were better preserved and a lot was covered in scaffolding. There were a couple of huge dagobas dotted around town (1 of which was the the 3rd tallest structure in the world when originally constructed) which were very good to look at but in the process of restoration.
The best moments of the day came from chatting with the locals. Sitting around discussing why there weren't any tourists with the water sellers near one of the ruins and chatting over dinner with the old man at the guesthouse were brilliant memories. Sometimes it's not all about seeing wonders of the world and just relaxing and enjoying being somewhere different.
To take a break from the most uncomfortable bikes in the world, Lars was really struggling, we decided to take lunch in a local canteen. We had no idea what we were eating and just ordered everything, much to the amusement of the locals. The place was packed so we assumed the food was good, and it was.
There is only so long you can go without rain in the rainy season so we were overdue a storm. It had been so humid during the day that we knew it was coming and sat waiting on the balcony. Torrential would be a mild term to describe the amount of rain that bucketed down for an hour. We had to head back into the room to deal with water coming through the roof and to shoo frogs back outside where they belonged!
It had been another great day all round, but not for the ruins as I had expected.