Full Moon in the Jungle

Trip Start Mar 21, 2005
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196
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Trip End Ongoing


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Where I stayed

Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Thursday, May 31, 2007

At the end of my stay in Sri Lanka, I stayed at Sisira's River Lounge in Kithulgala as heavy rains doused the trees and made the surface of the Kelani River dance and sing. One clear night, however, on the full moon, I went exploring across the river with a local young guide.

The humid moonbeams shone through the black jungle vegetation as we listened to the rare Serendib Scops Owl, only recently discovered and described. Bats flew along the trail. The jungle was magical in this setting; you could almost feel the leopards, snakes, owls, nightjars, and scorpions hunting in the darkness. Crossing the Kelani river back to Sisira's, the full moon shimmered on the river surface, lighting the jungle in the surrounding hills with a blue-grey haze.

Sisira left the Colombo hotel business to start his own small bed and breakfast for wildlife lovers. As the rain fell, we talked about Sri Lanka, wildlife, and more. As my last stop in Sri Lanka, two things were clear about the places I stayed.

First, when I signed all the guestbooks, without fail, the last person signing was at least a week before. Few tourists were visiting Sri Lanka, because of the terrorist threat.

Second, at almost all the places I stayed, the hosts were friendly, engaging, philosophical, loved wildlife or culture, and amazing cooks. Many of these places were also outside the towns and cities, in the forest areas.

One other thing was clear too: that Sri Lanka, biologically and culturally speaking is probably more at risk now than any time in its history, as the forests are fragmented and the country is engaged in a cultural skirmish. Several people told me that the two sides could easily reconcile, but neither the government nor the Tamil Tigers seem to want that, at this point.

The trip to Sri Lanka ended with a rickshaw driver trying to rip me off, persistently, by trying to get extremely high commission from a hotel. I refused to stay at the hotel and told the rude and crude man to get lost, wondering if he knew that he was both the (un)welcoming and farewell party for tourists coming to his country.

Nowhere is perfect; nowhere is Serendib all the time, even the namesake place itself, the land of Serendipity, Sri Lanka.
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