After Anuradhapura and Sigiriya we wanted to head to the East Coast and one stop on our way, we were told not to miss on our journey through Sri Lanka, was Pollonaruwa. Like Anuradhapura, Pollonaruwa is an ancient temple city filled with old ruins, statues and dagabas.
When we arrived there we negotiated with the tuk tuk drivers for quite a long time because we had heard that it is possible to get into the temples through a back entrance for a much lower fee… if you find the right tuk tuk driver that is. Still it cost 5000 rupies (our normal daily budget lies somewhere between 2500 and 3000 at most) but compared to the 7000 we would have needed to pay just for the entrance fees otherwise, we thought that we were quite lucky. Jagga, our driver, was a really nice person as well. Funny, helpful, attentive and a really good English speaker. He also knew our hotel owner. They were quite good friends actually and so we got to the hotel fast and easy. On the way we even saw a monitor lizard and as I exlaimed: “Mooonitor lizard” he just stopped at the side and let it watch us for a while… without us even asking :). The road to the hotel, which was quite far away from the city, situated on a wide opening in the jungle forest, led all the way along a beautiful canal.
Lots of locals where bathing or washing their clothes in it, along with cormorans hunting for fish and monitor lizards lying in the sun. When we arrived at the hotel Jagga left again because we agreed to start our tour around 3 o`clock. Until then we went into the new city with the bicycles of the hotel (for free!) on our hunt for something to eat for lunch. We came back with lots of bananas and a pineapple, but we actually needed to hurry to not be late. Hmm what should I say, I lost Flo on the way due to that. I thought he knew the way too and so I hurried the last bit without looking out to where he was anymore. So when I arrived at the hotel, I arrived alone. Jagga and I were a bit clueless what to do, because Flo did not arrive and after a while I went searching for him on the path we came… Maybe he had hurt himself. Fell of his bicycle or something alike. But I did not find him and I had no idea where he could be, because there was no road, he could have turned into… so I went back to Jagga, even more clueless than before. Panic rising… We decided to just keep calm and wait, things will sort out themselves… just prepare the pineapple and hope that Flo finds his way to the hotel on his own. After we had prepared the pineapple, Flo came down the road to the hotel, too. In the hurry of catching up to me he did not notice the clearing and the white hotel and just went straight past it… that’s why I did not find him on the way we came. After this little shock we ate the rest of our lunch and then went to the temples.
We started at a little island park, close to the giant artificial lake. Old ruins, looking nearly exactly like the ones in Anuradhapura but in an overall better shape, less broken down, but also without the really huge dagabas awaited us. Instead it had an old hall (well the remnants of it), with a big lion figure, which once was the king’s throne. Just try to imagine someone sitting like he is riding on a lion statue while having an important council to discuss serious matters of state with his ministers. Just try.
The best thing for me though was that we found a little land turtle crawling around ^^
and that there were cows grazing in the evening sun.
I just sat down in their path, taking picture after picture as they slowly approached me. What a mistake to think if they slowly come to you, everything is fine… what a mistake. Because as they were really close, one suddenly and without any reason started charging at me, with its head down and the little horns turned towards me. Luckily it did not hurt me because I jumped back a few steps and kept its head far enough away from me with my hand pushing against its head just between the horns, but anyways… it scared me quite a bit. Seriously now… whenever I see cows walking around the streets here, I am afraid that they might attack us, because they just feel like we are a threat to them. Whatever. The pictures were worth the scare ^^.
We went to two other closeby temples very similar to the first one (without the lion throne though). And then to the big, main temple city, with a big dagaba, a white stupa and giant ancient statues, wells, different sized domes made out of bricks, covered in moss, looking mystical and a bit out of this world.
Again there were monkeys everywhere. Somehow they seem to like these ancient cities a lot. We climbed a little rock in the middle of the park to see the scenic sunset and watched the monkeys jumping around the trees above our heads, fighting over food or something alike.
The giant nearly broken down Buddha statue in a similarly broken down hall amazed us even more though. We felt really humble in front of this stone monstrosity and we tried to imagine what this room must have looked like thousands of years ago, when it was built.
It was turning dark already when we went to the four famous stone carvings of Buddha close by the temples. So they were not as spectacular… and covered by the dark shadow of a roof protecting them from the rain. For fotographies without a tripod it was just to dark. Jagga even told us, that normally there should have been lights around the reliefs, but that there were power outages and therefore those lamps did not work. The nearby lake was still beautiful, mirroring the last red of the clouds.
In the dark we went to the last cool temple and I spent a long time trying to figure out a way to fotograph it, using my camera bag as a tripod. The guard wondering about what the heck I was trying to do there was really amazed by the photos I showed him (they must have seemed like magic to him) and even agreed to borrow me his flashlight for a while to have a spotlight on the buddha statue.
Flo and Jagga were waiting in the tuk tuk meanwhile and it must have felt like a little eternity for them. On our way back to the hotel, Jagga stopped several times and showed us deers roaming the dark shadows under the trees, their eyes reflecting the lights of the vehicle. He also told us of a place to eat for cheap and because he knew we liked bananas a lot from earlier this day, he also showed us where to buy bananas for even cheaper… Back at the hotel, we borrowed the bicycles again and went to the restaurant, Jagga showed us. Without headlights we drove along the unilumminated canal road… under the light of the stars and the moon, trough a refreshing night breeze. The moment was of an unique beauty, the mystical fog rising from the rice fields in the distance, the chilling blue color and the soft shadows the moon light gave everything, the light noises of splashing water, the crickets chirping in the grass … the overall calmness of the night just really rarely interrupted by a passing vehicle. The food in the restaurant was good and cheap… but at first they asked double the amount of what Jagga told us and so we needed to negotiate – but they were so friendly, not at all angry at us for not paying the tourist price, even asking us to come back for the same price the next day, giving us more curry and more rice, that we did not care about them trying to scam us at all. After we went back through the magical night scenery of the canal road, we talked a bit with the hotel owner about his life and how to get to Trincomalee and then went to bed, prepared for the next day. In the morning we packed our stuff, walked to the busstand through the blazing sun, followed by a little street puppy, squeeking all the time. We were so sad for him and would have liked to take him with us, give him a chance for a better life, because he seemed like a beautiful and rather smart dog. But we could not. A dog would be way to much hassle on the way, way to much cost and waaayyy to many problems at borders and airports. It broke our hearts a bit, seeing it getting lost around the city traffic, following random people, squeaking and crying for its mother. With the dog following us on our way to the bus, we actually went past the banana stand Jagga told us about and bought three kilograms of bananas for breakfast for a bit over an Euro and then ate them at the busstand. The stares of the people were quite funny. After we finished them (yes, we finished 3 kg of bananas in under one hour) the bus to Trincomalee arrived and on we went. To the beach!