How is the other side of the world? Have not read a newspaper since Thursday. The day started late today. We all slept in and I needed that. The hot humid “Africa Hot” gets you tired and sluggish by the end of the day. We started our days adventure at 10:30 after a good and relaxing breakfast with lots of Java. Served and enjoyed the old fashioned way. No paper cups and takeout. Drove to a local village named Hiriwadunna Village. Hope it is spelled right, but doubt it. My memory is not as good as it used to be. We all took a long hike with a local guide through a village of farmers. There were some cattle and cows there and the people were friendly. Passed some women doing their laundry the old fashioned way at a local lake. The people appear to be very friendly and have that innocence that I love to find. Life in this local village appeared to be very simple. We finally hiked up to a man made tiny pier where we boarded some catamarans to cross the small river to the other side. The catamarans were made of plastic and not the authentic type that we had previously seen in Negumbo. Once on the other side, we hiked up to some farm where different crops were growing. There were bananas, mango, peas and other assorted vegetables. We were told that some elephants had recently eaten some of the crops and stomped some others. Saw some large elephant prints in the soggy ground. We finally stopped at some benches where we all sat down. There was a stump from a tree sticking out of the ground in front of us and there were a whole bunch of coconuts behind the stump. A local with a machete came over and started to cut the top of the coconuts off on the stump and hand them over to us to drink the juice. The local was wearing a sarong. About half the men in Sri Lanka wear sarongs. We were told that coconut juice is full of electrolytes and will help us stay hydrated. After we all had our fill of the juice, the man then cut up some pieces and asked any of us if we would like to scrape some fiber and juice out. I did and the wet fiber tasted quite good. It was then back to the man made small pier that looked like it was going to topple over any minute. We then all boarded the plastic catamarans for a short ride back to close where we started our hike. Saw a baby crocodile sunning itself on a log. It started to rain. When it rains, it rains buckets and then stops. Everything is so green. We all huddled under umbrellas and finally got off the catamarans.
It is now time for a hike to a local family. We arrived and were served lunch. Lunch was served in a lotus leaf. The large leaf was put in a bamboo dish and we all got up to sample some local food. All the food was made from products grown in the village. There was pumpkins, white rice, mung beans and other strange looking vegetables. The also had small pieces of fried fish. We were told the fish were cichlids caught in the local lake that we had just been on. All the food tasted quite good. Sri Lankan food has lots of spices. The people do not crush the spices first and then cook with them. They first cook the spices and then crush them before they are used with their food. We were also given some local tiny bananas. They are called Monkey Bananas here. Sri Lanka has twenty seven different varieties of bananas. Sweet and juicy pineapple was also given to us.
We now boarded the bus to visit the ruins of one of the prior provincial capitals.
Sri Lanka had eight different provincial capitals. India has constantly tried to invade Sri Lanka throughout its history and the capital was moved many times. The name of this site is Polonnaruwa. The ruins date back close to one thousand years. The site has only been open to the public for the past thirty years. Quite new. We first visited a museum where we saw models of some of the sites we would be seeing to see what the site originally looked like. It was then back into our bus and into the archaeological park. The first stop was not too impressive since most of this site was originally made from wood so the only ruins still standing were some rock columns, but you could make out what the original structure looked like by thinking of the models we were shown. One structure originally had a large stupa in the middle and the area had a wood roof so people can come and pray in any weather. We were also shown what a toilet looked like then. Not too different from the old fashioned hole in the ground used today. It was then back into the bus for the next site. The next site was located deeper in the jungle and there were other stone structures with large stupas located inside them. There was also the remains of a Buddhist structure that was different from the others. We were told that this was a temple built in the Cambodian style. One of the Khmer kings had sent Khmer soldiers to help the Sri Lankan king protect this site from the invading Indians. A Cambodian temple was built for the soldiers to be comfortable when they prayed. There were lots of wild monkeys here. Olivia had a great time making videos of the wild monkeys for our grandchildren to see. It was then onto the third and for my taste, the most impressive site. Of course we got back into the bus and drove. We then parked and walked. We finally came upon three large buddhas carved into large rocks. One of the buddhas was lying down. These were huge structures and very impressive. You had to take your shoes off to get closer. There were beautiful carvings around two of the buddhas. How could these people do something like this one thousand years ago? No modern tools and working in this environment. When you visit sites like this, you should always try to think about what tools were used and how the construction could have been done. Today it is very hard to imagine.
It was now back into the bus for our drive back to the hotel. How tired and soaked we all were. It had rained sporadically at the ruins and the “Africa Hot” had worn us all down. One more surprise awaited us. As we were driving back, a large elephant appeared on the side of the road. Imagine driving and you suddenly come upon a large elephant walking on the road you are on. The elephant has the right of way. This is not a deer. He is the boss and can do and go wherever he wants. He then disappeared back into the jungle and we were back on our way.
Time for dinner and resting up for a long day tomorrow starting at 7 AM