My bus to Dambulla slowly reaches its destination. It’s almost 6 p.m. and I promise myself that I will never again travel by bus so late, when I still need to find an accommodation. Sri Lanka lies only 6 degrees from the Equator and the day here lasts always 12 hours, regardless of the season. And it gets dark quickly – shortly after 6 p.m. the sun goes down and within half an hour the sky becomes completely black.
Actually I come to Dambulla at night. White female traveller, blonde, with a backpack with all the belongings (money!) inside – so easy target. Only to take her to a dark alley, after all, she totally doesn’t know this place…
I catch the first tuk-tuk I see and ask the driver if he knows the guesthouse where I’m going to sleep, Healey Inn. He confirms, so I ask how much will I pay for fare.
“150 rupees,” answers he.
“No, it’s too much. 100 rupees.”
“No, madam. It’s not enough. 150 rupees.”
“But I know how much I pay, it’s not my first time in Sri Lanka. 100 rupees.”
Christ, I argue for a penny! My dream is to take a shower, lie on a bed, and what’s more my stomach starts aching me and I’m losing time on crap! I give up and pay 150 rupees as he wants and, luckily, he takes me to my guest house.
Conditions there are modest (just Sri Lankan) but it’s clean. The cheapest accommodation here is not what to know from European standards, the rooms for the tourists look like Sri Lankan rooms in their private houses. We couldn’t imagine living in such conditions – and local people see no reason to provide a better.
I pay for 3 nights in advance. Dambulla will be my base also to Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa. And I go to bed, because the stomach is aching more and more, it’s probably food poisoning…
In the morning I wake up in a terrible state. Food poisoning is not a surprise in my case – I have a very sensitive stomach so that sooner or later I have to catch something – but such a thing had never happened. The pain is terrible, my stomach cannot tolerate anything, I force myself to drink water and eat some biscuits, although I know that in a moment I’ll end up in a toilet (toast with butter did not pass attempts). And all the ways to get rid of this crap don’t work…
Moreover, my suffering is increased by soreness, which I got after climbing 5 km of stairs to Adam’s Peak and the same down, without any preparation. So when I go to the toilet I literally fall from my bed and crawl there all-rours, because my legs are like a stone, and abdominal pain does not allow me to straighten up. There is no hope for me, I should better fall asleep…
I wake up after about an hour and I feel that I have chills. Dehydration…? But already, so fast? Frantically, I wonder what could have led me to this state. Yesterday morning I ate for breakfast some omelet. I hope this is not salmonella! But it could also be just a dirty plate, hands or anything … or I cought some other stuff…
I admit that I’m a little bit scared. I am alone in the guest house and at this point I wish I hadn’t decided to travel solo. There is no one who would take care of me, I will die here alone and Sri Lankan wind will dissipate my ashes.
“Muuum, I’m dying…” I call my Mum.
“Gosh, how dumb you are!” My Mum knows how to buoy me up. “Get a grip, go to the pharmacy and buy loperamide. Take 2 pills now, another one in an hour, then one more in the evening. Tomorrow one in the morning and one in the evening.”
“I have to… GO? It’s a superhuman effort for me at the moment…”
„Then send someone there!”
But I need to do it on my own, I’ve got to change some dollars too…
I ask my hosts to arrange a fair tuck-tuck driver who will take me to the bank and pharmacy and will not fleece of the last rupee. They recommend their neighbor. He takes me to the bank, comes inside with me to make sure everything’s okay, then takes me to the pharmacy and also makes sure that I stay fairly served.
There are 6 people in the pharmacy: 5 women and a man, who sits on a chair. When I enter, he suddenly stands up and supports me. Meanwhile women just smile broadly. They don’t even move, as if their job was just about making a good impression. I buy loperamide and the pharmacist says to dose one pill in the morning and one in the evening. Women still smile and when I go out, they say goodbye way too cheerfully. I wonder if they are all true pharmacists or is it a kind of government’s program to provide employment to people in this overpopulated country?
And then tuck-tuck driver takes me back to the guesthouse and I pay. How much?
Amazing, so last night I was right! I had to bargain over the price! Apparently, it’s less than half euro but I do not like when somebody hoax me!
I accept a huge dose of loperamide, which Mum recommended (don’t do this at home :P), and I immediately fall asleep.
I wake up around 3 p.m. and feel much better. Shivers have passed, the stomach is not so sensitive any more. I decide to visit the cave temples that are only about 500 meters away from my guesthouse. Two hours to see them is enough, I believe I can manage. However, I take a tuck-tuck, because I still suffer from soreness. I will walk later as the caves are located on the hillside and stairs lead to them…
Before I climb to the temple Rangiri, I have the dubious pleasure to admire one of the most tasteless buildings in Sri Lanka, where s a pretty boring Buddhist museum. A huge golden statue of Buddha in mudra Dharmachakra (preaching doctrine) towers over it. To enter the museum you have to pass through the jaws of a terrible dragon with bulging eyes and a perfect state of dentition. Moreover, the building is decorated with purple lotus flowers, and on the right side of the buildings there is a procession of Buddha’s disciples. Indeed, the designer of the building suffered from uncontrollable fantasy.
On the left, there is the path to the temple. At this moment, I’m glad that I’m alone. Nobody asks me to hurry up or complains that I go so slow. Entrance to the top, although it shouldn’t last more than 30 minutes, takes me an hour because at every 50 meters I have to sit down and give my legs a little rest.
Finally I reach the top, leave shoes before entrance and immediately run away somewhere in the shade, because the heated floor terribly burns the soles of my feet… It makes me laugh at myself because I didn’t know how delicate I am!
Ok, let me tell you something about the temple complex.
Temple Rangiri (Golden Rock) is on UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was founded by King Valagambahu in the I century BC (!) and later systematically expanded. Today it consists of five parts, in which the total number of Buddha’s statues is 150.
The first temple (Devaraja Vihara) is really small. It is located in the carved out of solid rock with a sleeping Buddha and his beloved disciple Ananda near his feet.
The second temple, the largest and most beautiful of all, called the Maharaja Vihara, is a temple of great kings. It comes from the first century BC, it measures 50 meters long and 6 meters high at its highest point. It is decorated with frescoes and statues of Buddha in various mudras. Some images are quite peculiar though. For example, one Buddha has twisted body, another one in the frescoes shows the creature pointing at the Buddha with a musket.
The third temple, Maha Alut Vihara, is also large and is adorned with frescoes and many statues of Buddha. It also features a statue of the temple’s founder, King Kirti Sri Rajasinha, which is presented quite unusually for Sri Lankan standards: he wears a crown in European-style, is dressed in trousers and two crosses hang by his belt.
Temples number four and fife are not too large. Fourth one (Pachima Vihara) in general is a bit unlucky – someone tried to raid into the stupa for robbery and damaged it (you can see some places after repair), and the figure of Buddha in mudra meditator has been profaned by a tourist and required restoration and purification rituals.
The fifth temple (Devana Alut Vihara) dates from the first half of 20 century, and has a 10-meter statue of dying Buddha made of bricks and cement.
Seeing the entire complex takes me about 45 minutes. Of course, I took every occasion to rest in every possible place for that purpose, mainly steps. 😉
Just before leaving Rangiri I take the last rest in the aisle in front of temples and look at the macaques jumping on the ficus tree, that grows in the courtyard. I’m exhausted, but don’t have the strength to get up, and the wall is so pleasantly cool … I hope, that the monkeys will not pay attention to me, because I’m a little afraid of them, but instead of monkeys a young Sri Lankan bothers me:
“Hi, where are you from?”
“Poland,” I answer. Gosh, I do not want to talk to him!
“Mhm,” I wonder what is so great in this fact.
“Where is it?”
“Great! I’m from Dambulla.”
“Why are you sitting here?” My lack of enthusiasm doesn’t despirit him at all.
“I’m taking a rest.”
“How old are you?” In Europe we would say that somebody should not ask a woman about her age, but we are not in Europe. The rules of savoir vivre that we are taught from childhood, have no value here, so I left them at home, and answer the boy truthfully.
“Are you married?”
“I am.” I show him my ring for the evidence.
“And where is he?”
“Whyyyyy?” asks the boy in very mirthful-surprised way.
Oh, really! Do I really have to explain this?
“He works as a teacher and in Poland there’s no holiday now, so he is at work.”
“Do you have children?”
“Because we don’t.”
“In Sri Lanka we have a lot of children at this age already.”
Interesting. Okay, I have to end this discussion.
“Listen,” I stand up slowly. “It was really nice to talk with you, but I have to go. Bye!”
“Okey okey!” The boy shakes his head in this characteristic Sri Lankan-Indian way, which I have not figured out yet (later I’ll find out that in Sri Lanka it means actually nothing special), and … follow me to the exit.
“Are you coming with me?” I ask stonily.
“Yeah, I’m leaving.”
“Listen, I’ll walk very slowly, because I feel bad. You can go now and not wait for me. I will not hurry.”
“Okey okey!” He shakes again his head in response, but he keeps my pace.
Well, we go down together.
The boy jabbers all way down, I only mumble in answer and every 5 minutes I tell him that he does not have to wait for me, but it doesn’t. At some point we come to a group Sri Lankan selling jewel cases, which open secretly. They’re really beautiful, but a little bit expensive for me (average of 3,000 rupees). Seller urges me to buy, persuades the boy who stucked to me to urge me too, but I will not give 3 000. Seller does not want to go down with the price, I’m leaving, but he finally agrees and gives me the price of 1,200 rupees. He says that today was no trade. Uh, everyone says so.
For a moment the boy goes out of my sight and I breath a sigh of relief that he was gone, but suddenly he comes out from a bush. And begins to chatter again.
“And where do you live?”
“In one of guesthouses.”
“You can stay with us. You have beautiful hair,” adds he and dabs my hair.
“Thank you, but don’t touch,” I move away from him.
“Whyyyyy?” mirthful-surprise again.
“I do not like that.”
“It is better to stay with us. Everywhere is full of fucking girls.”
“I beg your pardon?” I probably misheard.
“In every guesthouse is a fucking girl. In whole Sri Lanka there is a lot of fucking girls!”
“I haven’t noticed” I answer coldly. “Besides, I do not want to talk about it.”
“Just because. Simple”
“Are there any fucking girls in your country?”
“I do not want to talk about it.”
“Fucking girls are also on the website. Do you have internet with fucking girls?”
“Do you understand that I really do not want to talk about it?”
“Whyyyyy?” laughs the boy. He’s not embarrassed at all.
“I have a husband and I don’t know you, so I do not want to talk about it.”
“Your husband is a good fucker?”
So far this rascal has just drifted on an endless ocean of my patience, but this question is enough. I scold him, and the boy replies only with a smile “Okey, bye!” and runs away. Really, that’s all to get rid of fim? I should have done this earlier…
I shuffle to a tuck-tuck to go to my guesthouse. I’m disgusted a little bit by the behavior of that boy, exhausted, but overall happy that I was able to see the temple Rangiri (although the $10 entrance fee is quite high price) and enliven acidified muscles. In my room I fall into bed, I take loperamide and immediately go to sleep. Today’s mission “to survive till the evening” is accomplished.
Thank you, good night.