Delightful Sri Lanka and it’s….Drivers, Safaris, Buddhist Monks, Vegetable buns and Arrack……Part 7
After a hearty breakfast (I know I’m still full from last night’s curries but the food here is just delicious !) and lots of coffee and water. I am fighting fit and explaining myself to Nisha, who had to come and wake me this morning after my introduction to Arrack……….I make the decision to climb ‘Little Adam’s Peak’ giving me an opportunity to clear my head and prepare myself for this afternoon’s Safari in Yala, which fills me with excitement.
Nisha takes the climb with me and explains that he has done this many many times and although he has climbed the larger version of Adams Peak back in Dallhousie this is much more manageable and enjoyable. The climb isn’t too strenuous and absolutely worth the views that go on and on for miles. We pass a snake charmer on route who is surrounded by a family with small children and they are delighted to see traditional entertainment in action.
After taking in the views at the top of the peak, we make our way back to the centre of Ella which is now awash with backpackers and has an air of excitement about it. We climb back into the car which immediately gives relief to the now stifling temperatures outside and begin our journey onto Yala.
The route that we drive along is again a feast for the eyes, the scenery here in Sri Lanka is simply stunning and you can’t help but get sucked into the hustle and bustle of its daily routine. We tail more than one or two buses on route, and I marvel at the skills of the passengers as they literally jump on and off the bus whilst it is in motion.
We arrive in Yala and I can sense an immediate calmness to the place, leaving behind the chaos that so much of Sri Lanka has with it. Nisha tells me this is his hometown and that he will be able to visit his family tonight and do some washing. It occurs to me that drivers here, during the busy periods of tourism in Sri Lanka, could literally be away from home for months at a time and wonder what that means in terms of the impact on their family lives etc.
As we leave the main road we find ourselves on a track leaving behind the noise of traffic and horns. There are peacocks dotted all around as we pass along tbe lane and as we drive towards a small cluster of cottages a sense of calm and tranquillity washes over me.
Yala Peace Cottage is pretty much what it says it is, a peaceful place to rest during an otherwise busy schedule whilst travelling around Sri Lanka. I check in, am shown to my room, which in actual fact is a full cottage and is adorable. I hadn’t upto this point, realised how much of a busy time this was turning into and I appreciate the opportunity to take things slow and relax. Nisha tells me that there is a barbecue here tonight and asks whether I would like to dine at Yala Cottage, ‘Of course, that would be great’ is my reply.
Nisha has arranged a jeep to collect me from here and take me to Yala National Park which is where I will do my Safari this afternoon and I am thoroughly looking forward to this experience, as I focus my attention on the animals that I might see if I am lucky.
I take some time to unpack AGAIN! And I walk down to the ‘restaurant/reception’ I am welcomed with smiling faces and lots of interest by the staff here in how my trip has gone so far in ‘Sri Lanka’. Again the friendliness and welcoming manner of these people is like a breath of fresh air and I spend some time chatting whilst I wait to be collected.
The Jeep arrives and I am treated to the most wonderful experience. There is only me in the Jeep and I wasn’t really sure what to expect in terms of how the Safari would work. Back in the UK whilst researching it wasn’t clear where you would arrange your Jeep from with the National Parks giving you prices for entrance fees but no clear guidance on how do you get a Jeep ? It was my understanding that you arrive at the Park, pay your entrance fee then climb into a Jeep that the Park provided along with other tourists.
This isn’t the case at all and the Safari’s here are obviously big business for Sri Lanka, with lots of independent Safari Jeep companies offering their service, where they collect you from your accommodation and then drop you back there afterwards.
I am lucky today and I get to see lots of animals, that you would normally have to complete a full day Safari for, ……..I sight Elephants, lots of different types of birds, a sloth bear, wild water buffalo, crocodiles and various other small mamals. During the Safari we stop at the ocean and I notice a memorial for those who lost their lives in the Tsunami. How stupid of me not to know that Sri Lanka was ‘hit’ so badly by the devastation of this trauma back in 2004.
The sun is setting as we head back to Yala Peace Cottage which is beautiful and I pinch myself ‘I’ve just done a flipping Safari in Sri Lanka’. I have a moment of ‘everything is ok with my world’ contentment and feel lucky to be here. During the drive back I notice lots of people coming into the street wearing only white and I sense excitement in the air. Tonight is a ‘full moon’ and so a national holiday in Sri Lanka, (obviously doesn’t apply to Safari Jeep Drivers) and every month the full moon is celebrated as people call at the temple, during the evening dressed in white to pray.
I arrive back at the cottage, shower and head down to the restaurant where the barbecue is already fired up and a bonfire is burning alongside. This creates a fabulous atmosphere which I soak up whilst dining on Barbecued fish and chicken. I am contentedly exhausted as I reflect back on the last 4 days which in some ways feel like 8 and others feel like 1 and the wonderful feeling that I have which is comparable with ‘being in love’. The barbecued food is really good, the staff here are so wonderful and the atmosphere is fabulous, this is the kind of place that makes ‘travelling solo’ so enjoyable, I wish I was staying longer……………