Rise & Shine: 5:30am
Breakfast at 6:30am – veggie omelette with avocado in the side and water to drink
We (Sarah & I) headed up the hill to the main road. Sarah did surprisingly well with the 150 stairs and the steepness of the road. We caught a bus to the main bus station. Yesterday, guys at the bust station told me there was a direct bus to Sigiriaya at 7:30am. This morning, all the guys were telling us to catch a bus to Dambula, then switch buses to Sigiriya. We decided to load this coach, not exactly a bus, at 7am. The coach had cushions, air conditioning, and a select few people. For the majority of the ride, we had the back bench all to ourselves. Due to all of the water I drank with breakfast (to prepare for the long trek ahead of me), an hour into the bus ride, I was almost in tears because I had to use the toilet. I practically begged them to stop for me to use the toilet as Dambulla (final destination) was 2 hrs from Kandy as no highways exist in this area of Sri Lanka – all small town driving roads (2 lanes). They agreed and I ran like the wind to the toilet and sprinted back to the bus. THANK YOU!
We arrived in Dambulla at 9:00am & almost got scammed again. A tuk tuk driver jumped on us asking us about our destination. He then proceeded to tell us he would drive us everywhere for the day for Sri Lankan Rupee 2,000 (~$15) because we would have to wait 1-2 hours for the bus to Sigiriya. I saw the wheels starting to turn in Sarah’s head about the price, the timing, and the different sights we wanted to see. We walked away and he continued to talk to us. We went to the bus stop, loaded a bus to take us to Sigiriya for Sri Lankan Rupee 32 (~$0.25). I knew of the approximate location, not the exact location, of where to get off the bus. Sarah and I agreed to disembark when we saw ‘the big rock’ (aka Sigiriya). A couple of rows ahead of us, there was a white, red headed lady. I approached her and asked her about her travel plans. She said she was going to trek the rock next to Sigiriya for a fraction of the price. We followed her off the bus and thought we parted ways as Sigiriya was to the left and ‘her rock’ was to the right. After walking for 10 minutes, she ended up behind us. She caught up to us quickly. We chit chatted with her about the plans for the day. Our original plan was for me to trek to the top of Sigiriya while Sarah viewed the museum and gardens, We walked up to base of Sigiriya where the museum, cafe, & gardens were, walked around a bit, then we continued walking with her to ‘her rock’. After seeing the cost, the crowds, and the grounds, we decided to continue. After about 30 minutes of walking and talking with her, we finally exchanged names. Natalie and I planned to hike to the top of Pidurangalam Rock & to meet Sarah near the museum in 3 hours. She had read blogs and heard (from people at the hostel) that Pidurangalam Rock trek is similar to Sigiriya with similar views – just without the crowds and the cost. Natalie and I climbed up the mountain, up some stairs, then back down the stairs, and up another set of stairs, down stairs, then climbed up again on the other side- we made a couple of wrong turns and hit dead ends before boulder hopping to the top of Pidurangalam Rock. We explored the top of the rock, viewed Sigiriya, snapped pics, then sat down, and shared some snacks. Within 30 minutes of us reaching the top, Sarah joined us. All of us were surprised when she emerged at the top of the Pidurangalam Rock. We ended up relaxing at the top for a bit before heading back down. Natalie ventured off ahead of us as she eagerly planned more adventures for the day. Sarah & I reached the bottom after exploring rock formations and Buddha statues. We took a tuk tuk back to the main road and picked up Natalie on the way (as she was walking to the main road).
We made it to the main road just in time to catch a bus back to Dumballa- the slowest bus! We finally arrived in Dumballa, where Sarah and I walked to the Golden Temple while Natalie returned to her hostel to explore her adventures. On the way to the Golden Temple, a tuk tuk driver approached us and offered us a free ride to the top. We agreed and arrived at base of the temple and climbed higher to the Dambulla Cave Temples- 5 different caves with over 150 stunning Buddha statues and paintings. The statues of Buddha are carved right out of the rock and are permanent statues in these caves – an impressive sight to see. Sarah also explained to me how the paintings are in different stages as well- a few of them were white, which is the first layer with drawings on it, while others have completely been destroyed and the rock is visible, while still others beautifully display the handpainted paintings throughout the caves. After spending a considerable amount of time here, we descended the mountain back to the main road & caught a tuk tuk back to the bus station.
We ate lunch of an omelette with papaya juice for Sarah & mango juice for myself. During the lunch conversation, Sarah mentioned she didn’t want to take the bus back to Kandy as the bus ride up to Dumballa (& Sigiriya) was uncomfortable and unpleasant, and too long. We discussed the different ways to return to Kandy: a private car for hire, a taxi, or another way. However, when we left the restaurant, Sarah loaded onto a ‘regular city bus’, not a coach, without air conditioning or cushions with seats. I followed as I didn’t mind the bus- it’s not the most comfortable ride, but it works. We found two spots together with a third person in the aisle seat. Sarah took the window seat and I attempted to give her and my other neighbor room, but the seats were too narrow. I thanked Sarah for coming with me as I didn’t want to venture up to Sigiriya alone, which she replied ‘this was your one day’ and patted me on the shoulder. Earlier in the week we discussed that I would catch the early bus (7:30am)l to Sigiriya, trek to the top, and meet her at the Golden Temple and Dambulla Rock Caves as Sarah’s interest lay in the cave temples whereas I wanted to trek with beautiful views. However, without working Sri Lankan phones, we didn’t think it would be the best idea. Therefore, we ventured up together.
We arrived back in Kandy and caught a tuk tuk back to Kandy River Breeze. We were at most 2 km away from the residence, but after a full day of trekking, climbing, and uncomfortable seats, we didn’t walk. Tuk tuk drivers target those travelers who look tired, which we were. It’s the closest thing I’ll get to a true backpacker’s day with Sarah at this point. Many backpackers don’t take tuk tuks, taxis, or express coaches due to the cost- most rely on foot or public transportation.
We arrived at Kandy River Breeze where I immediately jumped in the shower and tended to my blistered feet. Mr. Gamage served us dinner of rice and curry along with vegetables, an omelette, avocado, and jackfruit. It’s wonderful having a host provide meals during your stay! We stayed up and chit chatted awhile with him and watched a television show regarding Lord Buddha while listening to Mr. Gamage explain the show and history of Buddhism as the show was not dubbed in English.