Be curious and follow your instincts!

Text read by Mary Peters

Carolina, from Wissembourg, continues her story
about learning in Sri Lanka

The next morning, I took the bus to Polonnaruwa. It was a seven-hour drive, but time flew by! The trip by bus was in itself an adventure. I was the only tourist, so I could not go unnoticed. I was surrounded by locals only. The first minutes were uncomfortable, but soon they began to talk to me, just out of curiosity.

There was so much to see along the way that I could not get bored. One local explained many things to me, (where we passed, history of Sri Lanka, sights not to be missed, “look, look, an elephant!) At the same time the only traffic rule seemed to be “don’t die”.

What was different? I had a book, my travel diary, movies on my mobile phone, something to eat. I expected I would have too much time and wanted to use it and not be bored. But that did not happen. My fellow travellers shared their delicious food with me, and there was always plenty to see and talk about, so I did not have the time nor the inclination to do anything else.

Welcome to Polonnaruwa, an ancient city in the Northern Central Province! My plan was, just check-in, leave my backpack in the “hut”, rent a bike and ride to the centre to see the town. My accommodation was a lakeside hut surrounded by jungle. On the right side, only 5 meters from the balcony was a large group of water buffalos, trees full of monkeys and all kinds of birds. If you looked to the left you could see the lake, also with water buffalos and the locals fishing in small boats. It looked extraordinary. I forgot about my plan and followed my heart. It wanted me to stay in that special mood. I spent hours watching animals and drinking fresh pineapple juice.

The next morning, I visited Sigiriya, probably the most visited destination in Sri Lanka. The Sigiriya Rock is an old palace and fortress complex. I arrived early, but the place was already crowded. I visited the museum to learn about its history.

There were many mosquitoes, so I took a few seconds to apply mosquito repellent. Meanwhile, I was robbed!!! I was sitting on a bench when a monkey came towards me. I thought, “oh how cute, I’ll take a picture”. He snatched my phone. At the same time his accomplices, one from behind and one from above, took my rucksack. I put up resistance, however, the monkeys, (small but incredibly strong), bared their teeth and I gave in. A local helped me, and after a few stones and some patience, my bag fell from the tree. I had my water, sunscreen, mobile phone, documents, and my cash back with me. But not my lunch! We laughed and I started to become more careful. I learned, you never have to be afraid, but you have to be careful. The monkeys followed their instinct and just wanted to eat. Wild animals are not pets.    

Afterwards, I went to a temple nearby and then hiked to Pidurangala Rock. The trail is very wild, just for the fit and adventurous. But it is absolutely worth it, and the view is fascinating. Then I returned to my jungle hut, watched the animals and ate fish from the lake accompanied by vegetables and finished off with some ice cream for dinner.

The next day I rented a bike and discovered the historic town of Polonnaruwa. I saw many ruins and impressive archaeological structures and monuments.

I was impressed that people constructed buildings so well back then (5000 years ago). Today we build more, yet the quality of the buildings is lower. Why, I ask myself?

The area is enormous, it is visitor friendly with information boards. Riding a bike there was simply perfect. A little tip: if you visit religious sites, you have to cover your shoulders and go barefoot.

To be continued.

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