So this is it. The last time I will bother you until next time. First lets describe the days activities.
Woke up at around 6 AM and had to get ready to leave the hotel by 8 AM. We were staying in a hotel that needed a refurbishing. I do not care about the conditions of any place I stay in, as long as it is clean. I have lived in tents and gone to the bathroom wherever, but as long is it is clean that’s OK with me. Last night Olivia asked for a blanket. Housekeeping brought one up and left it for us. When she unrolled the blanket, white looking small worms started to fall out. Needless to say, I had a NYC meltdown with the front desk and management. A great way to start your day. Had not had enough coffee due to the “Africa Hot”. Be aware, that all of our previous hotels were clean and excellent except for this one. Life goes on.
We all boarded the bus for our trip to the Madu River and a boat excursion. All of us boarded an open air boat for a cruise down the river. The Madu flows into the Indian Ocean. Saw some beautiful birds, mangroves and some great scenes of people living on the river, but no Crocs. Crocs are smart and they will only come out in the early morning. The rest of the day they spend in the water to deal with the heat. Smart creatures.
The next stop was to a turtle conservation and rehab facility. There are five different species of ocean turtles Sri Lanka. The females come on shore and lay their eggs, They return to the sea after laying their eggs in the sand and never return to the nest. Poachers have been known to find the eggs and sell them. This facility buys the eggs from the poachers and hatch them at their facility. The baby turtles grow very fast after hatching. In the wild, when the eggs hatch, the baby turtles immediately return to the sea. This facility gives the baby turtles three days to acclimate and condition themselves. They then release them back to the sea. This way the babies have a much greater chance of survival. Furthermore, there were damaged and blind turtles at the facility. These turtles were fully grown, but could not be released since they could not survive by themselves. The facility also had albino turtles. They are very rare and were beautiful. The facility is now supported by donations and a beautiful gift shop. We did our part to support this worthy work and cause. One interesting side note. The facility is named “The Victor Hasselblad Center”. This is the same Hasselblad from the camera company that bears this name. Hasselblad is one of the most expensive cameras. I was told that Victor Hasselblad bought the land, beachfront and supported the center until it got off the ground. Now the center is self sufficient.
It was then time to travel to Columbo. We first drove on a beautiful new highway. The first highway in Sri Lanka. Stopped at a beautiful rest stop for lunch. It was then onto Columbo. Columbo is the capital of Sri Lanka and has a population of about 2 million. The City was very busy and there was new construction wherever you looked. The tour guide told us that the Chinese are doing all the new construction. They bring their own workers and set up shop. We finally arrived at our modern hotel and checked in.
After check in, Olivia and myself had some real coffee and then it was time to go to a local cricket club. Cricket is very popular here and there are lots of clubs and Sri Lanka has a national team. The Cricket Club we visited has been open since the 1880’s and was very old looking and splendid. There was a beautiful cricket field where the National team was practicing and some local club teams were learning the trade. We learned the basic rules of cricket. The stands overlooking the field were very nice and there was a beautiful bar. I asked the bartender for a beer. He said beverages are only for club members.
It was now back to the hotel to rest and meet for our farewell dinner at 6:30. We have been with the same group for two weeks. There were three couples from Australia, two couples from Canada and the rest were Americans. A total of eighteen people. I love to give speeches and decided to start the ball rolling. Olivia warned me to keep it short. I thanked everyone for putting up with me and told them that we could say whatever we wanted since the chance of meeting again was very remote. I then went around the table and told everyone what I loved about each of them and the memories I will take away from this trip.
I am writing this final blog from the hotel lobby since the internet in our room is very weak. Standing up the way Hemingway did it.
So what did I think of Sri Lanka and would I recommend it to everyone? Sri Lanka does not have a strong tourist infrastructure. We were fortunate to only have one bad hotel out of six. In some areas, the people can be annoying and threatening by asking for money. Service is slow. Having said all this, would I recommend a visit? You need to accept the situation you have been placed in and know that situation going in. If you can do that, you will find a country that has a lot to offer. Most of the people are nice. They try to please and have an innocence about them. I will never forget the “Temple of the Sacred Tooth” and the strong belief that the people displayed. The buddhas in the caves will stay with me for a long time. Their eerie presence in such a place was beautiful and their shadows were something to see. The “Stilt Fishermen” was a once in a lifetime experience. I hope my pictures do them justice.
Lets talk about my pictures for a few minutes. I am almost done editing and Olivia is almost done choosing. Either my pictures will be published by this weekend or right after the Thanksgiving weekend. My web developer is going away until right after Thanksgiving weekend.
It is now 9:40 PM. We are being picked up at 11 PM for a 3 AM flight to Doha. From Doha, it is onto JFK. Will arrive in JFK at 2 PM on Wednesday. Hope jet lag does not kill me as I need to work on Thursday and everyday until Thanksgiving.
So whats next? Where do we go from here? Is this it for 2017. No its not. My last trip of the year will start on the night of November 25. Am flying to Buenos Aries, non stop. Myself and nine photographers are meeting there and the following day, flying on a prop to Patagonia on the Argentinian side. We will be hiking in the mountains and shooting pictures. I have been told these are some of the most beautiful mountains in the world and the scenery is spectacular. After one week of being in Patagonia, we arrive in a town named Ushaia. Spelled it wrong. The following day we board a boat for Antartica. Antartica is the last place on my tier 1 bucket list.
Talk to everyone soon