I am still in the
central area, but the page became a bit long.
10/1. The warm water is off, but it is not too bad. This is the day my driving license expires. I doubt they will notes, and Colombo is a long way, anyway. I have read up on the ancient sights I ought to see in the city. They are roughly divided in to three areas, of which I have seen the "Top Site" and the area next to my hotel.
Just to make sure I didn't miss anything, I head back north along the dike. It is a absolutely lovely walk, in some rather unspoiled nature, and all by my self. Here are small ponds and flooded areas underneath huge trees. Herons, bee-eaters, finches, starlings, chip-monks, birds of pray and a few cows enjoy the shadow with me.
The endless brick-wall sits on the top of the dike, and a single, big structure is at the brink of the lake. It could be the ferry-dock. The legend has it; the sultan had his harem stashed on the tiny island, way out in the lake. Strangely enough, none seems to sail on today.
I'm forced out to the road where the lake and road meets. It is just at the city-limit sign, and a group of cows enjoys the early sun. I find my way in again, and this time, the nature seems more unspoiled. A Scorpion-tick in the water, Spotted Deer in the forest and numerous butterflies in the meadows. I even find a giant, green spider underneath a leaf.
A rather large gecko sits on a strangler fig, and let me get quite close. The strange and very delicate Cucurbitaceae flowers are back, so are the ruins. I have reach the Siva Devale where two guys are cutting grass with the traditional "bend machetes". Some brig-structures, several square meters of carved letters on a boulder, and the usual colons.
I make it out to the road and find a cup of tea. The owner of the place also work on car-electrics, and invites me to his shop. He it repairing the generator for a Jeep, and despite his ancient tools, he is truly a skilled man. I chat with him and the car's owner for quite some time, but figures it is time to head back.
As I passes one entrance (official one), I try to buy a ticket. They don't want my 3250 LKR for the whole city's sights: I have to buy the ticket at some museum, closer to town. I look for it, on my way back, but fails to locate it. As the ruins are scatter over such a large area means; not all of them are fenced in. I have a look at some of them, but they kind of start looking alike to me.
A Land Monitor and a Common Garden Lizard like to have their photos taken, and despite I got plenty, I'll do it just to please them. Back at the hotel, I get a glass of fresh juice, and spend some time picking years of splinters out of my Habanas flip-flaps - Oh-joy. I doze of at the shady veranda - a brand new activity for me. I could get used to it, I think.
There is one ancient artefact I'll like to see; a naturalistic human statue, carved form the bare rock. It is in the southern cluster of ruins, and once again, I follows the dike for a few kilometres. At first, it is through a township, then on the dike itself, overlooking the meadows and rice fields. I reach another canal, here people are also bathing. The water originates from the tank on the other side of the dike, but none seems to bath here? A another cup of tea, and I'm ready.
The aerologic area is luckily enough not under ticketing, and I get in without any problems. The stature is defiantly different from the more stylistic Buddha statues, but is might be of King Parakramabahu the Great (1153-1186). The nearby Potgul Vehera is a cluster of buildings. It is a strange, thick walled but hollow degoba-like building, surrounded by four smaller and some other temples.
I walk back on the top of the dike. A huge, flat rock on the edge of the water, right in the shadow of a giant tree basically begs to be napped on. I find a new type of rather large Cucurbitaceae with white flowers, a Water Monitor slowly leaves, while my attention is caught by a new Pedaliaceae with large, pink flowers.
A rather new deboba is bright white- for now, and a young Water Monitor seems to be totally indifferent to my attention. I reach the town in the northern end, and as I walk besides the canal, I get a good picture of a monk with umbrella, passing a huge strangler-fig tree.
As I returns to the cosy hotel, I'm offered tea, and I talk her into brewing me another kind. The normal one taste too much like plastic, by some odd reason. Then I read up on the area I'm in, to find some more interesting sights. As no surprise, they are scattered around the entire area, and I have to double back a few times. What I want is accessible places, within pristine nature and without the thick-skinned plaques. I recon ancient temple sights might be cleared of them by now.
I sit and work till six, missing the sunset. I recon that can be forgiven with a nice dinner - although I'm not sure where to find that? I try in a local shop - there seems to be nothing else, except on the resorts. Fried rice with eggs, which are nice and then two pancakes, one filled with coconut jam, the other with pineapple jam. That, followed by a great cup of tea with milk, make a good meal, and for 310 LKR!
11/1. After fruitless trying to absorb the enormous breakfast at the hotel, I check out, and despite she charges me for two days of hot water, I let it go. I head north, towards Medrigiriya and its Vihara; a temple. I drive mainly through large patches of rice and bananas, but some stretches are forest and some palms. I do several stops, one at a creek with flowering bulbs. I begin to think it actually is Crinum asiaticum, flowering and growing in flooded areas.
I follow a river or canal from village to village, until I reach Medrigiriya. The temple should be "close bye", but I have to guess five times, before I - a bit to my surprise - reach it, in first go. A giant parking area with a guard, asking me for 100 LKR. I only have a 500 bill, which I hand him, asking him to have the change when I returns - only in Sri Lanka!
As I head straight for the small tank, a "guide" do his best to get hired. All he accomplish, is to piss me off. I find a flat stone in the water, and admire the animals for half an hour of so. Tadpoles, tiny blue fish, numerous water plants, Spotted Deer and many birds entertain me, while he get more and more winded up. Finally he leaves, and I head into the area.
A massive construction sits on the top of a large boulder. I follow the wall, surrounding the area, and end up in a forest. Then I stumble over an ancient construction, quite alike those I have seen so many of the recent days. Walls of bricks, columns of granite.
I find another small trail, leading in to the dense bushes, but it kind of fades out, without revealing anything interesting. Back at the main site, I get the "Indiana Jones" feeling. Well, except from the almost faded signs, asking me to remove hat and footwear. The ancient temple is in a pristine condition, and I'm all by my self. A cave leads only short into the rock, but the entire site is rather large.
Several degobas, some ponds, temples and the main, round structure, featuring several Buddha statues. I do several rounds, and I even find a few orchids! In a tiny pond, what appears to be fire-bellied frogs; Bombina sp. live along with a square meter of water lilies.
The figures which are around 800 years old, do bare sign of time, but the granite structures stands almost intact. Besides from the sitting Buddha statues, here are many rather small, standing images as well as some larger. I find another trail, leading out in the wild, and get to what only can be one of the oldest pedal-toilets in the world. Once again; in pristine condition.
I crosses the empty parking lot, and find a primitive shop. The water is stored in a clay bawl, fitted with a plastic tap. A very young girl only leaves, when I start talking in Danish - never fails. Refreshed, I find yet another trail, leading along a large pond. Butterflies, Tricoloured Munia; Lonchura malacca, peacocks, herons and lots of other animals thrive here. I find a hairy caterpillar, just before I have to return at a canal.
I meet the parking-guard at the lot, and he does seem a bit disappointed, when I ask for my 400 LKR - but he does have them by now. I head towards the east, but have to back-track until Minneriya. The clutch is really starting to be a problem; it is slipping more and more. I have to drive "with a rotten egg under my throttle-food", and that is not my usual style! I recon I could spend some days, returning to Colombo and get it fixed - but I don't feel for it.
I make a stop in Hingurakgoda, a rather strange town. Kind of modern, kind of forgotten and worn down. The market is a large square ring, with a green area in the middle, holding a pond with goldfishes. One side is almost all taken up by the beetle nut salesmen. Palm-nuts and the green leaves make up quite a lot of the trade in many places. A real bad habit, some would say.
Back at the road, I have to wait for the passing train, looking like it have anticipated in the war - the Boer one, that is. I passes the meadow with elephants, and the usual three are present. Then I'm in Habarane, and passes by the usual hotel, to reserve a room. Then out of the northern A6 towards Agbopura.
Some awesome nature lours me out of the car, and I find a meadow, teaming with life. And elephant dung. It seems like I can't walk fifteen meters without stumbling over either elephants destruction or their "calling-cards". Then a large "boulder" pushes down a tree, 30 meters away, and I start missing my car.
Some large boulders tempts me, figuring elephants won't bother to climb them. I do, and it is a steep climb, just to reach the top - and a large pile of fresh elephant dung. Either they climb like geckos or the fly - are there no way to escape these trunked menaces?
With all senses awake, I find a tiny pond with frogs, not more than half a meter long, sitting on a bare rock. Large fig-trees sits on bare boulders, and I climb one of them, offering me a great view over a clearing, formed by bare rock. The tree's air-roots falls down like a curtain, while the true roots entangles the boulders. A giant squeal jumps close to me, monkeys quarrels, birds tweets and I dose of - till the forest falls. I have a back-door to the road, and I feel it is time to use it, before the elephants find me.
Every time I do a stop, I find the ubiquitous proboscis pest's sure signs, and that kind of take the most of my eagerness to explore the more remote areas. Even on the road, they spread like white plastic bags in other countries. I stop at an old loop of the road, offering a great view over the valley. A giant tree is filled with orchids and a huge bee's nest.
I stop at a small shop to "tea-up". The two guests are jolly guys. One a bus-driver, the other a police officer. They hardly speak English, but we exchange a lot of tales. The bus-driver insists on paying for my tea. Then two other traffic policemen turns up. One of them have a strange attitude, and he smells like 14 days of boozing. While my new friend try to cool his colleague off, I hit the road.
As I passes Alutoya, I enters the Vedikachchi Intermediate Zone, but that don't solve the elephant-problem. I only dear to do short walks into the dense bushes, and I hardly find anything of interest. The closer I get to Agbopura, the more firework piles and huts with clay-walls I passes. At five, I make a U-turn in the village, and head back towards Habarane.
I stop at two of the places I experienced elephants, and both places, I seen them, now grassing in the dusk at the more open areas. Despite I have been way closer to them, I am a bit reluctant to go any closer now. They are, after all, rather large and completely wild animals with a temper as a drunk.
I reach the hotel in Habarane, just as it turns dark. A bit of working, a fried noodles with hints of chicken and more work, accompanied by tea. I get my usual room, although he would like to slip me one without warm water. It turns out, I actually have a room to 3500 and not the 2000 I'm paying.
12/1. I head up north-east, on a familiar road. This time in great sunshine, and I do several stops to investigate the nature. Huge swamps draws me in, but I have a hard time getting to the plants. I have to do with the dike. I chat with several locals, although their lack of English and mine lack of Sri Lankan make it breath conversations - in general. It seems like it is the elder people who actually speak English. The young might have it in school, but either they pay too little attention or their teachers are not good enough - I can relate to that.
I reach some extensive rice patches, scatted with old trees. They tend to bare orchids, but reaching them is hard. The fields are newly planted, and are now flooded. The tiny dikes do lead around, but they tend to break, when I walk them, not giving me any credit at the farmers!
As I reach the little village of Maradankadawala, and do the usual walk up and down the short business street. Outside the town, I crosses a wide canal, and make a stroll along it. Within the trees, several orchids are found, even with fruits, but still no flowers. A huge meadow with spread trees and a few clusters of bushes look entreating. Until I meet a fresh pile of dung. I thought I was safe here, but no.
Outside Mihintale, I see some huge boulders. A small trail leads towards them, and I go for it. A hardly readable sign say; Rajagiri Lena; The Royale Cave Hill. A nice staircase is carved into the bare rock at the first part. One cave is used by bats, which apparently are used to be left alone. They make a lot of commotion, just because I have a peek into their bedroom. A bit further up, I find a larger cave, which monks should have used since 400 BC. It have been improved with bricks - long time ago.
The Euphorbias, Passifloraceae? and especially the orchids make me climb even higher. Here are strangely no track at all, and it is rather challenging. The bushes are dense, the ground covered in Sansevierias in some places, in others it kind of lacking! The massive boulders make 5-10 meter vertical walls. It is convenient to be able to support my entire weight in one finger, and have long arms and legs.
I manages to get to a rather high ground, and the view is astonishing. I can see several degobas, one must be the large Mahaseya. Fig trees are growing on the bare rock, so are some of the orchids. I take a nap on a rather steep but smooth rock, warmed by the sun. As I head for the other side, some local kids stands on another pinnacle, shouting at me: How did you get there? I say: Follow the path - thinking on Buddha's famous words - or was it Yoda?, more than a road description.
I head further up, and reach the top, offering a full 360 degree view. No traces of anyone else having explored this peak in recent years - I wonder why? Well, if I have known how hard it would be to get down, I might have considered once more...
I find a new, smaller branched Euphorbia tree, lots of orchids and some real high and steep rocks. I am soaked in sweat, when I reach the car, but head on. Just a kilometre further on, I reach the village of Mihintale, dominated by ancient buildings. I go for a cup of tea, placing my self under a fan, just to dry a bit.
The sites are scatted over a rather large area, mainly along a set of stairs, counting 1843 steps - plus those to the additionally sights. A few tourists and many guides. None seems to be eager enough to follow me up the stairs - in my speed. The staircase is the widest in Sri Lanka, counting nine meters. That said, the steps are not that high.
I stop and pay the entrance fee at Dana Salawa; The Alms Hall. I have to admit; It does look quite a lot like so many other structures I have seen recently. Brick walls and granite columns. Some of them though, are real long. The next site have some huge tablets, giving all the laws for the kingdom, in ancient times.
More stairs, and I reach a small but beautiful degoba; Ambasthale Degoba, surrounded by columns. Behind it, a natural boulder; Aradhana Gala; Meditation Rock towers the sight. A set of stairs are kind of marked on the rock, and a iron rail leads to the top. Nearby, a large, white Buddha statue overlooks the site. It is popular with the monkeys, but little people go here. I find a trail leading behind it, and a flat rock offers a great panorama to the valley, although partly covered in mist.
The final set of stairs leads to the huge Mahaseya Dagoba. A platform surround it, and besides from the great view, it also reveals some heavy rain near by. I think I have had fun enough, but on the way down, I passes the magnificent stonework of a lion and some friezes at Sinha Pokuna.
I reach the car, just as the drizzle turns into proper rain. I drive straight home, considering the familiar road and the constant rain. Back at the hotel, I check the weather forecast: Rain the next four days. I don't mind getting wet, but I can't make good photos in gray weather. I might as well try to get the clutch fixed, and I write the owner of the car.
Realising the amount of photos is growing, despite the weather, I make a second Highlights.
13/1. The plan was to see a monastery in Matale, build within the sheer rock. Reading up on it again, made me realise; I've already seen it! The other site in Matale should to be the Heritage Centre. I hope to find my perfect, little souvenir, made in Sri Lanka, and see some great craftwork in general. Then out through the roughed and wild Knuckles' Range mountains, which might be divided up in two, due to the road's condition - and the car's.
I'm asked, in a reply from the car rental company, to get the car to a mechanic, and the friendly hotel owner helps me locate one. As I thought, it is the clutch which has been warn down. A new installed should be around 5500 LKR, something I'll be happy to pay, just to avoid driving back to Colombo to get it fixed.
I kind of thought the mechanic asked me back to the garage, to drive him to Drambulla, to get the clutch. He just start working on the car, right away. I watch for some time, but find it very hard to keep my hands in my pockets. As I see him dissembling the car, it is clear he will be taking pretty much apart. I recon it was not constructed by the Indians with time-saving in mind!
I spend the time working, among others, on a page for Crinum asiaticum, write some mails, re-organise the photos and write a few lyrics. The rain start pouring down, and I must confess; I feel fine, just sitting looking at it for now.
Half pass one, the mechanic have finally gotten the warn-down clutch out of the car. The clutch reminds me of my mopeds days; same size, same quality. Well, what does one expect for 2400 LKR? Now, he just wants money to buy a new in Dambulla, 30 km to the south - and then fit it back in, and assemble the car. I might be looking at another night here after all.
At half pass four, he is back: He have bought a new clutch, going to Dambulla by bus! He promises; he have the car ready this evening. I tell him tomorrow will be fine. I'm glad I'm not in the usual rush my "vacations" normally are kept in. I'm even at a pretty good hotel, and the weather is bad. My only worry is; what will I spend the evening with, having no photos and no diary to write???
Sitting in a Buddhist country, I can't help thinking;: There must be more to life, that sitting here, feeding the mosquitoes? Or perhaps, this is the essential truth about life, and the circle it all comes into? If it is, count me out! I'll wrestle elephants any day. Throw in a day at the Dakar Rally, a dive with sharks, and I sign up for good.
While sitting and trying to entertain my self in the evening, I go harvesting good photos among Claus', left for back-up at my computer. Loads of good ones, but I stick to a few humoristic ones, to spice up this day. The one where the proof photographer runs out of battery at the first of elephant encounter. One where our little Maruti 850 look even smaller, and the mad bathroom. Too many choices with four shower-heads and eight taps.
As a thank-you for the photos, I offers him a seat on the next tour. At the drivers seat even! His reply in Danish make me giggle high: "Jeg skal eddermanemer aldrig køre i sådan en meteorregn af pispotter!". Roughly translated: "I'm damn never drive in such a meteor-shower of piss-wrecks!". Guess he didn't feel comfortable with the different style of driving, which must be said, basically is quite different and way more "organic". Ten times more traffic can go through a needles eye, if every one is ten times as focused and concentrated. And never EVER look back or to the side, only forward at any time.
At ten, I start worry about the mechanics and my car. I'm glad he only charges 1/10 of his Danish cousin, a hour! Then he calls, and I pick-up the working car. He ask for 4000 LKR, which is some more than he started with, but on the other hand, it have taken considerable more time. I just hope he and his little helper are satisfied - and the car works from now on.
Last job of the day it to make the third Slide-show for the central lowland.
From here, I head up to the highland, once again.