The bus to Habarana was around two hours. With standing room only, a local man gave up his seat to me which made my time a little easier. Stu had to stand and he got a few stares as he stood a head over everyone else, his head grazing the roof as he bopped to the local music that pumped through the speakers.
We arrived in Habarana to pouring rain so we looked hastily for the closest Tuk Tuk. As we told the driver where we were headed he smiled and replied “I’m Andika, the owner. Jump in.” Happy for such luck on such a wet day we slid into the Tuk Tuk and were whisked away to our guesthouse.
Habarana Wild Resort was definitely one of the best decisions we made for the trip. Andika and his family made us feel like royalty from the get go. Carrying both our bags for us, he led us over a small bridge at the rear of his property. There, surrounded by forrest, was a well built cottage. He opened the door and waited nervously to gauge our reactions. Inside was cool and inviting, with a clean, red cement floor and crisp white walls. The bed was huge, pillows arranged carefully along with fluffy white towels to complete the luxurious feel. The bathroom was spotless and spacious. After we remarked at how lovely it was, a grin full of pride came over Andikas face before he bowed and retreated, leaving us to change from our wet clothes and settle into the room. After around half an hour, he came with cakes and tea for us to enjoy. A quick discussion of when we might like dinner followed and then he bowed out again, leaving us to lounge around while the rain poured outside.
A knock on the door around 7 indicated dinner was ready. Andika led us out to a candlelit shelter 10 metres from our room. Dinner that night was a delicious chicken fried rice with mango chutney.* As we ate, Andika asked us about what we might like to do while we were here and made suggestions on what type of itinerary would suit us. We agreed that due to the forecast the next day, it would be best to do things as locally as possible. Andika put a few activities forward and we agreed to check them all out and do one or two. Early bed followed and we fell asleep easily with the cool of the aircon and full tummies.
The next morning we woke to a spread of delectable Sri Lankan breakfast goods and tea. The rain was still pouring, so it was suggested that we go for a bit of a spa day and then onto safari. While the massage was a ‘blow the budget’ type affair we decided to go for it an indulge a little.
The massage we relaxing, but compared to the deep tissue massages of home, this felt more like a light rub and we both still felt tight after it was done. Feeling relaxed, if still a little stiff, we headed back home for a quick lunch and shower before heading on Safari.
Safari was great. We went to the Kaudulla national park for ours. As we left for the park while it was still raining quite heavily we were able to get there and inside the park with ease. Our luck seemed to kick in again and the rain eased to a steady drizzle, so we were able to open the canopy and stand up for the ride. I had never seen elephants so I was like a giddy school kid as we rounded the first bend to see many family groups of the gentle giants standing together all around us. The dirt tracks were rather flooded which made for a bumpy ride, but our driver knew the place like the back of his hand so we avoided getting stuck (sitting and watching the jeeps who weren’t that lucky was a close second to Elephant watching). The elephants are quite used to people and jeeps, so we were able to get so close that we were practically able to touch them. Our driver took us around to a few of the families and would stop near each for 10 – 15 minutes so that we had the chance for photos and to quietly watch them. One family had a baby, and it was stupidly cute to watch her a she trailed around her Mother’s legs for safety. The teenager of the group was not as happy as the others to see the jeeps and on a few occasions would threaten to charge a car or two, but the rev of an engine would see her quickly duck back to her mothers side.
The next day the rain had eased slightly so we decided to try our luck and go to both Dambulla and Sigiriya in the one day.
The bus to Dambulla was cheap and easy and a further short Tuk Tuk saw us at the Golden temple within an hour. The Golden temple was rather breathtaking. Set into the side of the mountain, the structure gleamed as it towered over you. Well kept gardens, cheeky monkeys and prayer flags helped to relax the scene and while there were numerous tourists, the site was large enough that it did not feel crowded.
After looking around the temple, we headed up the steep stairs towards the Cave area of the temples. The caves had been converted as early as 1BC to shrines -however the artwork had been updated as recently as the 18th century. Hundreds of statues of Buddha stood in the varying sized caves as a calm presence while tourists and pilgrims alike took in everything from the intricately painted roofs to the beautiful wall art.
After an hour or so, we get we had taken in a much of the site and its history as we could so we started to head back down to continue on to Sigiriya. I held us up for at least 20 minutes as I befriended the most adorable pup (whom I named Scraps) and sat giving him all the love. I wish I had thought of taking a photo, because his eyes and his little floppy ears would be enough to make anyones day.
We opted for a Tuk Tuk to Sigiriya due to the massive black clouds looming overhead. It was a good choice, as the heavens opened up and poured rain onto us as soon as we got in. For 10aud it was expensive, but a choice that helped us to keep going on what was a pretty wild weathered day.
The rain broke again as we got to Sigiriya. You still couldn’t see the the peak due to the mist after the rain, and we debated whether to climb it or not. In the end we decided to climb the rock directly next to Sigiriya as it was cheaper by around 30aud and promised spectacular views of Sigiriya and its surrounds. The rock was called Pidurangala and was a relatively easy climb, though you did need a little bit of rock climbing prowess to get to the very top. The views from the top were breathtaking. A panorama of the jungle and Sigiriya against a beautiful dark sky greeted us and the rain held off just long enough for us to take in the view.
As the heavens threatened to open once more we retreated under an overhanging rock, climbing back down as soon as a gap in the rain presented itself.
We considered also climbing Sigiriya, but the clouds were ominous, so we opted to head home. Good thing we did as the rain bucketed down in torrential fashion as soon as we got into the bus and did not ease until after we had arrived home.
The next day we decided to stay in as it was forecast for yet more rain and we wanted to listen to the Hottest 100 and have a few beers. Unfortunately the power to our hut failed directly after breakfast, so for half of our planned lazy day we were stuck on our porch with very little to do. Power was restored around 2, so viber calls with family and friends as we listened to music took up our afternoon. The lazy day was needed after non stop sightseeing and spending money and it refreshed us before heading to the hustle and bustle of Kandy.
*Andika (well his wife) will cook meals for you for breakfast, lunch and dinner if you happen to be on the property at that time and request a meal.