Gran tourismo

Day 7 - Anuradhapura I hope

We tried our hand at hairdressing this morning, or barbary in Michael's case, my Nicky Clarke to his Sweeney Todd. Uncontent with a freshly shaved head he also removed a fair portion of his eyebrows. I am trying not to laugh too hard, I am failing. The staff at the Indian visa office didn't seem to notice the discrepancy between his picture and his actual appearance so no harm was done, except to his ability to look normal. The applications filed we were instructed to return to Kandy to collect in two weeks once the bureaucratic machine had spun its interminable wheels. That may not be time enugh given that the train on which we are travelling north has been broken for two hours...tbc
Engines came, engines went, the train spluttered forward, the train stopped. Heads were scratched. The mercantile vein ploughed its ceaseless circuit with all manner of foodstuffs from apples and nuts to, based on the seller's cry, 'showaddywaddy'. We reached Polgahawela with our connecting service long gone. I'm not sure if it was the welcoming committee of blacks crows squawking their sinister way, the Kafka-esque station building or our short foray into the town itself that made me most solemnly pray for another train that night. There wasn't an unthankful bone in my body that such a service existed and as the sun set over the passing rice paddies and we spied the occasional peacock in the fields I acknowledged that such disruptions must be the travellers lot. I passed the time by trading stories of our families with a food-wallah named Kumara.
The next day we obtained push bikes replete with baskets (but no streamers or spokey-dokeys alas) and pedalled off for the assorted ruins of once mighty Anuradhapura. Cool we weren't but the bikes were remarkably efficient at getting us around the disparate remains of temples, palaces and, of course, gatehouses. One of the two collossal stupas onsite was undergoing maintenance and with no internal staircase (what is inside these things? Answers on a postcard) a unfathomably scary means of ascent had been built up the outside of the curving dome. Much as I rail against overbearing health and safety back home a smidgen more in this particular would not be excessive. Considering they form part of the 'Cultural Triangle' in Sri Lanka the ruins themselves have a ramshackle organisation with minimal signage or direction unless you want to pay a tuk-tuk to take you around. Hopefully as tourism ever increases following the the end of the civil war more money can be found to invest in such places. We enjoyed the coldest beers of our trip thus far at a rest house, drunk beneath a canopy bespeckled with little geckos.

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