It started off with a pleasant surprise being upgraded to business class on an economy class ticket. Some prawns and a dash of vodka with orange juice and we were there - Sri Lanka. Organised by Sri Lankan Airlines, the ‘Ramayana Trails' promised to take us to lands that we've read about since time immemorial. But the scenic beauty of the country took us by surprise.
Driving to our hotel at 1 am and being stopped every 500 metres by police as a precaution in response to the blasts that happened a couple of days back was hardly the welcome we expected. Having no plans for the first day a walk down the streets of Colombo seemed like the only plausible thing to do. The scorching equator sun and the empty Sunday streets were compensated by a walk along the coast, a teaser for every sea lover.
The next day things picked up - visits to four temples and I came across a saadhu who beat his chest as a form of prayer followed by a sip of coke to quench his thirst. This was followed by a stay at Amaya Lake. A swim at half past midnight, an early morning's stroll near the adjoining lake and I had reasons to look forward to the day. A road, full of rocks, and the final destination which was a view of the mountains where Ravana died wasn't exactly what I was hoping for but the drive back across mountains with a thousand foot fall on one side set the adrenaline rushing.
Next up was a visit to the hills. A stay at Amaya Hilltop provided the most beautiful view of the excapital of the country , Kandy Halfway through a note on the food seems warranted - while a host of international cuisines at almost every hotel we stayed provided enough choices, the stay couldn't have been complete without tasting the overtly spicy chicken curry with rice, the delectable ‘hoppers' and of course, their indigenous tea which is, to say the least, addictive. The pinching point, however, was the cigarettes priced at fifteen rupees a piece, which, in spite of the conversion rate was way too steep.
The high point of the trip was the visit to the place where Hanuman kept his first step in Sri Lanka. Atop the mountains, one had to walk the steep incline while listening to your companions converse about how effort helped build up faith. Although all there was at the top was a tree and three small stone idols, the view from the top was well worth the effort. This followed by a visit to a tea factory overlooking plantations where old women meticulously picked tea leaves unperturbed of the chilly weather.
Nearing the end of the trip, we headed to the Ravana caves, where one had to climb five hundred odd stairs followed by a trek of two kilometers. Being scared of heights and a bit concerned about the lack of any conceivable safety measure, I chickened out. A wise decision, I thought, till I realised elephants frequented the place during that hour of day .
Save the best for last - that was indeed the case as we stayed at a hotel right next to the beach. For those with faith in religion and mythology this trip promises to strengthen it further.
Whether it's seeing a footprint of Hanuman be sides a fast flowing stream, the cave with a mouth big enough to fit Ravana's flying vehicle or a pond formed by Sita's tears which hasn't dried up till date, there is plenty to experience. Even if you aren't the religious type, the pure aesthetic beauty of the place is a treat for the eyes.