That was the week that was
Trip Start Sep 01, 2006
16Trip End Oct 28, 2006
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Hikkaduwa is on the west side of the island and like a lot of coastal areas was affected by the Tsunami, clearly a lot of work has taken place in the tourist areas to try and get them back in business but as the van drove along the coastal road from Colombo there was plenty of evidence of the Tsunami. Buildings laying empty because no one is able or wiling to repair them, a lot of people living on the coastal areas moved away from the coast in fear of a repeat Tsunami There are markers on large poles recording the water level on various dates and the level for December 26 2004 was higher than most single story buildings. There are still signs for Tsunami refuge camps dotted along the coast and although in the area we were visiting most people have been rehomed, further down the coast in non tourist areas there are still people living in tents 22 months after they lost there homes. Its hard to imagine the beautiful clear blue sea that I watched lapping against the white sand on palm tree lined beaches as having the destructive power that it did, it's a very sobering experience and very hard to imagine such horror when you are standing in what most people think of as the definition of paradise.
As it is off season we got a hotel on the beach with no problem and I spent the afternoon pottering around on the near empty beach , having a swim in the warm and clear water and then sitting under a palm tree to read a book. In the evening after dinner we walked half a mile along the beach to a beach bar, walking along the sand in the dark is harder than it sounds and I seemed to find every single pothole and slope on the entire beach to fall into, a few hours later on my return journey I bettered that by falling into some holes twice but that may have been due to the fact I was now transfixed on the night sky and paying no attention to where I was walking (and I had drink a few beers). Once I got back to hotel I lay on a sun lounger to gaze upon the stunning views of the stars and tried to spot any familiar constellations ( I got Orion , Canis Major and Lepras ) before I finally called it a night I also saw a shooting star. The next morning I had breakfast on the beach before heading off to visit Galle for the day. After visiting the old town (fort) and passing the now derelict International Cricket Stadium (it was destroyed in the Tsunami) we went to a small beach where I spent a really enjoyable afternoon snorkeling and saw loads of fish (even if I did fall arse over tit walking into the water with my flippers on). Later that evening we had dinner near our hotel and watched (and listened to) a spectacular storm at sea. After dinner it was back to our hotel where we had built a large fire from driftwood on the sand and I was looking forward to another evening of star gazing, sadly after 15 minutes the storm at sea changed direction and within minutes both the fire and I were drenched, it went out and I went in. On Monday the return journey to MEF seemed even longer than 6 hours and not for the first time I was very grateful to have my ipod with me.
On Tuesday afternoon I nipped down the road to Pinnewala, at 2 o'clock the elephants come down the road from the orphanage and the shops pull down there shutters as they pass (in the past some male elephants have tried to attack there own reflection in the glass!) just before the elephants come down a police man walks down the road with a siren to alert every one and I decided (with just about every one else) to stand outside and watch the pachyderm parade. Within minutes the road was full of elephants of all shapes and sizes making there way to the water and totally ignoring every one, well all except one...
Out of the crowd of elephants a young female (maybe a year old) shot forward and ran towards me, stopped dead in front and then lent on me with her trunk wrapped around my side and looked up at me. I was vaguely aware of the screaming from behind me and the mass exodus of nearby people It seemed that the baby just wanted to have some contact (she is an orphan and would still be bottle fed) I gently encouraged her to rejoin the larger group and she shot off to the river without a backwards glance. I was later told that she probably smelt Rani on me and thought, as I smelt of elephants I was a good choice to approach.
Tuesday night we were due to leave MEF to travel towards Habarana where I was going to visit some schools on my way to a national park , as some of you may know there have been a lot of fighting here this week between the LTTE and Army and a car bomb just outside Habaranna on Monday killed over 100 people in a naval convoy. As such it was decided that we would visit a national park in the south of the country instead leaving Wednesday morning instead and stay the night in the national park.
Uda Walawe National park was amazing, we traveled around in a open top land rover and saw wild elephants in herds just doing wild elephant things, including mating (which the guide told us is very rare to see and even rarer to get photos of) it was amazing to see such large groups of elephants living totally wild and a great privilege to visit them in there home and watch them for a few hours.
On Thursday morning we stopped at an elephant transit area, basically it's a sort of orphanage but not like Pinnewala, at the transit area they return the baby elephants back to the wild in groups when they are old enough. Not all the elephants are real orphans, some have just gotten lost but they would not survive in the wild as elephants depend on their mother's milk for 2 years. The staff have to look after the elephants without making them over tame and feed them from behind a fence to minimize the contact. The baby elephants have to wait for there turn at the bottle (large tube with a funnel on top) and there are many shouts of protest from the babies at the back and far bit of pushing and shoving, more than one baby rejoined the queue to try and get another go at the bottle !. The older elephants there (4-5) look after the baby ones (elephants in a herd all care for babies) and once there is a large enough group of weaned elephants they are then moved into a national park as a herd where they will spend the rest of there lives living under the watchful eye of the ranger.
Thursday evening there was a party at Club Concept as a few of the volunteers were leaving on Friday and everyone was talking about "home" Its amazing to think this has been my home for 7 weeks now, it feels much longer than that ( Sri Lankan time moves at a very different rate to UK time ! ) As much as I am looking forward to coming home I am going to find it very hard to leave here next Friday morning
But I still have 6 days left and a lot can happen in 6 days here :)
Bye for now