Dwarves, temples, elephants, Asian sunset, open top jeeps and the worst of monkeys…or

Or what cricket tourists do between tests…day 2.

I started the day with the offer of Strawberry muffing at breakfast. I never knew fruit could be muffed but it soon became clear that it was one of those endearing Sri Lankan spelling mistakes!

Anyway, today’s a tourist day…so more photos than words?

Inside the royal palace

The group set out to visit the temples at Polonnaruwa – a world heritage site- and the place where the first kings/rulers of Sri Lanka set up their capital. The site is huge so only a short glimpse into the archeology here. What is current are the hawkers trying to see you stuff you know you don’t need. They haggle over prices even when you say ‘no’: I feel at one stage of entering the Life of Brian when one of them argues that I won’t haggle!

It seems that there was a grand procession across Sri Lanka when the first King was installed and he was carried across country by a team of dwarves. It’s estimated that there were up to 12 of them. Well, from what I’ve seen so far, there are very few dwarves in Sri Lanka nowadays, so where have they all gone? Their efforts are commemorated in many carvings around the site. And it seems that Buddhism featured dwarves a lot too! Well, you learn something every day! And dwarves is only one of three words in the English language beginning with ‘dw’

More of the Royal Palace

The site also includes a number of temples to both the Hindu and Buddhist faiths. Each has is own purpose and a serenity perhaps not felt or experienced in Western faiths but there seemed to be more spiritualism in these artefacts and locations. It may just be me and my first Asian experience of religions but who knows. And is there such a thing as reincarnation?

The sculptures and carvings are exquisite in their design and execution as the next few photos hopefully show. The size of each is immense and people have been included to give a scale of perspective.

After a pleasant lunch of rice and curry or was it curry and rice (boy, do I crave fish and chips), the group visited Minneriya National Park and a safari jeep tour to see the elephants in the wild. The shock comes later but let’s say this now, the grace of these animals cannot be described; they appear and disappear into the surrounding undergrowth with such ease and stealth. How any one can mistreat or poach such an animal is beyond reproach. Anyway, enough of the thoughts…here’s a few photos…

Vanishing into the undergrowth almost unseen

Now…the philosophy question…which group of the following apes were the least well behaved?

At the Royal Palace
Elephant safari

Ok…Im as guilty as everyone else but I would not go on a safari again. The impression one had is of a lone jeep trudging across the plains. But no! There were at least 100 other jeeps and paying tourists all craving for a sight of the animals, the language shouted between groups was appalling (guess which nation came out on top of the boorish league), the driving and chaos was more akin to a busy city motorway or freeway on a Friday evening rush hour. The noise for the wild animals…and these elephants are wild…must have been unbearable but they seem to accept it. Access to these animals needs to be restricted and they cannot be used as a commodity in the free market economy. I know…it’s a vicious circle. The money to support conservation comes from tourists who come to see the elephants who need to be conserved….and so it goes round.

If this were a National Trust type operation, numbers would be controlled but how do you control a national park of several hundred square miles and thousands of elephants? I hope someone can provide an answer but until then the behaviour of Homo sapiens will be outshone by all other primates.

It was an amazing experience but also a sad one. I’m not inclined to repeat it. Just leave them alone.

The day was topped off by watching the sunset from one of the peaks in the park, the views and colours were special. Sorry, when my phone works again and I can upload my camera photos, you’ll see what I mean.

And finally, standing up in the jeep as it sped along the road back to Habarana was another experience never to forget. Watching the driving in SL is bad enough but to do so from on top of a jeep travelling at 50mph plus was unbelievable and exhilarating- one to add to the bucket list but one I didn’t know I wanted to do or could do. My mother if she were alive and I admitted to what I had done would be having kittens…but then it’s best not to know or does she?

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