After the first
re-visit to the south central I drive down the southern part of
the eastern coast.
24/1. I figure this is a pleasant place to stay, and ask, if I can get a better deal for additionally two days. I have had an other offer on 500, for a quite all right room, and Sri Master offered me a just as nice room for free. Anyway, I get a 33% discount when I ask for it - and still a pot of morning tea. The first plan is to go north, up to Urani and the huge Pottuvil Lagoon, find a boat and do a cruise.
I manages to find the right bridge and even a sign offering eco tours out in the lagoon, but I'm the only one here. Guess off-season cover all around here? Well, I wasn't that keen on it anyway, and I do a bit of walking in the area instead. Here are plenty of birds and water, and even some monkeys.
As I continues north, the rice fields changes into bush-land and grassing. Then it starts to dry out, although it is still lagoon and river land. A few boulders brake the horizon, and I do some extensively walking. It is without any doubt elephant country, and the piles of dung are fresh. I follows their trails through the bushland, all senses sharpen.
I find some small ponds, filled with water plants and rice frogs. The bushes are not that interesting, and here are no orchids for sure. When I'm heading back, a "boulder" sitting in some bushes, not 25 meters away, farts! Guess I can go the other way around...
The next stop is a a rather large lake, which might be a bird reserve. The water is covered in pelicans and storks, and the large boulders within the lake is white with guano from cormorants. I find a non-farting boulder to sit on, and watch the scenery for quite some time, wishing I had a 3- or even better; a 500mm lens.
Next stop is at a little lagoon, right next to the sea. I make a walk around it, and once again, I find my self alone on a perfect sandy beach. I have reach the village of Komari, but continues further up north. The landscape now turns into farmland, mainly corn, but also sweet potatoes, cotton? and vegetables. Light-bulbs have been fitted to a stick, and thrown up in the electrical wires. Those lights should scare the elephants off.
Then it is bushes and grass land again, and I do a stop at a beautiful place with some huge boulders. No doubt it is a elephants favourite area too, and I follow one of their trails to the boulders, then climb up on them. I feel safe from the elephants, right below me, in the forest.
I can see big trees "dance" to the
"music" of breaking branches, trumpets and farting, around 30
meters away. I find a
boulder to sit on, and watch the deforestation and the amassing
scenery in general, for a long time. In the fare distance, lakes and
rice fields brake the dominance of the forests.
As I push even further north, the landscape dries out even more. It is in some degree only bare sand-dunes with few bushes and palms. On the other side of the road, a huge lake if found, but that is rain from somewhere far away. A Hindu temple play some terrible music - kind of '50'ties, and real loud and distorted. Besides from that, it is so idyllic...
I walk all the way out to yet another perfect and deserted beach, and on the way back, I find a soft swamp turtle, desperately fighting its way out in the desert. I figure it have made a mistake, and give it a lift back in the huge freshwater lagoon.
I reach what must be the Muslim city of Akkaraipattu, at a Friday, over noon, and that is the wrong time. Here is dead, closed and empty - after Sri Lankan standards. I manages to find a cup of tea, but that is about it. When I returns to my car, a "kind of English talking" guy approaches me. He is from Arugam Bay, and I figure he want a lift home. I have not planned to stop on the way, and fine with me. He is a jolly guy, working as driver on anything with wheels.
I drive slowly as I use to, and at one point, a motorcyclist decides to commit suicide in front of us. I kind of saw it coming, and get to break just in time, but my poor passenger almost get a heart-attack. Then he tell the stupid smiling biker something, which don't sound pure pleasant. I am sure I couldn't have put it better.
I drop him off in in Pottuvil, and continues through Arugam Bay to the other end. Drop the car at one of the last hotels, and walk all the way back to town, by the beach. It turns out to be around five kilometres, despite I actually look, I don't find anything else but sand on the beach - well, some waves.
I eventually reach a big and empty beach-bar, and have to settle with a Ginger-beer. That is fresh and a bit spicy. On the way back, I try to figure where I parked the car, and especially; how I find it again, on the other side of the dunes. Somehow, I manages, and when I'm entering my car, a local surf-dude wants a chat. Then, some small girls want a lift down the road - why not? That is a lot of fun and giggle! I drop them of at their mom, and drive directly home. I have to go into the charger for ten minutes, before I head out for dinner.
I ask the guy at the hotel, if he can recommend a restaurant: Beach Hod, 100 meters down the beach. Well, that seems to be closed like so much else. At one hotel, he don't serve food, but his neighbour have a restaurant in town. I walk there, and it turns out, it is in the main street his place is. I get a ride on back of his big moped, and a seat in the empty restaurant.
It is a bit steep, but looks good. I go for some devilled prawns, and they are real good! Served with rice and a big portion fine chopped salad, and I order pineapple juice. Finish of with tea, and have to pay 1100 LKR, but it was worth it! I actually still owe 50, due to his lacking abilities to change.
While I sit here, the other eight tourists walks bye. It feels like a movie-set; all set, but no actors. Back to work, first on the computer- literally. I have dropped it a few times, and burrs are picking in my hairs on the forearm. I find a small rock in the yard, and grind it down. Works like a charm, and in the dark, it even look good.
25/1. I head south, towards Panama, Okanda and not least; Kumana National Park. It is a smooth road through rice fields most of the way to Panama. Here are even a canal! More and more trees, one of them with a predator bird in. A few boulders and some lakes or lagoons, break up the landscape.
I meet several oxcarts, twin engine. Close to Panama, more and more small farms with all kind of crops emerges. I drive through the tiny village, and find my self on a bad road, in a huge farmland. On the way out, I end in a even bigger dune area along the sea.
When I finally choose the right road, it is just as bad. Bumpy stone-hard mud, serpentine through swamps and rice fields. Then I reach Kumana International Ramsar Wetland/Kumana National Park/Yala East National Park. Here are still being grassed by tame water buffalos, but the lakes are filled with birds.
Here are signs of quite some elephants, and the wild water buffalos takes over. They are way more observant, and have quite another attitude, compared with the gentle tame ones. I do several walks, but the area is a bit too "bushy" for me and my safety. Then I reach one of the ancient degobas and temples; The Great Hermitage of Kudumbigala.
A deep cave holds a stone Buddha statue, while a almost endless trail leads to the top of a giant boulder. Here, an ancient deboga; Belumgala is thought to be 2300 years old. The view is breath taking - as I had any left. I can see a huge lagoon, half of the national park, the sea and a pretty neat part of Sri Lanka, it feels. I passes another Buddha statue on the way down, again with an astonishing view.
As I head deeper into the park, I see Spotted Deer, coyotes, peacocks, all the storks and herons, the small birds like bee-eaters and starlings and more massive water buffalos. They kind of keep me close to my car, even when I reach the sea, behind a small lagoon. I interrupt a couple of Water Monitors, reproducing, and feel a bit sorry.
I reach the office, and ask for the possibility to drive right through the park - a plan I had for tomorrow. That is not possible, even with a 4WD! Bummer; back to the drawing board. On the way back, I see even more animals like the black faced monkeys, but my main attention regards the fuel gauge. I use to fill it regularly, but have failed.
I sneak back to Poouvil, and after the car is fed, I get a cup of tea myself. I passed a sign, shoving to a temple, and I give it a go. It seems unfinished at present, but the fishermen, drawing a huge net up from the sea, make a great motive. I give them a hand as thank you - hard work!
It is not too late to revisit Lahugala National Park, and I head for the huge swamp I last observed elephants in. No elephants, but plenty of other to enjoy. I spend almost an hour, sitting in the car - I might have dozed off a bit - before I head home. On the way back, I have to stop at an elephant-lookout hut. In one of the large trees in the rice fields, a small hut is build. Here, a guard with firecrackers and strings attached to canisters can scare them away, during the night.
Sri Master did invite me to dinner, but I'm kind of used, and returns to yesterdays restaurant; Why Not? This time, I try their Devilled Chicken, and that is not disappointing at all. I draw two Dutch and an American in, and they are cosy company.
26/1. The new plan is to drive back through Pottuvil and Monaragale, and then turn off in Buttala to the south, on an other familiar road through Yala National Park to Kataragama. Last time we drown on this road, we saw four elephants REAL close up. Kataragama is the goal for the day, although I might head on for Tissamaharama to sleep.
I drive through Lahugala National Park in the morning, but here are no visible elephants. I guess, I have to go into the bush to flash them out? The swamp look fantastic in the low morning light, but even the birds are absent. I do a few walks in the park - but only along the public road, of cause...
The next great site on this familiar road, is the huge Mount Monaragale, which dominates the horizon before the city of same name. There have not been any markets in the smaller villages today, and I have a hunch about it is in Monaragale on Sundays. And it is! It is large and interesting, and despite I kind of have pictures enough, I make just a few more.
Then it is the road through the enormous Yala National Park. Despite it is noon and not the best time - actually the worse, I drive quite slowly, hoping to spot some "free" elephants along the road. It has been cleared for trees 50 meters to each side, but it is grown quite a lot since. Then, in the shadow under a huge tree, a lone and big bull is resting. The fruits leftovers on the road indicates he have been given a snack.
I passes it slowly, and he seems to be taking a nap. I passes it again, a bit closer, and he still relaxes. A few other cars passes, and it is not mowing a bit. I end up with some rather good close-ups, despite I can't lure it out in the sun, but the background is exposed to the sun. Then he get the thought, my camera is a treat, and I better go, while I still have it.
On the other side of the park, I find a large market, filled with tourist stuff. Either plastic crap from China and sweets. I do a round just to be sure, but it is right. I even have to use a guide to find a cup of machine-tea! A bit further down the road, I find Kataragama.
It is a pilgrim city, containing little more than hotels, huge parks for the pilgrims, a brown river and some temples, mosques, shrines and degobas. I do a walk around to the most "important", and come across some sort of parade with drums, song and dancing. A massive Bodhi tree is in its own yard, a sorry elephant tied up; out in the back.
The main degoba; Kirivehara us real white, while the river people bath in, is kind of chocolate coloured. The other shrines must be impressive in a religious way. I do quite some walking, but fail to find the attraction to the place. I might as well continue to the familiar Tissamaharama, located in lush rice fields.
Last time, we ended up in a expensive place, this time I actually find the hotel I wanted. It is right between the two degobas, and I figure that will be a sufficient evening walk to re-visit them. They look just like I remembered them, and so do the big lake.
Back to have a shower in cold water - which actually have the temperature I prefer. Must be in a big, black tank on the roof, in the sun. Glad I didn't spend additionally 1000 LKR for the room with a water-heater. I start working in the dusk, hoping the hotel deliver dinner.
It is fairly quiet, until eight Japanese women turns out. They are extreme loud, take no attention, when they time after time hammers something into my table, they chain-smoke during dinner and want me to be their personal photographer. That fails... It turns out they can't find out sharing a photo; it have to be taken with each ones cell-phone, I-pad and camera. At least they got the mosquitoes attention. I will avoid Japanese people from now on. I have only experienced egoism like that, even among Frenchmen, before.
I have now 60 more Highlight photos in a slideshow. Further more, I now change area from the south part of the east coast, and that means another slideshow from the southern east-coast and the diary continues with some highland adventures.