Monday, May 28, 2012

Sri Lanka Day 2: Sigriya

Mood: Mellow yet motivated

Listening to: I Want Action – Poison. Oh quiet down, it’s not that bad.

P.S.A. There are some nude art type pics in this post that you may want to avoid if breasts offend you.

Waking up happened a little later than we wanted. We were supposed to get up and ready by 7:30 to go to Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage, but we dragged our feet a little too much and had to put it off until later in the trip. Breakfast was provided by the hotels through our trip package. It was a very nicely done buffet affair with an omelet chef. The food and selection were very good.

Daddy G and the G-lets

If you like omelets, beware the Sri Lankan omelet. They are very, very fond of the green Thai chilis. Very fond. The chef will of course omit the chilis if you request, but asking for less chilis is a subjective thing that will probably end up in a lot of chilis.

We wandered around for a few minutes snapping photos of the hotel and such and then piled in the van to drive to Sigriya. This is what we saw out the window:
This is a roof tile factory. Sri Lanka has lots of beautiful red clay dirt, just like Bangalore that apparently makes great roof tiles. Harry told us there were 800 factories in the area, which I believed because we saw about 20 just along the roadside.

This is what Sri Lanka looks like. Welcome to the Jungle. Seriously people, there are elephants running around in there.

The scenery was stunning outside our windows. The landscape changed on almost a constant basis, but there was a lot of fields, rice paddies, and most of all, jungle. Stunningly green, almost all of the time. Sigriya is in the interior of Sri Lanka. Most of the towns we passed through were just small villages. We were really out from civilization. I still couldn’t get over how clean and sparsely populated it was. The drive was a bit long and Harry was a bit crazy, but we got there in 1 piece.

After we rounded a corner, Sigriya rock came into view. The first gnawing of unease settled into my stomach as I saw how ridiculously huge it was. We were supposed to be climbing this thing in tropical weather.
Sigriya Rock

We paid the ridiculously expensive entry fee (for me anyhow, Daddy G is so obviously Indian, we fudged a bit on his citizenship to get a cheaper rate for him) and met up with our guide. A note about Sri Lankans and Sinhalese: It’s hard to understand, even if the person is talking in English. I have been interacting with Indian people for the past 12 years. It is no longer an effort at all to understand what most Indian people are saying. This is not true for Sri Lankans. I really had to pay attention all the time or I didn’t understand anything being said, even in English.

Sigriya was the place one of the ancient kings (I'm really going to have to go back and review my tourist materials, I forgot the name) had a few palaces. one at the bottom of the rock for summer, top of the rock for winter. Or possibly the opposite, I'm having brain farts right now. Anyhow, the king and queen would change palaces with the seasons and have palanquins to haul them up the rock. I can't imagine hauling someone else up this rock, but hey, I guess it's good to be king.

The youngest immediately started whining, which is kind of her thing right now, so Daddy G tried to keep her in the shade and went slowly. 

The whiner. Don't be fooled by the cuteness, she's a rowdy.

The guide talked to us throughout the climb. We did go decently slowly, but it was still a LOT of hard work. There are metal steps attached to the rock and trust me, unless you live on a stairmaster all the time, this rock will reduce you to a sweaty, exhausted pile of leg jello. Thankfully, there was a very brisk breeze as we climbed, which kept things tolerable. For the most part we were in the shade too. The stair cases after the first half were all of the very steep thin variety and you really had to pay attention to where you were going. It was nerve racking and I’m not really scared of all that much. Our guide explained about all of the gardens. One of the highlights of our trip was hearing this guy say “Water Garden.” It came out like Waaaater Gaaaahden.”

All of the nuns are not nuns. They are Muslim kids on a school trip. I about sympathy fainted for the teachers who were in full length black abayas.
My kids enjoyed saying water garden and spice garden in this accent for the rest of the trip. There were some excellent cave paintings made from vegetable dyes that were still very nice to look at.

We hit a landing and the youngest decided that she was absolutely done. Daddy G decided to sit under a tree with her while my eldest and I decided to scale the last huge climb to the top.

There was a UNESCO excavation happening

The thing about this climb was that there were about 5 huge bee hives about 20 feet from the stairs. There were signs everywhere about not shouting or stomping or the bees would come out and swarm. They even had a mesh tent for people to go in on the landing if the bees came out. The problem was, it was a 5 story climb on a single file type staircase. If the bees came out, there’s no way the people on the stairs would get down before the bees stung the hell out of everyone. I’m not sure if our youngest is allergic to bees or not (she’s allergic to plenty else!), but I sure as hell didn’t want to find out on top of Sigriya, so I was glad she stayed down with Daddy G. The tour guide picked up 2 windbreakers to give us if the bees came out. This was the freakiest part. I don’t think the windbreakers would have done much against 5 hives of bees. I was quite tired and winded by this point, so we slowed down a bit. The tour guide was getting twitchy and kept looking at the hives, so I did my best to hurry. I about had a heart attack when a group of highschool kids were loud and rowdy coming down the stairs. Our tour guide scolded them quietly but quite firmly to quiet down and they did. After what seemed like forever, we reached the sumit.

It was worth the climb, but I was sure my legs were never going to work again. We climbed back down, quickly and quietly.

 We sat under the tree for a few minutes to regain some breath and then headed back down the hill. It was a little easier going down, but we had to pay more attention to where we put our feet. My legs functioned sporadically. I really need to get more exercise!
Note the very pink cheeks and crazy hair. This is what happens when you make a Dutch person hike.
After we were done, we thanked and tipped our guide. We asked Harry to bring us to a restaurant to eat. We did, and were amused to find that the menu looked largely the same as the previous day. The difference was that the prices were way jacked up and the portions were much smaller. WE ordered some chicken curry, rice, and fried noodles for the kids. We were very hungry from our exercise. We asked for the food spicy because being accustomed to Indian food, we laugh at spice. Our arrogance cost us more than a few taste buds. Sri Lankans don’t mess around when it comes to spices. The food was fire. Yummy, but spicy as hell.
After a nice, filling meal, Harry dropped us at Sigriya village, our hotel. Unlike India, the hotels in Sri Lanka have driver accommodations. They’re not the same as regular rooms, but a lot better than sleeping in the car, which is what Indian drivers usually do. The hotel was absolutely stunning. The lobby was an open style building, which seemed to be the norm in Sri Lanka. It was all dark wood.

Again, the check in was quite fast, we were served fresh juice and we went to our room. We again took a nice nap to recover from the heat and exercise of the morning. We then headed out to explore the hotel grounds. Sigriya village is set up on sprawling grounds with groups of cabins. The grounds are beautiful and  perfect for strolling around. Right outside our room, we had a huge banyan tree with a hut built up next to it. It was a model of the ones farmers build to guard their fields against wild elephants. If the elephants come, they throw firecrackers near the elephants to scare them. The problem is, sometimes the elephants attack the huts, so they need a large tree to climb up. It was fun to see one up close.

They also had a model of a Sri Lankan scarecrow in the pic above. I loved this place. There was even a huge troupe of monkeys that wandered around.

One very big monkey taking a drink

The monkeys were surprisingly Zen compared with the Indian monkeys, which can be aggressive. They didn’t move an inch if you walked next to them, but there were no growls and bared teeth either. My elder daughter got quite a kick out of doing a bird scavenger hunt that had been left in our room by the hotel.

The cottages were also very, very nice.

They had small porches with chairs so that you could sit and listen to the 70 bajillion birds that seemed to be everywhere. Surprisingly, there were very, very few mosquitoes, even though there was also a pond outside our room, all the humid weather, and all the greenery. I love me some porch chairs.

By this time, the kids were begging to get in the pool, so we changed and wandered on over. Poor Daddy G gets so uncomfortable walking through lobbies with all of us in our swim suits. Thankfully, the vibe was totally relaxed and no one looked at us twice. He’s so Indian and I’m so shamelessly American. It’s a one piece for Pete’s sake, not a bikini…

The pool was really warm, but nice. It was surrounded by trees so it wasn’t spotless, but was clean enough we felt comfortable. Again, the girls played in the shallow end of the pool and we all hung out for a good long time. The money troupe showed up after an hour and was jumping through the trees. We cooed at all the baby monkeys and I couldn’t help but fantasize about the monkeys doing cannon balls out of the trees into the pool. Of course none did, but it was fun to watch.

When it was dark, we went back to our room to change and shower for dinner. We were seated outside right next to the pool, which was beautiful at night, all lit up. The tables all had candles too. Daddy G and I ordered more standard fare for ourselves and got the kids spaghetti. They were pretty beat by this time and didn’t eat much. Daddy G and I pigged out as usual. We decided to try arrack, which is a local creation of palm toddy. Daddy G decided to be ridiculous and try it on the rocks, I got a fruity cocktail. Mine was delicious. Daddy G ended up ordering a coke to go along with his. It was similar to rum. Alcohol at the resort was out of this world expensive. I guess if you’re travelling from the US, it’s comparable to drinking there. If you get paid in rupees and on an Indian salary, this is just outrageous. We tried to choke back our surprise about food costs, but it is a resort after all, and there isn't much around in Sigriya. You are definitely a captive audience here.

We enjoyed our dinner and took our very sleepy children back to the room to crash. I was dismayed to find out that we didn’t have any wireless internet in our room, but figured I still had plenty of time to get my work done and went to sleep.


  1. Absolutely beautiful photos from the rock climb! It reminds me of The Enchanted Rock near Austin - although, The Enchanted Rock is much smaller I think. I'm glad you made it to the top!

    The resort looks wonderful and I had to laugh about how uncomfortable your husband is with you guys trooping around in swimsuits lol... I'm wondering what I'll do when I get back to the States because I'm not even sure I'll be able to get myself to wear one! It might take some getting used to ;-)

    So happy you've posted this many pictures - and I just wish more people knew about your blog. I'm sure there are plenty who would love to see all this!

  2. Lol...I tease him about it all the time. He didn't mind so much in the US, especially if everyone else is wearing skimpy bathing suits. I'm not in supermodel shape after having 2 kids, so mine are never that skimpy anyways.

    Lol. It has taken me all day to do this project because I was afraid if I stopped in the middle I wouldn't be able to get back and finish it. I only post 1/4 of the pictures I actually took.

    Go ahead, spread the word! :-) I love traffic.

    1. Your husband sounds sweet :-) and I'll definitely give these posts a mention!