Kurundegala turned out to be more interesting than I expected. I took a bus to Ridigama and then a tuk tuk to the Ridi Vehara, which means ‘Silver Temple.’ A king in the 2nd century BC was building a huge dagoba, which he couldn’t finish for lack of funds. Silver was discovered here which allowed him to complete his dagoba. He made this cave into a temple complete with a gold plated Buddha statue, which is still there today!
When I was walking to the bus it threatened rain so I ducked into a fruit shop to buy a plastic bag to fit over my camera case. It cleared up, but it rained every late afternoon/evening for the last three weeks of my trip, which the locals say is unseasonal.
There’s something odd about toddler behavior in Sri Lanka. Babies and toddlers sometimes scream (I don’t mean cry) to get their way, and it works! I’ve seen/heard this about six times now; that can’t be just the unusual child. Children over three are perfectly pleasant, but so many toddlers are really difficult for one’s ears to handle. What do you suppose—too much Montessori? Or am I just unlucky?
One morning on my walk in Kurunegala two street sweepers excitedly called my attention to something swimming in the lake—it was a white (albino?) turtle about two feet long.
I left Kurunegala on Wednesday morning by bus to go to Rambukkano, there to get another bus to the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage. This orphanage is a government-sponsored program to care for abandoned or orphaned elephants. There were about 60 of them, some babies, some juveniles, and some adults and they were awesome. I could walk right up close to them and I had my picture taken with the giant, blind tusker as I held on to his tusk. Many of them looked tan, in color, rather than gray/black but I was told that was just because they had been playing in the mud from all the rain and that it would wash off in the river later, which it did. It was fun to watch them bathe and spray. The area that they can roam in is lovely—isn’t this just a nice idea? Everybody wins.
When I arrived in Pinnewela, a local young man found me an inexpensive room—he said that since he saw me get off the bus, he knew I didn’t have much money. When I pointed to a spiffy restaurant beautifully situated next to the river where the elephants would later bathe and said that I would have lunch there, he cautioned me that it was expensive; I told him I would only have a small lunch. It’s true, most tourists visiting the orphanage were either on tour buses or had private vans with drivers.
I stayed overnight in Pinnewala and then the next morning I got a bus back to Rambukkano and then the train to Colombo.
On the train a woman about my age approached me, saying she wanted to speak to me, so I invited her to sit down and we had a conversation. Her English was pretty good. She said she was with her husband (in the next car) and that they were on their way to visit her son’s family to celebrate her eight-year-old grandson’s birthday. We exchanged ‘grandmother’ information (she had 9, I have 6) and discussed my sojourn in Sri Lanka, our children, our marital status, where I lived in the USA, etc. She asked for my address, which I wrote in her book, and then she offered to exchange ballpoint pens—kind of a hands-around-the-world thing—which we did. She thanked me for the conversation and then returned to her husband. What a nice interlude!
In Colombo I stayed with the young British couple and their two children that I had met eight weeks earlier in Ambalangola. Wasn’t it nice of them to invite me? I had such a good visit with them. The next morning after Natasha and I had string hoppers for breakfast, I went shopping at a craft store and also at the ‘Barefoot’ store which has lots of hand-loomed things, all in natural fibers—what a gorgeous store!
Well, my pack was much heavier with the addition of my purchases (stuff for the grandkids, a Sri Lankan cookbook and a couple of things for me) but I managed to walk to a city bus and climb aboard to go to Dehiwela where my friend, Ira, lives. She cooked lovely rice and curry for us and we ‘talked cooking’ all afternoon. She uses many, many ingredients from her garden in cooking.
Ira, her friend, Balla, and I went to a wonderful Sri Lankan opera, “Sinhabahu” by Sarachchandra. This premiered in 1956 (Ira saw it then) and it continues to be a favorite in Sri Lanka. The music (including the singing) was very good but all recorded; the dancing was terrific as were the costumes and the acting. Before the opera we looked in on an art exhibit by Jayasiri Semage who is quite a famous Sri Lankan artist, and whom we met in person at the show. I liked his paintings very much.
Ira’s daughter picked us up after the opera and we three, Balla, and a niece had dinner at an Indian restaurant. It seemed like these were old friends of mine—the whole evening was most enjoyable.
On my last day in Colombo, Ira took me to a spice shop where I got a small supply of a few spices and condiments that I’m not sure I can get at home. Sometimes the problem is the name—for example when a recipe calls for ‘brinjels,’ they mean Japanese eggplants. Some of the spices are the same ones used in Indian cooking but they have different names from the Sri Lankan.
And then, after ten weeks, it was time to go home. My flight left Colombo at 2:15 AM on Tuesday morning and I was home that evening by 9:00 PM, about 31 hours later. As usual, I think this trip was my best trip yet—but I think I always say that! This is it!