You probably noticed that some of the things we are most fascinated by in Sri Lanka are the unending cave and rock ruins, most with stone carving either for practical use (like stairs) or for decoration.
In the rock caves where the monks lived, the carving is mostly practical. The channel is to funnel rain water away from the rock beds further back into the cave.
The rock beds are surprisingly comfortable!
In the palaces or temples built by kings the detail is amazing, like the riser (front) of this stair.
A plaque beside this guard stone (stones beside temple gates or entrances) reads: "This is the most artistic guard stone found in Sri Lanka. Two lovers emerge from the dragon's mouth above the cobra king, who has in his hand the pot of aboundance signifying prosperity. This is said to show that fertility generates prosperity. Indulgence in worldly life is like entering the mouth of a dragon is another interpretation. It belongs to the 7-9 century AD.'
Many of the caves and ruins have been abandoned for hundreds or thousands of years, and have tumbled down or reverted to jungle. Local humour includes putting little sticks under massive boulders to act as 'supports'.
Sri Lanka is covered in ruins in the interior - ruins on the coasts have all been destroyed by various invaders, particularly the Europeans. To boost the tourist trade, one experiment shown here is recreating what the caves looked like when they were active monasteries, with reed walls, bunkbeds, hospitals, etc.
A wedding party waits for their turn with the photographer in another cave temple.
We moved out to the east coast to a quiet beach area called Nilaveli and a town called Trincomalee.
North of Nilaveli are the oldest Buddhist ruins in Sri Lanka, dating from the time the Buddha was alive. In this old temple and monastery grounds, a dog and a deer followed us around as we went exploring.
The east coast and the north are populated mostly by Tamils, who are mostly Hindu. There's a dramatic difference between the quiet and contemplative atmosphere of the Buddhist temples and the over-the-top noise, color and exuberance of the Hindu temples. This is a Shiva temple. "Shiva is the god of the yogis, self-controlled and celibate, while at the same time a lover of his spouse (shakti). Shiva is the Destroyer of the world, following Brahma the Creator and Vishnu the Sustainer, after which Brahma again creates the world and so on. Shiva is responsible for change..."
Friday night outside the Hindu temple.
We have a three-month visa and we're getting down to our last couple of weeks, so we decided to head south by bus to Kandy then by train down through the mountains to the gorgeous mountain valley at Ella.
It's impossible to take a photo that does justice to the spectacular 360-degree vistas from the hill-tops around Ella.
Roxanne refines her snake-charming skills.
Our guest-house had orange sheets so John tried out his monkness - doesn't really work without the shaved head, 'though....
We took a bus down to Dikwella on the southern coast and took a walk along the beach. A dog was trying to get a cow to move back onto the beach and out of the surf.
Rounding the south coast and heading back up to the airport near Negombo.
Roxanne contemplates grand theft tuk-tuk.
View over the walls of Fort Galle. Galle is set on a natural harbour at the southern end of Sri Lanka. The Portuguese arrived 1505 and were subsequently run off by the Dutch in 1640. The old Dutch town and fort still exist as a World Heritage Site.
Galle was inhabited long before the Europeans arrived, and there are shipwrecks scattered around the coastline. We bought these two coins from pedlars with tins full of old (and new) coins. One pedlar claimed to have found the smaller coin himself in the reef off the Fort. According to Google they are from the reign of Queen Lilavati, c. 1197-1211. Successive Indian and Sri Lankan rulers used the same Sri Lanka-created coin style starting when Sri Lanka was under the control of King Rajaraja Chola (Tanjore, South India) who invaded in c. 990. The 5 balls on the right of the coins show they were made in Sri Lanka - coins from the same era made in India had 4 balls with a crescent above.
Always another set of stairs... these ones were cut into a rock face and went sideways for part of the path.
Our guest house in Gaul had water lilies growing in pots outside the front door. To keep mosquitoes from hatching in the pots they filled them with tropical fish.
'Negombo towing company'! We took a train and a bus back to Negombo to get ready to fly to India since our Sri Lankan visa is about to expire, and we followed these guys in another tuk-tuk. When the tuk-tuk on the left broke down, his buddy came up with an innovative way to push (toe?) him home.
Cave temple in Dambulla.
One last temple...! (it's long, so may take extra time to load).
Our Sri Lanka visas are expiring, so we're moving on to India for a few weeks. Please go to the new tab India: Apr. 2016