Happy Anniversary Nan and Grandad!

Trip Start May 06, 2006
Trip End Mar 23, 2009

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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Sunday, July 16, 2006

First of all, happy anniversary to nan and grandad (a day late but as close as I could get!). Who'd have thought two years would pass by and we'd get to share another special day (even if I am half way across the world!).

Secondly thank you for all my cards I got through the post and email! I'm told there's more waiting for me when I get back to the elephant sanctuary 'cos I haven't been there since Thursday so I'm also looking forward to those!

I still haven't updated on my elephant adventures but that's a long one and it's already been started in word on the office computer so I'll save this entry for the weekend's happenings!

We were asked last week to go on a vets visit to a little town called Habarana. It's now known as the elephant corridor. It was initially home to the elephants when Sri Lankan people decided they wanted to build their homes there (still not found reasoning yet I'm afraid!). Until this time elephants and humans had pretty much lived in peace but the elephants, quite rightly in my opinion, objected to having people building on their home and so have been causing damage as they try to regain it. It has resulted in lots of human deaths and even more elephant deaths so we were invited to have a look around.

Sara, our kind of boss (who's a male btw!) and Podi (who I drunkenly renamed Pea Pod 'cos I couldn't remember his name!), picked us up at 6am and drove the 4 hour trip there. He neglected to tell us that once the van stopped there was no other way to start it but a bump start so we did it that way (followed by about 8 others over 2 days!)! We then went onto a Sri Lankan home and he showed us the school that past volunteers had built down the road. It was more of a shell with a concrete floor but more than they had before. We stayed while the kids danced and sang for us and we gave out candy and toys before going on a little walk through the forest with 'jungle boy' (a kid who was about 10 and knew the way apparently!). We didn't stay for long and then had to bump start again and got caught on the rocks coming out - the 4WD couldn't even handle it and the van was extremely close to tipping (after we'd got out on my suggestion I should add!).

We had a Sri Lankan lunch at the house he'd taken us to and then headed back to the hotel for a little rest. Around 3 we were picked up to go on our elephant safari in a very cool jeep! You're allowed to stand up over here so we had a whale of a time just on the way there! They don't even care when you go through the police check points so we just waved away! We got to the beginning of the safari, bought our tickets, and had a look around the museum before jumping back in the jeep and driving into the wild! We were about 10 minutes into it when we came across the first lot of wild elephants... only they weren't too happy as they had a little baby with them so made extremely loud noises and quite literally charged us! Luckily we got away (smart driver thank god!) and went to look at some more. Before long one decided he didn't like us being around and so charged us to... getting stuck as we were crossing the river certainly got my adrenaline pumping!

As we got into the open space we saw about 3 HUGE herds of elephants. They weren't so bothered about us being around and we even got to see a 3 day old baby - was unbelievably tiny compared to what we're used to working with! We witnessed two male fights before turning around and heading back out (nearly colliding with a stray elephant on its own on the way out!). It was a brilliant safari but certainly a little hair raising at times. Definitely nice to see them out in the wild in their natural habitat though (even if we were invading!).

We'd decided that Friday night was my birthday night as we'd all be there (including Ellie who left to fly home today) and so we stocked up on booze and started drinking around 6:30. We headed to dinner (already drunk!) at the hotel before retiring back to our table for more drinks. The plan was for me to open the cards I'd taken with me at midnight but I'm ashamed to say I was totally passed out by 10:30! To be fair to myself I had been up since 5:30 and it had been a very long day but I still find it a slightly pathetic attempt!! The girls had also bought me two cakes to celebrate my birthday and they were... interesting... they were very Sri Lankan. They got them from a road shop down the street and, although the sell by date wasn't until November or something, they were more like biscuits than cake. We later read that the sell by date was only valid if stored in a cool, dry place! I'm not sure those places exist in Sri Lanka! Was a good night all in all and although we went to bed so early we were still the last ones up!

Saturday (my actual birthday!) Sara dropped us in Sigiriya. We went to a local hotel in the morning and swam and sat by the pool (got very burnt on the tops of my legs - my sun screen distribution is poor!). It was a lovely morning but did make us feel very relaxed and we had to climb a big rock that afternoon!! It's called Lion Rock (look it up on the internet!) and dates back to the 5th century.

We were expecting another Adam's Peak episode so were very relieved when it was nowhere near the trek and only took 40 minutes to get to the top... we had, however, given ourselves 3 hours so sat around forever waiting for the sun to set! There was a very cool part which I'd been looking forward to where there are steps starting between two huge lion paws. The whole stair case used to be a massive lion and the steps went up into the open jaws which would've been amazing but only the paws have survived (actually, I think just one paw 'cos the other one looked like concrete to me!). There're then about 300 very steep, very small and very dodgy looking steps to the very top so we admired the lion a while longer and headed up.

Sunset was non-existent thanks to the clouds (I'm rapidly learning not to go anywhere in the off-peak season!) and some random Sri Lankans and Koreans asked to have their photos taken with us (very odd!) but other than that it was quite pleasurable at the top and very peaceful - I think maybe a bonus to it being off peak - until a bunch of 17 year olds from London cracked the silence! We made our way down and back to the guest house for a gorgeous dinner. I must admit, I am getting a little sick of curries, but they're also very good! We retired to bed soon after as we were still knackered from the day before!

Today we were supposed to go to Polonnaruwa to see more ancient sights (including a statue of elephants and lions which would've been a perfect photo for this trip!) but after waiting in the morning sun for what seemed like forever we realised we wouldn't get to spend much time there before having to catch the last bus and so decided to just go back to MEF (elephant sanctuary!).

We had THE worst bus journey yet as we were literally crammed in like sardines, all felt like throwing up and had to stand the whole way. The only way I can look at it is that it was definitely part of the Sri Lankan experience!! It took a lot longer than anticipated but we made it in the end and, after the days bad turn of events, decided to treat ourselves to a pizza hut. I hadn't planned on eating in places where globalisation had taken its roots but I couldn't face another curry, they're not great at cooking anything else and there was no way I was eating in the only restaurant across the road from us where we have to eat every night. That and the fact it could be seen as my birthday meal was enough for me!

We're just about to head back to MEF now from Kandy where I'll attempt to finish my other journal entry and hope to pick up my cards if I can get into the office! We're having another party for my birthday and last night on Tuesday... it was also supposed to be a welcome to 5 new people due to arrive but for some reason they've all cancelled their project which we're all more than intrigued about!

I hope everyone's well and thank you again for my cards! Love and miss you all. Take care!
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