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Chicken and Orchids

I awoke somewhat disoriented in our room at “Rodney’s Viewpoint” and spent a while battling with the mosquito net that emerged from a single point above us and had somehow enclosed me in a meshed chrysalis. As consciousness worked its way to the forefront of my brain, the task became easier and easier until soon I was free. I immediately made my way out onto the balcony for a bit of air, where I found the view to be, as we had suspected, quite tremendous.

Rodney’s hotel was literally clinging to the edge of a cliff-side road, and below our balcony the ground fell away rapidly.  The misty or perhaps smokey air hung low around the valley, and gave the surrounding mountains a distant magical feel. We could hear monkeys and birds screeching, and, after being polarized by our new Maui Jim sunglasses, the sun played most dramatically over the forest of palms spread below.

We decided that while the dinner at Rodney’s was simply too expensive to indulge in, we might be justified in supporting the man with our breakfast patronage. So when Scott awoke, we made our way to the rooftop restaurant, where we found a room full of empty tables. It felt like we were the only guests, though some noises last night had suggested otherwise. A team of three fellows perked up on our arrival and quickly showed us to one of the many empty tables. We ordered the $4.00 (expensive) omelet breakfast and were quite thrilled to see one of the waiters arriving with a truly giant pot of coffee.  Our elation was only slightly dampened when we found the coffee to be mostly hot water, with a tablespoon or so of coffee grounds sloshing around in the bottom of it. The milk was undeniably delicious, however, sporting that thin film that accompanies the recent boiling of milk.

The omelets were also delicious, packed with scallions and hot peppers, and the toast plentiful. And when we left Rodney’s to head into town we were only a few cups of coffee and a solid wheel away from true bliss — which is damned close. The sun was bright and it was quite hot, despite the rise in elevation relative to Colombo.

The wind in our hair felt good and we pedaled hard down the winding road that lead from the high mountainside into the city of Kandy, where we commenced a meandering wheel, taking turns bishoping until we found ourselves quite lost. Traffic was surprisingly thick, but at 11:30 am, it could not be attributed to any kind of rush hour.

We stopped for lunch when we passed a restaurant, which proudly proclaimed in large yellow painted letters “eat me.” With Lewis Carroll in mind, we decided to heed its advice. The joint proved to be a tasty egg and chicken curry place, with a few branches around the greater Kandy area.

The egg and chicken curry was not only the signature dish, but also the only thing on the menu that was actually available, so we ordered it along with coffee and a locally produced chocolate milk, served in glass bottles which were all, for one reason or another, only filled three quarters of the way.

With eating once again temporarily out of the way, we climbed back on the cycles and continued to wheel through the sweltering heat. We were sweating hard, and needed to stop for water often. One of our water stops placed us across the street from a very interesting looking multi-level temple.

We decided we had better go explore. The top floor was at the street level, but much like Rodney’s Viewpoint, it clung to the side of a cliff and extended for a few floors downward.

We took a moment to enjoy the many small oil lamps and candles which proclaimed the long existence or at least the heavy use of this place.  We then made our way through a lion’s mouth door down into the basement where we found a group of workmen building an extension to the more conventional temple complex. They paused from their work only briefly to acknowledge us, before inviting us to move on and explore more of what may or may not have been appropriately called part of the temple.

Downstairs we found some evidence of older iterations of this place’s religious usage, now cracked and broken, and what appeared to be the administrative offices of the whole operation. One more floor down, we found mostly mud and garbage, but also a rewarding view of the river that ran along the bottom of this particular small valley.

Back on the road, Scott and I were climbing over a number of hills, first sweating our way up, then bombing down the other side, attempting to optimize between the degree to which momentum would help us climb the next incline and the increased danger of riding at high speeds in thick traffic. A few hills later, we were forced to call a waypoint when we passed the Sri Lankan National Botanical Gardens. We had read that these were quite amazing, and Scott seemed to remember that we might even be able to wheel through them. In a fit of excitement at that notion, I dove right into buying tickets without even asking whether the cycles were permitted. They were of course not, and so we found ourselves suddenly strolling. And what a stroll it was.

As you, dear reader, already know, AsiaWheeling is none too keen on attending tourist attractions during this trip, preferring to leave them up to the Flickr crowd. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and this, was a most wonderful one.

The Sri Lankan National Botanical Gardens are quite a sight to behold. And though they are designed much like  western botanical gardens (they were, as I understand it, originally done by the British during colonial times), unlike western botanical gardens, the patrons are allowed to wander freely amidst the foliage, as opposed to being bound to the paths.

We visited the orchid house,

wandered across a suspension bridge,

stopped for tea in a giant open field,

and strolled through an area that must be home to most of the bats in the greater Kandy municipal region.

Feeling very satisfied, very high society, and rather colonial, we hopped back on the bikes for a little reality check on the boiling, traffic jammed, reeking and smokey streets of Kandy. At one point traffic was forced to part, making its way around the body of an old woman who lay in the middle of the road. Whether she was alive or dead, I will never know. But as I wheeled by I could not help but think to myself “what is my responsibility here?” Can I just wheel by? Should I cause more of a traffic jam by stopping to investigate her condition? Were I to discover the worst, what was the next action? It is a difficult situation, the type that points directly at one’s inhumanity. Regardless, I rode by. And soon enough, was once again consumed in the act of preserving my own life amidst the thick traffic.

In an attempt to avoid the snarling and deafening traffic jam that now revealed to us that indeed there was a rush hour in Kandy, meaning the previous nightmare had merely been the default level of madness, we made our way up a steep side street and promptly became completely lost again. Realizing we were running low, we called another water waypoint at a local roadside joint.  The place was filled with a number of Sri Lankan workers. Most were covered in dark filth, and eating boiled sweet potatoes. They were very interested in AsiaWheeling and our strange folding cycles. The first question was, of course, how much do they cost, but after that we began a rather interesting emergent conversation in which each question or response on their side would require the full brainpower of all involved to come up with English words with which to construct an answer. After a bit, they insisted on buying us a few boiled sweet potatoes, which were presented to us in a searingly hot metal bowl, and eaten along with a condiment not so unlike an extra-hot Pace salsa.

Though it burned our fingers, we ate this with gusto.

Finding our way back to town proved not too difficult. On our way back to Rodney’s Viewpoint we stopped at a local grocery store called Cargill’s Food City and wandered around for a bit enjoying the air conditioning.

Finally, we finished the evening with another feast of Koththu.

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  1. Mark/Dad | April 10th, 2010 | 6:24 pm

    Was that a pile of old oil lamps? Nice flower pictures. And Scott spends a lot of time eating for a terse “good.”

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