After Colombo, the coastal capital city, we headed
toward the north and the interior of the island. We stayed at three different beautiful resorts but our days were so
filled with activities, we only spent time there having breakfast, dinner, beers, and sleeping. We were always
exhausted. The heat and humidity sapped our energy. In this area we visited the ruins of five UNESCO
World Heritage Sites, went on a couple of safaris, visited a gorgeous botanical garden (felt like home), a spice garden, and
a tea manufacturer.
The UNESCO sites
were ruins of ancient capitals, the Lion Rock, and the Golden temple of Dambulla. All of these hold historical and archeological
significance. The Lion Rock was amazing. It is 600 foot high, 1250 step climb (I only went a third
of the way). Several people did go to the top but it was late afternoon at the peak of the heat and I was just
wiped out. The pictures people took showed the remnants of a truly amazing ancient palace. I was a bit disappointed
this old body couldn't make it.
was the Golden Temple of Dambulla, where you are greeted by a giant golden Buddha and walk up a hill to a series of five caves
which contain carved Buddhas and paintings of Buddha all over the walls and ceilings. At another site we climbed
up to a series of 3 massive Buddhas carved right out of the stone hill side. There was a meditating Buddha, one
standing, and one reclining (sleeping). These were impressive. Here the guards yelled at you if you tried
to take a photo in front of the Buddhas. Which reminds me that at one of the museums I took a photo of beads and
I was immediately ordered to delete the photo from my camera (oops).
We did a few jeep safaris in national parks, which had more birds than any other type of animals.
One park did have a herd of elephants and we saw land monitors (big lizards) and spotted deer. Not quite as dramatic
in those parks as elsewhere in the country.
Royal Botanical Gardens were gorgeous. It covers 147 acres with over 4,000 species growing, including greenhouses of
cacti and orchids, tall palms, and very odd coconuts. And the natural flowers of jasmine, rose, lotus, and frangipani smelled
absolutely soothing. In addition to the beautiful plants, there are trees in which fruit bats live and they had plenty
of them (bats).
We also visited
a spice garden, where the species growing there are picked from bushes, trees, and even the bark of a tree (cinnamon).
There were vanilla beans, cloves, and cardoman just to name a few. All these spices are picked by hand (that's a lot
of work). Everything smelled so wonderful and fresh.
After the spice garden, we visited a tea manufacturing plant. All tea leaves are picked by hand and
the more delicate inner leaves go into making the better tea, with the more mature leaves being less tasty.
We watched it being picked, dried, sorted, and the associated machines, some dating back to the beginning of the tea
plant, around the mid-1800's. The best tea is the Pekoe. The bins (below) show the various types of tea, all the
way from the finest "gold tea" on the left to the "Refused"
on the right.
Finally, what about the food?
We ate quite a well balanced diet while on our trip. Most places had buffets and they were absolutely delicious, which
included curries, fresh fruit, salads, rice, and lots of desserts. There even was an Italian buffet at one of the restaurants
... all the dishes were miniature, appetizer size. But, the main food of Sri Lanka is curry, of all varieties,
and rice. They even had red rice as a common everyday rice. As we traveled, our bus would stop at roadside
fruit stands. We tried jack fruit, drank coconut milk straight from the coconut, ate cashews and red bananas. We
all ate a variety of foods and none of us got sick. And the beer of choice was Lion's Head. Tasted great after
a hot sweaty day.