Friday, February 08, 2013

Sri Lanka, Day 3

The soundtrack to day three in Sri Lanka was Lori's terrified muttering.

"I can't believe I'm freaking doing this."

"My husband's never going to believe that I did this."


"Oh my freaking God!"

It was actually when the muttering and profanity stopped that caused some concern. That's when I knew she was getting seriously freaked out.

The day started with a cold shower (eco-resorts have solar heated showers. Doesn't work so much first thing in the morning), a spectacular breakfast and trying to figure out where the day was going to bring us. Fortunately Dups had the plan which involved going to Sigiriya. It's worth doing a quick Google on the history of the place, which is quite extensive and I won't go into in detail here. But let's just say that an ancient king of Sri Lanka decided to build a fortress and put it on top of a massive hunk of rock in the middle of a jungle. This obviously sounded like a good idea at the time.

We drove right past it the day before. I have no idea how on earth we managed to not see it. The bloody thing is about 600 feet tall. But what we didn't know when we were going there, and after we arrived, was that we were going to climb this thing.

I remember looking at it, judging the temperature and humidity, and thinking "oh, this is going to be a bit of a bitch to do." Lori looked at it and started freaking out.

Lori, you see, doesn't like heights. Didn't realize that before, or at least I didn't realize the extent to which she didn't like heights.

The extent is quite extensive. She really doesn't like heights. And now we were walking to a giant hunk of rock and being expected to climb it. She was not handling the prospect well.

To give her credit, she did climb the rock. She cursed the entire time she was climbing the rock, which I have to say, made the time much more entertaining. The cursing got much more...vocal depending on what we were walking on. If it was solid rock or concrete, then she was muttering. However, there were occasions when we were walking up metal stairs bolted into the rock. That's when the stress levels went up quickly.

To make things worse, during the last sprint to the top a local "guide" quickly latched onto Lori to "help" her. It's a scam and under normal circumstances if I had been paying attention or if Lori were not seriously freaking out, she would have brushed him off. But as it stands we have to give him a couple hundred rupee when we made it to the top.

Which was spectacular. Absolutely amazing views, where you could see for dozens of kilometres in every direction and could see almost nothing but greenery. It was astonishing. Lori quite enjoyed it once she got to the top and was justifiably quite proud of herself. So we took a nice half hour just savouring the views and enjoying the fact that we had made it up this thing.

Then we had to go back down. There's a sign at the top that reads "Going Down is Dangerous". Lori's comment was that if she knew that before going up, she never would have done it in the first place. Another friend commented on Facebook that here was a sign with multiple meanings. Ah, my friends.

Anyway, the problem with going back down is that you're actually looking down. When we were going up, it was easy just to focus on what's in front of you and not looking down. But when going down metal stairs, you can't help but notice that you're really quite high up in the air and on metal stairs attached to a rock.

Lori stopped cursing for large parts of the trip back down.

But we made it down and she was much better. She said 10 years ago she never would have done that, so it's quite cool that she did.

Oh, and we remembered being told that there was a special "visitor's exit" that would let us come out closer to our vehicles. I guess I'm naive or stupid enough to think of how considerate that was. I failed to realize what it really meant is when you're leaving you had to run the gauntlet of people selling you crap. But that was all right. And really, Sigiriya was amazing. There's something to be said for being totally surprised by the day's events.

Also, it was nice that I managed to get to the top of this bloody thing and I was fine, physically, when I got to the bottom. I was sweating, but that was because of the heat and humidity. But my muscles were fine. I'm really quite proud of that. A year ago that trip up would have killed me.

It's hard to beat a 24 hour period where you have 18 elephants (we saw two more on the way to Sigiriya) and climbing a giant fortress, but we did our best. We hopped in our van and our driver, Rukman, drove us to Anuradhapura. It's an ancient capital of Sri Lanka and a deeply holy site. It goes to show that the two hour drive there didn't faze us at all, despite occasionally close calls with buses and bikes. All it takes is a couple of days on Sri Lankan roads to make you uncaring about potential impending death.

After we made it to Anuradhapura and spent a couple of hours relaxing and waiting for the temperate to cool off we went to the Sri Maha Bodhi. It's nice to be able to visit this site and have Dups as a guide. He's been to the site before and while he's not the most devout Buddhist in the world, he still knows enough to provide perspective and knowledge when we were there.

And being there at sunset was nice. It was beautiful light, in a very holy place and friendly people. It was much nicer than the Buddhist temple in Kandy, which was a madhouse and filled with tourist all trying to get a view of Buddha's holy tooth. The grounds here are much larger, better spaced out and just much...calmer. It was a very nice evening. We gave some lotus flowers to Buddha and made a prayer and lit some incense and made a wish.

After that we went to another temple site. It was after dark and closed and almost immediately after arriving a police officer and a member of the national security force arrived. We figured we were going to be politely told to leave. Instead, Dups spoke to them and next thing we know, we're getting an escort around the grounds. They asked Dups why we were taking so many photos at night. Ah, those crazy white people and their cameras.

And that evening was followed by a nice supper and some Lion beer. And for those who know me, yes, I drank beer. It was fine. I've also drank some tea, which is quite nice here as well. Sri Lanka is doing wonders for expanding our horizons.  New adventures, new food, new drink. It's all kinds of awesome.

Random Bits
1.After awhile you can apparently become pretty bored with monkeys. We might be at 18 elephants, but we've seen dozens of monkeys. Dups also hates them and view them as little better than vermin. Then again, his mom runs a coconut plantation and they're viewed as pests.
2. The situation with dogs is kind of weird. There are strays everywhere. And I mean everywhere. They're often sleeping on the side of the pavement where cars miss them by inches and they don't flinch. I was surprised to see them on Buddhist temple grounds and no one cares. They're not feral, but we still give them a wide berth, just in case. They also almost always look half starved. It can be hard to look at.
3. Kids do love coming up and trying to practice their English with the white folks. It's amusing. Of course, if you start to try to talk to them, they tend to run off.
4. I wasn't sure how the security situation was going to be here, but it's not as bad as I thought. It's only been a few years since the end of the civil war and while there are police and security forces (we've been pulled over once and our driver had to show ID and talk to them), it's still pretty low key stuff. It's a country that feels very anxious to get back to normal.

1 comment:

John, Perth AU said...

Well, that was very Joyce-esque stream-of-consciousness. Trying new writing styles? Do the Innis Mode next! :)

It's weird being almost synched up with you timezone-wise, only ninety minutes ahead instead of twelve hours.