"Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to Colombo airport. Outside temperature is 25 degrees. Please ensure you take care of all your belongings when you leave the plane. On behalf of the crew of Air India, this is your captain wishing you a pleasant stay. Thank you."
Land of Singhal where the shaker-of-the-three-realms, Ravana grew his empire, and also the place where Rama defeated the rakshasa king and enforced the power of dharma over adharma. And now, we were there - my sister Sanghamitra, her husband Manu and me. One Mr.Gerard, our tour guide greeted us with a warm handshake at the airport. Over the course of the next few days, he would take us around the island country, showing us the sights and sounds to be seen. And as I found out, we couldn't have got a better guide. I shall be posting his details up at the end of my post so that any of you guys who wanna go there for a short vacation can get in touch with him directly. Anyway, back to the story...we handed him a crate of Heineken beer that he'd asked for from the duty free shops inside the airport. It turns out that his daughter is a flight attendant with Sri Lanka airlines and getting a bottle of scotch is not an issue for her since it's just one bottle of liquor, but not and entire crate of beer. Anyway, a big toyota SUV as our ride found me dozing off to sleep in minutes, exhausted from waking up so early to take the flight. (Why do international flights require us to reach the airport at such unearthly hours I could never figure out) When I woke up, I found us pulling into a bright outdoorsy restaurant named Saruketha. A friendly attendant greeted us at the entrance with folded palms and a soft "Ayubowan" which means "long life". It was such a nice refreshing and traditional welcome. We called for some glasses of juice and for main course came a sea-food platter filled with cuttlefish, crab, fish and prawns...and what gravy! Exquisite! I think I had twice my own capacity with that food!
Sangha went trigger happy and got overexcited with the entire bamboo-palm tree setup and ran away with my DSLR....then realized she couldn't operate it and then me and Manu were all LOL over her. Our meal ended just in time as a sudden shower of rains that we'd seen in the horizon earlier caught up with us and we had to scramble to safety and dry land under thatched roofs.
Travelling through Lankan roads is almost like travelling thru Shillong. You're always passing through forests with bright green leaved trees bending over from both sides of the road in a dense wild canopy that allows the occasional ray of light to shine through onto the dark pitch roads. Led by the sunkissed path, we headed to Sigiria - the great hilltop fortress of a diabolical king who built this great castle after killing his owm father and fleeing his state. And this fort! What a marvel of medieval archtecture! Built in the fifth century A.D., it was equipped with natural rainwater fountains, sentry posts at progressive heights, naturally cooled seating areas and even different types of swimming pools for his 500 concubines(yes! 500! Wonder what he did with all of them...what stamina man! :P ) 1250 steps to the top left me drenched in rainwater, sweat and a feeling of elation and achievement. Natural degradation has broken the clay walls of the fort and left a 360 degree view of more than three acres of jungles in any direction and the blue mountains beyond. Talk about wanting to spread my wings and fly!
It was a long and scary climb down the other side of the fort, and the stone steps of that age were pretty small and almost half the size of my foot. So for all the 1250 steps down, I had to step sideways. Pain in the ass I tell you! But on the upside, it was an amazing drive back to the hotel with lightning illuminating the road for us in flashes that lit up the sky. The rooms in our hotel Ameya Lake have a peculiar quality. Each room is named after a different species of tree or animal. Our room no.90 was named after White-browed Fantail Flycatcher.. Really nice room with a HUGE bathroom and loads of space. It's funny...each hotel room makes me want to redesign my house like that. Anyway, the climb left me with an aching desire to jump into a swimming pool and cool off. So I took the next best option - a nice and hot bath. Soon I found myself sighing in relief in the tub with some great music playing, as I typed my experiences of the day into my phone.
Alright, for those of you who want to visit Lanka, contact Mr. Gerard - 0722 850540 / 077 1123446
He is one of the best guides I've come across in my trips over the years. Really nice sophisticated guy with loads of contacts, he's been doing this for the past 17 years.