A Day’s Adventure in Dambulla

Our full day in Dambulla started early as we set off to Sigiriya to climb its big rock. Touristy and expensive, it was already quite busy at 8am! We set off, making our way to the top, with more and more of the spectacular green scenery being revealed to us as we went. En-route we even saw our Swiss friends on the top of the smaller (cheaper to climb) rock. From the top we had a beautiful 360 degree view of Sigiriya and out as far as the horizon. We clambered around the ruins and even spotted a snake which cut straight across our path- much to Megan’s shock and horror and the amusement of some Australians looking on!

Sigiriya Rock

Restoration work using some slightly unstable looking scaffolding!
Spot the Man!

A beautiful view from the top

We reached the bottom and met our driver, setting off on a long tuk-tuk journey to Polonnaruwa to explore its ancient ruins. We began to lack faith in our driver and were quite certain he didn’t really know where he was going- possibly quite far out of his Dambulla comfort zone. Nevertheless he soon got us there, albiet after sending us to walk around some strange ruins first. They were quite cool to see, although having to take our shoes off to walk around the temples became quite a nuisance- both of us in trainers in the height of the afternoon. The Gal Vihara with its famous Buddha statue, incredibly preserved, was lovely to see and appreciate, and also provided us with the entertainment of watching a couple get seriously told off for wearing trainers and taking a photo with their back to Buddha which they were then forced to delete by the highly unimpressed guard.

Gal Vihara
Baby elephant

We headed back to Dambulla, the poor tuk-tuk having to drive about two hours to get us there. However the true highlight of our day was still to come and would put no strain on our purses. As we passed Minneriya national park our driver spotted some wild elephants next to the road. About 10-15 gentle giants were eating and splashing in the river, parents and children together, with some of them making their way to the roadside to cross over. We waited in anticipation for them to cross with some men trying to stop the traffic in order for them to do so. But the impatience of lorry drivers and the confusion of the sudden stop in the traffic caused a lot of noise with drivers blasting their horns and scaring the elephants back away from the road. It was still a beautiful sight to see these wild animals roaming free, in such large numbers and without chains, And as we continued about 40 metres up the road we saw about 40-50 more in the open plain near a watering hole. It was spectacular, possibly a once in a lifetime experience which felt completely unstaged. Our driver also seemed amazed by our luck and despite the massive communication barrier, it was obvious that this sort of sighting was not very common at all. If that was not enough, our driver managed to spot another small herd of elephants on the other side of the road at least 800m away through the trees, eating. He quickly turned the tuk-tuk around and with the eyes of a hawk he pointed them out to us. 

To add ever so slightly more excitement to the return journey, our driver also convinced us to visit a herbal garden for a “free” tour. As soon as we got out of the tuk-tuk we knew it was a bad idea as we started on our tour, being explained the health benefits of every herb in the garden. After an hour, we avoided the massage (unsure what an appropriate donation would be) and got through the gift shop with only 9$ worth of damage to Megan’s purse in the form of some very nice spiced tea. By the time we finally made it back to the hostel we were exhausted. Also, slightly bitter about the extra 1000 rupees that our driver had added to our bill-whether it was for the free elephants we had spotted, or for not spending enough in the herbal garden or just because the original price wasn’t clear enough I’m not sure. But that’s the British in us- too polite to contest it!
Too tired to go out for dinner, we got another take-away with it being delivered, much to our disgust, by the same tuk-tuk driver from the day who would now get a further 200 rupees from us! Still, the food took that bitter taste from our mouths. Megan had a final fight with Roti, the crazy bipolar dog that lived at the hostel who Herbert, the owner, really had no idea how to control! The morning came, we left our mark at the hostel, and we were on the road again. 

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