A sensible 7am start to beat both the heat and the other tourists took us a short distance to the car park for the start of the Lions Rock ascent. The ladies and some of the gents were soon seeing hassled by the guides wanting to help them up the various steps – Jenny in particular was getting a lot of attention.
Jenny and Heather decided to peel off back to the bus and had an enjoyable hour or more drinking fruit juice and resisting the curio salesmen, one of whom had the nerve to go and sit at their table for ten minutes – they ignored him.
We pressed on up the steps to the lion’s paws – a flat level area about half way up. Here another clutch of the party decided to stay put and await our return. Sadly the lions head from brick has long since gone, leaving just the paws, but they are impressive enough and one can imagine the whole structure and how that must have looked to the ancient world, guarding as it did the cloud like rock painted in white, with a strip of reflective surface below creating the illusion of the cloud floating in the heavens with the gods.
Those that didn’t suffer from vertigo carried on up the steep metal stairways – how the ancients managed to cope with the simple cut out steps we couldn’t fathom – it all looked very scary.
We wandered around happily on the top, admiring the views, and the reservoir, and the throne, before making our way back behind the reflective area and up a spiral staircase to see the painted ladies on the frescos, made from coloured plaster.
The technique didn’t allow for mistakes and I did blot my copybook somewhat by asking to see the lady with the three nipples whom I had read about, and she was duly pointed out with a smile by AV.
She got told off on the way down by another guide for allowing one of us to take photos of the frescoes, but in fact it wasn’t one of our group at all, but some independent travellers who had tagged along with us. She pointed this out to him forcibly enough….
We had breakfast back at the hotel after the Lions Head experience, one of the best parts of the trip so far. It is a magical place, unlike anywhere I have been before. ￼￼
We enjoyed a visit to the Dambulla vegetable and fruit market, interacting with the local traders while trying not to get in their way. I was given a fruit which I thought the chap called “Wally, wally” although he may have been referring to me of course. I later discovered he was probably saying “olive, olive” as it is apparently the Sri Lankan version although it tastes more like a fruit. Also tasting like a fruit, although a very sore one, is the local gooseberry which bears no resemblance in texture or taste, but after chewing thoroughly for ten minutes when trying to wash it down with swigs of water, it does start to taste a little sweeter, or at least the water tastes sweet compared to the astringent fruit.
We then visited a woodcarving factory, noted the talk on the different sorts of indigenous woods and also look around at the huge range of curios on offer. All rather expensive compared to say Pollonoruwa, where I had negotiated a set of 4 elephants in a slightly unpleasant way with a trader who changed the size of one of the elephants once we had settled on the price of 1,000 rupees – I just accepted it in bad grace, but I was happy to see that the smallest of the elephants in the woodcarving place was 2,000 rupees on its own so perhaps I had driven too hard a bargain. The vendor did start at 8,500….
Noting the large stump tables and big elephants were £4,500 inclusive of shipping, we avoided any temptation and we all set off for the spice garden, where we had lunch.
After a decent lunch (another rice and curry buffet) we were shown into the garden to look at the various spices grown there. We thought the might be a bit boring, but far from it, as the nutty enthusiast that was showing us around soon had us all enthralled and captivated.
So much so that afterwards when he had finished his talk on Sri Lankan ayurvedic medicine, many of us bought things we were not expecting to – in our case vanilla extract, cinnamon sticks and powder and a few other things and spent £18… A great salesman!
As a result of all our stops we got to Kandy a little later than we thought – it was raining a bit so we didn’t miss much sunbathing time etc. and after a drink in the 168 year old colonial bar in the Queens hotel where we were staying centrally and overlooking the lake, we went out to dinner at another equally colonial hotel a couple of blocks away called the Royal, where we had a great meal in darkness most of the time due to the power cut, with the lights coming on just a after our pasta dishes had arrived – we enjoyed a change from curry this evening. It was a lovely setting and we had a great table by the window of the gallery restaurant, after being recommended it by the departing previously occupying english couple, who also weren’t staying there but had also been tempted by its rating on Tripadvisor.