Sunday, September 13, 2015

Polonnaruwa - 12 & 13.9.15

Day 7 cycling: SIGIRIYA to POLONNARUWA

Ride details (from Garmin):
Distance: 55.63km; ODOMETER: 364.7km; Moving Time: 2:58; Elapsed Time: 3:32; Avg Speed: 15.7km/hr; Avg Moving Speed: 18.7km/hr; Max Speed: 49.0km.hr; Total Ascent: 198m; Total Descent: 338m; Max Elevation: 227m; Calories: 1,810 C; Avg Temperature: 32.9 °C; Max Temperature:  38.0 °C


It was quite a nice ride from Sigiriya to Polonnaruwa this morning although the Garmin, seemingly with a mind of its own, directed me down a tertiary road that eventually turned into a gravel path that I didn't fancy cycling down for any length, and it wasn't clear to me just how far it did extend, so I re-routed back to the main highway and made it here in good time. I noticed quite a few army camps and training grounds along the way, and imagine that knowing what to do with all their soldiers now that the war is over is a bit of a problem. Those that I saw seemed to be engaged in gardening.

My plan was to head for the Leesha Tourist Home in Polonnaruwa - at 105 Newtown Road - and so when I arrived in town I stopped at an intersection to clarify briefly, on the Garmin, where it was. While checking it out, some bloke on a motor scooter stopped to ask me what I was looking for.  I was about to tell him to 'take a hike' or 'shove off, thank you' as I knew where I was and that I had already planned where I wanted to stay - "the Leesha" - to which he responded by telling me he was the owner of the Leesha (!) and to follow him - he would lead the way there.

The room is large, very new and spotless with both fan and A/C (3000 Rs with A/C and just 2200Rs for fan only). While I usually don't, I elected to have the A/C as I've felt a bit overly warm the last few nights. The owner (Mr Upali, apparently) is a helpful fellow and advised me that I might like to join several of the other guests who were heading off on a 'safari' in an hour's time to the nearby Minneriya National Park where we'd see some elephants. Seemed like a good idea, although I was a bit sceptical that we'd see much. As it turned out, I was totally wrong - we saw scores of elephants roaming about, feeding and generally just hanging out, and were able to drive up fairly close to them. In addition to the numerous adults there were quite a few infants, some just a few weeks old. We also saw lots of birds - storks, pelicans, cormorants, eagles, peacocks - as well as some foxes, a water buffalo and some monkeys (?toque macaques). Overall a worthwhile trip, and it was nice to spend some time with some of the other guests here. We finished the day by tucking into a huge meal of rice, vegetarian curries and fish, made for us by the owner's wife.

On Sunday, after a healthy breakfast (fruit plate, rice hoppers, coffee) supplied by the guest house I teamed up two other guests who went on yesterday's safari -  Chris (from the UK) and Veronica (Czechoslovakia) - to explore the ruins around Polonnaruwa by bicycle. After yet again forking out an excessive 3300Rs (USD $24 or AUD $33) entry fee, no map or anything helpful provided, we spent 4 or 5 hours pedalling around. The highlights were probably the cathedral-like Lankatilaka temple containing a huge standing but headless Buddha and Gal Vihara, containing four separate Buddhas - 2 seated, a 7m standing one and a 14m reclining Buddha. Chris and Veronica were good company and I might even bump into them again in Kandy. Today seemed even hotter than usual and I was glad I hadn't planned to head off as it would've been hard going.

on the way to Polonnaruwa

Minneriya National Park

Minneriya National Park
 
video

(noisy) video of elephants at Minneriya National Park

 Royal Baths

Vatadage

Vatadage
 Buddha statues in the Hetadage

stonework inside the Hetadage

 Pabula Vihara (12th Cenury)

 Lankatilaka

 headless Buddha statue in Lankatilaka

 seated Buddha at Gal Vihara

 Standing & Reclining Buddhas at Gal Vihara

 Standing & Reclining Buddhas at Gal Vihara

Standing & Reclining Buddhas at Gal Vihara

Evening meal at Leesha



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