Trip Start Sep 01, 2006
16Trip End Oct 28, 2006
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We left MEF at 8.30 by van to Badulla were the Perahera was taking place, 5 hours (and a numb bum) later we arrived, just at the same time as the Truck carry the 2 MEF elephants Rani and Pooja. The Truck had left MEF at 4.30 that morning as it has to travel very slowly and it made our 5-hour journey look pretty fast. I watched as Rani backed down from the truck (backwards) with Chandana directing her with vocal commands and holding her tail like a sort of rudder, its pretty impressive to see something as large as an elephant stepping backwards off a truck and there was a large crowd watching by this time
Lunch was at a local café and was traditional Sri Lankan food (Rice and Curry) I have eaten in a lot of "local" establishments recently and have finally got the hang of eating rice and curry with my hand. As you only use one hand (the right one) the trick appears to be to mix the rice and curry together and then scoop the rice up using the tips of your fingers tucking your thumb across your palm. Sri Lankans will often tell you that that food tastes much better that way
After Lunch we went to our guest house (up a very steep hill) and had a few hours to relax and drink tea in the lovely garden area before heading back to the first of 2 temples. The first Temple we visited was at the finish of the Perahera route, after a look around and making an offering we traveled to the temple at the start of the route. This Perahera was going to be very small in comparison to the one at Ratapura, having 3 elephants instead of 40 but the up side was it was very personal and friendly and I knew I would have no trouble spotting Rani!
I met up with Chandana who took me up to Rani's bed (a short walk from the crowds gathering outside the temple) she was quite pleased to see us both and even more pleased when he untied her to walk her down to start getting ready for the Perahera. We walked down to lower level stopping only to assist a family who had a large fallen tree across the road leading to there house, Rani moved it totally out of the way in a few minutes and then left them rather a large pile of elephant poo in there front garden as a souvenir of her visit! Then it was on to get Rani dressed, her costume was a fantastic red fabric with various symbols on (I have pictures and will add them here when I get home) it takes a while to dress an elephant, first there is the head covering that ties behind the neck and covers the face and trunk, then each ear has its own covering, a large cloak covers the back and finally lights are added to the head piece. Once she was dressed Chandana took her to the front of the temple were she and Chandana both bowed down at the temple door, clearly Rani had been practsing this (as its not something she normally does) and she was very graceful and the watching crowds were very impressed (as was I)
Then we were invited to a house in the temple grounds for some dinner, I have found that Sri Lankans are very generous and love entertaining guests and as such had prepared a large spread of curry and rice, once we had finished eating we were introduced to the "chief" (not sure that's the correct term, but I think its hard for Sri Lankans to translate the word ) it appears to be a ceremonial position (he is not a monk) but he has a important part to play in the Perahera, walking at the end under a large umbrella, Like the elephants he also has a very ornate costume and he asked us to pose with him whilst he had his photo taken ( which felt a big honour ) we were then taken back to the temple were we discovered that we were to play a part in the opening ceremony
Then it was back to our room for a few hours sleep and it was a few hours due to the discovery that our bathroom wall stopped 2 foot short of the ceiling and noise was traveling over from the room next door where they were having a loud and very raucous party. If that not bad enough we where then treated to the sounds of one party goer being very ill in there bathroom for what seemed like hours! At 6 in the morning our van driver banged on the door to tell us that we had been invited to breakfast at the temple (and clearly Monks have breakfast early) Our bedroom light had blown the night before and using the torch on my mobile phone and the light from the now mercifully quite bathroom we got ready and packed in record time. Breakfast at the temple was again very radiantly affair and if you had told me 6 weeks ago I would be able to (and enjoy) eating Rice, curry and chickpeas for breakfast I would have laughed a lot.
Then it was back to MEF and 5 hours (and the same numb feeling in my bum as the day before) we were back to a well deserved afternoon off I spent most of it hand washing clothes that are now soaking wet again as its raining!
Although today is my day off I went down to the river at 6.30 to wash Rani who seemed to get bored with her extended clean after an hour (she was filthy) and started playing games including grabbing my leg underwater with her trunk (makes me jump and her laugh) splashing me with water and her all time favourite of waiting until I am clearly not looking and squirting me with a trunk full of water.
I waiting for a break in the rain (may be some time then) and then will dash back to the bungalow and rescue my washing from the line
Bye for now