Trip Start Sep 26, 2006
31Trip End ??? ??, 2007
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The forest is a UNESCO preserved area about 3 hours inland from Matara. A hired bus picked us up at 7. Around 9 we stopped for breakfast (rice, bread and curry on the bus) and for a pee break (which took about 1 hour in itself as we were about 30 women... did the owner of the house mind that 30 women used his toilet? I'll never know....). Then continued our ascent along the tea-plantation lined snaky roads.
The ladies sang traditional Sri Lankan songs the entire way there and back. Complete with drumming and serving spoons rhythmically clanging on anything metal. I had fun imagining what people heard as the bus drove by...
At one point we had to drive 5 kms past our turn because the bus couldn't take the turn (we need somewhere to turn around). Buses always have a driver and a 'helper' - here the helper is ensuring the road is wide enough for the bus to continue (though I'm not sure what him saying 'Nope, we're too wide/heavy - we're falling into the ravine' would have helped...).
I'll get the one negative part of this trip out of the way: Kanneliya has leeches. A lot of leeches. You cannot stand in one place for any time without landing a leech - any usually several leeches. In fact sometimes they manage to latch on without you stopping at all! I found the best way to avoid them was to lather on Siddalepa (an ayurvedic concoction of oils in a Vaseline-type base) and coat that with salt. Beware, as this in turn makes feet and sandals very slippery.
The hike was really, really beautiful. The tour guide showed us a gorgeous green snake and pointed out poisonous trees (not the other way around!). Next thing I know, I'm being dragged into a cave. It's pitch black, the girls in front of me as screeching, I have my camera in one hand and my binoculars in the other (insert tourist joke), I'm claustrophobic and I can't see. Thankfully, this only went on for a few minutes.
I soon broke off from the large group because I really wanted to see some wildlife. Each time one of the girls found a leach, they would all squeal. Squeals were heard every minute or so.... Also, the tour guide didn't speak much English and I was tired of asking for translation.
This paid off, as I saw a grizzled indean squirrel, some frogs, a huge spider and so many interesting plants. I met up with the group at a spectacular water fall.
After the hike, the girls all went for a swim. I stayed back - lucky for me! The tour guide offered to show me around the greenhouse next door - where they are studying the plants found in the forest for potential medical benefits. He then showed me to a small ravine behind the greenhouse. There, he pointed out 5 or 6 endangered birds, monkeys, and several stunning butterflies. I could have sat there for hours. This was by far the highlight of the trip for me!