highlands, we do a bit of the central lowland, then the central
26/12. After a surprisingly good and long nights sleep on a rock-hard madras, we are ready for adventures in the morning sun. A temple outside of town is build within the rock, and it should have some great illustrations of afterlife for the wicked: Aluvihara.
We find it easily; somehow, it is in the GPS. Some buildings stands in front of natural caves. Within, reclining and sitting Buddha figures are colourful painted. The man-made walls are a chapter for them selves. Vivid paintings of what the devils will be doing to the wicked, in many variations.
Outside, a lot of triangle holes are carved into the rock. Each have a small clay dish with oil for burning. On our way out, we meet a newly married couple, getting their photos taken, warring traditional dressings. A nearby marked draws us in, but it is souvenirs for the locals. A dog have scab like so many others, but it is still quite cheerful.
On the other side of the road, we find some traditional oil-fried breakfast, and we are ready to head on. This is the start of the northern lowlands, and the rice patches are getting big. We stop a single place, and get the distant girls all wined up.
Due to the improvising of the days events, Claus search advice at a tourist information office. He returns with photos of some ancient remains like drawings and temples, and I go for it. First, we buy a ticket for the local museum of Dambulla. Despite the pre-printed price is $4, they correct it to $2.
The rather little museum is made up by paintings of famous ancient paintings of Sri Lanka. Besides from the sorting in Dark Age, Ancient Art and alike, it is really not that interesting. We want to see the real stuff, and head up the mountain to the Rock Temple. The walk is up a big, flat assenting rock, reminding us of Ayres Rock.
When we reach the top, they want our ticket. Not the one from the museum though. I catch a fast glimpse of the area, and find it very much like the one we just left. We enjoy the free area with its warm rock and surrounding vegetation. Here are Plumera, Sansevierias and Euphorbias - any indigenous?
We follow the stream of pale people down to the giant Buddha statue, sitting on the Buddha Museum. We do not even think of going in to it. Instead, we go for Sigiriya, the giant rock and fortress Claus want to see. We do a bit of fumbling around in the area, due to the guards. They guards us to the parking lot of the locals.
The drive leads us along the kilometre long moat and an even longer brick-wall. We find the entrance, but have to buy the ticket way off from there. The posh cafeteria is not finish, but a sheet offers great tea and some freshly cooked wraps. Then we have to pay 3900 LKR for the entrance, covering the fortress, the gardens and the museum. Here are loads of locals, but then again; they only have to pay 50 LKR.
The path leads us through the the Water Garden and the Pleasure Garden. Well, use to be. I find them rather disappointing, but the giant rock is entreating. It was a monastery a few hundreds years BC. Then King Kassapa made it the capital of Lanka in 473 AC.
Here are enormous constructions of mainly bricks, but also some natural granite stones. Most of the endless stairs are made of white marble. Some paths and flat areas are carved directly into the rock. The area in front of the giant rock have been completely occupied by buildings, of which only the brick fundament remains.
Half way up, we meet a group of temple monkeys, The young ones are curious, but not that use to being that close to people. We get some good portraits without loosing any fingers. A narrow winding iron staircase leads up to a fresco gallery on the rock. It seems like silicone breasts have been popular for quite some time here.
After that, we passes by the Mirror Wall, with its ancient graffiti. Next up is the Lion Gate, where we passes through a pair of enormous lion's paws, up yet another set of stairs. The top is made up by the fundament of the palace, gardens, filled ponds, a lot of locals and some pale visitors.
The view is, despite the mist, astonishing. The lakes and gardens below, the distant mountains and the endless green carpet Sri Lanka seems to be made of. We explore the entire top, and find some small ponds, caves and a cable car, which seems to have been forgotten. The sun have been peaking out from time to time, but it can't chase the mist away.
We head down, and have to stand on our ground, not to be send to Foreigners Parking-lot. Next event is the museum. Quite a special building, made over a lake. It consists of semi-open rooms, giving glimpses of the lake underneath, the nature outside and trees within the building. Here are a nice display of art effects, found around the place. Ants, giant squirrels, kingfishers, skinks, baby common garden lizards and many other animals thrive here.
We get another cup of tea, before we leave this nice place. One of the guards, leading us the wrong way, calls us op as we passes. It turns up that he, despite his police-like uniform, is stoned on betel-nuts. Real friendly, but not what we need. Claus wants to sleep nearby, but the places we find are either occupied of real expensive.
When we finally find one, it turns out to be full after all. The friendly owner first drive with us to another - too expensive on. Then he offers us a tent in his garden - quite cheep, but no catch. Just as it turns dark, we spot Home, sweet Home Guesthouse. It has been open for one month, it is real nice and worth the 3000 LKR, including hot water. The host even offers to serve great fried rice with some delicious chicken (which "vegetarian" Claus call aubergine, and eats with great pleasure). We sit on the great porch, and enjoy the night's sounds - and occasionally passing trucks.
26/12. The first site is the rock fortress of Yapahuwa. There are no direct roads, and we go for the minor back roads, cutting through rice and coconut plantations, but mainly what appears to be unspoiled nature. First stop is at one of the many Lotus lakes. Here, several plants are in flower, and I get close to one, without falling into the pond.
The locals wash their cloths in the dammed lake, fish in it and enjoy life, just like us. We head further into the unknown, but find Rampe in the end. A better road leads to Maho and the nearby Yapahuwa. The steep rock raises to 100 meters above the lush, green surroundings, but a granite staircase leads up. It is real steep, and leads through a fantastic granite portal.
From here, the track turns a bit more rough. Some parts are on rough rock, some have steps carved into them and some are concrete steps. The view is, despite the mist, astonishing. Palms, lakes, rice patches and distant mountains. Lizards, skinks and a small monitor enjoys the rich insect life, which again enjoys the rich and flowering plant life.
A few ponds offers even home to frogs and small fish. Next to the top-pond is a old bagoda and remains of old constructions. The top is, not unlike Ayres Rock, quite vegetated. I find huge Euphorbia trees, some large bulbs, Fabaceae flowers and lot more.
Claus levels with the bare rock, and I give it a go too. The sun, the breeze and the comfortable heat form the rock make it a perfect resting place, but we do get quite some sun! A few locals make the challenging tour, some are in their 70- or 80'ties. On the way down, we check out some shallow caves and ponds.
The last bit of the stairs are steep; around 60 degrees, and I can't figure how they get their four year old kids up and down? I have a hard time getting Claus down! We do a tour around in the ancient gardens below the rock. Several moats and ramparts in cut granite. The trees are host to a new species of orchid, with lots of fruits.
Here are also an old temple, made in rock caves. Old Buddha figures in bright paint, oil lamps and other religious items, all by it self. Compared with yesterday's tourist trap, this is so relaxed and undisturbed. It seems like only a few locals know of its existents.
We head further out towards the sea, through rural farm land. Then, out of nowhere, and real posh and modern hotel emerges. Claus suggest we get a nice meal, and we give it a go. The meals are almost ordinarily prices, and we get our welcome drink - a Coke - at the perfect poolside.
My chicken-corn soup is a dream, the roasted pork the most rubbery piece of meat I ever have had! The caramel-stuff for desert slightly disappointing. Claus is more pleased with his meal. The price is 4000 LKR, not bad except for my meat. The only other guests are a giant Arab in classic dressing and a bunch of high ranking policemen. Their table are significantly more quiet than our.
The photos form this area is found in the slide-show: Central-1
It is late in the afternoon, when we reach the first suborns of Puttalam. We try the first place offering rooms, and get a rather crappy one for 1500 LKR. Then we drive into Puttalam, which is a fairly large city. A nice hotel offers us a room for 1650 LKR - which we should have taken. We are still in the countryside at our hotel, and a few herds of cows are headed home.
It is turning dark, and we make a fast stroll into the market. The dealers are rapping it up, but we are offered betel-nuts and the green leaves associated with the drug. We decline, but go for the fresh cucumber-like fruit, another offers us. Back at the main street, we get a cup of tea and a snack. Then, it is home to work.
Claus somehow figures a return mach in cricket between Pakistan and Sri Lanka is going on, and he is occupied the entire evening. To me, it sounds like 75% commercials, 15% waiting and 10% true game. It feels even less intense, when I watch. It does not add to the experience the TV signal is absolutely minimal, and it might be a football mach between ants!
28/12. The night is dominated by the fact, the madras is about 20 years too old to be called comfortable. What use to be foam in the Iron Lady's days, is now merely sand between the sheets. We skip breakfast, and head out to the narrow peninsular on the central west coast.
First stop is the most pitiful excuse for a circus I ever have seen! The tent is mainly made up by old, black plastic bags, the Mary-go-round looks at least a hundred years old, while the tiny toy rocking horses are way our of line. A lion on a poster promises something I doubt they can keep, the acts with chairs and benches more likely to come true. Anyway, what do you get for 100 LKR?
We had a plan of finding a National Reserve, but we somehow misses it way up north in the mainland, and decides to make the best of it anyway, now we are at the peninsular.
The government have big plans - sounding like Chinese ones - with a tourist paradise on the entre peninsular. Underwater world entertainment park, new international airport, super hotels, water sport and so on. So far, it have only materialized itself in a wide and smooth road, leading through the open facades of the shops in town. It does not look like it was what was on the top of the shop-owners' whishing list! We drive almost till the end, and do a stroll in the little city or village; Kalpitya, which - except from the open shops - seems to lack any influence from the outside world.
In the outskirts, most houses are made from madras of palm leaves and with palm leave roofs. Al is real neat and clean, and even the pigs are clean and happy. Some donkeys wanders joyful around, while the locals greats us with big smiles and friendly gestures. A few bulls are parked with their carriages, another is gently padded along by an old man.
The entire area is an even mix of Christians with their "Monk and Jesus" in aquariums, Muslims with their special robes, beards and mosques and Hindus and their temples. I guess the Buddhists are here too, but they kind of blend in.
The ferry harbour is a clay ramp, giving room for a small motorised dingy. The area is a mixture of marsh and mangrove, and large areas seems to be set of for either salt distillation or fish breading? We get a second breakfast, and despite I only ask for tea, we get a big tray of cookies. Common politeness demands me to try them, and I'm disappointed - once again.
We leave the peninsular with Dutch and Portuguese Bay, and head through the costal swamps. Many of the expected birds, few people and great nature in general. Despite it is rather early, we try to find a reasonably hotel, in the larger town of Chilaw.
Absolutely none in the centre of the town, and the first ones on the beach are ridiculous expensive. Finally, we find an old, large one, which overview the beach, right next to the trading centre of town. A stroll along the golden beach leads to a fishing village, made of palm leaves. Claus get some great pictures of the young girls in town, I get to dip my feet in the surf.
Down to the surprisingly cosy trading area of town. It is almost pedestrian streets, and the low sun make some great motives. We find a bit of dinner. Yesterday, Claus promised to be the big spender at the fancy hotel - but he was out of money. Today, he is once again the grand spender - and we share a small, vegetarian pizza. We find some life essentials, and exchange polite remarks with the locals. Back at the hotel, we watch the locals play cricket at the beach, and then I start working.
29/12. I'm a bit ahead of Claus in the restaurant, and orders pouched egg for him. He look slightly disappointed, when he receive one boiled egg, cut in four. We drive slowly south, stopping for the first adventure - and a cup of tea in Pamunugama. Right outside the village, a absolutely beautiful lake, filled with fish and water lilies make us stop.
We make a complete stroll around the little village without finding tea. Just before we enters the car, I spot one more option. He do serve nice, hot tea with milk and some rather good cookies and bread. We have to pay 110 LKR for the treatment.
Back on the road, we aim for Ja-Ela and the big lagoon. We reach the seaside, and take a stroll on the golden beach, which we more or less have to our self. The perfect surf is again spoiled by sandy rocks, just in the break. Never the less, the "Bounty land" looks perfect with its large coconut palms, the lower screw palms and the golden sand.
We fumble a bit around to find the Visitor's Centre. It is down two tiny allies, not marked in any way. Guess they like privacy here? We are never the less greeted by a well spoken gentleman, who offers us to go for a boat ride in the Muthurajawela Lagoon for a couple of hours.
We spot some water monitors, cormorants and herons within the Dutch build canal. They build it to ship out the rice from the area. Right away, the entire area was flooded with saltwater, and rice was out of the question. When we reach the coastal lagoon, terns, bee-eaters, three different kingfishers, and other herons are added to the list. Despite the brackish water, massive ferns grow in the waterline. Mangrove trees and palms, vines and water plants form a massive, green setting. Unfortunately, several of the most dominating floating plants are invasive, but if you ignore that, it is pure idyll. Claus experiments with photos of the "Guppies", not that successful this time.
A few fishermen stand neck-deep in the muddy water, laughing and smiling at us. We returns to port, and head down along the canal towards Colombo. We reach the city around four, and head straight to the two room hotel, next to the Visa Office. Claus have made the reservation, and they expects us. The maid show us our room, and we head into town.
After single turn, and we find ourselves in a partly open business area. It is Sunday and might be a religious day too, but around a third of the shops are open. Claus is determined to find us a proper Christmas dinner (again?!), but settles with a "All Vegetarian". The owner have lived in Germany, and we kind of figure what we order. We get a great spread of their dishes in small cups, some fried and spiced rice-buns, a lot of pasta and a dish with a fresh plastic bag on. The latter have we experienced before, but this is a first without a fork. Fingers works fine, but I must confess; I do find it a bit messy.
We finished with a cup of tea, and I get a
tray with samples of the sweet in the front counter. Fairly stuffed,
we walk pass the closing shops, and returns to our home and a chat
with its well educated owner. Usual work through the evening,
interrupted by jawing. I use Claus cell to up-load photos and diary
- rather slow, but efficient.
30/12. We get a late start on the day. First thing is an extension for my visa. Despite the front door on the governmental building is closed with a chain, the back-door is open. We get a small breakfast before I enters the governmental machinery.
I get a number at one counter. A guy calls me, and let me wait in a line before I wait in a office. The officer just sign my form, and I out in the big waiting room with around 200 others, once again. I find Claus, who have been "suffering" in a restaurant nearby, and we wait together in the air-con room.
My number comes up once again, and I get my form and passport, and can bring it to the counter for payment. They take my 3750 LKR, my passport once again, and I'm back waiting. After two and a half hour, my passport is stamped once again, and I can stay the rest of the planed period.
We find a cup of tea before we walk out to Fort, the old harbour district. The central plaza with the clock tower is quite modern, the Colombo Municipal Council quite alikee the American White House. I had hoped to find Kala Pola Art Market. Despite we find the right park, the artists are nowhere to be seen. The Fort is a bit like that: We are surely the right place, but nothing interesting to see.
We find our way to Pettah, the old part of town. A line of worn-down colonial houses make a great panorama, the shops some interesting shopping. I find a Cell-phone modem for the computer and a few other items. Claus end up with LED lights for his apartment and a switch from another century.
Then we find a fancy rooftop restaurant, and get some late supper. Great view over the harbour, quite good traditional food; spiced cuttlefish and chicken. Appetite spoiled, we continues through the old business district of Pennah. I look at nice leather shoos for 1000 LKR, Claus search for music. It seems like music shops only have one original CD. If you want it, they burn a copy for you.
Some streets are car-less, only plenty of tuck-tucks and trolleys along with loads of people. People are greeting us friendly, but only a few too friendly: A no-thanks is respected. We only see two other pale people during the entire day, and it seems like the locals see as few, judged by their response on us.
We stop for a cup of tea in a Muslim place. Colas are 120 LKR, burgers 30-50. The sweet tea with milk 40, without milk; 15. We passes a few Hindu temples, Buddha dagobas and the great mosque, which announce the evening pray.
A tuck-tuck bring us partly home to the fancy Coco Veranda. A Coco club sandwich and a lasagne is fine, but the special, rather expensive Chai is a bummer. A new tuck-tuck drives us right back home at ten. At midnight, Claus get puzzled over the fact his ticket for "tomorrows flight" say Friday. It turns out he have one more months in Sri Lanka. Well accordantly to his ticket, not his work.
31/12. First task of the day is to find a flight ticket to Claus. The Turkish Airways is nearby, and he try to alter his present booking. That works like a charm, and we are at an Indian diner before we know it. Then it is off to Ngombo, unfortunately not by the highway, but eventually, we get there.
We find a cheep hotel between the airport and the city, and I drop my bag. Down town to buy water and a few other items, before we do the Main Street walk. I get my own SIM card for the internet-USB, we check-out the latest factions in dressing.
I find some white cotton lined for a sleeping sheet, and a bit further up the street, a sewing woman sow it together. It is New Year, and many tables along the street is packed with fireworks. We hear a few, but not much - so far. The canal crossing the city is as clean as the back allies and the rural marked: Almost spotless!
We find a few cups of tea, some snacks and Claus finally get his hands on some original Sri Lankan music. We do the area with small shops as well as the few large ones. Everywhere, people are greeting us with huge smiles. And we even spot a few other pale ones in the streets.
At five, we find a pretty neat restaurant, and share a New Year dinner - low style after all. Back at the hotel to pack and shower Claus - I only anticipate in the packing - and off to the airport just in time. Back to work and catch up on some e-mails. I doubt I'll be able to find any social event for the evening anyway. Instead, I make the slideshow for this part, and hit the bed at ten.
After the delivering Claus back in the airport, I now head for the northern part.