Day 1 tour of Sri Lanka
07.10.2012 - 10.10.2012 35 °C
Our day starts early, a 4 am pick up from our hotel, as we sleepily embark on our 4 day tour of Sri Lanka.
As we bed down in our mini bus for the 3 hour journey to pinnewala elephant orphanage, we head north towards Columbo on the new toll road as we avoid the not so good roads that would provide a slow alternative route.
We arrive at the roadside near Pinnewala to a sign bearing the details of elephant riding and we are asked to vacate the mini bus to await the arrival of our elephants as they are still sleeping. Two huge sleepy and wise looking elephants arrive to our dismay we are expected to just get on them and ride down to the river to bathe them - no way we say as we feel sorry for them, they look so weary and sad and one grabs a running hose nearby and drinks gallons of water so we give a donation for food for them and opt for an early morning coffee in a nearby cafe by the roadside instead.
After our coffee we climb aboard our mini bus once again and head higher above sea level towards Pinnewala elephant orphanage hoping for a better experience. The roads are a harrowing driving experience but our driver Papa Patrick is experienced enough to get us through safely. We arrive at the elephant orphanage early as we had not done the elephant ride therefore we eat our breakfast that has been provided by our hotel.
After half an hour the orphanage opens and our guide gets first in the queue for our tickets and we are in in no time. It is amazing lots and lots of elephants of all sizes frolicking in the sunshine. We pay one of the keepers and he allows us an excellent photo opportunity with one of the elephants. We watch them frolicking and eating for several more minutes before moving towards another area for feeding time. To our amazement we are given the opportunity to feed bottles of milk to the baby elephant (although he is 4 years old and much bigger than us) he is very gentle but the bottle of milk is gone in seconds. The bonus of organising a tour locally rather than with a major tour operator is that you get that extra personal touch as the other visitors look on with jealousy.
After the orphanage visit we head towards Dambulla to the rock temple, to our dismay when we arrive there are hundreds of steps to climb in the seering 35 degree heat - pure hell!
We climb the many steps passing local people selling their wares, beggers, ice cream sellers and monkeys. By the time we reach the top we are exhausted and wringing wet due to the steep climb and the heat. Before we can enter the temple we remove our shoes, thankfully we are wearing socks to protect the soles of our feet from the scorching ground beneath us.There are 5 temples and our guide takes us into each one explaining the history. All 5 are filled with many ancient Buddha statues - an amazing site worth seeing which makes the steep climb all that more worth it and the views from the top are spectacular. We have a few photo opportunities and then start our journey back down the hill.
At the bottom we board our mini van and head for Sigiriya to the rock. When we arrive it is scorching and our friends decide that they do not want to climb the rock so they head off for coffee. We start our climb in the scorching heat and the first thing we see is a sign warning climbers to keep quiet so that they do not provoke a wasp/hornet attack - this is a worrying development as we are walking along side a group of noisy kids - help, I am contemplating not going any further until our guide explains that as the rainy season has just ended all the wasps have been washed away and only the nests remain; phew, reassured we continue. Climbing a spiral metal staircase which is hanging off the side of the rock is quite scary, but we manage and survive and it's all worth it as the view from the top (1622) steps later is spectacular, but I still cannot wait to be safely back at the bottom all the same.
Once safely at the bottom we head to our hotel for the night and once checked in we head to the pool for a swim as a storm brews in the distance with thunder and lightening getting nearer. What a day - cannot wait for day 2 of our tour.