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Friday, February 10, 2006

The Cultural Frink-A-Hedron

After managing to pick up a time-share job as a Tuk-Tuk driver with a bloke called Djadwara, Myra and I both knew it was time to leave Kandyland and get lost in the Cultural Triangle.

The Cultural Triangle is basically a Frink-a-hedron, or triangular, shaped area above Kandy which encloses the majority of early Sri Lankan historical items of interest. These include two ancient capital cities, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, the magnificent Drambulla temple caves and the towering rock palace of Sigiriya.

To manage to visit all of these places in a reasonable amount of time we needed an unlicenced loose cannon of a driver willing to overtake anything that moved on or off the road. Luckily we found "Bob" a man who's last job finished with a game of chicken with a bus - he lost!

After spending an hour or two deciding on which side of the road to drive on Bob skidded into Drambulla. Drambulla is home to a massive cavern that has been artificially separated into five large temple caves.

The trick is to visit the caves in reverse order as they gradually increase in degrees of magnificence, culminating with the fantastic cave number two. To do so involves a rather toasty walk of fire across what must have been hot coals to reach the far end of the complex! (Hats and shoes have to be removed in all temples.)

Drambulla is truly stunning with the internal dimensions of some of the caves reaching a staggering 10 metres tall with a floor space of over 25 x 50 metres! Each chamber is intricately decorated with murals and frescos not to mention many, many amazing statues. Not to be missed!

Also worth a mention is quite simply the best Tuk-Tuk we have yet seen - The Rasta Mobile! In the car park of the temple we saw a Tuk-Tuk painted head to toe in rasta colours with a Jamaican flag on the front. The driver then moseyed over and it could have been Bob himself - dreads, rasta hat, the lot!

After rummaging out a fresh pair of boxers we had landed (yes landed!) in Sigiriya. Sigiriya is a medieval citadel that rises over 200 metres sheer from the surrounding plains. Around the base of the rock citadel lie a collection of gardens. These include the complex water and boulder gardens which give a good insight into the sophistication of ancient Sinhalese irrigation techniques.

But enough of horticulture and onto scaling the rock itself!

Shoes - Check.
Gear - Check.
Rope - Check.
Permission - Nope.

So over to the stairs instead and up the 1200 steps to the top of the citadel. As you clamber up the rusty and rather rickety stairway to the top you can see the original 'holds' that were etched into the rockface itself. All I can say is hats off to the brave climbers who lead the way to the top as the whole route is seriously exposed from start to finish with substantial falls!

Two thirds of the way up the is a large plateau which once played host to an enormous lion statue with the final staircase to the summit embedded within it. Today all the remains of this beast is its paws and a 'modern' rather dodgy cast iron set of steps leading to the citadel ruins.

The view from the top is breath-taking, offering a 360 degree panoramic Kodak Colour Moment. If you ramble around the top for a few moments you'll come across the palace pool and with a bit of luck you'll spot a single lonely tortle swimming about.

After bedding down for the evening we awoke to the noise of Bob revving the engine and attaching a spoiler and alloys that he had kept hidden until now. With the seat-belt securely fastened we were once again hurtling along towards Polonnuwara.

A short time later we found ourselves in the historical museum starring down at a fantastic miniature model of the entire site. The ruins occupy a rather large and impressive space and represent the culmination of generations of development until war and chaos lead to their abandonment in the late 12th century.

You can find every type of ancient Sri Lankan historical building here from stupas and dagabas to lodges and pools. Particularly funky is the Lotus Pool which consists of a set of concentric lotus flower shaped rings gradually deepening to form a bathing pool.

Back to the car to find Bob siphling off some petrol from a nearby Tuk-Tuk. Well maybe not, but he moved off pretty quickly none-the-less! Dinner, snoozing and a breakfast and we were on our way to Anuradhapura. The ruins here are from an older period of Sri Lankan history, around about the 5th century, and are noticeably less intact and well preserved.

We spent the afternoon wandering around the various temples and dagabas. The highlight for today was probably seeing a Buddhist monk being attacked by twenty odd monkeys for a bowl of coconut pieces! Finally the truth behind the old saying of not getting much work done with a monkey on your back makes sense!


  • Nice blog! - I'm not at all jealous *grumble grumble*

    By Blogger Ronan, at 4:47 p.m.  

  • Hey there, Seems very interesting and exciting---- especially Bob. Keep up the blogs, they're good fun to read.

    Til next time.

    By Blogger fennellfamily, at 4:03 p.m.  

  • Hey Graham,

    Sounds like you're having a ball. Keep the updates coming.

    Is definitely a bit saddening sitting here eating my lunch, reading what you're up to on the other side of the world! :)

    Although, I am just back from a weeks skiing in Austria, so lifes not all bad.

    Talk to you soon.

    By Blogger Ronan Eile, at 1:08 p.m.  

  • Chuck Norris would have made the climb - really Graham, I am dissapointed, all those years of training ... and yet ... you choose the stairs ... Now, don't tell your backin' off from the surf... I can see from your geo-map thing that you're heading straight for the beach ... oh yeah, and we want evidence :)

    By Anonymous morg, at 9:27 a.m.  

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