You don't know how long it took me to be able to pronounce that
03.12.2010 - 05.12.2010 26 °C
The van and driver has so far been a great idea. We were picked up by Sampath at 11am and got to Anuradhapura by 4pm. The drive though the country was great (first time I've been in a country where I've spotted UN jeeps!), even though halfway the road turned to a dirt track - I regret not taking a photo of the van after the trip, you couldn't tell it was white. Sampath seems like a really nice guy, he grew up in Columbo before moving out near Negombo when he got married and he has a six year old son who doesn't understand why he has to go to sleep at night (kids are the same all over the world). The hotel in Anuradhapura is much better than the one in Negombo which is a relief and we arrange with Sampath to meet at 8am the following day to head out and see the old stupas and ruins around the town.
For once I'm writing a blog post when I'm actually in the location about which I'm writing! I have had all afternoon to catch up on photo uploading the writing because we saw all the sites this morning before the inevitable torrential downpour this afternoon. We started off at an archaeological museum, which was alright but definitely made better with Sampath there to explain things to us. We then toured around several ruins and stupas. One difference we've noticed already in Sri Lanka with regard to temples and religious grounds is that no matter if it's outside you have to take your shoes off. Will abstained with his weird foot disease phobia (and therefore was able to protect my shoes from monkey theft) and I carried on with mucky feet and watching out for ants.
I wouldn't dare to bore you with all of them (I will never be able to convey how well they look in real life), but my favourite was Isurumuniya Vihara or Lovers Rock. Carved out of the rock it gives great views over Anuradhapura and the surrounding area.
The whole area is swarming with grey langur monkeys. This is my favourite photo from this morning, I just wish the monkey had have been looking at the camera - it's impossible to get a good photo of these guys as just as your about to push the button they scamper away.
In fact there is a huge amount of wildlife around the place. We have seen parakeets and chameleons today and I've never seen either outside of a cage so it's great to see them in the wild. Driving through the country we pass loads of little elephant crossing signs (no elephants yet though), similar to the ones we have for deer and sheep but more exotic! There's a national park down south that I hope we can make it to that offers safaris and has elephants and leopards along with loads of other animals. According to Sampath Sri Lanka gets a huge amount of migratory birds and is a haven for bird watchers.
So far so good, we're off to Kandy tomorrow via Sigiriya (another UNESCO heritage site) where we will be climbing a massive (370m high) rock fortress which contains wall frescoes and what remains of a lion carved out of the rock...I expect to have sore legs.