Sri lanka

Trip Start Nov 18, 2002
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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Saturday, November 30, 2002

What an amazing difference this country is to ours. One of our very first sights was
of all the cows in the road/gardens/in front of shops etc. This one
particular cow decided to have a wee in front of an open shop only to have
the shop owner chase it away and splashing everywhere as it went!!!!
Food is fab Martin has taken to drinking tea only because the coffee is so
rank no Starbucks here!! We have hired our own Parker (driver) for 2 weeks
and he is brilliant taking us to all the sights and being our personal
guide. We have learnt so much in the last 5 days. We have seen and learnt so
much about rubber, coconut, pineapple, breadfruit, jackfruit plantations and
also rice paddy's.
The last three days we have spent visiting The Ancient Ruins up in the north
and many beautiful old Buddhist and Hindu Temples. So peaceful apart from the
whooppping monkeys, croaking frogs and gekkos, screaching bats and birds
especially miner birds and king fishers-at least the latter don't wolf whistle at you!! Inside Buddist temple
Our guesthouse for the next 2 nights is in the middle of a national park
opposite a huge lake surrounded by jungle. That afternoon we went in search
of more jumbos as we were fortunate enough to spot 2 earlier, some distance
away across a river. That evening we ate our dinner of rice and curry and
retired to our bungalow for the evening. Martin was making notes for this
email whilst sitting on the veranda now picture the scene and we swear this
is all true! Martin's words-I thought I heard someone approaching looked up
to say hello and found it was a very wild and very large elephant looking
back at me, no more than 25 ft away away about 8 metres for those who do
metric! We looked at each other for about 30 seconds (seemed much longer) as
I decided what action to take (flight or shite). When he turned to eat some
grass without moving away I poked my head into the room to tell Caroline to
come and look, (who of course took some persuading that I wasn't mucking
about). We both watched for a short while when a second jumbo appeared and
much bigger than the first. We knew they were both male as we counted 6 legs
each including the trunk!! We watched them grazing for around 40 minutes
taking great care to keep a safe distance and keeping a look out for other
Jumbos coming from behind. They walk almost silently and in groups.
Today we visited more ruins and temples and unfortunately were mugged for a
couple of mangos by some cheeky Macaque monkeys. They nicked them out of our
car really but that doesn't sound as good!!
Yes we know it's only been a few days since our last email but such a lot of
exciting things have happened that we just had to let you know.
The last email left off with us experiencing the nighttime hotel garden
Safari. Well the 5/6 legged elephants (depending on what you count) only
came back again for the second night in a row. First we heard bangers going
off from the rice factory next door. That usually means the elephants are
trying to raid it. Well they came strolling over to eat our juicy grass. As we
had seem them the night before I (Caroline) felt quite acquainted with them
and decided to take a closer looked. Jumbo didn't like this and showed me his
big ears snorting and squealing at the same time. I just S**t myself running
off down the garden apparently knocking Martin aside on the way. My heart
was pumping I can tell you. Anyway as if that wasn't enough after about 35
mins we went to our room to fetch the camera I felt we were a safe distance
away and he only did it again. By this time I was running out of trousers!
Out of respect we didn't get a photo I couldn't push my luck a third time
you'll just have to believe me. IT WAS TRUE!
After the jumbos left we returned to the room where I had previously left a
packet of lovely sweet biscuits on the table. Well they were now moving round
the table with the help of a million ants. Out came the mozzie spray and the
little blitters soon were retreating back up the 15ft wall to the roof.
Great. And the biscuits went flying out the window together with the other
million ants that didn't make it up the wall!
Next day we went to see the orphaned elephants at Pinnewala.
 
Bath time for the elephants
What an emotional experience that was, I really couldn't believe I was there after
wanting to do this for so long. We got some amazing photos of them feeding I
gave a baby one his bottle Ahh I can hear you say. They all paraded down to
the river for a 2 hour bath. One of the elephants had 3 real legs as one had
been lost through a land mine. He managed to hop really well if only a
little slow. I had tears in my eyes it was so lovely. I also got to scrub one
whilst it lay in the river relaxing. I scrubbed it with a coconut husks her
name was Malakee and she was 35 years old (and looking good for it too). She
then paid back the complement by allowing me to sit on her back and shower
me with water from her trunk. That was really great fun and cooling in the
souring heat. What a brilliant day going to bed having had one of your
ambitions/dreams come true.
Caroline helps out
Everywhere we go we are starting to hear Christmas Carols. Can't get our
heads round this it feels like July/August to us.
Today we visited the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kandy (where we are based
for the last couple of days) It's Sunday so the world and his auntie are out
in force. Apparently this is the only day of the week where you will see so
many women as they are kept indoors the other 6. All the men find blonde
hair and pale skin fascinating. Lost count the number of times they have
requested a photo of me with them. Can you believe it when I ask them all
why? They reply, "You are very beautiful" don't make me laugh mate! The
Children are very sweet and even the really tiny ones will say hello or wave
From the side of the road as we pass. 3 young children asked me for my
autograph today in the park. Probably thought I was Britany Spears-Martin
wishes!!
All this attention is making me wonder what it must be like to be famous.
You can keep it I say.
The gardens where pretty amazing despite the unwanted attention. Saw huge
Forests of bamboo. With trunks the width of Martin. Also millions on banana
trees with fruit nearly ready to pick. Eating loads of fresh off the tree
mangos, pineapple, bananas and loads of other exotic fruit to many to name.
Anyway enough of this chapter now can't be spoiling you too much.
How you all doing fighting with the xmas crowds etc. Martin and I are just fighting with the souring heat!

After the last chapter we headed up (with our driver Parker) to the Hill
Country. A very mountainous area with long and winding roads and scary
hairpin bends with nothing but tea bushes to catch you!
On these roads you meet the odd vendor selling different things. King
coconuts, bananas etc. The best so far encountered has to be the young boy
selling a bunch of flowers. He stood in the middle of the mountain road to
slow us down. As we completed the next hairpin bend there he was again still
waving to slow us down. This occurred a further 3 times by the end we were
crying with laughter. The kid was shouting in singalise "that's the last time
now- no more" 10 out of 10 for perseverance.

The views of the terraced tea plantations were spectacular. We went and had
a tour round a tea factory. The first thing that hit you was the lovely
aroma of tea being ground. The machines they used were something out of the
dark ages but they look after them so well they still keep grinding after
100 years. Learnt there are 7 grades of tea the first being the best and
grade 4 is called 'tea dust' the lowest usable quality, which is what is
used in the tea bags we buy! After you have tasted the best nothing else
compares. I'm sure I'll soon forget!!
Tea plantation
Stayed in a 100 year old colonial hotel in the area they call Little
England, the houses being very much like ours at home. Yes and you've
guessed it was bloody cold and raining. Had to wear sweatshirt, fleece
jacket, socks and use a blanket on your bed at night. One good point was no
mozzies for 3 nights!! Yippee It gave a chance for the old ones to heal
before returning to Mozzie Land again.
Boooo!

Made our way south after experiencing picking tea with the tea pickers and
enduring the English weather, to Yala National Park. We went on a Safari in
an antique Land Rover which was a great laugh. Our driver and Tracker were
amazing, spotting animals from behind trees and bushes and getting up close
to them. We saw crocodiles, tortoise, huge monitor lizards, wild boar, spotted
deer, snakes, mongoose,(birds)bee eaters, kingfishers, paradise fly
catchers, painted storks, a vulturey thing and flying foxes. It has to be said
that it makes a change to see live flying foxes (huge bats) as apposed to
frazzled ones hanging from the overhead power lines!!! Also encountered 18
more wild elephants seen in groups or on their own. This is still one of the
most amazing sights to see peaceful well sometimes! As we neared the end of
our Safari the driver screeched to a halt and there under a bush watching
the herd of deer opposite, was a spotted leapard. How rare to see this. We
only saw bits of him as he was abit shy. but what we saw was enough. Knowing
my track record with wild animals Martin did try to encourage me to get out
of the jeep to have a closer look but I declined this fine photographic
opportunity! It has to be said many jeeps don't get to see any elephants let
alone leapards.We were very lucky.
In the morning we went for walk by the lake next to our hotel. We came upon
a friendly local who seemed to just want to pratice his pigeon english.He
asked us if we liked animals when we said yes, 'as if by magic' a Cobra
appeared from the very small wicker basket he had carefully placed under one
arm. It was time to make a quick exit. Needless to say we have'nt encounted Cobra Boy again.

The next evening we checked into a Cabanna on the beach and had our own hut
on stilts. Sipping beer on the veranda that evening we watched the 4
resident dogs chase a 4ft water snake through the grass and under the next
Cabanna just 10 feet away. Also had great entertainment watching the monkeys
swinging from palm to palm trying to knock coconuts off. Good job we had a roof over us!!

Next morning I (caroline) was awoken at 4am by Martin saying something had
bitten him. On closer inspection it indeed looked like 2 fang marks!! But
where was the perpatrater?? Guess what another hour and a half later I was
biten on the shoulder with the same fang marks. When I shone my torch under
the bed I only heard it scurry away. We sort advise from our driver and
hotel manager to be told it wasn't a deadly snake or spider but a friendly
pinch from a Pataya which is of the Scorpian family apparently. Some
friendly pinch it stung quite badly for the rest of the day. We have
pictures to prove it. We declined a visit to the local herbal doctor as we
were told the treatment included burning a coconut husk and having it waved
in front of us!! Wheres the NHS when you need it?

The next day we went for an early morning endurance walk up Katargama Peak.
It took us a good 2 hours to climb the steep steps and about 20 minutes to
come down. It was a killer but worth it for the view of the whole world from the top.

Currantly staying for the next 4 days in Hikkaduwa (on the beach) with daily
internet access if you feel like writing!! Good excuse to come in from the hot!!! Sorry.
Well when we last left off we were making our way to Hikkaduwa on the south
west coast of Sri Lanka for abit of sun sea and sand. The beaches were
lovely with loads of surfers doing their cool thing. We declined to embarass
ourselvles so we had a go at Boogie Boarding which in hind sight was a good
idea after the hangovers we were suffering. Who needs to stand up when you
can just stay lying down man? Well this proved alot of fun the waves carry
you so fast to the shore and drown you rather well if you get it abit wrong!
We also witnessed some really wicked thunderstorms, lightningh like you
never see in the UK and so load. Its strange but you just carry on doing
what you were doing even ifs its walking along the street as the rain is so
warm and a welcome break from the boiling sun. Average temp was 35+. Bring
on the snow we hear ourselves saying often.
One bumps into the usual odd character along the beach. Who should we meet,
no not Cobra Boy but Python Man. I was tempted to say "its OK mate I already
have a bloke with a Python" but Martin put his hand over my mouth just in
time!!
After saying our emotional goodbyes to Parker' the driver' and spending 3
days in Hikkaduwa we ventured by train to Kosgoda further up the coast. That
train journey just had to be experienced to believe it!! We paid for top
class (yes I know that only means 30pence for an hour and a halfs journey)
to have standing room only on a train so old,battered and should have been
condemmed along with the rail track it tried very hard not to de-rail
from.10 out of 10 for getting us there in one piece!! There were people
hanging out of door ways and windows everywhere. We had such a laugh
especially talking to a teacher (of english) on the journey who asked where
we were going? Our Lonely Planet came in handy for the language problem we
were having. And she taught english?
We arrived at Kosgoda station and were the only ones to get off leaving the
other 50 million passenger or 'cling-ons' on the train! Wow what a ghost
town. We made our way along the road after geting directions only via hand
signals to 'The Victor Hasleblad Turtle Hatchery' (as featured by Jill Dando
on the Holiday programe apprantely). We arrived complete with Backpacks to a
reception of laughing school children who thought we looked funny. Must
admit we had a good laugh with them too. Dumped the packs behind the cafe
counter and went to look at the turtles. This was the first ever turtle
hatchery to be set up in Sri Lanka in 1979. Local people and fishermen are
paid for the eggs they find and bring them to the hatchery instead of ending
up as someones dinner. We saw mounds of turtle eggs buried in the sand
cooking away nicely ready for hatching day. It looked like a mini grave yard
with dates of expected time of hatching written on plaques above them. We
held loads of 1 day, 2 day and 3 day old baby turtles. They were so cute. On
the 3rd day they are released back into the sea and have a 17 to 20 percent
chance of surviving as apposed to 5 to 7 percent if left with out human
help. There was an 9 year old albino turtle which was very rare and had to
be kept seperate from any of the others as they would attack it. Yes there
is racisum in the turtle world too!!! We were able to pick up a huge Logger
Head turtle who flapped his flippers really hard until you stroked it under
the chin to calm it down. Yes we are now turtle tamers too! Imagine the
picture, Martin was holding this massive, heavy Logger Head about 15 years
old and as he gently released it back into the water it got all excited and
started flapping for all its worth. He got absolutely soaked and I just
laughed and laughed and then he tried to give the excuse that I did'nt
stroke his chin long enough! Yerr right, more like he just thought you
should have another shower as you were minging abit!!
After spending one night in Kosgoda we made our way further up the coast to
Colombo (Sri Lank's capital) This time we got a seat on the train-very rare
and the train was fairly modern by all accounts only 100 years old! From
Colombo Station we, again took our life ito our own hands and took the bus
to a small village to meet up with my colleage from work Shamantha. What
another adventure that was. Having seen the driving from the safety of
Parkers car, we decided to sit at the very back as our 'Book of Survival"
advices that it will be the furthest away from impact!
Also "what the eye does'nt see........". Everyone here overtakes on blind
bends, on the inside and the outside lane all at the same time whilst
blasting thier horn hoping no-one is coming the other way or if they are to
get off the road quick!
Shamantha and her family looked after us really well. It was lovley to
experience their great Sri Lankan home cooking. HOT is not the word. We had
alot of fun with them and again learnt loads about their culture.
P.S Amusing things seen so far.
A vegatable cart like Eastenders, Mark Fowlers, not with wooden but with
"Carlos Fandango Alloy Wheels" the owner was well proud!!
And 3 cows who return to the same shop door way to sleep each night despite
the road constantly being like the M25 in rush hour. Mad cow or what?
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