We ended our scenic train ride from Ella, at Kandy station, where we then walked to the bus station to catch a bus to take us to Habarana. We were shocked in Kandy at how busy the city was, and how manic the bus terminal was. We arrived in the nick of time, to catch a bus to Habarana, which took 3 hours to get to the town. the bus stops at every bus station, and was packed to capacity. We were grateful to have a seat, even though we were packed like sardines, as the isles were full with people standing. To make things even more uncomfortable, the man sitting next to Francois had a sick child on his lap, who was vomiting into a plastic bag most of the journey. Despite this, we could not get over how cheap the ticket for the bus was….it cost us about R11.50 each for a ticket (That is less than 1l of petrol in Cape Town), for a 94km journey!
We arrived at our accommodation in Habarana in the evening, called Habarana Wild Resort. This accommodation and the town itself was a last minute booking, recommended to us by our cooking classmates from the day before. Habarana is centrally located to many attractions, and made a good base to visit them from. The accommodation was recommended as they told us they had seen elephants in the garded while staying there.
On arrival at our accommodation, we had dinner in the garden, and while we were eating, an elephant walked into the garden and started eating the leaves on the trees about 25m away from us. It is not every day that you get to see a wild elephant so close to you, while eating your dinner. After having some leaves, the elephant passed through the property, going silently into the jungle.
On one of the days we took a bus to the town of Polonnaruva, which was about an hour away. This time we were the ones standing most of the journey as the bus was again filled to capacity. When we reached the town of Polonnaruva, we rented some bicycles and went exploring the ancient city that the town is famous for. The ancient city reminded us very much of Angkor Wat complex in Cambodia. One of the main differences we found annoying when compared to Angkor wat, is that in almost every temple complex in Polonnaruva we had to remove our shoes and hats. This becomes extremely annoying, especially in the 30+ degree heat of the day.
We cycled to many different ruins and temples and spent the entire day at the complex, which was home to many monkeys. Once we were finished and wanted to catch the bus home, we found the street closed off to protesters, who were blocking the road where the bus stops. It was worrying to suddenly be stranded in a strange town, where not many people speak English, and there didn’t seem to be any way of leaving, all this while it was getting dark. Eventually after a couple of hours, the road opened again, and we were able to catch the first bus out of town, back to Habarana.
One of the days we decided to visit the nearby Kaudulla National park, which is home to hundreds of elephants. The jeep that took us on the safari had a removable roof-top, so we were able to stand in the back, and get a 360 degree view of everything. We enjoyed the safari very much as it was great to see elephants free in the wild, they looked so happy in their family groups, and we were able to see literally hundreds of them gathering in the evening.
On the last day of our stay in Habarana, we did a LOT of hiking and walking. We went to the town of Dambulla where we visited the rock temple and the Golden temple.
We also visited the town of Sigiriya, where we climbed up both Pidurangula and the famous Lion rock. There were a lot of ruins and grounds around the Lion rock, and we also visited the museum on the premises. The view from the top of both Pidurangula and Lion rock was pretty awesome, but Lion rock was better, because of it having the ancient ruins on the top of the rock.
At lion rock there was a few large wasp nests, and many warning signs about getting stung and what to do, this made us quite nervous. We asked the ‘wasp guy’, an actual person whose job it is to assist people who have been attacked by wasps, how often it happens, and he said ‘quite frequently’. Luckily there were no attacks on the day we were there, although we did see many large wasps flying around.
After our fun filled stay in Habarana, we took another 3 hour bus journey back to the town of Kandy, where this time we would stay a few days.