Caution: Elephants roaming the area at dusk!
On the 23rd of January we took the bus from Anuradhapura to Sigiriya, which has been my favorite place so far because of its untouched nature and the scenic landscapes… It really was something special. On the bus we met two nice German girls, with whom we had a really enjoyable conversation. For the prospect of speaking German with other people we even took the expensive aircondition bus. Time flew by and before we noticed we had reached Dambulla, where we changed the bus and needed to say Goodbye to them again, because the two wanted to stay in Dambulla and explore Sigiriya, Pollonaruwa and onwards from there.
In the bus from Dambulla to Sigiriya we encountered the hospitality of the locals once more. They asked us the exact hotels address and then told us where exactly we needed to get off the bus to have the least amount of walking ahead of us. The hotel was more of a homestay, with a hotel feeling to it. But that made it really lovely, unique and actually the best we had so far.
One of the lowest prices, the cleanest room (not a single cockroach) and the nicest hotel owner, Vimansa, who drew little maps with routes to the places we wanted to visit, gave us her phone number to call if something happens, showed us where to find food and was just an overall nice and really caring person. She felt a bit like a mother to us. A mother far away from our actual homes. Because of that we deciced to stay there for another night rather spontaneously. I love this aspect of travelling the most. Being independent and free to decide everything – where to stay, for how long and what to see.
We rented bikes again, but this time they were even cheaper and much better (Rico even had a bike for grownups this time).
For lunch we ate at a governmentally founded kitchen Vimansa recommended as being perfect for our low budget. Just as the hotel the soup kitchen was one of the cheapest places but at the same time one of the absolute best. Another pinnacle of Sri Lankan hospitality and friendliness. After trying everything (and everything we had was awesome), we paid something like 300 Rupees for both of us (that’s around 1.60 € in total), which is virtually nothing, even for Sri Lankan standards. As you might be able to imagine, we ate there again and again during our stay, a whopping 5 meals in total.
For a two nights stay, that’s quite much. But hell yeah, it was diverse food and everything was really really tasty, clean, cheap and prepared fresh before our eyes. We would like to come again… and again. In the evening we went to the national park with the Sigiriya Lion Rock – by bike of course.
The Lion Rock is one of THE symbols in Sri Lanka, but we couldn’t afford to climb it as the entrance fee was 25 $ per person. Way to much for low budget travellers like us. The high price is also the reason why many people just skip it, miss out on some ancient architecture and a part of Sri Lankas culture and spread the word of crazy high entrance fees. Most of them (including us) then climb up the second rock called Pidurangala instead. Even the locals are upset about this and want to reduce the price by gathering signatures for a petition to address the issue with the government directly. Because we arrived in Sigiriya in the early afternoon we had actually no time left to climb the second rock when we arrived there because we wanted to be down again before nighttime. So we did not do it. To understand that, you need to know that it is very dangerous to be outside after sun set around the area. As many of the signs in the national park said: “Caution! Elephants roaming the area at dusk.” First we couldn’t believe what Vimansa told us, but as we met other locals on the way, who also warned us to not be outside after dusk settles and we saw little tree houses every hundred meters, we were quite frightened to be out in the national park after sun set.
So instead of climbing the rock we just wandered around discovering the area this day, which was like being in a fairytale. Old tempe ruins covered by jungle plants, very old trees and over all a mystical atmosphere caused by the low light, a few sun strokes shining through the branches of the sometimes oddly shaped ancient trees. It somehow looked a bit like the scenery of the game “Badland” to me.
We unfortunately wasted half of the next day because Ricos foot was swollen and hurting around a little wound he got earlier in Anuradhapura. Fearing it might be some weird bacterial infection, which can get really serious really fast, we decided to better go and see a doctor as soon as possible. So we waited for Vimansa to come back from her day job as a teacher to ask her where the next hospital/doctor was. Fortunetely it was not that far, with the bikes no problem at all. As we had already guessed, it was some kind of wound infection, which would have spread further and further and would have eventually lead to a sepsis, through which Rico could have lost his leg (or his life). Big thanks to Google that we decided not to wait, but to see a doctor immediately.
What really caught my attention in the hospital though were the old-fashioned uniforms of the nurses. It looked like they were from a film made back in the 60s. I couldn’t stop staring at them… for real now. The long white socks were a real eyecatcher especially in contrast to the black shoes and the equally as black layer of jungle-forest-like leg hair. And their rotund bodies, pressed into those greyish, brown uniforms made them look like they were just ready to force you to eat spoons of codliver oil, so you would be better soon. Funnily Rico thought just the same about their appearance.
After a little medical treatment to Ricos foot and two prescriptions for different antibiotics we went off again. Walking around should not be a problem according to the doctor, so we decided to climb the rock just in time to see the sun set.
The view was more than awesome and really worth the extra day. Being on top of the rock, looking into the distance gave me a feeling of complete freedom. If you would ask me to describe the landscapes I would say it has some parallels with the Saxon Switzerland in Germany. But think of it with jungle instead of oak trees and more huge and widespread, more open.
By coincidence we met the two girls from the bus to Dambulla on the top of the rock once again just as the sun started setting down, turning the whole sky into yellow, orange and red tones. We were kinda expecting to maybe meet them, because they wanted to go to Pollonaruwa the day before and on that day planned to visit Sigiriya, but still the probabilitiy of meeting them on the second rock at just this time was rather low. Whatever. The world is small… In the end we needed to hurry because it was getting quite dark outside quite fast.
The next day before leaving we went to our favourite restaurant (or whatever you want to call it), where we met a small German family that has been traveling now for more than a year living from the money they earn with their blog and stock photography. We were amazed because we would have never imagined one could make enough money from something like that to travel around for basically forever… or at least we figured one needed to be really lucky or exceptionally good at what one is doing but no. Here they were, living the proof of the contrary. Of course we wanted some tips and in the end we exchanged contact data. Hopefully we get an email with some little tips and advice on how to get started really soon. We are looking forward to it. In the meantime we just continue what we are doing already. Travel!
And off we went towards Polonnaruwa.