Day 3: We woke up recharged and ready to go and after a delicious breakfast we hit the road with a very big schedule ahead.
First stop on our very full itinerary today was at one of Sri Lanka’s most precious sacred sites, the Sri Maha Bodhi temple in Anuradhapura.
On our way to the temple we passed a number of Kapok trees, also known as ‘silk cotton’ trees. These large trees have been an important part of Sri Lankan culture for centuries providing material for clothing and its oils for medicine. Believe it or not the fibers from this tree were once used in life-jackets due to their water-resistant properties until synthetics took their place.
The men harvesting the cotton had tried to pull down one of the large pods and it split before they could reach the ground, the way the cotton danced in the breeze was a sight to behold.
The temple is home to a revered fig tree known as Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi and is said to be where Siddhartha Gautama (also known as Gautama Buddha) is said to have achieved enlightenment. The term ‘Bodhi Tree’ refers to many trees around the world (in fact any tree under which a Buddha has reached enlightenment) however this one was planted in 288 BC and is the oldest living flowering plant in the world.
You can use the new to actually SEE the old by going to Google maps, these are the coordinates for the tree: 8° 20.692’N 80° 23.838’E
The legends surrounding this tree are lengthy and beautiful and I would wager our guide Jeremy Claasz is the best in Sri Lanka.
Everyone received a blessing and drank in the stunning sculptures, grand architecture and truly peaceful nature of this place. Standing beneath this tree and in the shadow of the temple you can feel the magic history of this country all around you as if the air is alive.
Although the Buddhists believe that this tree has the ability to cause rain it must have smiled on us as the day was sunny and hot.
This is the Ruwanveli Seya, it was built by one of the Sinhalese’ favourite kings, and has withstood the seasons here for over 2200 years. The temple is 333 feet high, can you imagine how difficult it must have been to construct?
Thank you again to Jeremy and Stemish Travels, if you’re ever on your way to Anuradhapura look him up and tell him I sent you.
Day 3 was far from over and we went on to visit my dear friend the farmer Lakme in Habarana. If you watched My Sri Lanka you might remember him from Episode 2 when I met the farmer who had to protect his crop from wild elephants and monkeys. Unfortunately my friend had some troubles a few years ago when his son took out a large loan and then defaulted. In desperation his son took the seeds of the Oleander tree and poisoned himself. Unfortunately he died and his father, my friend, turned to alcohol, he is now in a drunken stupor and inconsolable.
Life takes many strange turns and for these very poor people desperation often leads to tragedy.
I was very excited to see him as I had a copy of My Sri Lanka to give him and show him he was a star and on TV. Finding him in such a state was a black spot on an other wise bright and cheerful day.
Near his place is Lake Habarana, the lake was full of lotus and the men of the village were getting prepared to clan it soon. The paddling was tough, but wonderful and everyone had a great time, we raced canoes and I showed them Sigirya in the distance. Tomorrow we will climb the beautiful rock fortress where I cooked a kings curry in Episode 2 of My Sri Lanka.
It seems like just yesterday I was here filming the series, this is a video I shot at Lake Habarana the last time!
We were all energized, a little exhausted and very hungry so it was time to learn how to make coconut sambal, and this time we got to learn from the experts!
Coconut sambal or ‘pot sambal’ is one of Sri Lanka’s favourite side dishes and is served with most meals, curries, rice, everything! It’s made with spices, dessicated coconut, fish, tomato, onion and of course a bit of magic individiual to each recipe.
Here’s my recipe if you want to give it a try at home:
6-8 fresh chillies
1x 2cm piece of ginger
2 cloves of garlic
1 lemongrass root, finely chopped
Zest of 1 lime
50ml white vinegar
½ cup white sugar
1. Chop the ginger, garlic and lemongrass into the mortar and add the chillies and half of the lime zest, keeping the other half aside for later.
2. Crush the ingredients together in the mortar. Gradually add the vinegar.
3. Add a pinch of salt and continue pounding. The salt will assist to break down the other ingredients.
4. Taste the mix to ensure you are happy with the combination of sweet, sour, salty and hot flavours. Add additional amounts of the ingredients as required to balance the taste to your liking.
5. Add the mix to a cold pan. Place the pan over high heat. Be careful not to let the flame come up around the sides of the pan (this will burn the edges).
6. Mix the sambal with a wooden spoon as it heats.
7. Add the sugar. This will caramelise the mix and bring the flavours together.
8. Cook, over medium heat, for 10 minutes or until the mixture is pulpy.
9. When the mix is almost done, add the remaining lime zest. Cook for a further 90 seconds.
What could we follow up a sacred temple, a true lesson in Sri Lankan food and a trip to one of my favourite lakes with? An elephant ride of course.
We finally headed home on ox carts, marvelling at the beauty of Sri Lanka.