Trip Start Sep 01, 2006
16Trip End Oct 28, 2006
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When we arrived I was amazed at the size of the event , outside the gates were stalls selling every thing you could think of ( and a few things you could not ) we were able to park inside as we had special passes as the MEF Vet was attending. At each Perahera there is a vet present and he can withdrawn an elephant if he feels its unwell or not up to the parade. There are spare elephants on standby and the Mahouts care deeply for their elephants and would not allow them to take part if there was anything wrong
Once we parked we walked up to the Temple to meet the Vet and as we were with him we got special access, once we were in the court yard outside the temple I saw about 20 elephants, at the far end were a group of monks seated and each Mahout took his elephant up to the Monks in turn and the elephants bowed down (it's a truly amazing sight)
Once that started the police (and there were hundreds) moved all the locals outside the gate and we were left inside with the Vet, Mahouts and Monks. There were crowds outside the gates and it was a very odd feeling to be inside. A Large male Tusker was brought into the courtyard he was holding in his trunk a lotus flower and he walked with his Mahout to the temple steps where he delicately laid the Lotus flower on the steps and then bowed down, he was then presented to the Monks where he bowed again and was taken to one side, the next 45 minutes were taken up with a series of prayers and blessings and then the we were allowed into the temple. By this time it was raining very hard (it continued for the next 8 hours) and we had to take out shoes off to the enter the temple, we climbed the steps and left our shoes outside (hoping they would be there when we returned) and entered the temple we joined a queue and went to the back of the temple where we made a small donation and were blessed by a Monk who rubbed oil onto our foreheads. By this time the main gates were opened and we had to leave the Temple by a side entrance. There were people begging at this entrance and as soon as they saw me all the children came running forward with there hands out, it was then we released that there were no other westerners present at all and the sight of the 4 of us was drawing crowds and interested looks where ever we went
There must have been 20000 people there at the very least, we were then taken to a house next to the Temple I understand it was the head of the temples house, he is not a Monk but clearly someone very important (the man who was explaining it could not remember the English word for the mans title) but clearly he was very important and only VIPs had access to this area. As we were with Sunil from MEF (who is clearly highly thought of) we were treated to lots of special treatment and I could not believe how very lucky we were. Inside the house we were taken to a room that had a whole table laid out with sweets, our hostess was very keen that we try every thing and as such I had my first (and possibly last) sugarcoated cucumber!
We had another walk around and by now all the lights had been turned on, every single tree was decorated with thousands of star shaped lights and the Temple was covered in lights, it was very pretty and makes the Oxford street lights pale into insignificance
Then it was time for the parade to start, we had special seats under cover (which was luckily as it was hammering it down by then) we could hear a rhythmic noise getting closer and closer and the crowds further down getting excited, a few minutes later we saw why
Next came fire dancers with wheels on fire that they threw up and caught and waved around, more dancers and then the first elephants dressed in a costume with flashing lights, for the next hour we were treated to groups of dancers, drummers, jugglers and silt walkers all separated out by more elephants in costumes. It was a truly amazing sight and the very best parade I have ever seen.
Once we got back to the MEF van we meet with Sunil who had been doing commentary for the TV coverage, he laughed and said at one point the camera man had been filming us as we stood up to take photos!
It was well past 1am when we left and all of us fell asleep in the van almost straight away , it was 3.30am when we got back to MEF and I feel into my bed very tired but very very happy
Yesterday (Saturday) I awoke feeling like death warmed up and discovered I was not a well squirrel at all. I had accepted a glass of tap water at the Perahera ( which is a no no ) but not wishing to be rude I drank it , now it may not of been the cause but the others were okay and I was not by a long shoot. Thankfully my room as a bathroom and I spent the majority of the day either asleep or sitting on the loo wishing I was asleep. If you imagine the very worst hangover you have ever had and times it by say 1000 you might get close to how bad I was feeling
Thankfully this morning I awoke feeling better and staggered over to the restaurant for a light breakfast, I have decided to go easy on the food for a few days and instead I drank numerous cups of tea
We had been planning to go to Kandy today but as its over an hour away by taxi or van the others thought (wisely) that we should leave it until I have some colour in my face, instead we went to Kegalle which is about 15 minutes away by TukTuk (mad 3 wheeled bike taxi things that deserve there own entry) Kegalle is not a tourist destination which is good as every thing is priced at local prices (no tourist mark ups and thus no bartering required) but bad in that again a group of westerners attracted a lot of interest ( all friendly ) and it can be very difficult to move around
We went to a sari shop where we each brought a sarong (they are very popular here for men and women) at the bargain price of 275 rupees. All the mahouts were them into the river and it's our plan to do the same. We have each brought one that matches our Mahouts and when we got back to MEF we modeled them down at the Mahouts huts to rounds of applause and then laughter as 2 of the other lads had tied there sarong the same way I had and apparently that's the way woman wear them. It seems that the most common way is to get them sown together into a tube and knot them at the front so Sunil has taken them to someone who can sew them and later in the week we shall be wearing matching outfits to our Mahouts, I shall be wearing a swimming costume under mine just in case it falls down !
I going to have a go at uploading some photos with this but as the connection is very slow I have no idea how successful it will be
Hope you are all well