Sri Lanka day 6: A safari, a village tour, a peckerhead, a mountain and more

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September 8th 2017
Published: September 9th 2017
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Sri Lanka day 6: A safari, a village tour, a peckerhead, a mountain and more

The day has broken, there is an elephant about 100 metres away, you want to photograph it....would you:
a. Set the camera to auto, it's light enough so you don't have to worry about the flash going off and potentially scaring the elephant away.
b. Set the appropriate ISO on your camera and maybe shoot in aperture priority so the camera sorts the shutter speed for you.
c. Slap a bloody great flash gun on the top of your camera which will make no difference whatsoever to the picture as you're so far away but it may still startle the elephant?
If you chose c you join the ranks of peckerhead first class and join the idiot we saw this morning doing exactly that. Sadly I think he was British too :-(
I think there were only three jeeps in Kadulla National Park this morning which was great and even one peckerhead couldn't spoil it, especially as we only saw him that once.
We'd woken up at 4am and Thuminda delivered us to our jeep by 5:30. Our driver was driving a 35 year old Mitsubishi 4 wheel drive jeep with bare feet-quite impressive. He was a friendly chap and there were only us and him so we had the whole of the back to ourselves. It was a bench type arrangement with an open roof so you could stand up and get clear, uninterrupted views of the animals.
It was quite a drive and, as I'd been expecting a cover like the previous jeep I hadn't brought my hat. Luckily though the sun stayed hazy after it rose and I escaped sunburn and/or sunstroke. We'd been expecting to go to Minnieriya national park and knew nothing of Kadulla but it is sort of a sister park to Minnieriya and the elephants flit between the two.
Our first sighting was of langur monkeys followed by more peacocks, always peacocks, loads of peacocks....unless they were anthills in the shape of peacocks...not quite what I suggested the other day but it's a start! Now if you could just sort out opening the tail feathers we might take some pictures of you.
So what else did we see? Macaques obviously, lots of birds, some colourful, some huge, a jackal, loads of elephants including a calf about one or two months old, a huge herd of water buffalo and deer. I think that's it.
The main thing here are the elephants and getting to see them in the wild is fantastic, getting told to shoo in no uncertain terms by one is an experience we won't forget. The engine was off, we were on the track and at a reasonable distance but not reasonable enough apparently. Our guide reversed quite quickly and then had to do the same a bit later; this was the herd with the tiny calf and this is their land so fair enough. Imagine if we'd used a flash......
All in all it was a great morning despite chief peckerhead and made even better by the sparcity of other jeeps. Most people go in the afternoon apparently when there can be up to 300 jeeps in the park.
Back at the roadside stall we decided to do a village tour next and were soon walking down the dirt road behind where our first form of transport awaited us. Being pulled along in a rickety wooden cart by two oxen is great for a short distance but I don't think it's going to catch on as a potential alterrnative to HS2.
We were dropped by the waterside where we boarded a long paddle boat with two hulls. Our guide was very informative and kept telling us about things we encountered along our tour. Thuminda came too and helped out with the paddling. We stopped at a little village type area which I think is pretty much just for tourists but is made to look like a proper village.
The huts are made of mud with bamboo leaved rooves and cow shit for the floor (his words not mine!). And we got to climb into a treehouse which looked quite rickety but was actually quite sturdy. The treehouses are built for nightwatchmen to keep elephants away from the rice fields. Yep, you read that right, a guy in a treehouse stopping herds of elephants entering a huge field. Apparently they do this by shouting a lot and some use firecrackers. They take it in turns to sing and then the song passes onto the next guy in the next treehouse. Maybe if they used flashguns that would help keep the elephants away as well?
Back on terra firma it was time to make roti, coconut roti no less and there were two local ladies on hand to show us how to do this. We ground the coconut then it was mixed with rice flour, salt water and water before we flattened it out ready to be cooked. It was cooked on a hot plate heated by flames and we were soon tucking in to roti accompanied by coconut sambal. It was so nice I had three and even Claire had two. This was followed by a hot drink flavoured but not tasting like coriander. I had two coconut shell's worth it was so nice.
We then pounded some rice seeds before shaking them out to leave rice and then ground that to make rice flour. I do like these experiences where you get the chance to see, try and sample local foods.
Back on the boat we went for a paddle aound the lake and our guide made us hats out of lotus leaves. He told us the fisherman use them but I suspect it's just to make tourists look stupid and I feel that I achieved that with aplomb.
At the riverbank our third and final mode of transport awaited us, a good old tuk tuk and the driver let us have our pictures taken in the driver's seat. Four of us squeezed in until we hit a hill and then our guide had to get out and walk as the tuk tuk was tuk tukking way too much.
And that was the end of the trip, all good and I'd had some food too. Unfortunately I lost my hat......Will I say lost....
It was still early in the day and I hadn't climbed a mountain yet today so Claire insisted I was still too fat and needed to climb one (she may remember this differently....). Thuminda had been banging on about climbing Pidurangala which we'd never heard of but at the thought of climbing hundreds of steps Claire jumped at the chance. With arthritic knees and shin splints and having climbed Sigiriya yesterday I couldn't wait to get going and was soon trudging up some rather tall and steep steps. Woohoo!
At the end of stage one of the ascent was a 16m reclining Buddha. Very impressive but also the start of stage two....the climbing and clambering stage... Yes, over boulders and through gaps we went until we were finally atop another huge rock. We got a great view of Sigiriya as well as the surrounding areas, even being able to see the lake we had been boating on earlier.
We sat awhile as the breeze was quite nice up there and then I caught a Corsola at last. We've been here since Sunday and I've only just seen one so thankfully it stayed caught. Hopefully some of you will know what I'm talking about and I've added a handy picture if you don't. It made me happy anyway.
Back at the bottom we went into a room that had some impressive Buddhas, some paintings like those half way up Sigiriya and some fancy decoration. We were allowed to take pictures as well, which obviously we appreciate.
Thuminda dropped us off at our place and Claire was concerned there were still a few hours left in the day that she hadn't filled so we went for a walk. Her watch was telling her she hadn't done enough exercise today despite climbing a huge rock so she had to walk fast at times to get it to register. I trudged along behind having had my watch take notice of my efforts luckily.
After a meal with a view of Sigiriya we went back to our room to chill and read....or fall asleep....which is what happened. I wrote about peckerhead then tried to read, Claire read a couple of pages of her book and was then snoozing away. We then both had a full night's sleep and again both had nightmares. And no we're not on larium so we're not sure why.

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