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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

4 January 2020

Anuradapura

Small but ancient dagoba

Small but ancient dagoba

16 December 2019

Today we moved from Wilpattu to Sigiriya, renowned for its UNESCO heritage status but also good for wildlife.

We stopped at Anuradhapura on the way, another UNESCO site as it was the ancient capital city of Sri Lanka for more than 1400 years. The dagobas are the most impressive remains here, although remains is the wrong word because they are still active sites of Buddhist worship. But these huge dome structures were built more than 2000 years ago, and at the time were the second highest manmade structures with only the Egyptian pyramids being taller.

They remain impressive to this day, especially for me the Jetvana Dagoba. This one is no longer plastered and painted, so you can see the millions of small red bricks that make the dome which just enhances the scale. This dagoba lost it’s spire, and there’s a massive fragment of the fallen brickwork embedded in the broad flagstone plaza that surrounded each of these monuments. These are religious sites, so you need to go barefoot and bare headed on the plaza. At midday in the sun it is almost impossible to stand still for longer than you need to take a photo, the granite flagstones are so hot.

Mighty dagoba

Mighty dagoba


Although mighty, the three huge dagobas lose something in now being totally isolated and out of context. There’s nothing much around each of them but some grassland, a car park, maybe a bunch of stalls selling offerings. Apart from the antlike people trekking, like us, around the circumference of the mighty soap-bubble-of-bricks, there’s nothing nearby to compare their immensity with.

It also made the visit a little unatmospheric, although not as much as the slightly awkward way we were driven around Anuradhapura by our driver and stopped at each site for a ten minute look around accompanied by Diluk.

This is us being 100% introverts. Normal people would have said “hey Diluk, we think we’ll have more fun if you just leave us here for 3-4 hours and collect us afterwards.” Whereas we get so caught up on the potential problem of him not understanding… why wouldn’t we want to be driven around on a hot day? why would we rather just see what we find in preference to being shown all the best bits? why don’t we want his company? …that we inevitably just go along with our guide, instead of insisting on what we’d rather do. There were some very low key moss-clad ruins disappearing off into the woodlands that looked so tempting to just ramble around. Sigh.

Worth noting that lunch at a roadside hotel/restaurant was another good curry, and the buffet at our Sigiriya hotel also has some full-flavoured Sri Lankan dishes (though not a patch on Wilpattu).

Ancient door guardian carving

Ancient door guardian carving


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