Big grey beautiful dinosaurs

Trip Start Nov 27, 2005
Trip End Feb 25, 2005

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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Monday, February 13, 2006

Once picking up Oliver, we headed to visit the ancient cities, Polonawura, Anurandhapura, and Sigiria. I met a wonderful English couple who advised to set up base camp in Habarana, and make day trips to each of the sites. They gave me info for a guest house called Eagle's Wings, and spoke of 'tree houses' and houses on stilts. being the nature lover i am, i was sold (p.s. this place is not in the guidebooks, but you can reach it by asking for the place once in Habarana, Rps. 1200, tell them you were referred by me and would like the local rate).

Being spoiled as I am by untouched Alaskan wilderness my whole childhood, Eagle's Wings was a bit of a disappointment as it sits right next to the highway to Anurandhapura. there wasn't a constant stream of traffic (like on the road to Colombo), but there was a constant stream of sporadic large trucks whisking by the place.

the room, more a house on stilts than a tree house, was cozy and backed by lush jungle--enough jungle that the appearance of wild elephants was possible in the night. Chris, the owner, burned a small flame during the night to keep them away. fire and smoke strikes fear in the hearts of elephants.

(fun elephant facts:
-the elephants in sri lanka are of their own breed, differing from their relatives, the Indian Elephants.
-males and females can get tusks, but only about 1% of sri lankan elephants get tusks. )

there were several other small rooms further back in the jungle. i never looked at them, but oliver and i agreed they were the better rooms, as they were situated well away from the road.

the other downside of the place was how outrageously they charged for food and drinks. Normally at a guesthouse, you can expect to pay Rps. 250-350 for lunch and dinner, usually including tea at breakfast and water at dinner. this place, however, charged that amount, PLUS the costs of tea, etc. That meant, at breakfast, we paid Rps. 250, plus Rps. 60 each for tea, Rps. 75 each for a glass of juice (which they served without asking if we'd like it), plus Rps. 125 for fruit, instead of paying Rps. 250 for a breakfast. Needless to say, it made our bill outrageous, by the cheapie standards we hold ourselves to while traveling.

Up the road a bit was a small creek in which elephants were bathed after a day's hard work lugging fat tourists around the jungle. it wasn't a huge tourist attraction place, just where the locals bathed their large, grey dinosaur beauties at the end of the day. oliver and i came upon them on our way to the guesthouse, and stopped to have a look.
we ended up riding bareback on a freshly-scrubbed elephant at sunset...unoffical and serene, with children throwing flowers up to us as we passed small houses along the way. i always wanted to ride an elephant like that.

something else i always wanted to do: see elephants in the wild. which oliver and i did the next day when we went for an elephant safari, where chris, our guesthouse owner, took us in his jeep. we went on the outskirts of the near-by nature sanctuary (Rps. 2000, about $20, but we shared it with another couple and paid the half). total we saw about 15 or so elephants, mostly solitary males and one group of 10 females and babies mixed. i was delighted! but the other couple with us had been in Kenya and felt a little disappointed. the week before, the English couple who recommended the place to me saw a herd of 40! i was hoping to be as lucky, but nonetheless i felt satisfied with the experience, also because the price was right.

riding an elephant bareback and seeing wild elephants: dreams to check off the list as complete :) that always feels good. and somehow, it brings me closer to home.


unfortunately, i don't have photos of eagle's wings guesthouse or the elephant ride, as my batteries were convienently dead, and oliver's camera conveniently wasn't working.
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