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Published: January 16th 2007
... and the monkey won! It all began with the purchase of some precut pineapple as we descended from the rock temple at Dambulla. The cheeky little monkey in question also had its sights set on the pineapple and a challenge arose between the monkey and Suz ... The monkey blocked our path and gestured at the pineapple, Suz tried the trick tactic of throwing a bit of pineapple away from the path in the hope that the monkey would take the bait, following the pineapple away from the path allowing safe passage. But the monkey had seen this trick before and his sights stayed firmly fixed on the remaining pineapple clutched firmly in Suz's hand. Not to be deterred Suz lunged at the monkey to shoo it away but the monkey bared his teeth and retorted with a hiss, and assumed the pounce pose. At this point Suz freaked out at the thought of the rabid monkey clawing the pineapple from her hand (and perhaps scratching her eyes out for good measure) and screamed and looked for Dave to hide behind. Still the monkey remained staunch. Suz ceded to the monkey and the pineapple was shared.
The moral of
the story kids ... never underestimate a monkey's desire for pineapple.
So monkeys and feral dogs were rampant at Dambulla but that did not detract from the beauty of the place. Situated high on hill overlooking the small township, Dambulla or Royal Rock Temple as it is known, has been used as a place of worship since the 1st Century BC. The King had the five cave temples carved from the mountainside rock. The site consists of five cave temples containing over 150 seated, standing and reclining buddha statues and images and brilliantly coloured frescoes depicting the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The largest cave containing the bulk of the buddha statues that lined every wall measures 52m across and is 23m deep. It was pretty cool.
Onwards from Dambulla we headed North to Sigiriya and that meant another bus trip. The bus ride was akin to being on a roller coaster steaming down the windy roads at 100km/hour with the added thrill of being on the wrong side of the road and possibly hurtling head first into oncoming traffic. We've been lucky on most of our bus trips so far and have managed to get a
seat either straight away or a short while into our trip. Public transport is usually packed tight to standing room only, and it's cheap too - It cost us .60 AUD for the two hour bus ride from Kandy to Dambulla. Buses ply the main roads between towns and it's just a matter of flagging down a bus and hoping you can squeeze on. It's been fun though as we get to meet the locals and share stories on the road, usually involving cricket!
Unlike other developing nations Sri Lanka has so far resisted mass urbanisation and 75% of the population still live in the rural areas. The countryside is really lush jungle interspersed with small villages dotted along the road. We're not sure if any building codes apply as there exist wooden shacks right next to glorious brick mansions - we've even seen residences made out of old shipping containers! Houses are perched on the banks of rivers and streams and the buildings jut out precariously over the water.
Our accommodation in Sigiriya was at the aptly named "Flower Inn" which was a lovely very kitsch place where flower motifs were everywhere - the walls, bedspread, tiles,
The statues lined the entire walls of the caves
towells, curtains ... you name it and there was a flower present. Preethi (which means "happiness" in Sinhala) proved to be a most congenial host and nothing was too much trouble. We met a lovely English/Czech couple and swapped travel stories with them.
We opted for a morning ascent of Sigiriya, and were ready to go by 8am before the crowds set in. Known originally as remembrance rock, and later referred to as Lion Rock, Sigiriya is the hardened magma plug from a long extinct volcano. The rock mass consists of many caves, rock shelters and overhangs and is thought to have been inhabited in prehistoric times, and ever since has had many human alterations and modifications. It was used by monks in the 3rd Century BC, and later became an important monastery in the 10th Century AD. Today only the foundations of buildings remain but most of the gardens and stairwells have been well preserved.
The climb up consists of about 1200 steps to the top with various sights on the way, including a cave with frescoes inside and the lions paws which once led you up into the mouth of the LIon at the top. In
an effort to further preserve the site they required 300, 000 bricks to be hauled to the top so were asking if visitors could assist by carrying a brick to the top in their final ascent. We obliged doing our bit in the name of historical preservation so now there's only 299, 998 more bricks to go! The view from the top was amazing and views stretched out across the valley and back to Dambulla where we'd been the day before. The whole site was truly impressive and worth the climb and steep entry fee.
We've yet to get our fill of climbing so we're off to climb Sri Pada (Adam's Peak) for sunrise tomorrow!
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