"So, what did you do today?"
"Oh, I went to work, did the usual stuff. How about you?"
"Oh, I got to see 16 wild elephants. So it was a pretty awesome day."
Such was the story of day 2 on the Sri Lankan adventures. And really, any day in which there are elephants can't be such a bad thing at all.
This adventure is proving to be a lot more...freeflowing than other trips I've taken. The original plan when we left Kandy was to head north and check out some ruins at Dambulla. Dups (I forgot to mention yesterday that Dups is the reason why we've made this crazy journey around the world) had recommended it and it did sound interesting. Until we consulted Lonely Planet and realized there was a national park along the way when you could get a safari for a very reasonable price where there was the possibility of seeing elephants in the wild.
Which pretty much settled among the four of us travelling together how the day was going to be spent. So after spending about four hours getting out of Kandy and then navigating the roads north, stopping by for a quick lunch at a roadside restaurant (a huge vegetable currie and a soft drink for about $3, which is ridiculously cheap) we then hit the park.
I've done eco-tours of a sort before in the past, but this one was a bit different. Not bad different, but perhaps reflecting the way Sri Lanka is changing. Lots of what I've read said now is the time to come to the country, what with the civil war being over, but that all the investment money that's expect to start pouring in has only just started to arrive. It's not polished up yet, or overrun with expensive western resorts.
So the safari guide, for example, could only speak a smattering of English. He did his best to convey what we were seeing and to try and give some information about the park. The road was a bit rough in places and there was a good chance of getting permanent damage done to our kidneys at different points. We could have probably mitigated some of that by not standing on our seats and looking out the top of the jeep at all the wildlife, but where's the fun in that?
So yeah, a bit rough, but I think I'm perfectly all right with that.
But Minneriya National Park was an entertaining few hours. Along with the elephants (the running joke of the day was did we see 16 elephants, or the same group of elephants on the way out as we did on the way back. Lori is saying it's 16 and that's that), but there were also water buffalo, peacocks, deer, rabbit, and more birds than you can shake a stick at, including the national jungle bird of Ceylon. Unfortunately, it resembles a chicken, so that became a running of the day...that we were facing the vicious national jungle chicken of Ceylon. It sounds like a Monty Python skit.
(Note: We just found out it's also called the fire bird. So it's a vicious, national fire chicken of Ceylon)
After the national park we made our way to Back of Beyond, which is not an exaggeration in the slightest. After about 45 minutes of going through various dirt roads of increasingly dubious structural integrity, we finally made it to the resort. On of the one hand, it was awesome because we were in a tiny little eco-resort (the lights kept going out after dark because the solar batteries were running down) and the food was amazing. Even Dups, the man of the hour who joined us at the resort, said it was some of the best food he's had in Sri Lanka, so that's high praise.
On the other hand, we're pretty sure they screwed us on the rooms. We were supposed to be in a treehouse, but ended up with something on ground level with one small room up in the tree we could use. The treehouse that was supposed to be ours was occupied. We never saw the guests first nor last, so we suspect they complained and stole our spot before we got there. Annoying.
But a day with lots of elephants, great food, good friends and the vicious jungle chicken of Ceylon makes for an entertaining day all the same.
It really is great to have a driver for these kind of adventures. I believe ours is costs about 7,000 Sri Lankan rupies per day, which is about $50-60 and includes the cost of gas. By the time you split it three or four ways the cost is nothing. We get to do a lot of travelling and by Day 2 the terror of Sri Lankan driving has eased somewhat. There were probably no more than a half dozen near death experiences yesterday.
Lori and I are old friends at this point (much to our horror, we realize we've known each other for 20 years now), but Nuala and Jan are new to us. However, we've settled in quickly. Nuala is a friend of Jenna, the bride, and Jan is the mom. I think she was a bit concerned she was ruining our fun or something until Lori and I reassured her with the following conversation.
Me: You don't understand, Jan. You're vital to our survival.
Me: Look, if something bad happened to me and Lori, Dups would probably feel bad about it for a couple of days...
Lori: He'd probably make it to the funeral.
Me: Well, not if mine was in Iqaluit.
Lori: No, that's true. But there's no way Daphne (my mom) would let you be buried there anyway.
Me: But if something happened to you, well, killing the mother of the bride before the wedding, that's some serious bad luck.
Lori: That's major bad Ju Ju right there.
Me: Absolutely. So you stay with us for as long as you want. Our lives might depend on it.
Both her an Nuala are awesome, actually. We've settled into a nice rhythm between the four of us.
3. I was a little punch drunk the other days when writing about our arrival in Kandy. It's a bit of a mad place, but Sri Lanka is like that. Areas where there's nothing but wilderness and then concentrated urban madness. We stayed at the Queen's Hotel in downtown Kandy, which charged us I think $40 a night for a series of ridiculously large rooms (I had what was easily a $200+ room by Ottawa standards), but still filled with lots of that weird old English charm. It also reminded me of Booth Memorial. If you've ever been in that high school in St. John's, it was easy to get lost because the layout made no sense. Same with the Queen. Lovely place, though.
4. We've become pro-bat here. We thought for sure last night we would be eaten by bugs and were mystified why that wasn't the case. That was until a bat swooped through the area where we were eating supper. So we understand now. Bats are our friends.