Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Kandy: Peradeniya Royal Botanic Gardens

The Peradeniya Royal Botanic Gardens are actually west of Kandy, so we decided to take a local bus to the garden instead of the tuk-tuks we'd been riding around in for most of our trip.  I think we've mentioned it before, but the bus system in Sri Lanka is a mad house.  All of the buses leaving Kandy left from two public square type areas, and very little signage was around to point us in the right direction.  Unlike bus travel in Florence, where they had specific stops, a list of times posted, and a small map of the route, in Kandy all we had to rely on was strangers pointing us (hopefully) to the right bus.  After we found the bus and got our tickets (all of about 40 rupees or less than 40 cents) we patiently waited and hoped we would know when to get off the bus.  Not knowing when to get off of public transportation is probably my least favorite part of any trip on a new transportation system.  Thankfully, the ticket seller was incredibly nice and let us know when we got to the right stop.  The entry fee was pretty steep for foreigners, but for the first time, we were able to get student discounts!  Student discounts were pretty rare in Sri Lanka, which was unfortunate as we enjoyed the reduced prices we got in Greece and Italy.

After we got into the gardens, almost one of the first strange trees we came across was the double coconut palm trees or the Coco de Mer.  The coconuts on these trees were nuts! They were easily 2-3 times longer than Steve's hands and according to the signs can weigh up to 30 kg (66 pounds)!  They also take up to 8 or more years to grow, so a lot of the coconuts had dates written on the from when they started growing. These only naturally grow in a very limited area in the Seychelles (a teeny tiny island group north of Madagascar), so the coconuts were actually discovered floating in the ocean many years before they found the trees.

Along with big coconuts, there were also a lot of big trees. I don't remember what kind of tree this was, but it had been growing in the garden for a very long time.

These wavy pine trees are called Cook pines, and I have no idea why they're crooked.  They looked super sweet and made the path they were growing along seem a little off, since most of them were growing at crazy angles.

They had over 20 varieties of bamboo in the garden, but our favorite was the giant bamboo.  Most of the big stalks were 6-8 inches in diameter and were hollow so they made music of sorts when you knocked on them in various places along the trunks.   It also grows pretty fast at 2-3 cm (about 1 inch) each day.

For a little bit of scale, this was the grove of giant bamboo that was growing in the park, and you can see the two tiny people sitting on a bench in the lower left corner.

Along with the strange crazy plants, there were also many trees and plants that didn't look so unusual such as these that surrounded a small lake in the garden.

While we were walking along the crazy pine path, we decided to walk out to the giant Java Fig tree, but halfway there the sky opened up and it started pouring.  It wasn't a complete surprise, because it was monsoon season in Sri Lanka, but after days of carrying around both ponchos and umbrellas with no rain, we only brought one poncho and one umbrella.  We managed to get under the tree and get out the poncho and umbrella, but they did little good against the rain.  After awhile, we made a break for the nearby restaurant (back right of the photo) and spent a nice lunch drying off and staying out of the rain.

Steve and I both liked these trees with the big sweeping branches and snaking roots. In these trees there were huge colonies of fruit bats called flying foxes. We estimated that there were at least a thousand of them in each of several roosting trees. While they were huge and there were truckloads of them, we still didn't get a good picture of them. The bats made a horrible ruckus the whole time we were near their trees.

We made it to the far side of the park before we saw these storm clouds rolling in.  We didn't have much time before it was going to start pouring again so we quickly moved through the rest of the park, hoping to make it to the enclosed orchid building before it started raining on us again.

On the way to the orchid building, Steve found this skinny tree and wondered why it had such a skinny trunk at the bottom and thick trunk on top.

We managed to spend the rest of our visit bouncing between the indoor growing areas trying to dodge the rain.  We weren't the only ones doing this, and by the time we made it to the orchid building, a huge school group was also milling around.

With the rain falling, even lightly, we decided that waiting for the bus to take us back to Kandy just didn't strike our fancy, so we negotiated for a tuk tuk to take us back instead.  This was definitely a time where paying more for faster transportation was completely worth it!

Check out the rest of our Sri Lanka travels:
Kandy: Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, 2
Kandy: Udawattakele National Sanctuary 

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