We had it all coordinated. Claire and I would be arriving in Colombo in the morning, her from Dublin via London and I from Paris via Dubai, with less than 1 hour difference between our arrivals. We would then meet our driver and began our 7-day roadtrip around Sri Lanka before arriving back in Colombo for our friends’ wedding.
However, Fate had it for both of us to be delayed due to technical difficulties. Things got slightly complicated here. Her delay was in London, mine outright in Paris. Having no idea how long each our delays could be, not to mention if I’d be able to catch my original connection flight, our best solution then was to contact each other after landing (while praying that our phones actually worked on roaming!). Whoever got there first would wait for the other – the wait could have been up to 3-4 hours. In the mean time, we had to wake Eve and Pras up in the middle of the night so they could contact and inform the driver in the morning (while we were airborne) that we were not a pair of no-shows, merely late.
Our flights still came in with about an hour difference, although in reverse order. Nonetheless, we had lost approximately 5 hours of time – that was half a day wasted. After withdrawing some money from the ATM (nope, we didn’t have any local currency with us) we bought ourselves a local mobile SIM card to use and tracked down our driver to truly kickstart our tour.
Our first base would be Dambulla, some 130km away from Colombo. While that distance didn’t seem all that far, it still took us about 3.5 hours to get there! By then (about 5.30pm) it has also started to get dark. There was nothing else we could do. We checked in to a hotel, grabbed some dinner at the hotel’s restaurant after a failed exploration walk along the main road near the hotel to find something appetising, and called it a night.
An early start the next morning was on the card. After breakfast, we were on the road for Sigiriya aka the Lion’s Rock, site of an ancient palace and rock fortress. It’s essentially a smaller version of Ayer’s Rock. I won’t bore you with the historical details of this site (here’s the Wiki) but back then, we needed some help. We were introduced to a guide (it’s terrible but I can’t recall his name now) who informed us that there were a couple of thousand steps to climb to get to the top of the rock, but first, we’d need tickets.
As we were not visiting the other two main ancient sites to really benefit from the Cultural Triangle pass, we paid for individual site entry fee. It was a whooping US$25 per person. No such thing as a couple of thousand rupees entry fee for us. This would not be an unique experience since we would encounter this practice one place after another. While we understood the premise of charging foreign visitors a price they could afford (I mean, if you’re going to fly all the way to Sri Lanka, then you are relatively well-off in comparison to most locals), we felt the prices could be made somewhat more reasonable. Afterall, plenty of (young) travellers nowadays would still have to scrimp and save to get there.
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