A Travellerspoint blog

Desiderata

overcast 12 °C
View Urban Reverie 2019 on urbanreverie's travel map.

Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
Sunday, 10 February 2019

Normally when I am angry or frustrated, a good night's sleep will cure what ails me. Not this morning. I awoke at a quarter past eight after a deep seven and a half hours' sleep and I was just as ropable as I was last night. I could have still strangled those dreadful station employees with their obsequious smiles at Bandarawela with my bare hands.

I was anxious, shivering, had a stomach ache, was afraid to leave my room. I know the symptoms well - culture shock has finally hit. I have had it two times before but on those occasions I suffered these symptoms on the very evening I arrived in Seoul and Brussels. This time, culture shock has taken eleven days to cripple me. I must be getting more resilient.

I sat in my hotel room. Unknown to me, the street in central Nuwara Eliya on which Sapu's Mountain Breeze is located is used as a street market during daylight hours. It's like Colombo's Pettah in miniature. Various costermongers would yell what they were selling. There was someone out of my window who kept yelling something like "yadi-yadi-yadi-yadi-yadi-yadi-yellow!" It got rather annoying rather quickly and made my culture shock even worse.

At about ten I left my room and was served breakfast. The three men who appear to run this place seem like quite decent people though their English is rather poor. They are Tamils - the Hill Country is very ethnically mixed; within a few minutes' walk of my guest house is a mosque, a church and a Buddha statue. The people who run this place are Sri Lankan but they do have mannerisms that are different to the majority Sinhalese ethnic group. They have that Indian habit of wagging their head from side to side to indicate that they are listening to you, and they smile a lot just for the sake of it. They don't seem as serious and reserved as many of the Sri Lankans I have met so far.

I managed to find the courage to leave the hotel at lunchtime. I repeated to myself the lines from the famous Desiderata prayer:

Beyond a wholesome discipline
Be gentle with yourself

I promised myself that I would take things gently and that I would try to be gentle with others.

It was tough. I was instantly assailed by the crowds, the smells, the noises, the garish colours of the street market outside. Moving was very difficult. I found myself stuck in a crowd next to a malodorous fish stall that made me want to vomit. I needed to get away from that piscatorial stench but I literally could not move.

After I had extracted myself from that market, I found myself on the main street. There was a Cargill's supermarket. I needed to top up on toiletries. I was intending to do some hiking so I stocked up on drinks and snacks. I also needed ziplock sandwich bags. My passport was destroyed by getting wet in the rain when I visited South Korea five years ago and since then I diligently protect my passport by sealing it in a ziplock sandwich bag. But sandwich bags start to split apart after spending lengthy periods of times in clothes pockets and I had run out of sandwich bags I brought from Australia. I showed a Cargill's employee a photo of a ziplock bag on my phone and she said she had never seen anything like that. Another employee said that a shop across the road that was like a two-dollar shop might have some, but they didn't have them either.

I craved Western food. I guess this is part of culture shock. I saw a Pizza Hut in the distance. As I walked up there a white woman called out to me. She didn't know me but she had seen me climb Little Adam's Peak, she had even spoke to me to ask how high the mountain was and I showed her on my iPhone's compass app, and she had also seen me on other occasions walking around Ella. It is funny how all of us travellers have ended up on the same loop and how we keep running into each other as we travel around the loop. The vast majority of us have chosen to go anticlockwise from Colombo too. I didn't intend to follow the same ant trail as everyone else but it just so happens that the premier sights in Sri Lanka are conveniently located on a circle around the southern half of the island.

Natasha was a Latvian living in England and she seemed to be suffering a little bit of culture shock too. She said that she felt like an alien. She had fallen in with a Russian bloke also travelling on the ant trail, Oleg, and he soon joined us. People sometimes criticise travellers for just socialising with each other and not doing more to socialise with the locals. I respond to this by saying that of course people want to associate with people with whom they have things in common. I have things in common with Natalie, with Jason, with the Austrians in Yala, with Natasha. I have very little in common with most locals. The cultures are far too different, the levels of economic and social development are too different, there is too little common ground.

All three of us were starving so we went our separate ways to find something to eat. I went to Pizza Hut. As I was waiting for my order I looked at Twitter. I had posted a lengthy thread with photos and videos of yesterday's train trips earlier that morning; it was a condensed version of the blog entry previous to the one you are reading now. Like in the blog entry, I expressed my gratitude that I was from the West, and some leftie black-bloc moron from a German-speaking country accused me of being a patronising colonialist "like a real civilised Western person".

Blah. Without Western civilisation there would be no scientific method, no Enlightenment, no rationalism, no liberalism, no socialism, no trade unionism, no welfare state and none of the amazing intellectual advances of the past three centuries that have made it possible for such imbeciles to sit on their comfortable Western backsides and accuse some stranger on the Internet of being some sort of racist imperialist. P.J. O'Rourke was right when he wrote that we do ourselves a disservice when we fail to defend Western civilisation and that it is the only civilisation that has ever tried to obtain for every citizen life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is not a coincidence that the only countries where the common person has a secure, prosperous life either belong to Western civilisation or have adapted features of Western civilisation to their own. It is possible to have left-wing socialist convictions and still be grateful for all the things Western civilisation has given us while acknowledging the shameful aspects of the history of that civilisation. But I guess such nuance is well beyond the meagre mental abilities of black-bloc zealots and other extremists on both the left and the right.

I paid the Rs. 1,176 bill with a Rs. 1,000 and a Rs. 500 note, and was told that they would only be able to give me two hundred in change.

"No, 1,500 minus 1,176 is 324. You will give me 324 rupees in change. Or would you rather I pay by card?"

"No, we only take cash." I did get my full change from the waiter who obviously was not happy. I don't know how to get around this change problem. Maybe whenever I withdraw money at an ATM I need to go into the bank and break the larger denominations into Rs. 100 notes. My wallet will end up thicker than the Sydney White Pages.

There is a small national park on the edge of town, Galway's Land National Park. I decided to walk the three kilometres out there. I found myself in a rough neighbourhood where I saw my first poverty in Sri Lanka. I don't mean the poverty of the tuk-tuk touts or the skinny old labourers in Pettah but real poverty, grinding poverty, heartbreaking poverty, the poverty you see on the television ads for World Vision child sponsorships. There was a whole family living in a rusty unlit shack about the size of a shipping container with the whites of a little girl's pair of eyes peering brightly out of the darkness. A little further on a group of boys aged about nine saw me and starting running after me. "Hello! Stay and come, sir! Stay and come! Money! Hello, sir! Money!" Houses that looked half-finished stood cheek by jowl with expanses of shacks and hovels. How on earth people can jusitfy to themselves such an evil state of affairs is beyond me. And conservatives in the West want to abolish all foreign aid to underdeveloped countries. I suppose the people here ought to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps while those bootstraps are being snatched away from them.

I followed the Google Maps directions to Galway's Land and found myself on Old Railway Road in a wealthy neighbourhood of neat two-storey homes with driveways and high fences. It was a very steep road. Nuwara Eliya is a hilly town and is nineteen hundred metres above sea level, even higher than Charlotte Pass, the highest ski resort in Australia. Walking on such steep roads at such a high altitude is very tough work for someone who lives thirteen metres above sea level.

I rounded a hairpin bend only to be greeted by a closed gate across the road. Google Maps was telling porkies. A helpful resident in one of the large family homes came out of his house and pointed me in the right direction.

I walked through a neighbourhood with Australian and European trees; tall, stringy eucalypts, erect pines and drooping yews. It reminded me of a Bizarro version of the Blue Mountains. Imagine if Blackheath had swarms of tuk-tuks. I soon arrived at Galway's Land National Park. It was ten to five and the park closed at six. But it is tiny, only twenty-nine hectares.

I paid the Rs. 2,070 park entrance fee for foreigners. Sixteen Australian dollars seems very expensive for such a tiny park. I paid it anyway. I had to sign a cash receipt and a Permit To Enter And Remain Within A National Park, a large sheet of white paper, a bit bigger than A3, with closely typed bureaucratic regulations and conditions. The park ranger completed forms in triplicate with carbon paper and entered all my personal details on a giant ledger. All so one person can enter a national park. Australians who complain about red tape in our Public Service have seen nothing.

Galway's Land is a small knob of virgin montane rainforest almost completely surrounded by the Nuwara Eliya urban area. I had hoped that coming here would help with the culture shock. There are two signed walking routes inside the park, both loops, and I spent forty minutes in there. It was lovely to stroll through the mossy trunks and cool, moist air while listening to the frogs and birds. The weather in Nuwara Eliya is magnificent, like Sydney in winter. Days in the high teens, nights in the high single digits, with such clean air. It is such a refreshing change from the pestilential humidity of the lowlands. It was even nicer strolling through Galway's Land with its shade and pleasant rainforest smell and utter solitude.

I didn't want to leave. I gave serious consideration to staying in the park overnight. I had my rain jacket, I had my phone and power bank, I had plenty of snacks and fruit amd water, there were park benches for me to sleep on and I could use the spongy side of my daypack as a pillow. Anything to avoid going back into that madhouse out there. But my permit was only for the tenth of February. The park rangers, scarcely run off their feet with hordes of visitors, would notice that I had not left and would call search and rescue to find me. Perhaps I would be fined for exceeding the length of my permit. It was with reluctance that I left.

I caught a tuk-tuk back into town. Later on I went to fetch some dinner, "short eats", just fried or baked snacks like samosas and pakoras that cost fifty rupees each. On my way back I found that my street was crawling with street dogs. All the detritus from the now-gone market stalls had obviously attracted the mutts. Some were quite aggressive. A strange thing about street dogs in Nuwara Eliya - the cold high-altitude climate has created a breed of street dog with shaggy fur. The lowland street dogs have fur about as short as a bull terrier's.

So I walked back to the main street, told a tuk-tuk driver that he was about to earn the easiest one hundred rupees of his life, and he drove me one block back to my guest house and a thrilling night of watching the BBC World News channel.

St Xavier’s Church and Pidurutalagala

St Xavier’s Church and Pidurutalagala

Nuwara Eliya street market and Pidurutalagala

Nuwara Eliya street market and Pidurutalagala

Cargill’s supermarket

Cargill’s supermarket

Australian cheese in Sri Lanka

Australian cheese in Sri Lanka

Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya

Galway’s Land National Park

Galway’s Land National Park

Australian hoop pine in Galway’s Land National Park

Australian hoop pine in Galway’s Land National Park

Edward VII post box (1901-1910)

Edward VII post box (1901-1910)

Canned cheese - as disgusting as it sounds

Canned cheese - as disgusting as it sounds

Posted by urbanreverie 23:42 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged rainforest sri_lanka culture_shock nuwara_eliya Comments (0)

Only mad dogs and Englishmen


View Urban Reverie 2019 on urbanreverie's travel map.

Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

Saturday, 9 February 2019

I take back all those kind words I said about Sri Lanka's street dogs yesterday. After I had finished chilling out and getting my blog up-to-date at the bar down the street from my guest house, I said good-bye to Jumpy. Jumpy is a cute little thing who looks like a Jack Russell terrier but with the Sri Lankan curled-up short tail. She is a bit smaller than most street dogs, has a shy sensitive temperament, and was adopted as one of several pet dogs by the Western female bar owner who rescues dogs off the street, feeds them, vaccinates them and turns them into doggies that customers love as they roam the premises. For some reason, Jumpy chose me as her companion for the two nights I went to that pub. She would jump up onto the wicker couch and curl up next to me as I gently patted her. The bar owner told me that Jumpy has trust issues and is wary of humans and that I should be proud that Jumpy took a liking to me.

The street dogs are a bit jealous of the dogs in that pub. Throughout the night, several would come in and raid the pets' dishes. One nasty dog picked on Jumpy and the other bar dogs would gang up on the intruder and scare it away. Several times fights broke out between the dish raiders and the bar dogs.

I left the pub and walked up the hill back to my room. First, one dog jumped into my path and snarled at me. I told it to get lost, then some resident came out and said that it was her pet. "Don't worry, it is not biting," she faintly assured me.

I walked a few metres further then another two street dogs assailed me. They circled me while barking and snarling and drawing ever nearer. "Oh, just go away, you mangy mongrels! What did I ever do to you? Just f#$@ off!" I just so happened to be carrying a small plastic bag full of rambutan seeds and skins; I was looking for a suitable bin in which to dispose them. There was a resident's rubbish bin a few metres away full to overflowing. I threw the bag onto the mound of rubbish to distract the dogs and it worked. They were curious about what I had just thrown and were eagerly digging at it, probably expecting juicy bones. I walked away briskly before their disappointment turned to anger.

I finally reached the entrance to my guest house when the Big Bad One confronted me, the one who had been harassing Jumpy and the other bar dogs earlier. The Big Bad One was a solid, angry, muscular mass of snarling rage and spring-loaded muscles just waiting to lunge at my neck and bite into my carotid artery. For Christ's sake. It was like a bad video game where you fight one enemy, then you have to go and slay an even stronger enemy, and then finally you have to defeat The Ultimate Enemy, after which you are the winner.

A stand-off ensued. The dog was standing between me and the staircase down to my room. As I edged closer to the stairs, he became even more alert and aggressive.

"Rack off! Get away from me, you stupid mutt! I'm no threat to you or any other dog on this street. You hear me? Now there's a good bo-- No! Don't you dare come any closer!"

By pure chance another backpacker was walking down the street from the station. The Big Bad One was momentarily distracted by his passage. I took the opportunity to run around the dog in a wide circle, into the sunken forecourt of the tourist information centre next door, and across to the steep stairs leading to my room. The dog just stood at the top of the stairs barking impotently. He was too bloody chicken to go down the stairs! Hahahahahaha! Who's the Big Bad One now, bitch?

I guess that all those dogs targeted me because they were jealous of how I gained Jumpy's affection. Haters gonna hate! Jumpy is such a good little girl and I won't have a bad word said about that doggie.

After that adrenaline rush I had great difficulty winding down and getting to sleep, but I still got up at five o'clock for my next railway adventure. I woke up feeling very sore. I switched on the bathroom light and saw this hideous thing staring back at me in the mirror. I had turned into the Facebook "angry" reaction icon. Every imch of bare skin above the neckline of my T-shirt was glowing bright red. The sooner I find a hat that is fit for purpose, the better.

The portion of the Main Line between Ella and Badulla is renowned as one of the world's most beautiful railways. I had planned to catch the down Night Mail that had travelled overnight from Colombo; that train was timetabled to arrive at 06:05. It was scheduled to arrive at the Main Line's terminus at Badulla at 07:10. The next train back to Ella, the up Podi Manike, was advertised as leaving Badulla at 08:30 and arriving at Ella at 09:23, leaving over half an hour for me to pack my bags and check out by ten o'clock.

I got to the station forecourt at half past five. The forecourt festures a statue of Buddha that is enclosed in a glass case; between sunset and sunrise the statue is illumimated with a discotheque of flashing coloured lights. It all seemed very tacky and unseemly, not at all in keeping with a country where tourists with Buddha tattoos are deported, and wouldn't have looked out of place in the poker machine room of a typical leagues club in Western Sydney.

Tickets for the Night Mail go on sale half an hour before arrival. I and a few other hardy souls stood in the morning mist waiting forever for the ticket office to open. The loudspeakers on the platform blared Buddhist prayer chants. Finally at six o'clock the ticket window opened. I bought my single ticket to Badulla - unfortunately it is not possible to buy returns in Sri Lanka, only singles - and also reserved a first-class seat on a train to my next destination in the afternoon. The ticket seller told me that the Night Mail was about an hour late.

I saw Jason and his wife and two young daughters on the platform waiting for the first westbound train of the day. We exchanged our farewells, he gave me his Instagram account name and I gave him this blog's web address. (Don't worry Jason, I do remember your name, I just change most people's names slightly on this blog to protect their privacy.)

The first westbound train of the day to Colombo left at about 06:39 leaving me nearly alone on an empty platform from which I enjoyed the misty sunrise. The down Night Mail, headed by a forty-year-old M6 locomotive and an ancient M2C locomotive named "Vancouver" donated to Ceylon by Canada in the 1950s under the Colombo Plan, finally arrived at 07:30. This made me nervous - would there be enough time for me to get the train back from Badulla?

The Night Mail was a long train of classic red carriages - sleepers, sitting cars, mail vans. The train headed off through the mist clinging to the sides of mountain ridges, terraced tea plantations fuzzily visible through the fog.

Soon we reached one of Ella's most popular attractions, the Nine Arch Bridge. This is a high, curved stone viaduct similar to those common on the New South Wales railway network - Bowenfels, Zig Zag, Stonequarry Creek, Stanwell Park - and was probably designed by the same engineering firm such was the resemblance. It was so photogenic that even at half past seven there was a crowd of tourists photographing our passage. Most of the tourists get to the bridge by walking along the tracks from Ella, a route that includes a tunnel. They're braver than I am.

The Night Mail progressed through stunning valleys. As the sun rose most of the mist burned off revealing a steep, twisting dale with a frothing rocky river far down below. We passed small little stations serving tiny mountain villages, the station master leaving his little hut to exchange section tokens with the driver. Small peasant cottages with lichen-covered roof tiles and lines of washing stretched beside the line crawled past my window at 25 km/h.

The train reached the provincial capital of Badulla at 08:20. That gave me ten minutes' leeway until my next train. I raced down the platform to the exit gate, handed my ticket to the collector at the gate, and raced up to the ticket counter. Thankfully there was no queue. The ticket back to Ella cost a hundred rupees. I opened my wallet - I had a couple of Rs. 5,000 notes, one Rs. 1,000 note, an Rs. 500 note and an Rs. 20 note.

I tendered the Rs. 500 note. "Do you have smaller change?" the ticket seller grumbled.

I showed him my open wallet. "Nope."

The railway employee sighed and dawdled off to a back room to obtain the correct change. It seemed like an eternity. Just what is it about Sri Lanka and everywhere having a shortage of change? Do cashiers in this country not understand the importance of maintaining an adequate float? Even a fifteen-year-old Australian working at McDonald's has a better understanding of the need to ensure there is enough change in the till. Because even though customers like me do our best to ensure we have enough smaller coins and notes in our wallets, there will always have to be someone who has to break a larger note after the smaller cash runs out. It's simple mathematics.

The ticket reseller finally returned with my Rs. 400 change. I presume he took so long because he had to fill out a Till Float Maintenance Authorisation Form signed in triplicate and approved by the station master, district inspector and chief railways commissioner.

I greedily grabbed my change and my ticket, showed it to the pedantic gate attendant who carefully examined it to make sure it was actually a valid railway ticket, then ran down the platform to the footbridge at the far end, over the bridge and down the stairs with three minutes to spare.

My train back to Ella was named the Mani Podike (Little Maiden). It was a modern Class S12 push-pull diesel multiple unit built in 2012. It was certainly far more comfortable than any Sri Lankan train I have been on so far but I was surprised that a train only seven years old would have so many torn vinyl seats and extremely worn floors.

I got the same view back up the hill, perhaps even better now that the fog had lifted. We ascended from Badulla up onto the plateau where Ella is situated. The train curved through the Demodara spiral. Spirals are fairly common on the world's railways, there are two in New South Wales, and they are a genius solution to the problem of railways ascending steep grades. However, the Demodara spiral is unique because there is a station at the point where the upper part of the spiral passes over the tunnel directly beneath the station. You can stand on the platform and see your train approach from beneath you.

I got back to Ella on time at 09:23, walked across the road to the Up Country guest house, quickly packed my things and checked out. I said goodbye to Sandu the owner and her sister who helped her run the hotel. I cannot praise my hosts highly enough. Friendly service, amazing food, and if you're going to Ella I order you to stay there. The fact that it is across the street from a delightfully cute railway station is just an added bonus.

I had four hours until my next train so I left my luggage and most of my valuables with Sandu and caught a bus down to Ravana Falls on the A23 road six kilometres to the south. I don't like swimming at surf beaches very much but I do love swimming at lakes and waterfalls. I put on some swimmers under my jeans, took a travel towel, a bottle of water, a small amount of cash for the bus or taxi fares and boarded the bus south.

Ravana Falls is a magnificent cascade coming down the side of the Ella plateau just south of Ella Rock. It is certainly one of the tallest waterfalls I have seen, though it isn't a single drop but a series of drops. I am a massive waterfall fan and I spent an hour just admiring the majesty of the place, listening to the loud but soothing white-noise roar of the rushing water. I didn't go for a swim though. I had seen plenty of photos of foreign travellers going for a refreshing dip in the large pool next to the highway bridge with towels draped over the smooth boulders on the banks. But there were plenty of signs at the waterfall warning people that this is not a good idea, thirty-six people had died, and consequently nobody was going for a swim. There was a small area off to the side where two pipes diverted some of the water onto a flat concrete area with the pipes issuing strong flowing water about two metres above the ground which locals were using as public showers. But that's not quite the same.

I caught the bus back into town, collected my luggage, said my final remorseful goodbye to Sandu and her sister, and waited for my next train to Nanu Oya, the Super Secret Weekend Express.

The Super Secret Weekend Express isn't the train's official name, it is just my name for it. As far as I know this train has no official name. It doesn't even appear in the timetable search function on the Sri Lanka Railways website or on Malinda Prasad's much more user-friendly timetable webpage. The Super Secret Weekend Express is a reserved first-class-only train with five air-conditoned passenger cars and a restaurant car that runs only on Saturdays and Sundays. It leaves Kandy in the morning and reaches Ella in the early afternoon, where it lays over for a little while before returning to Kandy arriving in the evening. I only found out about the Super Secret Weekend Express by looking at the timetable display next to the ticket window at Ella station.

The Super Secret Weekend Express is very expensive by Sri Lankan standards. The 64 kilometres from Ella to Nanu Oya cost me Rs. 1,200 (about A$9.60). A second class ticket would have cost me Rs. 150 (A$1.20). It is not surprising that every single passenger was a foreign visitor.

The Super Secret Weekend Express left Ella three minutes late at 14:18. Between Ella and Bandarawela the line goes mostly through deep cuttings and thick forests with few great scenes or photo opportunities. The train pulled into Bandarawela four minutes late at 14:45 and then the "fun" began.

A conductor walked down the aisles telling everyone that the section of single track ahead was blocked, a train coming from the other direction couldn't get through the blockage and clear the section, and that the Super Secret Weekend Express will be delayed by two hours. Oh well. Two hours isn't that bad. I've been through much worse delays on the New South Wales railways. The train was due to arrive at Nanu Oya at 16:56, Nuwara Eliya is a nine kilometre bus or taxi ride away, and this would mean that I would arrive at my guest hoise at half past seven. Not very late. I promised myself I would wait until 5pm before I would start looking for a bus.

I took the opportunity to get out of the train, get some fresh Hill Country air, stretch my legs and explore Bandarawela yard with its antique rolling stock that wouldn't have looked out of place in Thirlmere railway museum. I checked out the station itself. It was a typical Sri Lankan railway station of medium importance with a long, rustic, peach-painted stucco building, well-kept gardens, a ticket hall full of heavy old timbers, and yet another fish tank. I do not know why so many Sri Lankan stations have fish tanks. I guess it gives people something to look at while they are stuck for hours due to delays.

What followed can only be described as breathtaking staggering incompetence. At 16:45, two hours after the Super Secret Weekend Express pulled into Ella, the conductor came through the train and told us that it would only definitely be another hour and that whatever was blocking the train would be cleared very, very soon.

All the passengers were faced with a dilemma. Do we stay and wait it out, or do we seek alternative transport arrangements? About half the train chose the latter, leaving the station to go search for buses or taxis. I heard one passenger say that he had found a taxi that would go to Kandy for thirty thousand rupees and would anyone like to split the bill? Another person went down to the bus station some distance away only to report that he couldn't find a bus that went through to Kandy.

The conductor said the train would definitely be moving within an hour and I was stupid enough to be reassured by this. Buses in Sri Lanka are very frequent during the day but after 7pm most routes either stop or turn into short workings. In the end I decided to stay put for a little while longer. Hope springs eternal.

Tempers were starting to fray. The station master's office was a heaving mass of irate tourists. Some people had given up and were claiming refunds of their fares through some arcane bureaucratic procedure involving lots of forms and the showing of passports.

The delay wouldn't have been so frustrating if the station staff were able to give accurate information or honestly say they didn't know when the line would re-open. Instead all we got was useless conflicting information from station staff. The train would start moving in five minutes! Tomorrow! One hour! The line was blocked by a fallen tree! A landslide! A track failure! A train defect! It was obvious that the useless station staff were talking out of their hats.

By this time the sun had set and heavy rain was falling. The last thing I and others felt like doing was hauling our backpacks in the rain all the way to a bus station only to find there were no buses to our destination or to end up paying through the nose for one of the few car taxis in this area. I looked at Google Maps; the forty-five kilometres from Bandarawela to Nuwara Eliya would have taken a car ninety minutes. A bus would have taken at least two, maybe three, hours on a twisty Hill Country highway. And there was also the risk that as soon as we left the station, the train would depart. The die was cast, we were all staying on that damn train.

Soon some people lost their patience. Some started looking for accomodation in Bandarawela but there wasn't much. It's not the kind of place travellers visit. A Finnish couple walked into town to grab dinner and said the selection was slim and it was the most awful food they had in Sri Lanka. As for the rest of us, the only food was the restaurant car that was selling small plastic bags of stale samosas for three hundred rupees, tiny cups of tea for two hundred rupees (the going rate everywhere else was fifty), and bags of potato chips and popcorn. The kiosk on the station platform was only selling much the same thing. So I had stale samosas and tea for dinner. Bon appetit.

Even more passengers crowded into the stuffy station master's office. A small number were still claiming refunds and everyone else was trying to get information, any information, about what the hell was going on so they could make an informed decision about what to do. But trying to get a straight answer out of Sri Lankans is like trying to pull hen's teeth. If you ask ten Sri Lankans the same question, you will get ten different answers.

At 7pm I knew that I would reach the guest house in Nuwara Eliya very, very late. I called their number. An employee promptly answered.

"Hello, my name's Urban Reverie and I have a Booking.com reservation for four nights. I'm just calling to let you know that my train is delayed and I will be very late tonight."

"Oh. So you want to cancel?"

"No, I don't want to cancel. I am just letting you know I will be very late."

"So when will you be coming?"

"I don't know, the railway staff won't tell us when the train will move, my train is stuck in Bandarawela. It hasn't moved in four hours."

"So you want to cancel?"

"No, I do not want to cancel. I am just giving you the courtesy of informing you that I will be very late."

"So you will be coming at ten-thirty?"

"I don't know, it depends when this train will start moving again!"

"So you want to cancel?"

"No! I. Do. Not. Want. To. Cancel! I. Am. Just. Telling. You. That. I. Will. Arrive. Very. Late. Tonight!"

"So you are coming at ten-thirty?"

I almost threw my phone down the aisle. "Yes. Yes. I am coming at ten-thirty if that answer makes you happy. OK? Thank you. Good bye!" I hung up the phone and stormed out of the train fuming with rage.

I went back into the station master's office which was a seething hive of angry passengers and duplicitous, obsequious, prevaricating railway lackeys. I saw some ancient safeworking signalling equipment off to one side of the office and I decided to check it out. It was a pair of antique Tyer's Electric Tablet System signalling machines. These red boxes with brass dials and levers and bells date from the late nineteenth century. You only see these sorts of instruments in railway museums in Australia where they haven't been used for decades.

I looked at the instrument controlling the down section Bandarawela-Heeloya back towards Ella. The indicator on the front of this box said "LINE CLOSED" (that is, there was no train currently occupying that section of line). The indicator on the second instrument controlling the up section Bandarawela-Diyathalawa towards Colombo displayed "TRAIN APPROACHING" - that is, there was a train heading in the opposite direction to ours currently occupying that section. There was nothing to say that the train was moving or that it would arrive soon, the train was probably still obstructed, it just proved that there was one train in that section somewhere headed towards us.

I relayed this information to another passenger and then I was instantly surrounded by a crowd of people anxious to know what I could tell them. All I could say was that there was a train in the section of single track ahead of us but I couldn't say whether it was moving or not or when it would arrive at Bandarawela, thus clearing the track ahead for us.

Everyone thanked me even though I couldn't tell them much. They were grateful just to get a straight answer from somebody who sort of knew what he was talking about.

Meanwhile a conductor or a station employee would sometimes roam up the train or down the platform constantly shouting "fifteen minutes! This train is definitely moving in fifteen minutes!"

"But that's what you said fifteen minutes ago, and an hour before that, and an hour before that," people would say.

"Oh no, this time the train is definitely moving in fifteen minutes!" the simpering moronic railway employee would respond.

At 20:20 the train started suddenly moving back towards Ella without any announcement or word of warning. We went a short distance then shunted onto the passing loop away from the platform. I was on the train but plenty of passengers were on the platform. They had to jump off the platform onto the tracks and cross one track and climb the rungs of the ladders below the doors to get on board.

All of us passengers were stranded on the train away from the platform. The air conditioning was turned off and the train became very stifling. At least we had the camaraderie of mutual suffering to see us through. We told jokes, talked about our travels, laughed at our misfortune. It wasn't quite the esprit de corps of troops in the trenches on the Western Front but it was close.

I did notice something - everyone who decided to stay was from Northern Europe, the United Kingdom, the former British Dominions and Japan. Everyone else had left. Here's my theory, it's only a theory. Those countries are known for their orderliness, their law-abiding citizenry, their reasonably trustworthy government officials and their regimented efficiency. In those cultures, and this includes Australia, fifteen minutes means fifteen minutes. One hour means one hour. When someone asks a question, a direct, honest answer is expected. If a person does not know the answer to a question, they honestly say that they do not know. People in those countries generally tell people what they believe to be the truth and not what they think the other person wants to hear. When an authority figure like a station master tells us that there will only be a two-hour delay, we believe them.

I have never, ever been so grateful to have been born in the West. A Westerner simply cannot appreciate what good fortune we have, how trustworthy and honest and efficient and relatively well-governed our societies are, until you visit an underdeveloped country. We have won the lottery of birth, quite unfairly. The opportunities in life we have, the fact that the average citizen in the West and especially the countries I mentioned has a fair shot at building a decent, dignified life for themselves, should be available to every human being. I look forward to the day when Sri Lanka and other poorer countries get on their feet and something as simple as an obstructed railway line isn't dealt with in such an incompetent, inefficient manner by government functionaries who lie through their teeth to affected passengers. But I feel that is quite some time away.

Australian railways are not perfect, they are well below world's best practice. But if this happened on the New South Wales railways I could look at the official railway accounts on Twitter or listen to the announcements on the train or on the platform, see what was causing the delay, get reasonably accurate information about when it will be resolved, see what alternative arrangements such as buses were being made, and make an informed decision about what I should do. Here at Bandarawela the passengers were just mushrooms - kept in the dark and fed bullshit.

We waited and waited. We were now denied even the small mercy of getting fresh air on the platform. Finally at 21:15 the down train bound for Badulla finally arrived at Bandarawela! Hallelujah! The section ahead was finally clear! Four minutes later our train finally departed into the night after waiting six hours and thirty-four minutes.

The Super Secret Weekend Not-So-Express squealed through an unending succession of sharp curves; there didn't seem to be a single metre of straight track. Dimly lit villages and rainy level crossings passed the windows. Most of the people on the train were asleep. I was too agitated and anxious to do likewise. I was worried about transport from the railway station at Nanu Oya to my guest house in Nuwara Eliya. I knew the buses would certainly not be running that late but would there even be a taxi?

Sitting across the aisle from me were a young French couple, Stephan and Adrienne. They were also going to Nuwara Eliya. Throughout the long, long wait the passengers had by instinct searched out others going to the same place to discuss options and to share our sorrows. I spent much of my time with them. The train finally drew into Nanu Oya at 23:15, only six hours and nineteen minutes late.

Five people got out at the surprisingly modern station at Nanu Oya. There was one tuk-tuk taxi in the station car park. The driver explained that he was the only taxi in the district still in service so late in the night. He said it would take too long to take Stephan and Adrienne to their lodgings and then come back to fetch me and the other two Japanese girls. So he offered to take the three of us. He quoted a thousand rupees for me and fifteen hundred rupees to the French couple because they were going a bit further. Deal.

The three of us got into the back of the taxi. The back seats of tuk-tuks are wide enough only for two people so Adrienne sat on Stephan's lap. Our three backpacks were stuffed onto the narrow rear shelf behind our heads. We took off from Nanu Oya in the rainy mountain fog and we started climbing the steep mountain pass on the A7 highway. Nanu Oya is 1600 metres above sea level and Nuwara Eliya is three hundred metres higher. The tuk-tuk struggled up the steep grades with three people and three backpacks in the back. The tuk-tuk engine kept spluttering, it was obviously struggling for sufficient aspiration in the thin high-altitude atmosphere. On one steep corner the backpacks shifted load and pressed against my head, the only thing keeping the backpacks in place was my head pressing back against them.

At a quarter to midnight I reached Sapu's Mountain Breeze in central Nuwara Eliya, I was dropped off first. I said goodbye to the French people and tried opening the gate. It was locked. I rattled the gate and knocked on it. No response. I tried calling their phone number again. After about twelve rings the guest house employee finally answered. I told him I was outside.

He came out wiping the sleep from his eyes and he had a shot at me because I said I was going to arrive at ten-thirty. Somehow, I don't know how, I refrained from smashing his face in. I must have superhuman self-control.

Scenery between Badulla and Ella

Scenery between Badulla and Ella

River rapids between Badulla and Ella

River rapids between Badulla and Ella

Ravana Falls

Ravana Falls

Between Ella and Badulla

Between Ella and Badulla

Bandarawela Station

Bandarawela Station

Night Mail crossing the Demodara Iron Bridge

Night Mail crossing the Demodara Iron Bridge

Second class on Class S12 train from Badulla to Ella

Second class on Class S12 train from Badulla to Ella

Technicolor discotheque Buddha

Technicolor discotheque Buddha

Podi Manike train from Badulla to Ella

Podi Manike train from Badulla to Ella

Ravana Falls

Ravana Falls

Second class car on the Night Mail from Ella to Badulla

Second class car on the Night Mail from Ella to Badulla

Ravana Falls

Ravana Falls

1st class car on Super Secret Weekend Special from Ella to Nanu Oya

1st class car on Super Secret Weekend Special from Ella to Nanu Oya

Podi Manike crossing the Nine Arch Bridge

Podi Manike crossing the Nine Arch Bridge

Scenery between Ella and Badulla

Scenery between Ella and Badulla

Tyer’s Electric Train Tablet equipment at Bandarawela station

Tyer’s Electric Train Tablet equipment at Bandarawela station

S12 class train at Ella

S12 class train at Ella

Podi Manike crossing the Demodara Iron Bridge

Podi Manike crossing the Demodara Iron Bridge

Restaurant car on Super Secret Weekend Express

Restaurant car on Super Secret Weekend Express

Posted by urbanreverie 21:40 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged waterfalls trains sri_lanka railways ella nuwara_eliya badulla bandarawela nanu_oya Comments (0)

The importance of earned success

overcast 19 °C
View Urban Reverie 2019 on urbanreverie's travel map.

Ella, Sri Lanka
Friday, 8 February 2019

I set my alarm for a quarter to five; I had planned to spend the morning doing a return trip to the Main Line terminus at Badulla and back over the famous Nine Arch Bridge. But when the phone honked its alarm I decided that I needed a sleep-in instead. I haven't had many recently. I also had difficulty getting to sleep the night before. Ella is full of tourist bars and clubs that are open twenty-four hours and the doof-doof-doof of the dance music from many of the establishments echoed across the valleys and into my room. Also, Ella might be cooler than the coastal plains but it is still very humid. A fan would have been wonderful. There is a wall-mounted swivel fan but there is only one power point. The opportunity cost of having a mobile phone without a flat battery was difficulty getting to sleep in a stuffy room.

I slept through to a quarter to eight then just spent a lazy hour playing with my phone. I'm on holiday. I'm allowed to chill occasionally. I bathed and dressed and went upstairs for another breakfast included in the price of my accommodation.

I then strolled down the highway into Ella's town centre. I came across Jason and his young family. Jason was a bit worse for wear having drunk far more than I did. He expressed hope that he could come to the bar again tonight for drinks, but if he couldn't make it, which in his hungover state was more than likely, we exchanged our goodbyes.

The first item on my agenda on Ella's main street was to buy a hat. This is more important than it sounds. Of all parts of my body, it is my head that has always been most susceptible to sunburn. I have now used two-thirds of the tube of sunscreen I brought from Australia and I am only nine days into my three-week holiday. Sunscreen is rarer than unobtainium in Sri Lanka. I am rationing my sunscreen by spreading it as thinly as Vegemite on toast. The less of my body that I have to apply sunscreen to, the longer my supply will last.

I walked down the main drag looking at every single building to see what they sold. There were huge tacky tropical beach-style pubs with thatched roofs and log railings, there were henna tattoo parlours, there were herbal remedy shops, there were hair-braiding joints, there were massage therapists, there were all the useless things that you find in tropical holiday destinations popular with dirty smelly feral hippies of the sort who think "vaccine" is a dirty word.

I was about to give up when I saw a little shop that sold things like purses, shawls, belts and the like. I went inside and saw a small assemblage of men's hats in the back left corner. I made a beeline for them. Most of the hats had brims that were far too narrow and would be pretty useless as protection from the sun. But I did see a stack of cricket hats. An acceptable temporary substitute for my beloved straw hat. I tried them on. They were designed for tiny little South Asian skulls and not big fat European skulls like mine. They had no chinstrap so there is no way they could have stayed in place on my head.

Oh well. I would have to make do without a hat for the time being. I had an active day planned. There are two major peaks popular with hikers near Ella - Ella Rock to the south and Little Adam's Peak to the east. Ella Rock is an enormous precipice that looms over the A23 highway like Emperor Palpatine's hooded cloak. It seemed well beyond my ability. So I chose the somewhat less challenging Little Adam's Peak.

You can reach the trail up to Little Adam's Peak by walking east along the road to Passara for a couple of kilometres, then following the ant's trail of all the other travellers turning off the road and up a side lane. The lower part of the trail goes through tea plantations. This is the first time I have seen tea bushes. I stopped at one bush, plucked a tender bright green young leaf, and smelled it. It didn't smell like tea at all, it just smelled like a leaf. I tried crushing the leaf by rubbing it between my thumb and fingers. Still no tea smell. I decided to chew the leaf. Wow! It was like drinking ten cups of tea at once. My mouth was immediately assaulted by the bitter tannins and the heady aroma of a nice cup of tea went down the back of my throat and up into my nasal cavity. It was powerful stuff.

Soon I reached the Ravana Zipline where souls braver than mine paid US$20 for the privilege of being strapped into a harness and sent flying at speed hundreds of feet over the tea plantations across the valley. One young lady ended up chickening out and tore her harness off and ran away. I can't say I blame her, it looked terrifying.

At the zipline the trail, which until now had been a gently graded vehicular track, became a very steep staircase. Some steps were very narrow, other steps were wide, some were unevenly spaced. As I ascended the air got cooler, the wind got stronger, and the shade got thinner until it was completely absent.

After a while I reached the ridgeline of Little Adam's Peak. Little Adam's Peak is actually a northwest-southeast trending ridge a few hundred metres long with three distinct peaks. The northwestern peak seems to be the highest, featuring the remains of a survey trig station and two golden Buddhas sitting in small shelters. The middle peak is the easiest to reach and is separated from the northwestern peak by a shallow col; the trail delivers hikers to this col.

The southeastern peak at the end of the ridge is separated from the middle peak by a very steep V-shaped col. The tracks to the middle and northwestern peaks are well-graded and smooth, they are negotiable by people with minimum hiking experience. The track that traversed the deep col to the southeastern peak was rough, narrow and steep.

Being at the end of the ridge, I knew that the southeastern peak would offer the best uninterrupted views south along the deep valley towards the southern coastal plains. I just had to give it a try.

I set myself a goal and took off and almost instantly regretted it. The descent down the V to the southeastern col required much scrambling. There were several places where I had to sit down and slide myself down from one step to the next. I reached the bottom of the V and instantly the descent turned into ascent without any flat interval.

The ascent was almost as hard. It required getting my hands dirty as I clung to rocks and handholds to lift myself up to the next step. While I was doing this, stopping frequently to puff and pant and sip my bottle of water, I was reminded of this blog I follow called "Ask A Korean!"

The Korean, the anonymous brains behind AAK!, once wrote an excellent post wherein he discussed the nature of happiness. His central concept is that happiness does not come from pleasure. If happiness depended on pleasure, then we would all just spend our days hooked up to a morphine drip until the day we died.

So happiness doesn't come from the mere hedonistic pursuit of pleasure. Happiness comes from success; specifically, earned success. The success that comes from putting yourself through unpleasant and challenging situations, from going through adversity and coming out of it stronger, from studying hard, working hard, and building a better life for yourself and your family that your parents could never dream of, and presumably from climbing some bloody mountain in Sri Lanka just to get a better view of some valley you travelled through by road yesterday.

I finally reached the top of the southeastern peak. I was not disappointed! The view was divine. Before me was spread a long, narrow valley that got wider as it neared the horizon. At the bottom was a twisting, rushing, rocky river that looked like a whitewater rafter's dream. Either side of this valley to the east and west, giant jagged mountains soared almost vertically out of this valley, the lower elevations garnished with terraced tea plantations. On the western side was the bare face of Ella Rock keeping a watchful eye over the whole scene and just south of that was Ravana Falls gushing down the mountainside. Following the contours on the western mountains below Ella Rock was the A23 highway twisting and turning as it followed the shape of the side of the mountain range. Back to the northwest perched on a high saddle between the two mountain ranges was the town of Ella with a gleaming white stupa perched on a ridge above it.

The Korean is right. Happiness does come from earned success. This view was mostly obscured to the people standing on the middle and northwestern peaks because the southeastern peak obscures it. The view belonged only to those who had the fortitude to set themselves a goal and stick to it.

I sat down on a rock and drank half a litre of water and a whole bag of rambutans I had bought from a hawker on the bus while it was waiting to depart Wellawaya. Firm, fresh, juicy rambutans. I must say this - the quality of fruit and vegetables in Sri Lanka is superb. (Except the apples. But you'd taste disgusting too if you were locked in a shipping container from the United States for a month.) Never have I had tastier, fresher produce than in Sri Lanka, and in such enormous variety. It is nothing like the bland homogeneous rubbish Australians get served by the evil empire of the Coles-Woolworths duopoly like Cavendish bananas that are so huge they don't fit in a lunchbox and taste like candles, or tough, stringy green beans that can only be cut with a samurai sword, or mangoes that break down into messy goo as soon as you cut them open. Maybe Australia wouldn't have such an obesity crisis if fruit and vegetables at the supermarkets were actually appealing.

On the top of the southeastern peak were a variety of hardy, sturdy people, all much younger than me. Two of them were Australians, two lifelong friends not long out of the same high school and who work for the same smoke detector testing company in Sydney. We all agreed that it was a splendid thing that Australian bogans have yet to discover Sri Lanka - just wait until Jetstar flies direct to Colombo! - and that most of the Australians we had met seemed like the more agreeable and culturally aware sort. We chatted amicably for a while and then we all departed at the same time.

The two young whippersnappers left me in the dust. They were half my age and about a hundred times as fit. They turned back half-way up the other side of the V and saw that I was trailing well behind, somewhere in the bottom half of the descent.

"Are you all right, mate? D'ya need some help?" one shouted to me.

"Yeah, no worries, mate, it's all sweet, I'll get there in the end! I'm just taking her nice and slow."

"No worries, mate!" Occasionally, very occasionally, I am proud to be an Australian. I wish more Australians had that good old-fashioned concern for their fellow human beings and that spirit of co-operation. We used to call it "mateship". It's an increasingly rare commodity.

The middle peak was featureless but the northwestern peak had a trig station missing its mast and vanes in between two golden Buddhas. It also had street dogs. A female street dog who had recently given birth was feeding her puppies inside a little cave-like space within a large tuft of montane grass. Yes. Street dogs on top of a mountain well out of town. Street dogs are a problem in Sri Lanka. There are dogs everywhere. They are attractive dogs, lean and of medium build with short fur and perky little ears, and they almost all have little curly tails that are perenially curved upwards. They are mostly harmless. Humans don't interfere with them and they don't interfere with humans. These dogs are lonely, lost looking things who look upon the world around them with apathy and indifference. When they aren't sleeping they just wander aimlessly around.

It is interesting that Sri Lankans treat these dogs with respect. A bus driver who wouldn't shed a single salt tear after running a scooter rider off a mountain road will slam on the brakes just to let one of these mutts cross the road safely. But otherwise there is no interaction between human and dog.

Except in Ella. Ella is crawling with Western tourists, people from cultures where people love doggies and want to pat them and feed them and keep them as pets. So many Westerners have fed and patted these dogs that the dogs have lost all their fear of humans. They will come into restaurants begging for scraps. They will follow humans back to their hotels in large groups. They will fight each other for the affections of some tourist. The dogs have reproduced in such numbers that you can't even kick a soccer ball along the street without hitting a dog. Even an RSPCA pound doesn't have a greater concentration of dogs than the town of Ella.

I then descended the mountain. I couldn't be bothered walking all the way back into town so I just caught a tuk-tuk taxi at the bottom of the trail. I got back to my hotel dirty, sweaty and smelly so I cleaned myself up, got served a delicious rice and curry by my host, and relaxed for a few hours. Shortly before sunset I went to catch the bus to Ravana Falls, I was going to have a refreshing swim there, but the bus never came after waiting ten minutes - an eternity in Sri Lankan public transport - and it was starting to get dark. A tasty dinner (chicken and cheese kottu) and a couple of relaxing beers with my own favourite doggie to soothe my muscle pain (it's OK, the Western bar owner says Jumpy is vaccinated), and the day came to an end before an early night.

My time in Ella is drawing to a close. I am starting to fall in love with Sri Lanka. It is a beautiful, challenging, exhilarating, disorderly, hospitable, messy, surprising country. There is life everywhere - animal, vegetable, human. You can never accuse Sri Lanka of being bland and boring. I do wonder what challenges lay ahead at my next destination.

Tea bush

Tea bush

Street dog on Little Adam’s Peak summit feeding puppies

Street dog on Little Adam’s Peak summit feeding puppies

Southwestern com from middle peak

Southwestern com from middle peak

Ascent to middle peak from southwestern col

Ascent to middle peak from southwestern col

Tea plantations

Tea plantations

Tea leaves

Tea leaves

A23 highway curving around mountains

A23 highway curving around mountains

Middle and southeastern peaks from northwestern peak

Middle and southeastern peaks from northwestern peak

Ella Rock

Ella Rock

Ella Rock

Ella Rock

Valley View

Valley View

Buddhas and trig station on Little Adam’s Peak

Buddhas and trig station on Little Adam’s Peak

Ravana Falls

Ravana Falls

Ella from Little Adam’s Peak

Ella from Little Adam’s Peak

Posted by urbanreverie 22:51 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged hiking dogs sri_lanka ella Comments (0)

Up into the hills


View Urban Reverie 2019 on urbanreverie's travel map.

Ella, Sri Lanka
Thursday, 8 February 2019

I awoke shortly after six o'clock, well before I had set my alarm, having had eleven hours of deep sleep. I was not in a hurry so I took my sweet time eating a breakfast of leftover chocolate biscuits, spicy dried chickpeas and an apple that I bought for my bus trip from Matara to Tissamaharama, showering, shaving, reorganising my backpack, packing and searching for my hat.

My hat! My hat! I lost my beautiful hat! That steadfast and trusty companion on my travels that I bought at Big W in Bathurst for about twenty bucks six years ago. That hat was just perfect. It had a wide brim that protected my entire face and neck from the sun, it was made of straw so it collapsed easily into my luggage, because it was made of straw my head still got some ventilation, and it had a sturdy chinstrap with a movable woggle that stopped my hat flying away even in gale force winds.

I know exactly how I lost it, it was somewhere on the floor of the jeep that I went on to Yala National Park. Because the back of the jeep had a roof I didn't need it on all the time so I had stowed it under the seat in front of me. When I disembarked from my jeep at my hotel I did do a quick check of the floor to check that I hadn't left it behind but the hat must have slid away to some other part of the floor. I was also very, very tired and though I pride myself on my organisation, thoroughness and the fact that I rarely lose anything, when I am very tired I let my guard down and get a bit forgetful. It's why I left my daypack in the taxi van on the trip from the airport to my hotel in Colombo.

Oh well. I will just have to put plenty of sunscreen on my head until I come across a suitable hat somewhere else. Slightly pissed off with myself, I paid my bill of Rs. 3,690 to the owner's aunt - and at fifteen Australian dollars a night, that would have to be the cheapest I have ever paid for accommodation on any of my overseas travels - and asked her which bus I had to take to Ella. She didn't understand me so she called over some people from the shop next door. They also had difficulty with English so I got out my Sinhala phrasebook. Then they told me the good news - the stop was across the road and I only had to change once or twice.

Grateful for the glad tidings, I crossed the road and waited a whole two minutes until my first bus of the day, route 335/1 from Tissamaharama to Thanamalwila. I boarded the bus, I told the conductor that I wanted to go to Ella.

"I will help you, yes, I will help you."

It was the strangest bus I have been on in Sri Lanka - the driver stuck to the speed limit, obeyed the law, and was courteous to other road users. He even gave way to traffic already on a roundabout. I should have taken a video. I know that you won't believe me. I scarcely believe it myself. Most of the other passengers were country housewives off to do the shopping.

A few kilometres south of Thanamalwila on the A2 highway, a bus overtook us. "That's the bus towards Ella!" the conductor exclaimed. The conductor went up to the driver and asked him to honk his horn and flash his lights at the other bus. The other bus pulled over and the conductor told me to hurry, the bus was waiting just for me. Sri Lanka is like that - just when you get sick of the touts and con jobs, someone will surprise you with astonishing friendliness and hospitality that restores your faith in this country's people.

Thanking the conductor and driver far too quickly, I hopped onto the next bus, route 35 from Mathara to Monaragala. It was a fairly short journey for me as far as Wellawaya and I spent my time practicing my Sinhala with the middle-aged married couple sitting in front of me. I am starting to fall in love with Sinhala with its sinuous snail-like letters and musical murmuring and bouncy rhythms.

I got off at Wellawaya at about 11am. I had planned on just using Wellawaya as a lunch stop but on my way there I checked my Lonely Planet. There was a place called Buduruwagala, known for its ancient stone carving of Buddha on the side of a cliff, about ten kilometres out of town. I then changed my plans to have lunch then find a tuk-tuk to Buduruwagala.

I got off the bus and was mobbed by the usual crowd of desperate tuk-tuk drivers. One was a bit more persistent than the others and followed me.

"I am sorry, sir, but I don't need a tuk-tuk just now. I just want to find a restaurant so I can have lunch."

He seemed to relax. "It's OK, I will show you a restaurant. Follow me." He led me to one end of the bus station and on the other side of the highway was a Chinese restaurant.

The Chinese restaurant had yet to open for the day. "I'm sorry, sir, but the restaurant is not open. There is no other restaurant around here, you will need a taxi." And - what are the odds! - his tuk-tuk just so happened to be parked right there opposite the closed Chinese restaurant! What an amazing coincidence!

"I told you I do not need a tuk-tuk. I'll walk somewhere else, I know the town centre is just on the next street." I pointed at the busy intersection one block north.

"No, there's no restaurant there, it's too far. You can't walk there, you need a taxi." I ignored him and he followed me a short distance before giving up.

Right-wingers and conservative parties, even some centre-left parties, in Western countries like Australia want to abolish the welfare state, the greatest moral advance of the twentieth century. They dream of some Hobbesian free-market utopia, a war of all against all, the law of the jungle, survival of the fittest, devil take the hindmost. They want to force society's most vulnerable people, the poor, the lonely, the disabled, the single parents, even the elderly into insecure poorly-paid work in the so-called "gig economy" like these tuk-tuk drivers and touts and scammers. The right-wingers claim that any job is better than no job at all and that there is greater dignity in working in such precarious, demeaning work than in being on the dole queue.

Bullshit.

There is far greater dignity in being paid a social security allowance from a system you pay into when you are healthy and able to find work. There is no dignity at all in being forced to lie, cheat, steal and harass innocent strangers by an unjust economic system that refuses to provide secure, adequately paid, dignified work to every citizen. No human being should be forced to degrade themselves and their morals just to put food on the family table and a roof over their heads. If you want to see a place that doesn't have a comprehensive welfare state, come to an underdeveloped country. You will then appreciate social security a bit more. The welfare state, built by the generation that suffered through the Great Depression and defeated fascism, is our most prized heritage. Defend it with all your might.

Only about a hundred metres north of the closed Chinese restaurant at the other end of the bus station was a whole row of restaurants where I could eat delicious rice and curry and drink coffee to my heart's content. Which is exactly what I did. I told the restaurant owner that I wanted to visit Buduruwagala. She told me to wait and got on the phone, presumably to a relative or friend. Soon a friendly man, Savan, appeared. He quoted me thirteen hundred rupees for a tour to Buduruwagala. My Lonely Planet said the going rate was seven hundred. I decided to meet him halfway at one thousand but he wouldn't budge. So we settled on thirteen hundred.

Here's my attitude to bargaining - I come from a country where it simply isn't done and is seen as massively disrespectful to the person providing a service. I do not have the confidence to bargain and I find it stressful. So I try and avoid it. Besides, what is the difference between Rs. 1300 and Rs. 700? It's A$10.35 versus A$5.60. What is A$4.75 to me? I am stingy but not that stingy. It's about what I pay for a cup of coffee with the boys at work every morning. But what's A$4.75 to a Sri Lankan? It's food for a whole family for a day. The marginal utility of A$4.75 is microscopically tiny to me. The marginal utility of A$4.75 to a Sri Lankan is many orders of magnitude greater. So by paying the extra six hundred rupees above what my Lonely Planet said, I am actually increasing the amount of utility within the human race. Jeremy Bentham would be proud of me.

I got in the back of Savan's tuk-tuk and we headed south out of Wellawaya. We stopped at a rice paddy. He ran into the field and harvested a mature stalk of grain for me. I looked at the rice stalk with interest, rubbed the grains between my fingers, even ate some. The grains were hard but not as hard as uncooked rice from the supermarket; the grains are oven-dried during processing before retail sale. They tasted like rice but fresher and more fragrant. It's as rice should be.

We then turned west off the busy A2 highway and down a bumpy gravel track fringed with lakes, rocky hills and more rice paddies. Savan stopped the taxi again so we could look at the teeming schools of flat, black, bulge-eyed fish in a lake.

Soon we arrived at a ticket booth and I paid my Rs. 368 admission. Savan parked the taxi in a car park and I walked a hundred metres to Buduruwagala. Buduruwagala consisted of a cliff on the side of a hill, and on the cliff a large standing Buddha was carved into the stone. The Buddha is fifteen metres tall and is the tallest carved standing Buddha in Sri Lanka. On each side of the Buddha is a group of three smaller figures each representing various figures from Buddhist theology.

Buduruwagala was csrved in about the tenth century AD. As an Australian, seeing such antiquities never ceases to strike me with reverential awe. I come from a country that was first colonised by Europeans in 1788. I work next to a UNESCO World Heritage-listed building that was built in 1817, one of the oldest buildings in Australia. Sydneysiders think this building is extremely old and treat it in much the same respect as Athenians treat the Parthenon. But really, 1817 is nothing. I've slept in a building twice as old on this trip.

Buduruwagala was interesting and I recommend it but it's the kind of thing that takes less than ten minutes to see. I went back to Savan and his tuk-tuk and we made our way back to the Wellawaya bus station. He pulled up outside my next bus and we exchanged hearty farewells. As I said, just when you get sick of the touts and rip-offs, you meet people here who stun you with their friendliness and warm humanity.

The next bus was, to put it mildly, a bit eccentric. My route 998 bus from Matara to Badula was bright pink all over. Pink exterior, pink interior, pink seats, pink frilly curtains, pink ceiling. I felt like I was stuck in a six-year-old girl's doll house minus the Barbie dolls. This bus was also a little bit fancy - it wasn't just playing hideous Sri Lankan pop music but hideous Sri Lankan pop music videos on the screen at the front of the bus.

The mobile doll house left Wellawaya and climbed north into the hills. The bus roared, swerved and honked its way up a twisty mountain highway with few guard rails protecting fifty people from a fiery death in the ravine far, far below. I just tried to concentrate on the glorious mountain scenery and looked away from the road.

After about an hour I arrived in Ella where I quickly disembarked on the main street. I found a lovely, bustling little village surrounded by steep, cloud-fringed hills. It is also very tourist-oriented, most of the people on the streets are foreign backpackers. There has not been such a large concentration of smelly dirty feral hippies in one place since Occupy Wall Street.

It was a ten-minute walk to my guest house, Up Country, which just so happens to be located opposite Ella railway station. Not that I would intentionally pick a hotel opposite a railway station. Oh no! Perish the thought!

Ella is a very steep town. At street level is a small café and shop, and the guest rooms are out the back down the hill behind the café. The station road is on a ridge and it was a great place to relax with complimentary pancakes stuffed with coconut and treacle and a soothing cup of black Ceylon tea while enjoying the recuperative breeze. Ella is 1010 metres above sea level and the weather here is marvellous - mid-twenties, moderately humid but not sweaty, cloudy. I worked on my blog as I watched the occssional train go past.

Ella is famous for its array of cookery classes and I booked one at a restaurant, Nanda's, on the corner of the station road and the main highway. For eighteen hundred rupees I and six other tourists were taught the fine art of how to cook a rice and curry. We all participated in the preparation - grinding the coconut, soaking the dhal, kneading the coconut roti dough, cutting the pumpkin and such like - and we were handsomely rewarded with a magnificent meal of our own making - garlic and pandanus rice, coconut roti, coconut sambal, and three curries (green bean, pumpkin and dhal).

Afterwards I retired to a nearby pub with a thatched roof, open sides and log pillars of the sort you find all around the world in every tropical tourist destination. I am not a party animal so I picked a nice, quiet one a bit off the main drag where I could work on my blog and catch up with friends online.

Soon I fell in with an English chap, Jason. I do have a rule - meeting people is preferable to my writing project; my blog is just a spare-time, chill-out endeavour. So I put away my Samsung Galaxy tablet and got to talking with Jason. This loud but affable fellow is thirty-three, he owns a campsite back home that closes in winter, and so he spends three months a year travelling overseas to a warmer climate with his young family. This year they are staying in Sri Lanka. I am so jealous of those kids. Why couldn't I have a childhood like that? Not fair!

We got to chatting, compared notes, made some terrible jokes, laughed. The Lion beer was way too warm - there had been a blackout for most of the day, the Ceylon Electricity Board was doing maintenance work on power lines in the neighbourhood. I remarked that the beer was a bit warm but that Jason being a Pommy bastard should be used to it, and he just laughed and gave me the finger.

Soon we were joined by a mad fat drunk Czech bastard aged in his fifties who knew we couldn't speak Czech but insisted on speaking only Czech. He would hug me without asking for my leave and would sometimes bring his face right up to mine when he spoke. I found this when I was in Prague in 2017 - Czechs are aloof and gloomy when sober but terrifyingly convivial when drunk. This guy got a bit too huggy, he wouldn't stop laughing and making lewd gestures (I guess while telling bawdy jokes in Czech), and though we tried to use Google Translate to understand what he was saying the translations only came out all garbled.

Later we were joined by a local whose name I forget, a young, sharp-eyed guy with a scar on his forehead who claimed to be in the Sri Lankan mafia and to have served time in prison for murder. I have been in enough pubs in my life to know that they are full of people whose relationship with the truth is rather flexible. But it was enough to make me worried.

"Doesn't this guy give you the creeps?" I asked Jason when the young local had gone to the toilet.

"Just a bit. Yeah, just a little bit," he said.

It was time for me to leave. It was eleven o'clock and though I had had only one gin and tonic and two beers, I was rather tired, had planned an early start for the next morning and the Czech weirdo and Sri Lankan wannabe-mafioso were annoying me. I walked the hundred metres back to my room through the marauding packs of street dogs, occasionally turning to make sure I wasn't being followed.

Lake near Buduruwagala

Lake near Buduruwagala

Buddha carving at Buduruwagala

Buddha carving at Buduruwagala

Pink bus

Pink bus

Savan and a rice stalk

Savan and a rice stalk

Bus from Thanamalwila to Wellawaya

Bus from Thanamalwila to Wellawaya

Complimentary welcome snack at guest house in Ella

Complimentary welcome snack at guest house in Ella

Dinner is served at Sri Lankan cooking class

Dinner is served at Sri Lankan cooking class

Ella railway station

Ella railway station

The beginning of the Hill Country north of Wellawaya

The beginning of the Hill Country north of Wellawaya

Pink bus at Ella

Pink bus at Ella

Tambourine-playing beggar on the bus at Thanamalwila

Tambourine-playing beggar on the bus at Thanamalwila

Sri Lankan cookery class at Ella

Sri Lankan cookery class at Ella

Posted by urbanreverie 16:05 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged buddha buses nightlife sri_lanka ella tissamaharama buduruwagala wellawaya Comments (0)

The Mexican staring frog of southern Sri Lanka


View Urban Reverie 2019 on urbanreverie's travel map.

Tissamaharama, Sri Lanka
Wednesday, 6 February 2019

I set my alarm for half past three, I got out of bed at ten to four, and after a quick breakfast and change of clothes I was out the door at a quarter past four eagerly anticipating my wildlife adventure.

As I walked down the stairs and through the frontyard to wait for my jeep, I encountered my first wildlife of the day - an aggressive, snarling dog that was the owner's pet. The dog, who looked like a cross between a border collie and a rottweiler, thought I was an intruder as he snarled and barked at me between where I was standing and the front gate. I don't have a fear of dogs - quite the opposite, I have always loved doggies - but my doctor in Sydney put the fear of God into me when he talked about rabies in Sri Lanka. He advised me to include the rabies vaccine with the five other travel shots I got, but at something like $700 I decided against it. Now I sort of wished I had spent the money.

The barking of the dog and my shouts of "get away from me, you stupid dumb mongrel!" awoke Sanjiva who came out in his underwear to calm the dog down. I apologised for waking him - I shouldn't have, it was the stupid dumb mongrel's fault - and waited in the cool, misty darkness to be picked up at 4:35am.

The jeep finally arrived - actually, a Mahindra four-wheel drive pick-up truck with seven seats in the tray enclosed in a roll cage with a sheet metal roof - and the driver continued his rounds picking up other Yala National Park safari-goers at various hotels. There was me, a friendly and intelligent young Austrian couple, Jurgen and Helena who were chemical engineers back home; Alison, an aloof and no-nonsense American master's student who was studying in China, and a dirty filthy smelly feral Dutch hippie couple who showed no interest in socialising with the rest of us and spent the day behaving with astonishing disrespect, putting their feet on seats, treating the driver like a slave and smoking in the jeep without so much as asking the rest of us if we would mind.

After everyone had been collected from their hotels we headed east for about twenty minutes until we got to the Yala National Park entrance. As we were waiting in the queue of jeeps dawn broke on a cool, cloudy morning. As we waited the driver served breakfast on a tray - hoppers (bowl-shaped pancakes made of fermented rice and coconut batter) and coconut roti flatbread with bananas and various sambals. We passed the tray around the back of the jeep so we could all have our share. There was plenty of bottled water too to keep us hydrated throughout the day.

We soon entered the park after the driver had handed over the paperwork and paid for the tickets and our safari began. Yala National Park is huge, even by Australian standards it would be big. The park is divided into several blocks. Some blocks are completely off-limits to everyone except park rangers and authorised scientists. In other blocks, tourists are allowed but their numbers are strictly limited and managed (I think the current limit is two hundred jeeps a day). I think the block we explored was Block I, the southwestern most portion of the park.

Yala is in the heart of Sri Lanka's dry zone. It is mostly flat with occasional stone monoliths protruding through the plains, and the vegetation consists mostly of stunted little trees, shrubs like acacias, and thickets of twisted, scrawny wood. The scenery reminded me a good deal of the countryside in Queensland's Dry Tropics around Bowen and Townsville.

There is a spiderweb of red dirt four-wheel-drive tracks throughout each block which the jeeps use to get close to the animals. Despite being commercial competitors, all the jeep drivers communicate with each other using mobile phones. When there is a significant sight - a group of leopards drinking at a waterhole, say, or two male tusker elephants fighting - word spreads like wildfire and all the jeeps race each other like a Formula 1 race to get to the place to get the best viewing spots before the animals leave.

The first mad race was to see a male tusker elephant. There are a few dozen elephants who live in Yala and only a small minority have grown tusks. The jeep raced over the rough, rutted tracks at breakneck speed. We occupants in the rear bounced, rattled, jolted and swayed around over every single corrugation. There was only one thing to do - hold on tight!

Soon we came to our first significant sight - a male elephant happily munching away on a shrub, the twigs snapping off as his trunk tore them off the plant. The elephant didn't even seem to be aware that there were dozens of curious eyes looking at him and dozens of cameras snapping. This old fellow had only one tusk. The driver explained that he had lost the other in a fight with another dominant tusker.

We then saw our first herd of spotted deer. These deer have tan fur with dozens of bright white spots on their sides. These deer are probably the most numerous and easy-to-find large mammals in Yala National Park. They looked cute, they looked friendly, and they also looked delicious. I don't blame the leopards and crocodiles for wanting to eat them. Unfortunately fresh venison was not on our lunch menu!

We passed Elephant Rock, a massive monolith that surges hundreds of metres above the plains. It is so named because from a certain angle it actually does look like an elephant.

The next major sighting was a herd of buffalo. These are also a common sight and easy to spot. They are mostly black all over though I saw a few during the day that were brown, tan, or black with white markings around the head and neck. We came across one who was laying on its side in a large mud pool. We all thought it was dead, then we saw that it was breathing. Someone said she thought the buffalo was stuck in the mud but the driver assured us that it was just enjoying a nice mud bath.

The jeep continued its aimless ramblings in the cool morning air. This place is nowhere near as humid as Colombo and Galle. It was cloudy and I guess that the temperature was about 25 °C. It was unexpectedly pleasant weather.

The driver got a message on his phone - there was a leopard drinking at a watering hole! There was yet another mad dash over the rough roads to this little pond. By the time we got there, a driver of another jeep said the leopard had retreated into the bushes. Sometimes leopards get thirsty again and come back for another drink so we waited for twenty minutes to no avail.

We went away, then got another message - the leopard had returned! But when we got back to the watering hole, the leopard had once again disappeared.

We were not to be deterred. The driver drove to the next track behind the bush where the leopard had retreated. His thinking was that the leopard's family was behind the next track. So we parked on that track and - hallelujah! We saw the leopard, casually strolling across the track. It was some distance away, maybe fifty metres, and it was only visible for maybe ten seconds at the maximum, but we saw it. We all snapped our cameras like crazy. I managed to get three photos with my iPhone, on all of which the head was obscured. But I got photos! I saw a real leopard in its natural environment yesterday and you most likely didn't. So nur nurny nur nur.

We then checked out some of the less charismatic species in Yala National Park. The park is home to thousands of wild pigs, big, black, bristly things that are so huge I kept mistaking them for buffalo from a distance. They looked quite fierce and resentful, they were nothing like Babe.

The driver received another message - there was a bear sighting! Yala National Park is home to a very small number of sloth bears. We raced to the place where it was seen and we saw it, a shy, retiring fellow with cute fuzzy fur and a furtive look on its face as if it were concealing a secret. These are small bears, not much bigger than a mature merino sheep, and they look very cuddly and friendly, nothing like that most stereotypical of ursids, the North American grizzly bear.

I am a dreadful pun addict. My colleagues, my friends, my family, people who follow my social media accounts all despise me for it. My addiction to puns is so bad that I have now branched out into different languages. So I told the following joke to Helena and Jurgen:

Me: 》In welcher Stadt in Deutschland wohnt dieses Tier?《 (In which city in Germany does this animal live?)

Helena: 》Ahhh, ich weiss es nicht.《 (Ummm, I don't know.)

Me: 》Bär-lin!《 (Bear-lin!)

Helena and Jurgen: 》Hahahahahahaha!《 (Hahahahahahaha!)

It's great to know that of all eight billion human beings in the universe, two appreciate my humour.

We saw the same tusker elephant we had seen earlier and then it was time for lunch. The block is closed to visitors between midday and two o'clock, this allows those diurnal species who don't like the presence of humans time to drink at watering holes or cross the tracks or catch prey or generally just roam around. During this period visitors are restricted to small designated areas.

We spent those two hours at Patanangala Beach. There is a large parking area where the jeeps congregate and the people have lunch. The driver spread out a rice and curry buffet with plates and cutlery - proper ceramic plates and stainless steel cutlery. The rice and curry were cold but was still nonetheless delicious.

Patanangala Beach was beautiful. It was a lot like beaches in New South Wales, the main difference being the golden sand was coarser and the water was more opaque. It was a long, gently curving beach that ended at a rocky outcrop on a peninsula to the west. Swimming was prohibited; the water was very deep and the currents were very strong.

As beautiful as Patanangala was, there wasn't much to keep one amused for two hours. It started to rain again, cool, refreshing drizzle, and I retreated to the jeep with Jurgen and Helena from Austria. We talked about the universities we went to, all of us having degrees from technical universities, chatted about the unfolding disaster that is Brexit, and compared notes about our countries and all the travels we have done. This is one of the reasons I love travelling - I meet more people with whom I feel I have things in common than if I were back home. Travellers on average tend to be curious, adventurous, open-minded, free-spirited and, most importantly of all, intelligent. I have such fond memories of all the conversations I have had like the one I had with Jurgen and Helena on my trips around the world.

Next to the jeep parking area was the Yala tusnami memorial, an art installation consisting of three sinuous pieces of sheet metal representing the deadly wave. Forty-seven visitors to Yala National Park died on Boxing Day in 2004 with several more reported missing. Next to the memorial is a large concrete platform decorated with floor tiles and steps leading up to the platform. Many of the jeeps, including ours, had set up our lunch spreads on the platform. The platform was once a beach bungalow guest house. The tsunami wiped the walls and roof away leaving only the concrete foundations and steps and the floor tiles. You can still discern the floor plan of the house where the internal walls used to be.

At two o'clock we resumed our safari. Yala National Park is also home to many reptiles and a colourful variety of birds. We saw sunbirds, little tiny black and blue things that darted around the trees like a hummingbird, and bee-eaters. These striking small green birds choose a perch. When they see an insect flying nearby, the bee-eaters take off from their perch, swallow the insect mid-air, and return to exactly the same spot. They will then repeat the process every time they see an insect fly past.

The most famous bird in Yala is the peacock. They are everywhere. The females are appealing enough but the males, even when their fan isn't showing, are resplendent with an irridescent blue-green neck. Whenever a lady comes within their view, the gentleman shows his fan. If the angle is right the sun glitters on these fan feathers.

Many different water birds can also be seen at the many watering holes, some of them migratory. Among the species we spotted were grey herons, white egrets, sandpipers, spoonbills and black-winged kestrels all enjoying themselves in the water.

We mustn't forget the reptiles. Freshwater crocodiles can be found at every large watering hole. Some are in the water with only the eyes poking out of the surface, while others sit motionless on the ground just outside the water like so many sunbathers at Bondi Beach. Some of the crocodiles will have their mouths wide open. I always thought this was so prey would walk in seeking shelter and the crocodile would then close its mouth and swallow the prey, but the driver disabused me of this fallacy and said they are "drinking the breeze". The open mouth faces the direction of the wind, and it's all about thermoregulation. Much like an air-cooled Volkswagen Beetle.

There are also monitor lizards, large, slow-moving reptiles, one of whom we saw eating a pile of dung. Another unusual mammal we saw was mongooses, large, dark ferret-like mammals that run quickly along the ground with bristly tails that curl upwards. The mongoose is famous for being one of the few mammals that preys on snakes. Mongooses will fight snakes and actually win.

Towards the end of the safari we saw our last major animal we had not yet seen, the shy and reclusive sambar, an antelope-like creature with dark brown fur and impressive long, curved, sickle-like antlers. We saw only one, browsing half-hidden in the bush on higher, rockier terrain.

Visitors to Yala National Park have the option of booking either a half-day or full-day safari. I had booked a full-day safari, which is advisable because there might be an animal that doesn't reveal itself in the morning but will come out in the afternoon. Nonetheless towards the end we all sort of started to regret buying a full-day safari. It was a long, tiring day and towards the end most of the animals were those we had seen many times throughout the day. Many of us openly expressed to each other that we all just wanted to go back to our hotels and sleep.

Yala National Park closes at 5:45pm sharp at which time all vehicles must already be out of the park. We left the park at about 5:20pm. We were all dropped off in turn at our respective hotels and I got back to the Hotel View Point at 5:40pm.

I had intended to walk into town, grab some dinner, stock up on water and top up my toiletry supplies. But I was too tired. I did need some water though, I had run out of bottled water and desperately needed some more. My hotel is on the outskirts of Tissamaharama and I had to walk a fair way until I found a shop that was still open that sold water. What things we take for granted in the West - drinkable tap water! In wealthier middle-class and upper-class neighbourhoods in Sri Lanka you will see fleets of water trucks delivering brand-name water to households in those big twenty-litre water cooler canisters. I don't know what poorer households do. Maybe they spend a fortune on electricity or fuel to boil the tap water, or they just drink the tap water straight (I have seen someone, a very poor older man, do this at a tap on the platform at Galle railway station which other people only used to wash their faces).

I went to bed at seven o'clock. That is not a typo. I went to sleep exhausted but happy that I had seen every animal I wanted to except for the dreaded Mexican staring frog of southern Sri Lanka. I want my money back.

Sambar

Sambar

Peacock

Peacock

Mongooses

Mongooses

Yala Tsunami Memorial

Yala Tsunami Memorial

Spotted deer

Spotted deer

Monitor lizard

Monitor lizard

Yala National Park safari jeep

Yala National Park safari jeep

Sloth bear

Sloth bear

Buffalo enjoying a mud bath

Buffalo enjoying a mud bath

Beach bungalow at Yala National Park destroyed by tsunami

Beach bungalow at Yala National Park destroyed by tsunami

Tusker elephant

Tusker elephant

Jungle fowl

Jungle fowl

Patanangala Beach

Patanangala Beach

Leopard

Leopard

Elephant Rock

Elephant Rock

Posted by urbanreverie 15:53 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged safari national_park sri_lanka yala tissamaharama tusnami Comments (0)

(Entries 41 - 45 of 55) « Page .. 4 5 6 7 8 [9] 10 11 »