Twain in the Rain

Today’s ride took us through Mae Takhrai National Park. The cloud coverage was great for keeping me from burning and melting.

Hell is hilarious so I I had to laugh. Maybe I shouldn’t have…

Immediately afterwards, a downpour started.

Almost two hours later, we were finally back on track. While it can be a little inconvenient at times, I do love rainy season. The fields are lush, the falls are flush, and the trails go slush… ah, mud rides.

Iconic Kyoto

Despite soaking me like a drowned rat, the rain was kind enough to let up so I could visit the vermilion torii tunnels of the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine grounds and the famous forest at Arashiyama.

I couldn’t help but wonder if the maiko hide fish snacks in the folds of their obi. They do tend to congregate around the temizu water troughs.

Bamboo Grove

A designated soundscape… the sound of swaying stalks in the grove is recognized by the ministry.

The bulk of my time was spent riding along the Katsura and Kamo rivers or sampling mochi/people watching in cafes until a storm passed.

 I stole many glances at various temples from the seat of my rental bicycle as I wandered about the city but was often too wet or avoiding impending saturation to stop. Props to the Almont Hotel for providing dry towels, a blow dryer, and warm house clothes.

Sambol & Dahl Finale

Waterfall

There’s a Sri Lankan saying that translates “Desire never stops, it increases even after satisfaction.” One might argue against it, citing divorce as an example, but I totally get it. I think things you are truly passionate about can consume you. In my case, wanderlust. At home, mango with sticky rice and massage. In Sri Lanka, sambol, dahl, and wildlife viewings. That day, I didn’t want the road to end. The views were stunning and the coasting, dreamy.

Little Adams Peak Sunset

Little Adam’s Peak was another “value add” that our guide shared with us.

Our cultural activities included a tour and tasting at a tea factory and a delightful outdoor dinner. I requested a small detour and got a massage to work out the knot in my thigh.

While not a UNESCO site, Buduruwagala was a lovely attraction. It’s guesstimated to be about 1,000 years old.

On our way to Kataragama, we were able to have a swim before finishing our hot and dusty ride. The pilgrimage town is an interesting mix of pomp and procession, piety and religious extravagance. I developed a great appreciation for the awesome massages at the Hotel Chandrika.

My other favorite part was probably the change from macaque to langur.

 Which is as good as any a way to segue to Yala National Park.

A little green bee eater, hornbill, mongoose, crocodile,

water buffalo, sloth bear,

girl elephants,

Yala Elephant

and one charging boy elephant (bluffed us) all got captured digitally. 

 There were so many animals making appearances that it felt more like a zoo than a nature reserve. While we didn’t spot a leopard, we couldn’t even feign disappointment… it was too thrilling an adventure.

There were a few more stops before

Ahangama

to further indulge our wants and needs.

In Ahangama, we set off for Dondra head to go whale watching. We saw a few blue whales but I was in too much awe to get a picture. They were amazing.

We also picked out dinner on the way back to the hotel.

Ah, the Insight… where every room has a view.

Ahangama Beach1

The Indian Ocean is probably the most enjoyable swim I’ve ever experienced. The water was the perfect temperature, crystal clear, with a comfortable current.

I had little interest in leaving but after one last enjoyable ride and swim, we were carted off to Galle, the final UNESCO site on our trip.

Our trip ended in Colombo. A few of my fellow cyclists and I were able to spend half a day wandering around the city. I got us a little lost but it was fortunate… it enabled us to catch these kids in a water race. My experience in Sri Lanka makes it challenging not to consider it a paradise. It seemingly has everything, but that includes its own set of challenges. Despite this, I am looking for work opportunities… Desire never stops.

Change of Scenery

My Sri Lankan holiday started in “Little Rome” with more, albeit somewhat different, sand, sun, and specie.

In this predominantly Catholic city, I felt compelled to cross the moonstone and enter the dragon’s mouth of Angurukaramulla Temple.

While not nearly as old, I also checked out the Hindu temple, one of many Roman Catholic churches and an Anglican one, as well.

The last, St. Stephens, is situated next to the Negombo prison. There was an inmate tending to the prison garden as I walked to a nearby tower. The tower is nearly all that remains of the original Dutch fort. The fort was demolished by the British who then used the stones to erect the prison.

Not far from the prison is a giant fish market. On the beach was an amazingly colorful display of various catches laid out to dry.

  All that seafood made me hungry so I was happy to patronize nearby cashew and king coconut vendors.

After draining the coconut of its very refreshing juice, I used a chip of the shell as a spoon to scoop out the yummy flesh. On my way to dinner, I got caught up in a very impassioned Good Friday procession. Since it was a religious event and I was rather conspicuous, I didn’t take pictures… I should have been rude.

After meeting up with the group and guide, we headed to Sigiriya. A visit to the Golden Temple of Dambulla marked the beginning of what was to be a fairly exceptional Exodus cycling tour.

 Inside this UNESCO world heritage site were various Buddha statues, some carved from the rock. Each cave offered something a little different.

Sri Lankan Cyclist

On the way back to our hotel from the caves, I met a local cyclist. I don’t think he was very impressed with all our gear.

Lion Rock Entrance

After a late and leisurely lunch, we started out to the next UNESCO site on our itinerary, the Citadel of Sigiriya, commonly known as Lion Rock.

 

It’s a long walk up to the frescoes and ruins but you can stop for a rest and enjoy the sights along the way.

The views of the misty countryside, the history of the fortress, and the exiting sunset make it worthwhile.

The next morning, we rode out to another UNESCO sight, the Ancient City Polonnaruwa.

It rained as we arrived so I’m only posting a few pictures as the lighting got weird.

There are four entrances to the Vatadage, each with a Buddha.

The Gal Vihara statues were our last stop before making our way down the road to our next hotel.

The next day’s ride was a beautiful transition from jungle to plantation. The Kalanduwa hills were on one side and the borders of Wasgomuwa Wildlife Park, the other.

 It sorta felt like the most “authentic” day as we didn’t see any other tourists. Our cultural immersion activities included a visit to a spice garden and a cooking lesson.

The next morning we cycled to Kandy. After showers, a few of us went for a walk around the beautiful grounds of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya.

Kandy First View

By then we were starving, so we headed to town for lunch and found a great view of Kandy, our 4th UNESCO site.

After lunch, we walked around the royal palace complex in search of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth relic.

Our last stop of the day was at an 88 foot statue, Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha.

The next day marked the beginning of the end. After a tea stop at Kotmale Dam, we continued on up to Nuwara Eliya. Being the highest city on the island, it would be all downhill from there.

 We stopped at a tea plantation for a late lunch and magnificent views. We eventually rode to our hotel where we met up with the well-rested group that took the train instead of slogging up the mountain.

Down Under, Part 2

On the way to Coober Pedy, we stopped to wander around Lake Cadibarrawirracanna. Afterwards, we passed a lot of red dunes, salt pans, and gibber plains.

We also crossed the Dingo Fence, which stretches for days.

Eventually, we reached the opal mining town.

One of the first significant landmarks I found was the spaceship from the movie, Pitch Black. The local street art was also hard to miss.

Some of the underground homes were stunning. Our bunkhouse… not so much.

Having Bella eating out of my hands (wasabi peas!) at Josephine’s Gallery and Kangaroo Orphanage was definitely a highlight.

20170402_070740

Uluru sunrise… worth waking up in the dark.

Only something like a massive sandstone monolith could be as memorable.

Some of the lessons shared in the caves can still be seen. Our aboriginal guide, Cassidy, had many stories to tell about the rock.

Heli

I think Chief took a little sadistic pleasure in waking us up early for sunrises but he did give equal time to sunsets. I wonder if I should have done a helicopter tour.

Kings Canyon

And now for my favorite part of the trip… Watarrka National Park, Kings Canyon.

There were many enjoyable moments and stunning landscapes in our week exploring the Red Centre but the Rim Walk was what made the trip for me.

Spinifix pigeons, lizards,

rock domes, and chillin’ in the Garden of Eden made for the best day.

The trip wasn’t entirely over. We still had yet to find this Thorny Devil and wander around the Henbury Meteorites Conservation Reserve. Oddly, I don’t have any pictures of the Finke River, Todd River or even Alice Springs. I wasn’t feeling spectacular on the last day so I was a little tuned out. Nonetheless, my Outback adventure was an amazing experience and I look forward to returning to Australia to see what else she has to offer.