29.04.2013 - 13.05.2013
I left Dubai on Sunday to Monday night after 2 hours of sleep. I lined up after a long queque of what I assumed to be Sri Lankans pushing forth trolleys with gigantic TVs, enormous cardboard boxes with mysterious goods and some elephant sized suitcases.
Once I had checked in and passed security I walked over to my gate (after - of course - having bought a stash of candy for my nightly journey). My gate was at the very end of the terminal and the entire way there was decorated with rows existing of 5 chairs and then, straight away, a new row. All rows, every chair, was taken. There was nowhere for me to sit in the entire terminal building and it was 2am and I was supposed to be asleep... All I wanted was to be seated but no space for poor old me. So I walked up and down, up and down, up and down the path till someone - possibly travelling alone because otherwise you’d leave your stuff on your seat - got up for the loo. Without sympathy I sat.
I had to board my plane at 4.50 in the morning and I thought I would go to the gate at 5. In Europe boarding at 4.40 means actually 4.50 and then there will be a massive queue so really don’t bother showing up at the gate 20 minutes late. Around 4.35 I heard my name being called out by someone near me, and then: "Colombo?".
Uhm yes me! I jumped up and walked over asking them why they were walking around the terminal screaming around mu name like some weird form of tourets, surely Dubai Airport would have speakers?
"Madam, did you fall asleep? The plane is ready. You have to hurry."
Too embarrassed to admit I was being daft I fabricated an excuse which involved me falling asleep.
I got on the plane last and was seated somewhere in the middle of the plane so everybody could witness my walk of shame.
I arrived in Colombo and as soon as I stepped out of the plane a warm, moist and humid blanket covered me. Palm trees wavered in the pre-monsoon breeze and the sun was covered behind a little streak of clouds: I was in the tropics.
After a long exhausting taxi ride into town (about 30km takes near to an hour on the Sri Lankan roads and my driver got lost a dozen times trying to find my hostel.
Never in my life had I been happier being in airco-ed surroundings.
I spoke to my dorm-mate for a bit and then, after a quick refreshing and awaking shower set out to Fort Colombo to buy a train ticket to Kandy in a few days and explore the town. I walked to the station, a good hour and after having bought my ticket drenched in sweat got a three wheeler back to the hostel where I pretty much passed out. When I awoke in the chilly room it was 8 and I had to force myself to get up and eat. I had a headache but I knew austerity would not improve the situation. And so I set out solo to the Cricket Club a restaurant nearby. After wandering some dark alleys behind the hostel I found the place at last. A security guard opened the door for me and a waiter seated me: in the middle of the establishment. For everybody to gaze at the lonely girl from all angles. Armed with a book I ate half a chicken burger and got taken aback by their playlist. Nothing like The Backstreet Boys to make you feel at home in a new country.
When I returned to my dorm a couple had arrived, we chatted and they invited me along for dinner. In need for some ’no curry’ I recommended The Cricket Club and joined them for a drink.
The couple, him American her Australian, were living in Japan and she had to fly to India for one day only the next day to partake in some sort of exam, leaving him behind in Colombo. So Justin, as he was called, and I agreed to go sightseeing the next day.
When I finally decided to open my eyes Justin had already been out for breakfast.
We walked to the national museum - not that interesting, lack of proper information made it more confusing than educating, a buddhist temple on lake, and then went in search of another grande buddhist temple.
Looking puzzled a local approached us wanting to practice his English. This is when alarm bells should have gone off in our silly western skulls but didn’t. He would guide us to the temple he ensured and so he walked with us for a while - we were under the impression the temple would be a mere 500 meters away and we’d long passed that and he insisted we take a tuktuk. So we did and he took us not the famous tourist temple we wanted to see (no idea if it had a name?) but to his temple. Admittedly the temple was beautiful. But he made us pay the ’guide’ too much and then insisted on taking us home in the tuktuk making us overpay for the tuktuk about 100 the amount we’d normally pay. We tried to argue it but in the end, I gave in. Have my 12 euros. The dumb thing was that the ’good samaritan’ gave us his address because his daughter collects stamps so he asked us to send him some from our home countries. Of course we could have gone to the tourist police but really who has the patience for that?
So instead we went for lunch. Then we walked to Galle fort and the Dutch Hospital which no longer is a hospital but a sort of shopping centre with a bar which is what were in need for.
After our drink we went back to the hostel to meet Nadine, a Swiss girl, for some old fashioned McD (I can report back to y’all even good ol’ MaccieD is spicy as f*#^ in Sri Lanka).
The next morning Nadine and I took a train to Kandy but realised half way there we actually got on a wrong train. Not terribly wrong so no big worries there. The plus side of the train was meant to be the scenic route, unfortunately the train so quote wobbly which resulted in us sitting with our eyes closed, breathing like pregnant woman in an attempt not to be sick.
Once we got to our guesthouse Nadine and I walked downhill to the lake and around it. We pasted the sacred tooth temple, had some food and walked back to our hotel. What we’d seen in that walk around the lake consisted of: monkeys, cows, a pelican, fish (both dead and alive) and a turtle (chillin’ out on a floating dead fish). After a mini nap and some reading time we went into town again to visit the temple of the sacred tooth, legend has it the temple holds buddhas tooth. Though only the box where the tooth is allegedly in is on display. But visiting the temple is supposed to hook you up with some good karma so I figured I’d be safe from rape and all that India for visiting the temple.
Unfortunately there is no explanation of anything anywhere and with people praying everywhere you feel a bit awkward at time, fearing you might unknowingly disturb their religious rituals.
After the temple we walked around looking for a place to eat but the choices were limited and monsoon season started right there and then. We hoped into the first bar we saw and had a cold Coke (monsoon is still hot and sweaty), some chicken wings and french fries. Needless to say we tuktuk-ed it back to the hotel after.
The next morning I got up early and waited for Hugh and Melody, an English couple we met on the train a day earlier. They had organised a driver to take them to Dambulla and Sigiriya. First though we stopped at a herb garden where we were told all the medical qualities of each herb and then received a head massage with one of the herbs again fatigue, and then we stopped at an elephant orphanage which was a bit sad.
Then we drove to the two main sights. Both were beautiful and extremely hot. Dambulla has a temple in a cave with incredible wall paintings inside of Buddha as well as many statues. I wont go spoiling it by attempting to describe it - all I ll say is go there quick because they allow flash photography so in a few years the wall paintings might have faded.
Sigiriya was up next. At this point we were exhausted from the heat, had just slept in the car and the sky turned a mighty grey colour as if it could turn on us any minute.
The lion rock of Sigiriya is nearly 200 meters high, this doesn't should so impressive but it is when you imagine a stone, a rock that you see on the street and kick out of the way magnified 2000x. Some ancient paranoid king had once build his kingdom atop of the rock, decorated it with frescoes and made a gateway to the top shaped like a lion. After the king was defeated (in 495) by his own brother I believe, the rock was abandoned and turned into a Buddhist monastery.
Had I mentioned Sri Lanka is a dominantly Buddhist country? Decorating the country's scenery are the orange robbed monks - which is interesting after visiting India which is dominantly Hindu but is where Buddha originated from (technically though I think Prince Siddhartha's home town is in modern day Nepal) though some Hindus believe Buddha to be an incarnation of Vishnu.
The view from atop the rock was spectacular. Surrounded by jungle I felt like Mowgli, and lucky as we were, got to watch the lightening and rain hit every bit of land around the rock but us.
The next day Nadine and I took a train to Nuwara Eliya. This was quite the adventure again, unexpected changes to be made, delays, all the trouble you expect to get, we got. But we made it at last, to an old and filthy looking guesthouse (nothing around seemed any better). Up here the climate was a lot more pleasant, having gone up to nearly 1800 meters altitude. Nadine and I went for a meal and she lite up when she heard her sort of German being spoken on a table near us (the only other occupied table in the restaurant). We decided we needed a few more people for our walk to World's End the next day and so I marched over and asked the Swiss-German speaking girl and her boyfriend if they wanted to join us. They said they probably would and we exchanged details. BOOM, arranged. The more, the merrier and the price had just halved for each of us.
The next morning we got picked up at 5.30. I was not happy. We drove for an hour to the wild life park, bought our ticket and went in. It was only a 9km walk but it was stunning (apart from the groups of old and loud Russians polluting the surroundings). The famed ’world’s end’ was spectacular but possibly even better was the secluded waterfall. The four of us sat there, enjoying the surroundings. The SriLankan boyfriend played some Bob Dylan on his harmonica, I meditated, it was wonderful.
After the walk we split up from the couple (who’s names I have forgotten by now). Nadine and I both had a shower and some much need energy in the form of food and went up to the tea plantations. The town is cooler but not particularly charming, however visiting the plantations you get it. It is absolutely gorgeous, green and cool air. Sounds simple now but believe me it’s a winning combination. We got a tour of the factory and learned all about tea. After we were done we went back to our crappy hotel and after we chatted to the owner about religion he was nice to us for the first time since arriving.
The next morning Nadine and I walked, yes WALKED - not tuktuked - to the bus station about 2km from our guesthouse with our backpacks on(!!) to catch the 7 o'clock bus. Nadine was going to Ella and I would continue to Mirissa, a beach town.
More about my beach adventures - and adventures they were - in my next post. I will try to write a bit more frequent but honestly I am kind of too busy having fun. What a douchy thing to say even if it is true. Sorry!
Love to all xxxx