Hi Guys and Dolls
Hope everyone is enjoying my blog on Sri Lanka. There was a party going on all last night above our hotel room. I tried to sleep but finally gave in at 4 AM and dragged my old bones out of a very comfortable bed. We are meeting at 6 AM to go to the local fish market in Negumbo. Made myself some instant coffee and read. Got used to drinking instant coffee in Mongolia. Sorry to disappoint everyone, but instant coffee is pretty good. I know we are all spoiled, but give it a try. Even Starbucks carries instant coffee. Our local guide told us that you will see many of the fish from the Indian Ocean and he was right. There were all sorts of scenes unfolding. There were people cutting fish and of course, many locals were bargaining for their fish. I saw fish that I had seen before, but not that often. There were long bodied gar fish with long noses. Lots of swordfish, huge fish that looked like pompano and even a large sting ray for sale. It seems that a popular fish is a small fish that is caught and then let to dry in the sun. We saw that yesterday and passed by lots of plots set up with the fish drying in the sun. The scene was almost chaos. People were yelling and some had machetes. Fish heads were everywhere and blood and guts were flowing. Reminded me of the fish section of a food market in Southeast Asia.
It was then back to the hotel for breakfast and onto our first journey. We left the hotel at around 8:30 and were on our way. There are no highways in Sri Lanka. All the roads are roads that go through towns and villages. We passed many rice patties and coconut farms. The tour guide told us that the people use the coconut for just about everything. Besides eating, they use the bark and shell for all sorts of other products to even candy. Some of the locals also use the bark as roofing for their houses. The island is lush and the vegetation is bright green. Reminded me of Cambodia at the end of the rainy season. I asked the tour guide if they had durian. We all know what durian is. If not google it and find out. One of my favorite fruits. He told us durian is harvested in June/July and the people love it. Just like I do. It was now time for our rest stop. I am not the oldest on the trip, thank god. Frequent rest stops are now a way of life for us old folks. At the rest stop there was a snake charmer playing his flute as the snake danced away. Have never seen one and wondering if snake charming would be well accepted in America.
As we drove along the roads, it seemed that we were traveling back in time. The towns and villages became more rustic and local looking. Lots of three wheel tuk tuks. Very few trucks and vehicles. Passed lots of Buddhist sites including Stupas. I have previously visited Stupas in Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. Each country has its own unique version of a Stupa. A Stupa is a round structure that is a temple in the Buddhist religion. The Stupas here are quite small compared to the ones in the other countries. By the way, yesterday I asked our guide if we should walk clockwise in a Buddhist temple and leave backing out and not facing forward. He told us that you should always walk around the temple clockwise, but do not have to leave back out.
At around 12:30 stopped for lunch. I decided to pass on lunch. Need to be more quick and nimble and besides do not like to eat three meals when I travel. It was now onto the highlight of the day.
We arrived in the town of Habarana. Outside of Habarana is the Minneiya National Park. The bus stopped on the main road outside the park and we all got into open air jeeps except it was pouring. The jeeps looked like they were left over from World War II and each one had covers over the top and sides. I had mounted my telephoto lens on my backup camera and was ready to see some wildlife. As we entered the Park, the skies cleared and the driver stopped to take down the covers. We all stood up in the back and entered the Park. The Park is home to herds of wild Sri Lankan Elephants. Sri Lanka Elephants are the largest Asian Elephants in the world. The terrain and weather is perfect for them. There are plains of high grass and lots of small ponds and lakes. When we entered the Park, the skies opened up again and everything seemed pretty calm. I was wondering will I ever catch of glimpse of these wild elephants. Saw wild monkeys, huge bee hives and beautiful birds, but no elephants. The rains stopped again and the driver pulled over to take the tarps back down. We then drove into a large clearing and there they were. Herds and herds of them. These beautiful majestic creatures roaming around with no cages nor bars and free to do and go where they want. My camera started to click away. It was easy taking these pictures. Elephants are slow and they acted as if we were not even there. They went about their business as we were the outsiders looking in to a world that is vanishing. Some of the males even got into a stare down with a slight scuffle at the end. We even saw two elephants mating. Not a care in the world and no regard for us. We were the visitors. This was their world. Olivia was taking a video for our grandchildren when the two elephants started to mate. How do you explain to an eight year old what the elephant is doing? Olivia needs to do some serious editing.
I took about 600 pictures of these elephants in burst mode. Don’t worry, you will not see 600 pictures of elephants. Only the best for my audience and friends. I was glad I was able to experience this visit to such a beautiful place and see these large majestic creatures in their own environment. I am so happy that such a place still exists for them and that maybe future generations will get to see them in this environment.
It was then onto our hotel and a quick shower and nap before dinner. Dinner was a buffet of local foods, but I am so tired that I hardly ate and went back to the room to write and rest.
What adventure awaits us tomorrow in this land that time seems to have stopped for the moment.