Saturday, July 3, 2010

On trips of epic proportion - Day 1: Part 1.

We’re back.

Full of adventures, near-death experiences, early mornings and a shade or two darker to boot. All in all we’d say, despite the grotesquely early mornings, the trip was a success.

Scene 1: A Rock-Solid Morning.

Wednesday morning dawned bright and early as we packed all of our things into the jeep at roughly 5:45 am—we were surprisingly ready and on time. Then we began our trek to Sigiriya, which took about two hours, or approximately one c.d of house music, an introduction to Glee, and an attempt to expose our car-mates to country music. The ride also included a stop for petrol and a much needed bathroom break after our early morning coffees.

The bathroom was an adventure all to itself. I got to try my hand at a squatting toilet; with Steph issuing informative instructions, between peals of laughter, outside the door, “Now put your feet on the blocks, squat down, and just go”. I finally accomplished the task and now I can cross it off my bucket list, no pun intended.

Chirpy hikers

We arrived at the rock and somehow, before even entering, acquired man who insisted on being our guide. Really though, we have no idea what his credentials were. Some of his facts don’t exactly match those featured on Wikipedia so who knows. He told all about the history of the rock—stopping to show us all sorts of interesting things. We learned all about how the freshwater pumps were powered (windmills), how many concubines the king had (500), how the king was entertained (man-made swimming pools and large dancing halls), how many steps it takes to reach the top (1,200), and why only one of the fresco women had a shirt (to cover a mistake made by the artist)—see I was listening and paying attention. I also learned there was a 99% chance that the answer to any question we asked was: man-powered water pump or 500 concubines.

I was a little bit worried that the heat of the hike might be a bit much for me, Sigiriya is much more humid than Kandy, but it wasn’t too bad. It could be because we arrived so early on a rare overcast morning or because I’m getting used to the humidity—I’m praying for the latter.

Although the view at the top of the rock is spectacular, my favorite part of the climb was the frescos. Seeing artwork that old reminded me of AP Art History and Mr. Nickel. The excessive amount of pictures I took would make him proud. The intricacy and history behind each painting was amazing.

After admiring the view from the top and catering to the guide who would instruct us when and where to take pictures, “Excuse me, please. Come here. You take picture now. Come here now. Take picture now.”, he had a very specific plan of what was tourist picture worthy, we tromped back down the steps, battling strong gusts of wind, hopped into the jeep and headed off for the next adventure.

Other visitors

The top

Scene 2: Lake Placid II – The Return of the Gators.

Sweaty, tired and hungry, we piled into the jeep after our jaunt up that 700 foot relic to be revived by AC and packs of milo…for those of you who have never had milo before, it is the chocolate milk that every kid grows up on, the sweeter, thicker, calorie-packed Nesquik of the Asian world, if you will. It is also divine. And something Chris Kyle would drink every day. That got us through till lunch…which naturally was prefaced by a quick dip in the lake. The lake apparently serves as a watering hole for wild elephants, a laundry service for the nearby village and a swimming spot for tuckered kids.

Tuckered kids

Elephant's feet, Al's feet.

Paddling around was delicious, and there really is something satisfactory about mud between your toes. All was well until Bala said “Girls, make a lot of splashes and stay close to the shallows.”

Do tell, dear Bala, why ever would we do that?

As it turns out, he and a hoard of boys were goofing off in the middle of the lake and it was only after they had ignored the sage advise of the villagers, goofed off a little more and had come back in search of elephants later that day, that they discovered a tribe of lounging crocodiles. Crocodiles. Enough splashes were consequently made to simulate the tsunami.

After ensuring that every crocodile and/or elephant in the estimated two mile radius had run for cover, we were endowed with the mother of all picnic lunches. Curry, accompanied robust appetites and corking good company, never tasted so good.

Bala is not a believer in downtime and so it was but a ten minute trek through the jungle before we found ourselves in the jeep again, speeding off to our next adventure: Elephants en mass.

Stay tuned.

Much, much love,

Alisa and Steph

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