My day started as it often does in Portland - with an epic traffic jam - and ended with some much-needed quiet. Due to a student protest of some sort, traffic in and out of Kandy was atrocious. Luckily, we were in an air-conditioned van. The usual one hour drive took easily twice as long.
Our first stop was the Royal Botanical Gardens. The gardens are stunning and made even moreso by the sari-clad women wandering through under umbrellas. I was also amazed and the size and sheer numbers of fruit bats hanging in trees, stinking the place up and wafting their wings to keep cool in the hot sun.
We then fought through more traffic to see the Temple of the Tooth. No, really. It holds the left upper eye tooth of the Buddha. While the relic itself is enshrined in six golden tombs and only shown a few times per day, the area around it was stunningly gorgeous. Followers prayed in front of the shrine and Rosiee gave us each some jasmine flowers that had been blessed during the puja - a Buddhist daily ritual of faith - and will protect us during our travels.
We walked through the temple complex and walked more quickly during the portions in the hot sun - our bare feet were a tad spicy during those moments. The temple was bombed in 1998 - a casualty of the civil war that raged on and off here for thirty years and only ended in 2010. It's been beautifully reconstructed, but it's sad to think that such antiquity was lost.
A cultural show was our next destination and we were entertained by traditional dancers, music, and fire dancing. The evening capped off with some brave young men walking over burning coals. And I thought that the temple stone made my feet hot.
Rosiee and the others were kind enough to drop me at the train station. My hope was to secure a reserved seat for tomorrow's journey to Ella. No such luck. All reserved first and second class seats are booked. The good news? Other second and third class cars never sell out.
They just keep cramming folks in until it's time to go. And that'll be my situation tomorrow. With a giant backpack and a small one. By myself. For six hours.
But, what can you do? It'll be an adventure, that's for sure. And maybe I'll luck out and get a seat.
After the train station, it was time to part ways. The sun was setting and the call to prayer of a nearby mosque muffled our goodbyes.
In the blueing light, I loaded my things on my back, hailed a tuk tuk and pushed into the bustle of night. It's all me from here on out.