Rather than drag this trip out into thirty seven and a half more blog posts, I’m going to hit the highlights for you today. Someone also told me I’m not getting paid by the word, which probably means I should be a bit more brief. Then again, I’m not getting paid at all, so I guess it doesn’t really matter, unless any one of you Fellow Adventurers wants to send me a check. I promise not to spend it all on beer, but only because beer is cheap here.
Getting back to business, I’ll summarize some things. Our hotel in Kandy was awesome. It was back off the main road toward the mountain a bit and it was very much a part of the surroundings, almost like a hotel had grown out of the mountain.
We ventured out our first morning there to see Kandy’s main tourist attraction and the most important Buddhist holy site in all of Sri Lanka, The Temple of the Tooth. The temple holds the tooth of Buddha. The belief is that after the Buddha’s funeral pyre, some guy went and snatched a tooth, and, to make a long story short, during the 300’s AD, the tooth was brought to Sri Lanka for safekeeping. Interestingly, it was believed that whoever possessed the tooth was the rightful ruler of the country. True to belief, Kandy was the last home of the Sri Lankan kings. The temple itself was very interesting as well as super crowded. It happened to be a time when the reliquary holding the tooth was going to be displayed. Apparently they never display the actual tooth. Being there on a day you can see the reliquary and visiting the temple in general is supposed to give you good karma. After fighting the crowds in the main temple I was hoping that getting our karma recharged was worth the hassle. The monks also bathe the tooth once a week on Wednesday in some special water and then hand the water out to worshippers to take home because it is believed to have powerful curative properties. I wish I’d known that before our visit. I could not figure out why people were carrying what looked like dirty water home in bottles. Everyone in the temple also wanted to touch our kids, which The Little Explorers do not find endearing in the least.
There were some other interesting things about being around the Temple of the Tooth, like the crazy monkeys living in the area around the central pond. They have little fear of humans and beg for snacks and such. We even got to see a monkey fight. Big entertainment. Less entertaining and more frightening were the chicken ducks. These things were freaky. I swear, it was like a Frankenstein combination of a chicken and a duck. I’m not generally one to get freaked out about animals, but these things gave me the heeby jeebies. They were so frightening and weird I took some pictures to share with you. When I got home, I asked my brother-in-law, who is a bird watcher, about these freaks of nature. He told me they are Muscovy ducks, and are really neither ducks or chickens. Freaks of nature, indeed.
Tell me that's not horrifying.
Shudder. Freaky deaky.
After our time in Kandy, we headed to Nuwara Eliya, which is in the mountains of Sri Lanka and in the heart of tea country. For some reason we can’t figure out, it’s actually pronounced Nurellia, as if it’s all one word. Try to pronounce it as two words and native Sri Lankans will look at you like you have two heads and speak Pig Latin. Hey, I’m not the one who named it a name that is clearly two separate words. That’s all you, Sri Lankans. While there, we visited a tea plantation, which, in the interest of proving that the workers are no longer actually slaves, is now more politically correctly called a tea estate. I’m sure that doesn’t make much difference to the practically indentured servants who live and work there, but it might make us westerners feel a little less guilty about drinking tea, which I guess is the point. Human rights aside, it was actually very interesting. Did you know black tea and green tea are actually the same thing, only the black tea leaves are left to ferment for three days? You do now. Amelia Earhart was the most captivated with the process and was excited to get home and tell her Grandma, who likes to drink tea, all about the tea production process.
In Nuwara Eliya, every road seemed to lead us by the same really beautiful park. Each time we passed it, The Little Explorers would exclaim, “A not-broken playground! Can we go play at it Mama? Daddy, look! Can we please go to the not-broken playground?!” I guess that gives you an idea of what the playground was like, and what most of the playgrounds we find here in Sri Lanka are like in comparison. Finally, on our way out of town, we obliged the kids and stopped at the park. We immediately understood why this playground wasn’t broken. There was an admission charge to go into the park and garden. We once again confused the heck out of some Sri Lankans by asking for the resident admission fee, got that straightened out, and headed inside. We strolled leisurely through the park on the way to the playground. Upon reaching the playground, all three Little Explorers took off running gleefully and began playing on all the equipment, most of which was, indeed, not broken. Of course, all that fun came to a screeching halt when Gertrude Bell announced, “I have to poop, NOW.” (You didn’t think we could go an entire blog post without talking about poop, did you?!) The International Man of Intrigue agreed to take Gertrude Bell on a quest for a restroom, since we figured there was a high likelihood of there being a potty in a place that had an entrance fee. About two seconds after they turned to walk away, Arthur Dent walked headlong into the side of a metal slide, fell, and started screaming. I sprinted the five feet to him and just as I was scooping him up, heard Amelia Earhart let out a shriek of terror. I whipped around just in time to see her trying to scramble out of some sort of drainage ditch. I screamed and tried to run over with a still hysterical Arthur Dent in my arms. Luckily, since The International Man of Intrigue had only gotten two steps in the search for the restrooms, he was by Amelia Earhart’s side before I could take more than a half step. This is how we roll, Fellow Adventurers. If one thing crazy happens, several more must happen in quick succession. It’s just our life. Lucky for me, The International Man of Intrigue is trained in acting quickly in emergencies and wasted no time in assessing the damage to Amelia Earhart. Our big fears were broken bones and snake bites, so when she came up a bit dirty and scraped up, missing her glasses, we took a deep breath of relief. Not so, Amelia Earhart, who kept screaming hysterically, especially once she realized her glasses were gone. The International Man of Intrigue bravely went over the side of the foot bridge (really just a dug-in plank) in the search for the glasses. He came up with them, and while they weren’t completely smashed, it was painfully obvious Amelia Earhart had stepped on them in her scramble for safety.
Can you blame us at this point for cutting our losses and deciding to head home? We did stop back at the hotel we had already checked out of and begged use of their facilities one last time. Once we had Amelia Earhart cleaned up and Gertrude Bell feeling relieved, we hit the road for Colombo.
I’m going to admit, I wasn’t sure of the drive home at first. We were on a one lane road in the mountains. I mean one lane, not as in one lane in either direction, but one lane. I got my passenger brake foot ready and warmed up my vocal chords for lots of screams of, “Red bus!” Fortunately, while there were a couple of moments I slammed on my imaginary brake, for the most part, it was a very scenic drive, complete with waterfalls and only a few moments of panic. Of course, the closer we got to Colombo, the crazier the traffic became. Apparently we didn’t get the memo that it was “No Brake Light Friday”. It definitely kept us on our toes, and probably explains the first ever car accident we’ve seen in our time here. We were coming up on a small village when traffic inexplicably stopped. In Sri Lanka, this, of course, means that everyone jockeyed for position and drove on the shoulder until cars were jammed in three wide on our side of the road (with a few cars actually being partially or mostly on the wrong side of the road). We were wedged in behind a van that claimed to be a Nissan Homy. We laughed at the name until a group of about 9 guys piled out of the car, all in matching black slacks and each wearing a different color of pastel button down shirt. Then we absolutely roared with laughter. A Homy van full of homies?! You have got to be kidding me! As they came back to the car, they made motions indicating that there was an accident ahead. We figured that meant we’d be sitting for hours. Nope. Cars started to go around the accident and eventually we were close enough to see a bunch of men prying the door open and pulling some guy out of a van. By the time we got up to the scene, there was no scene. Someone else pulled the car off the road and that was that. No police, no ambulance, nothing. Weird, right?
Other than that, it was a pretty uneventful trip home, except for that time we passed a mobile fish cupcake truck three wide on a two lane bridge. Gotta keep it interesting, after all.