Birds, Beasts, and Flower Curry, January 7, 2006, Part 2

Ven. Prajnasheel (or in Pali, Ven. Pannasila{tildes over the n's}) wrote that he would be coming from Bangalore for his first visit to Sri Lanka, and we were delighted. Our only regret was that there is a laptop computer all formatted for him in our (misplaced) shipment from the States. When we found out the day they were arriving, that left us no time to travel to Colombo to meet him and Mr. Jagtap, the layman accompanying him. In the late afternoon Bhante called to say they were boarding an intercity bus to Kandy and the number was 63-3766. Great! We had no idea how long it might take, but when it seemed about right, we got a three-wheeler downtown to the area where buses unloaded. What chaos! There was no good place to wait, so we went into the smallest tea stall imaginable, all painted blue, with a board along each side for a counter. We ordered tea, and Visakha watched fascinated as the cook made hoppers over a single gas burner. When he had a sufficient supply stacked up, he detached the burner and went over to the other side of the shop (one step away) and hooked it up to make tea. On impulse, Ken stepped outside the shop (claustrophobia perhaps?), and there, just pulled up, was bus number 63-3766! Too cool! We hurriedly paid for our half-finished teas and found them just getting off the bus. After greetings and introductions, we flagged down two three-wheelers and headed home.

While in Kandy, every morning we were up early for morning chanting, which our landlady also enjoyed. Because we were planning a pilgrimage of some days, we wanted to get a comfortable vehicle. We had telephone numbers of two different local companies and called the first to take us to places around Kandy. He was fine, but we wanted to make a comparison.

Morning puja Ven. Prajnasheel (Pannasila) Mr. Jagdap, Vens. Prajnasheel and BuddhaPrakash, and Mr. Atapattu

The second driver had only to take us to Peradeniya where we would enjoy the huge Botanical Gardens and return for lunch at the house of a retired banker who had invited Bhante and us. The gardens were every bit as impressive as we'd remembered except that we saw whole new sections that we hadn't known were there. There are some amazing trees there, but maybe the cannonball tree, native to the rainforests of the Guiana's in Northeastern South America, was the most unusual. A huge tree, the fruit grow right out of the trunk and look just like ... cannonballs! This time we didn't walk directly under the gigantic fruit bats, but admired them, both sleeping and flying (insomniacs?) from a distance.


Temples Around Kandy
Degoldoruva Cave Temple, very similar to, but much smaller than, Dambulla A monk from Malwatte MahaVihara who spent many years in India. Temple of the Tooth

After we piled back into the van, the driver started toward Kandy again. The house for lunch belongs to a retired banker who had met Bhante in India. His place is probably very close to ours as the crow flies, but, as the roads wind, it was quite a distance, up some of the steepest, narrowest, most curvaceous roads in this hilly area. The final stretch was unpaved and very muddy with recent rains. Lunch was duly offered, and, when it was time to leave, our driver seemed to have some difficulty backing out of the garage. Visakha noticed that something seemed peculiar about the steering but didn't pay too much attention because she was too focused on the bottleneck where one three-wheeler had to back up to make way for a truck and us. Evidently the biggest vehicle rules! When we got to our neighborhood, Ken popped out to take out some money from the ATM (now just at the bottom of the hill) and we continued down the hill to where Lily was waiting. The driver managed to stop on the side of the road but when he tried to make a U turn (one of our favorite moves in Bangkok traffic, but that's another story), he seemed unable to control the car. Awkward! After considerable struggle, he got us pointed in the right direction back toward Ken and the tunnel home. As we went through the tunnel it was clear he was having great trouble controlling the car. We didn't run into the little shop at the junction, but the steering was getting stiffer. We told him not to try to make it up our driveway but to let us off on the road. The van was certainly not up to our afternoon’s excursion, and we counted ourselves lucky that we made it down that steep incline in one piece! When we told him we wouldn’t be needing his services, the driver asked for 2500 rupees for the half day. We settled on 2000 and marveled at his chutzpah! A quick call to the first driver and we were only slightly behind schedule for our outing to some wonderful historical sites in the hills outside the city.

Stupa at Gadaladeniya, 14th century Painting in the stupa, Vessantara giving away his wife Maddi (Jataka 547)
Lankatillaka, 14th century Main image Stone inscription, 14th century

Right after breakfast the next morning, we left for the wonderful pagoda at Mahiyangana which legend says is where the Buddha first visited Sri Lanka. Lily and Savithri would join us. The driver was very competent--the road had more hairpins than a geisha's coiffure. Actually at one point there are a series of 17 of them numbered. At times we felt almost like we were back in the mountains along the Thai/Burma border; the scenery was spectacular. Big Wow!! Lily had prepared a lunch fit for a king, which we first served to Bhante, then enjoyed ourselves at a quiet guest house which provided tea. It was a wonderful day, and on the return we packed up for the real journey of 8 days. We won't go into all the details--we have to leave something for your visit!

Mahiyangana

According to legend, this is one of the three places in Sri Lanka which the Buddha visited. The Bodhi Tree is one of the oldest in Sri Lanka. Its branches are very impressive. Note the knot, which looks very much like a squirrel.



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