The Safari

Trip Start Apr 10, 2006
Trip End ??? ??, 2007

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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Safari...

As agreed we left at three pm the next day in the same vehicle we were picked up from the bus station in (a pretty meaty looking, newly refurbished, Mitsubishi four by four). On the safari is our main man Nilanga, Tula, the driver (who is marginally older and more sedate looking), Jayaveera, the cook (who is defiantly the youngest of the three, slightly larger and friendlier build and slightly chubby - as a cook should be), Stace, and myself).

We stopped on the way to the park to buy fresh fish, chicken, and grass. Jayaveera also picks up a couple of other fruits and spices he's obviously planning to use later, and some pineapple to eat on the way. Anyone who buys pineapple to eat on the way to anywhere is ok in my book.

Now we have some grass Nilanga doesn't hesitate in using it, we've smoked two joints by the time we reach the park (it's only a twenty minute journey). We get to the park gates, Nilanga goes into the rangers office for a couple of minutes and we're on our way. Having never been on a safari before it was enjoyable from the outset. We were only in the park a couple of hours before seeing a heard of about seventeen female and baby elephants, and a few single male elephants, (once past a certain age male elephants travel alone). Apparently it's quite possible to do a tour of Yala and not see any elephants, so we were pretty pleased to see seventeen at once.

We stopped for a while ,as the sun was setting, at the edge of a big open plain, next to a swamp full of crocodiles, with a couple of elephants roaming in the distance and some exotic bird life flying above. We all shared a couple of large Lion largers and a joint before heading off to find a camp ground for the night. There was just one quick stop en-route to camp, for Jayaveera to pick some fresh wild curry leaves.

Nilanga and Tula did most of the work setting up camp while Jayaveera started shredding coconut, cleaning fish, mixing spices and generally cooking up a storm. He managed to make a whole functional kitchen out of what seemed like nothing, and used about a hundred different ingredience, a far cry from the odd overcooked banger you might expect on a camping trip at home. While our guides set up camp and cooked i rolled another joint from my own supply, which Nilanga was very eager to compare to his own. So we smoked, drank beer and ate under the stars, and we were thus far more than happy with our camping safari.

As soon as we finished eating, the headlight from an old motorbike came shinning through the trees. It was the park ranger Nilanger had been talking to earlier, and a friend. There are certain rules in the National Parks of Sri Lanka, like always having to keep the roof up on jeeps, and not being allowed out of your vhiecle; rules which we had been completely ignoring. Now i find out why. Nilanga invites the park ranger over to his camp site on a regular basis to eat all the leftover food, drink copious amounts of Arrack and get exceedingly stoned. Before long Nilanga, Tula, Jayaveera, the park ranger and his friend are all blind drunk and saying things like "Jon, i am eating", whilst tucking into the leftover rice and curry.

I thought the night must be coming to an end, but after the park ranger and his friend had stumbled off to bed, Tula suggested a midnight drive to see some nocturnal animals. I figured the worst thing we could crash into was a tree of en elephant so what the hell? It turned out to be very uneventful, we just saw a few rabbits and lizards.

We headed off at six a.m. the next morning for a last quick tour of the park. We saw another elephant, a few deer and a load of monkeys but unfortunately not the elusive leapords of Yala.

We arrived back at the guesthouse at about ten thirty a.m. and on a high from both the impressive safari and Nilangas' constant supply of grass managed to let ourselves be talked into hiring a car and driver for a four day tour of the 'Cultural Triangle' of Sri Lanka, leaving in one hour, at eleven thirty. This gave Nilanga one hour to rustle up a car and driver from somewhere.

Sure enough at eleven thirty prompt our chariot awaited; an old, dark blue, Toyota Hiace mini van, with a driver at the wheel. The driver turned out to one of Nilangas' old school classmates who wasn't really a driver at all but just had no other work that day. He was twenty eight years old, the same as Nilanga, and came across as quite shy and inexperienced, compared to Nilanga anyway. He didn't speak a lot of English and i never managed to catch his name....
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