Firstly let me start by apologising. Since I got back from holiday life has been heeeeectic. Lots of exciting stuff happening, which I will tell you all about once I have wrapped up the blog about the holiday.
The things you do for friends.
Pick ups/drop offs at the airport, putting them to bed after they have had too much to drink (to be honest its been a while since I have had to do this), talking them through their latest break up (this on the other hand is rife at the moment), or in my case recently, foregoing a cruisey ride in an air-conditioned car from Kandy to the north of Sri Lanka, and instead, getting one of my friends to drive me for four straight hours in his tuktuk.
Well that was my initial thought while I packed my bags at my hotel in Kandy. And this was only compounded at breakfast when I told the man that ran the hotel that i was staying at what I had planned for the day. He looked at me like I was a mad man. ‘A tuktuk, to Sigiriya? Really?’ Accompanied by a face that very much said ‘you are f@#&’ing nuts!’.
Don’t get me wrong, I love me a tuktuk ride. Zipping through the cars, trucks and bikes, the wind in my hair, some eccentric man waxing lyrically about breasts… If I had a dollar for every time a taxi driver or tuktuk driver in some far-flung country had talked to me about breasts, I’d have more than enough money to buy myself a pair. And from a good surgeon too! Not some rubbish after the fact you find yourself with one looking up, one down and then eventually featuring on E!’s Botched, sort of number.
Anyway, I digress… I love tuktuks, they are one of my favourite parts of visiting Asia, but hours and hours in the back of one? I had my concerns. But as I alluded to I felt it was better to pay the money to my friend Chana (who drives a tuktuk), and help him and his family out, as opposed to give it to some random I didn’t know, who probably would’ve quite liked the money too, but with whom I had no relationship.
"Are you ready…?" yelled Chana as I came down the stairs. “As ready as I will ever be," I replied. And after a quick stop to pick up my washing, some water for the trip and Chana’s bank to pay off some of a personal loan (it had to happen before COB that day apparently), we were on the road.
Of course the joy of having a driver is you can stop whenever you want.
Cup of tea? Why not.
Mango covered in salt and chilli - this might sound odd by you HAVE to try it. I feel in love with this combo in Mexico and was stoked to find the Sri Lankans are a fan too!
How about to see a cashew nut tree?
…an odd request yes, but tell me, prior to seeing the above picture had you any idea what a cashew nut tree looked like? Didn’t think so.
So yes, although it did take us a good three hours to get to Sigiriya, and this wee trip was no doubt the reason I had to visit the osteopath and get my neck and back re-aligned as soon as I got back to NZ, the journey was actually really, really fun.
As well as learning about where cashews come from, Chana and I also swapped stories about life and love, sung, danced and laughed about all sorts of stupid things. And as is so often the case, what I was initially a touch worried about, turned out to be a wicked time.
Much like New Zealanders do with Queenstown and Rotorua, just about even Sri Lankan I had meet had encouraged me to visit Sigiriya or Lion Rock. So I arrived brimming with anticipation. Sigiriya is an ancient rock fortress. It was the capital of a Kingdom way back in 477-495BC. King Kasyapa built his palace at the top of the rock and his minions lived and farmed in the surrounds.
But this is the crazy thing, the rock is called Lion Rock because King Kasyapa built a bloody great Lion head one end of the thing so it actually looked like a lion. Back in the day you walked up some stairs, through its mouth to reach the palace at the top. Unfortunately the lion was destroyed in a battle (very long complicated story that one), and now only the feet remain.
As I climbed the various stairs to the top of the rock, dealing with the full force of the wind, I did question the intellect of the King building his palace all the way up there, but once at the top, I quickly swallowed my words. The view. My God the view. Actually breathtaking. Just stunning.
Of course back in the day of King Kasyapa things would’ve looked very different, but I think a couple of thousands of years of natural growth has been the best thing for it. Nature uninterrupted. I mean how often do you see it? The seemingly never-ending green eventually giving away to the blue of the sky interspersed with Mother Nature's icing, big fat fluffy clouds.
I have found myself in awe a couple of times since arriving on the planet. Seeing the Taj Mahal in India, at Iguazu Falls in Argentina, when I learnt the American government was actually just printing more money to get itself out of the GFC, LITERALLY JUST PRINTING MORE MONEY! And atop Sigiriya. It really is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been in my entire life.
Following a good amount of time wandering the summit, taking in the beauty, contemplating life and congratulating myself for all the choices I made leading to this moment, I bounced down the rock and back to Chana so he could take me to try and find some elephants. I know, as if the day needed to get better, but yup, after the incredible experience that was Sigiriya, Chana reckoned he could track me down some elephants before we headed north to Trincomalee
But that story, and the yarn about the ridiculous bus ride that followed soon after, will have to wait for another day… Promise it won’t be a month between blogs.
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