Rather at odds with the threatening signs saying “passage of illegal drugs carries the death sentence” and “could all passengers arriving from Africa and South America please report to the health desk,” the immigration staff were actually rather agreeable in Sri Lanka. They asked if we’d come to their country looking for boyfriends and when we said we hadn’t they just asked us for chocolate and cigarettes.
Our whole reason for being in Sri Lanka was for the Elephant Festival which isn’t called that and isn’t really meant to be about elephants. It’s where Buddha’s (supposedly real) tooth is paraded around the streets - it’s just accompanied by lots of elephants and dancers and fire throwers, the youngest of which cannot have been more than 6 years old.
We later learned that the elephant given the prestigious job of tooth-carrier must meet certain physical criteria, one of these criteria is that it’s penis must touch the floor. SAY WHUUUT?
Elephants are quite tall….
We were told that it started at half 7 but we’d need to claim a space on the street by about 3pm. At 10.30am when we were just heading for breakfast the streets were already packed with eager Sri Lankan families. We caved and just paid a man who owned a juice bar on the route to let us watch from his shop.
The festival itself was incredible. Lots of elephants with LED adorned trunks and topless dancers wearing costumes that would make many a drag queen green with envy.
We’d not quite had our fill of elephants and so went for a ride on one the day after. Our mahout had a pretty bad limp and even worse English. He explained to us, through the medium of mime (and a few grunts), how his foot had been injured when an elephant took a bit of a tumble and landed on him. We were reassured that it wasnt the elephant we were currently on.
A lovely man who worked there offered to take pictures of the ride and went all David Bailey on it making us wave and do peace signs and whatnot. Unfortunately, Alex is looking the other way in most of the pictures but there are a few good ones.
The hotel we stayed in on our first couple of nights was rather luxurious (it was the only one left given that the festival was on) so we decided to move somewhere that suited our budgets a little better. In hindsight, we should’ve looked at a map of where this new place was. We’ve now taken 3 rickshaws between there and the centre and each time has been a painful experience. The first was by far the worst as it took an hour and a half to do a 20 minute journey. Halfway through our driver parked on and incredibly steep, rocky hill and left us sat in the tuk-tuk, while he went to get directions, listening to the sound of the handbrake failing and calculating if the time to throw our bags out and get to the brake was more or less than the time it would take to roll off the edge of the cliff. Then it started monsooning.
On Thursday Alex and Katherine went to Sigiriya, a giant rock which could apparently be described as Asia’s Machu Picchu (by Katherine……who’s never seen Machu Picchu). A huge rock that you can climb to terrifying heights on rickety planks which is surrounded by jungle giving very impressive views and, it turns out, very wobbly legs (due to either exertion or fear…it’s unclear which).
On the way home, just as the bus broke down, they made a pen-friend who made them hold her vegetables as she noted down their adresses. She was 58 and thought Katherine was Alex’s daughter. Upon finding that this was not the case, she apologised profusely…to Katherine, not Alex.
Aggie didn’t want to pay 30 dollars or get up at 6am to see a big rock and so hung out with a Polish girl instead (power in numbers). After waiting for 30 minutes for a bus in to the city an old Sri Lankan man informed us that the buses were broken and we’d have to follow him through the jungle to get another town where we could catch a different bus. We eventually got there, alive and unharmed, and had a nice little day by the lake before meeting Katherine and Alex for tea.
Tomorrow morning we leave Kandy in a chauffeur driven car to the coast where we plan to spend the remainder of our time maxin’ relaxin’ on the shore with some turtles.