Day 11 found us hanging out with Buddhist statues in a cave.
By this point, everyone was hot, tired, and done with travel. Our tour guide was still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and eager to show us all the wonders of Sri Lanka. I think he realized that we were fading though. He stopped the bus at a roadside stand and sent our security guard/porter off to pick us up some Jack Fruit. Cathy thinks that Jack Fruit tastes like gummy bears. She really liked it! Kirk did not care of it as much.
Jonnica hustled us all back to the bus and we headed to our first stop of the day- a Buddhist cave temple. We dropped by the bathrooms first, and got to experience only real stereotypical Asian squat toilet. It was FILTHY, and we had to pay 10 rupees for the privilege. Cathy would not have even gone if she did not REALLY have to go. A German lady was demanding her money back as we walked away, and nobody really blamed her. (We don’t know if she succeeded or not.)
The cave temple was painted in the 14th century, and monks lived there at one time. We had to take a pretty steep hike up the mountain to get there, dodging monkeys and peddlers. At the top of the hill, we had to take our shoes off as a sign of respect. Cathy stuck hers in her backpack, but the others checked their shoes at a shoe kiosk. The stones were hot, so we tried to walk in the shade as much as possible and worked hard to avoid the monkey poop. It was an extremely fascinating site, but we were so very hot and tired by this point that I do not think we fully appreciated it.
There were several caves, and each cave had nearly every square inch painted. We were particularly impressed that the ceiling was so detailed the monks who painted it did not have copy/paste, yet their paintings were so perfectly alike.
Most of the caves had at least one reclining buddha statue. In this case, “reclining” means “death pose,” and it is showing him just before he achieves Nirvana. People had left flowers at various statutes (and we watched a monkey run in and steal one!). Our tour guide also told us that pregnant women make the journey and hoof it up the hill to ask for a healthy baby and a safe delivery.
After a few caves we started dropping like flies. The humidity finally got to a few of us enough that we had to go sit down, and Jonnica took us back to the bus. The walk down was not quite as bad as the walk up, but it still took awhile!
We stopped at a place for lunch. We seemed especially road weary on this day, and were all secretly hoping for pizza, but it was not to be. There was the standard buffet and hark- a menu! Cathy, Chris, Andrea, Krishna, and a few others ordered off the menu, and a Kirk and the others braved the buffet. It was an open air restaurant and a very humid day, but we all ate our lunches. Cathy had onion soup (good!) and a tomato cheese sandwich with fries. (eh.) I think that we would have all fallen asleep at the table if we could have. After lunch, we made our way to the hotel.
After enjoying so many beautiful, clean, fantastic hotels, this hotel was a dump. It really was not that bad, and it had a good view, but we had become accustomed to a certain standard, so it was kind of jarring to be plummeted back to reality. (Editor’s Note: I think that every hotel ever is going to seem like crap after all the amazing hotels we stayed in on this trip.) The bathrooms were not so hot- they were kind of dirty and had bugs, and the beds had sheets and not much else. They also had sold our tour guide’s room to someone else! He ended up having to stay at another hotel, and he was Not Happy. I am sure the hotel will rue the day- they may have gotten more money from one customer to have Jonnica’s room, but I am sure that they lost the business of his tour company!
We were also starting to have suspicions about our lunch. *cue ominous music*. Several in the group wanted to take a nap rather than brave the heat to do one more excursion. Cathy, Chris, Andrea, Leigh, Kevin, and a few others decided that they did not want to head back out in the heat, so we skipped the ruins. Cathy was really disappointed to do that, but she was worried that she would get a migraine headache if she stayed in the sun for much longer. Kirk, Krishna, Keir, Dinusha, Pat, Bob, Jan, Joey, Dinusha’s parents, and Jonnica headed to the ruins. Kirk thought they were AWESOME, but it was unbelievably hot and humid. They had to argue to get change back (rant on that coming soon) and it was just overwhelming after the long day.
Then people started to get sick.
I will leave the ill ones nameless as to not embarrass them, but I will tell their story. 🙂
Person A did not look well before he got on the bus, but he braved it anyway. About ten minutes in to the three hour tour he started throwing up, and there was no convenient place to be ill. We should sent a gift basket to ziplock for their fine products. A bathroom was found for him, and he hung around there while the others went on.
Person B started feeling bad, and Kirk was none to pert either.
The ruins were actually pretty cool, and if it had been a different day, it would have been a highlight of the trip. The ruins date back to the 1200s. The first ruin we visited was the King’s residence which originally contained 1000 rooms. It was 7-10 stories tall, of which about 5 brick ones remained. The other stories were made of wood and rotted away.
The second area visited was the bathing/pool area and King’s audience room. On our way there, Dinusha’s parents pointed out some shy ferns that when touched curl up. There was a really steep set of stone stairs leading to the bathing area.
The next stop was an area that had 6-7 temples. Kirk took his shoes off for only two of them, because he was starting to feel too hot and tired to deal with a shoe dance. They were really cool looking.
One of the placards mentioned that the temple of the tooth was built in 60 hours. Our tour guide said that that is in dispute and that they probably meant 60 days (which I would believe). The tooth being referred to is a tooth of Buddha’s that supposedly a Sri Lankan princess brought back from a pilgrimage to India. In order to be considered a Sri Lankan king, you had to possess the tooth.
A fourth stop brought us by another Buddhist temple where some bats were hanging out. Kirk was starting to think that he might not be feeling well at this point.
A final stop was an area with several deeply cut carvings of Buddha out of granite. At this point, Kirk just sat on a rock while the others in the group went into the temple area to listen to the tour guide give more info on it.
This was the last stop on temple ruins tour, and Kirk was glad for it. On the way back to the bus, we witnessed a monkey fight, which was something new. Speaking of monkeys:
Person A continued to be super unwell, and between the third and forth stop he decided that he had to leave. A Sri Lankan memeber of the party hired a tuk-tuk to take them back to the hotel. It should have been a simple ride, and poor Person A was pretty sick at this point
It’s important to remember that people drive like crazy people here, so what happened next was especially perplexing. People swerve in and out of traffic, and stopping/going seems to be a “whenever you want, as long as you’re honking while you do it” proposition. There were no observable rules that we saw in the time we were here, yet Person A’s tuk-tuk was pulled over by a policeman. Why? Nobody has any idea what caused the pull over to happen, but it did, and the tuk-tuk driver did not have a driver’s licence. Do’h.
Person A continued to thank all the various gods that ziplock bags existed. He was soooo miserable. His Sri Lankan escort was berated by the police officer, saying that she should have checked to see if he had a licence. (? was pretty much her reaction. She has never done that ever, nor known anyone who has. It would be like knocking on the cockpit and demanding to see the pilot’s credentials. One assumes things, and it is a reasonable assumption!) Person A must have looked as sick as he felt, because the policeman let them go on to the hotel and wrote the ticket after Person A was let out.
Cathy was sitting in the lobby trying to update the blog when they walked by, and sent some medication to him to try and help out. Not long after Person A arrived, Person B and Kirk came running by in only slightly better condition than Person A. We figured it was the lunch, as they all got so sick so close to the same time. After this beautiful sunset, it was a miserable night for all.
Cathy worried that Kirk was getting the flu. He was running a fever and had chills and aches, but he felt a lot better in the morning. Not great, but better. There was a lot of weary staring at the breakfast trays. We hopped on the bus (oh how we were starting to hate the bus!) again for our last real day in Sri Lanka at an elephant orphanage. Stay tuned for that story.