Elephant Soho

Trip Start Oct 31, 2009
Trip End Feb 25, 2010

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Where I stayed
Kulu's Hideaway

Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Sunday, January 17, 2010

Onto our final National Park in Sri Lanka - Uda Walawe. We stay at the Kulu's Hideaway hotel, a lovely hotel owned by former Sri Lankan International cricketer Kulu (Romesh Kaluwitarana). A hideaway it is to, a big bus, a small bus and then a long Tuk-Tuk ride down dirt roads gets us there. 

The place is very near the entrance to Uda Walawe - meaning a 6 o'clock, rather than a 5:30 start to the safari. Uda Walawe has large open grassy plains, and is ideal for seeing elephants - the first seen from the jeep before we even enter. We pick-up the mandatory tracker at the visitors centre and set-off round it in an old Land-Rover. We see lots of small herds - some get very close, almost too close for comfort but our tracker knows when to tell them to leave. A large male starts head butting a tree right next to us as a show of strength.

Elephants live in herds of females and young - with the males living alone, or forming loser herds of males. In one part of the park a number of male elephants hang round in a lose herd - "this is gay street" the tracker tells us with a straight face.

We see lots of hornbills - a bird we'd not seen so far in banyan trees and flying around them. They have very straight wings - and almost look like planes as they glide. They're a very beautiful bird with big beaks bright yellow horns.

On the way back near the hotel we see a big black snake crossing the road - harassing it as it crosses is a small dog that is either very brave or very stupid. Suddenly the snake rears up, its a cobra and its hood is flared - its bared fang's within inches of the dog''s face, before slowly making its way into the undergrowth.

After the safari we take a walk round the countryside around Kulu's, along the road where we'd seen the cobra, fording a small river and walking through sugar cane and rice fields, the hills of the hill country in the background. In the evening as a rare treat there is satellite TV.

The hotel also has the local English language paper - the Daily News. There's a presidential election soon after we leave - the first since the end of the civil war last year. I scan the election coverage, the papers colours are firmly nailed to the mast, a sample of headlines from the fair and balanced news section:
"Re-lecting President vital for future growth and prosperity"
"Heroic president succeeds where four others failed"
"Presidents rivals mafia clique spread discord"

And my personal favourite:
"Six year old girl achieves dream of meeting compassionate president"
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Cheryl on

Another snake!

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