encounter with this lovely island, we now reach the south.
14/12. We both have a real hard time falling asleep, despite there are no sounds but the gentle waves. We still haven't heard a barking dog at night - nice! I end up with three hours of sleep in the early morning, but that will do. The neighbour call us in to breakfast. I ask: "is it in-expensive" , and immediately reply "no". A hermit crab is patrolling the porch, and numerous birds sings and tweets in the trees.
The first point of interest of the day is Galle city, with its colourful shops and markets and the huge Dutch fort from 1668. Inspired by last nights cricket match, Claus is searching for a Sri Lankan made cricket ball. A really helpful man leads us from store to store, ending up on fifth floor at a true sport shop. Here are all kind and qualities of bats and balls, and I get some rest...
The city has a large fish marked, vegetables marked and endless shops with all kind of goods. At noon, we head out to the peninsular, completely enclosed by the rampant. On the way, we see some small fishing boats and some calotes in the palm trees. We reach the huge wall, and from the top of it, we can see the 400 houses, temples, churches and mosques. Considered the tsunami hit it hard in 2004, it is real excellent maintained - or because of the tsunami? We make a tour round, but end up at the large cricket stadium outside. Here we watch some young men, walking the lawn for an hour or so.
Next spot is Kottawa Conservation Forest and its arboretum. It is closed Saturday afternoon and Sunday, but it turns out; is hard to keep us out of a forest. A few short trails leads through dense forest with all from conifers to palm trees, and way up in the canopy; orchids. Huge, green snails, leaches, large black millipedes, small monkeys, skinks, and a green-headed calotes is among the "catch".
Many of the trees have Latin name tags, and numerous familiar genera of plants are found on the ground. Several real strange mushrooms, ferns, Selaginellas, and strange plants in general, are covering the ground.
There is a light drizzle on the first part of the tour, but then it gains momentum, just before we reach the car. It is only around four o'clock, and we make a 50 km loop inland, through lush forest and oil-palm- and tea plantations. The road is real challenging with little sealing and some places too narrow for our tiny car.
At one point, we passes a blue peacock, meadows without rice is occupied by herds of water buffalos, and each bend reveals another astonishing view. Small houses are scatted along the road, and tuck-tucks frequent passes us. We reach the larger roads, and head towards Matara city, for the evening.
A few kilometres outside Matara, we find a nice, but local place in Habaraduwa. Dinner next door containing of devilled pork and squirt with rice, then a walk along the road. I need a new pair of sunglasses. Last tour, I ended up buying four pairs: The brook way too fast due to the sunlight! This time, I brought some real expensive ones from home. The lasted two days, and then they vanished.
15/12. Yet another silent but rather sleepless night, but that won't stop us from adventures. I noticed one of the rear tires was worn down the other day, but the spare tire is as good as the rest. I want to swap them, but the spanner is for another car, with larger bolts. I look for a shop to buy a new one, all day, and ask optimistically in about ten - without luck.
We head down the road towards Koggala Lake. Along the coast road, we spot the pole-fishermen. Just as my guidebook predicts, they approach you real fast, and in a friendly way tells you: They do expect a donation in exchange for a photo. We only chat with them, and enjoy the view over the perfect "bounty beach". They actually don't catch anything here, but donations from the tourists.
A bit further back, we find one small road, leading to the huge, brackish lake. Here are boatmen offering rides to various islands and sights, but we start with a stroll on the old corroded railroad bridge. A large monitor swims next to us, while mudskippers jumps for their lives, and signal crabs disappears in their holes. The shore is mainly mangrove, and walking around the lake seems to be out or the question. We negotiate a resemble price for a two hour tour, and heads out in a big dingy with a small, doubtable engine.
We are the only pale people around, but due to the Sunday, other boats are filled with locals, warring ping life-jackets. We cross the better part of the lake, passing what appears to be a country club, but actually is a base to the Sri Lankan Air Force. We reach a 3,2 hectares island. It is owned by some brothers and their families, and they mainly grow cinnamon - hence the name: Cinnamon Island.
We get a course in producing the spice: Removing the rough outer-bark of a twig, gently removing the inner-bark and dried it for fourteen days in the shadow. Then it can be sold as sticks or pounded to powder. Out of courtesy, I buy a small 100 gram bag, and we do a small walk around. Here are numerous calotes, but it is time to sail on.
Next stop is a spice garden. Small, raised beds with a few of each species. Here are many sorts, some African. The trees are scatted with four species of local orchids, two are flowering. On the way back in the boat, I get a breath nab, and we drive on.
We agree to stop at the iconic pole-fishermen once again, and support them with a few LKRs. Fishing has been bad lately, and they have to be motivated, just to pretend fishing. Anyway, the one I chat with is a sympatric fellow. As we head on, we passes a bridge over a swimming lagoon, popular with the locals.
Outside Matara city, we see some real colourful larger, wooden fishing boats. If the sun would return, it would make a astonishing motive. Unfortunately, the sun seems to disappear at noon, and the drizzle start at three, every day. We passes a tourist trap, and I try desperately to find a new pair of sunshades. I succeeds, and Claus get lunch meanwhile.
Half the people we see here are white, most Russians. We only see these strange, pale individuals in small, restricted areas: They must have a rather specific habitat! A tiny island catches our attention, and as we approach it, a couple of Russian girls ask us for directions to a specific bank. We wish them good hunting, and drive on.
A bit further down the beach, sun chairs, café's, souvenir shops and alike fills the beach, and we fail to find the turtle centre. Matara is dominated by another fort, but we fails to find its appealing feature. A big monitor, on the other hand, make the cameras work overtime.
We head inland, to get to Deniyaya, which should be a good access point for Sinharaja Forest Reserve. As we head up the hills, the drizzle slowly pick up, while the hills gain size. The road twist and bends, and in one sharp corner, we meet a truck with a large elephant on. Tea plantations, tiny villages, rice patches, rubber plantations and loads of tuck-tucks.
Half an hour before dark at six, we reach the larger Deniyaya. We drive slowly right through it, without spotting a single hotel of room sign. When Claus finally spot a sign; Deniyaya Hotel Bakery, he learns; they do not offer rooms.
Just on the fare side of town, there finally is one. We get a brand new, rather rustic "rondawel" in two floors. The walls are made from clay, and what I thought was potting plants, are just a few bamboo-like plants, sticking through the wall.
The ground floor is made up by bathroom with hot water - mostly appreciated, and a living room. Upper floor is the bedroom with a fantastic view over the rice patches. Unfortunately, the single bed is narrow, but it sure beats the car! As the rain gentle falls on the roof, I go through the photos and diary, while Claus is surprisingly quiet upstairs. As the rain lightens, we head out for dinner.
Considering the drizzle, we try try the bakery shop next door, owned by the same man. He serve a vide range of local dishes, and we get a good sample. Besides from the usual dhal, wing-beans, egg-fruit, potatoes, here are boiled seeds of jack-fruits. We finish with a few samples of his pastry.
On the way home through the garden, we find frogs in the ponds, leaches on our bodies and cockroaches in the house. On the other side of the small area with rice patches, a monk praising Buddha via a rather big amplifier. He is actually good, but I hope he skip the five o'clock morning pray.
16/12. Claus get a good night sleep, while I fight keeping warm under a rather small and tiny towel. (Later, he remembers the nice blanket he forgot to leave in the airplane - my Christmas present). The rice fields outside our balcony are lush and green, and there is a white temple, right in the middle of it. We get a bunch of toasted bread with jam, peanut butter, Happy Cow and lime juice.
We have around five kilometres to Sinharaja Forest Conservation. As we passes out of a small village just before it, several tuck-tuck drivers flags us down. It turns out we missed the turn-off, and our host has called a friend in advance. He shows us the right way, and as the road turns real bad, he lures us into his tuck-tuck.
I spot a big, brown snake in a rice field, but it alludes me, just like its name. It is a hilly landscape and real lush green. Loads of big millipedes, and we do a few stops to get names on pepper and other familiar plants. A couple of mongooses plays on the road, while butterflies hurry on to the next flower. A huge water monitor flies, while a palm dove remains next to the road.
Parts of the 6,5 km road is real bad, and I'll guess the 1200 LKR is well spend on the ride. As we reach the office, his friend, who is a guide, offers us his service. Another 1200 LKR, but is clear he actually know both the animals and the plants. Our driver walk along for the tour, and both men speak a acceptable English. The first animal we spot is a kangaroo lizard - some sort of small agama.
It is a real lush rainforest with massive trees, some 4-600 years old. Many have name signs on, and I spot several familiar ones. The Dictocarpus is among the largest, some have ferns and orchids attached to their stems. A few real large lianas stands like solitaire trees, way up to the canopy, where they are attached. Strangler figs are doing their worse, with huge success.
Selaginella, treeferns, Begonias, Euphorbias, Impatience, and many more familiar herbs and quite some leaches. We follow a narrow track, and before long, the guide spots a Green Pit Viper in a low bush. I find a juvenile Scaly-finger Gecko, and then the next Green Pit Viper turns up. Along the path, Golden Orb Spiders have their giant web. With their size of a palm, they are the largest spider, producing a web. The males are just a fragment of the female.
A huge fern is endemic to this area, but quite common around here. The huge, green snails are active and so is a Giant Squirrel. An orchid on a low stem is of a newly described species. It could be a Bulbophyllum. Within a little cabin, a huge tarantella rest. Small frogs or is it toads, jumps along with crickets. A few birds like singers, büll-bülls, starlings, water-hens, parrots and unidentified species, sings and tweets along with the massive sound from the cicadas.
We reach a bridge without deck, and make it over the river in a small rob-pulled dingy. On the other side, a centre with samples of the local wood and animals are found. We get no education, but we can buy a pot of tea. I find several interesting insects in the surroundings, and then we head back - over the remains of the bridge. Some carpenters are preparing the wooden deck for the bridge. It is from red ironwood, and it is more dense than bricks!
The guide spots a single, sleeping cicada, and we see some wild ginger with large, red inflorescence. We reach an area with five of the parks nine orchids, all from different genera. A single "centipede" is curled up tight, and remains that way. As every where else, the locals are so friendly, and many shakes their head in an Indian way - their thin from side to side. Gota find out what that means.
As we reach the end of the trail, a waterfall and a swimming pond lours Claus and his waterproof camera in. He get some absolutely astonishing photos of the fish within the pool, while I continues a bit. Unfortunately, I have to walk right across the pool, and end up being wet to my armpits. The waterfall on the other side is not worth is! It takes more than a three metres across, five high string of water to impress me.
I get back, and leave Claus swimming, while the guide leads me on to a place with a new species of orchid. Back to pick-up Claus and the driver, and then it starts to drizzle a bit. As we walk back, it slowly turns into prober rain, and we are quite soaked, when we finally draw on our rain ponchos - 100 meters before the tuck-tuck.
The 60 meter waterfall I read about, back home, is a three kilometre detour, and due to the rain, we agree on paying additionally 500 LKR for the ride. It ends up being a push-push safari, but we get through the real challenging road. The fall is quite impressive, a multi stairs fall with plenty of water. In the top of some nearby trees, a group of small monkeys are playing, and I find a terrestrial orchid in flower.
We get back to the car, and I give the driver 2000 LKR for this great tour. I have seen five or six of the nine orchids; not bad at all. We head on, towards the high centre of the island. Our target is Uda Walawe National Park and its orchids and elephants. We hope to reach Embilipitiya, but not only is the road twisting like serpent doing the twist, it also offers one great view after the other.
More mongoose, peacocks and ever smiling and waving locals. It seems like everyone are greeting us - at least back. It turns real hilly and then into green mountains. Claus camera claims we pass a pass of 730 metres. We enters the clouds, and it starts to turn dark. As we reach Rakwana, we decides to call it a day. A bakery have what tastes just like a honey-cake - reminding us of Christmas.
The small mountain city don't seem to have any accommodation, but two young guys drive in front of us, back out of town to a rather large Rest Room. Here, we get a huge room with large beds, but unfortunately only cold water. We are the only guests as usual, but they offers us "rice and curry". Just like other times, that means seven dishes with a massive plate of rice.
After dinner, I work with photos and diary while Claus work with his audio. At nine, I ask for some tea, and just like the other day, we get coffee. Good tasting, but rather strong, made from fine grounded beans. We decides to postpone the elephants of Uda for yet one more day, to relax and enjoy the surroundings. The night is full of frog and insect sounds.
17/12. Despite I freeze, I get a dissent nights sleep. Hard to say, if it was the barking dogs last night, or the strong cup of coffee at ten? We are woken up at eight, and get our breakfast on the porch. Birds are sinning, and the tiny birds; Nuns, search the bamboo for insects. Orchids sits in a real tall tree, way beyond my or my assistants reach. The little city is below us, and the view is marvellous. As Claus managed to get the price down to half, the food turns out to make up for it - to say the least.
We have decided to take is slow, and explore the city before we head on. I better swap the worn down tire and check the beaten out car, before it breaks down. We drive down town, and the first shop I try, have the spanner for the wheel. 495 LKR seems like a great deal, compare to be stocked somewhere with a flat tire.
We drive slowly up through the hills, and at one point, we see a large group of small monkeys. From time to time, we passes through small villages with 10-20 houses, mainly convenient shops. The landscape is rather steep, green hills with rubber, rice, coconuts, and some strange Solanaceaes.
We head for Uda Walawe National Park, and reach a tiny road which leads into it. I was expecting an office where we can pay the 10.000 LKR. The area is a great mix of small farmed fields and lush rainforest, but the road is a real challenge in bigger parts. We ask for directions several times, and they say we just have to continue. Accordantly to the map, it is a blind road, and besides from I fell we have been driving way too fare, it can't fails. Several water monitors are slowly crossing the road, neglecting the car.
Just 50 meters after I claim; I'm sure this road won't lead to "the other side", we reach a main road again. Obviously, there is a main entrance, and we guess it is where a larger road leads into the park. We head south, and before long, we spot a huge elephant bull and his mahout. We pull over, and get some great photos and a chat with both of them, but only pad the beast.
We find the right road to the park, and without any warning, safari-truck-drivers come form all over. In total confusion, I head down a narrow dirt road, and we find our selves in some great nature. Big herds of water buffalos walks by, and birds like herons and ibis, sits on the lush, green meadows. One field is being weeded by a group of smiling workers, but we have to return.
Passing the eager drivers, we head further on by the larger road. Here, we find us selves on a huge dike with a enormous lake on one side, and green forest, deep down on the other. A single wild elephant is walking along the lake, and we return to get a photo.
At one end of the dam, a white temple; Mapanitaga Viharaya is found. Like so many other places, a massive bodhi tree and some alters with Buddha statues and fresh flowers are found. On the other side of the road, locals are swimming in the lake, under massive, flooded trees.
At four, we decides to find the price for the safari tour, to the elephants - we are not aloud to drive by us self. A bit resistant, I drive back to the "hungry" drivers, and learns it is only 1500 LKR a head. Then we just need a hotel nearby. Here are only a few ones, and all fancy. They even have white customers, but the prices are insane: 30.000 LKR. No way we will pay that. On the way back to town, we passes a more humble place - the only one we see. Here, we get a nice room for 2000 LKR.
A friendly family, tiny ground squeals in the trees and a another great view. I finally get to swat the spare wheel, and then we arrange pick-up by a safari truck at six in the morning. Down town to find internet and dinner. No internet cafés, but a computer shop let us use their web and cell-charger.
I go shopping for an umbrella, while Claus uploads photos, and then we head next door for some pancakes. Baked in a small pot, filled with eggs and vegetables, sold as "Hoppers". We continues with some samorsa; stuffed pancakes. We only pay 230 LKR, but find us self a bit peckish still. They do not serve tea, but next door, we find both Thai-tea, the familiar honey cakes and another pastry.
Claus is nagging about the unfairness of him converting into a vegetarian, and at the same time, loads of animals have started eating him. I try to comfort him with the fact; he have not managed to go 24 hours without eating meat anyway. Actually, he is only "vegetarian" in-between meals.
Considered how close the famous park and the posh lodges are, it is a bit surprising the village seem to be unaware of any tourism. We have a hard time communicating in English, and here are no typical tourist stuff - not that we complain. On the way back thought the dusk, we see numerous, giant fruit bats. We did see a colony the other day, right above our heads, but they are way more impressing in the air. We see them all the time in the electrical wires - dead.
18/12. One minute to six, our driver arrivals at the hotel - and we are ready. We drive over the dam and turn into the park, to pay the fee and pick-up a local guide. Right away, we spot the first large elephant bull. As we head out on the narrow dirt road, numerous birds reveal them self. Here are so many peacocks, sitting in the top of the trees.
Different doves like Ceylon Green-pigeon; Treron pompadora, starlings, singers, hornbills, storks like Painted Stork; Mycteria leucocephala and the open-billed, plovers like Red-wattled Lapwing; Vanellus indicus, nuns like Tricoloured Munia; Lonchura malacca, clydes, eagles like the crested-, fishing- and serpentine eagle, kingfishers, both blue and orange, herons, swallows, parakeets, green bee-eaters, family-groups of elephants, water buffalos in the mud, jackals, temple monkeys, traffic-light lizard (changes it heads colour from bright red over yellow to green, and it got white stripes on its body), water monitors, butterflies, and many more animals.
Here are savannah, swamps, forest and every thing in-between. Some huge bodhi trees dominates the canopy, but others are close to mach their enormous size. We stop at a huge lake, and watch the rich bird life. Spoon-billed storks, five different herons, water hens, pelicans, a soft turtle and loads of small singers and fly catchers along with terns, cormorants, black headed ibis, small ducks and seagulls. Claus make a brilliant sound recording of the choir of birds.
After three hours of intense safari, we head out. We have seen four time as many elephants as pale tourists - quite acceptable. Back at the hotel, we get a late breakfast, and Claus have a chat with the smiling family, while I check the car. We head down south the coast road, passing small villages and awesome nature. At a bridge, Claus spots some monkeys. On the other side, a fruit bat colony is occupying the trees. We take the smaller road cross country, and are rewarded with great sights.
Rice patches, banana plantations, nature and then we reach the harbour of Hambantota. We park right next to it, and find a bakery shop with tea. A loop through town, and Claus get a charger for his cell, for under half the price he gave to charge it yesterday.
We try to reach Bundala Bird Sanctuary. We find it, but we are not aloud in our own car. The fee is 4380 LKR for the two and a half hour drive - excluded the drive it self, which is 5500. We are told the elephants are best seen in the evening, and the birds in the morning. Considering the amount of elephants we saw this morning, we go for the morning tour.
Here are only one hotel, and we get a great room for only 1500 LKR, right next to the huge swamp. Claus re-charges while I start on words and photos. At dusk, we head out the narrow road into the park, to get an evening look. Loads of birds, black-faced makir monkeys, buffalos and even two elephants.
It is dark when we returns, and before dinner, we negotiate the jeep to only 4000 LKR for tomorrow at six. We get the fried noodles served outside to great amusement for the mosquitoes. Dessert is drained yoghurt with honey.
19/12. We leave in a Land Rover at six, for the Bundala Bird Sanctuary. We passes though the familiar wetland, which now is packed with birds. Right inside the park, I spot two different Euphorbias: One is a 15 meter tall "Cowboy Cactus" the other is a "Pencil stick" form. Here are almost more invasive plants, than true Sri Lankan. Especially the Opuntia and the poison Asclepiadaceae dominates.
Here are so many wetland birds, I stop keeping record. Besides from those we have seen before, more plovers, terns, storks, eagles, herons, bee-eaters, paradise flycatcher, hens, singers, finches, stilks, ducks and other type are scatted in a thick layer, all over.
The road is quite good in most places, but the driver manages almost to get the car stocked several times. The 100s of peacocks are showing off, and we manages to catch them in the act. If I haven't known the animal, I would not have believed it!
Several times, we spot two 2,5 meter crocodiles on the brinks, land monitors are basking on thick branches way up in the trees, and swamp turtles are basking in the son at the swamps. Monkeys of two types are found along the dirt track, but they are a bit fearful.
We spot a few water buffalos, but also domesticated cattle. Finally, we see a few elephant bulls, and then a group of females with calves. We turn around after a walk along the sea. Here, invasive plants have more or less taken over, but if I abstract, it is a beautiful area. Some strange dune-grass forms large "pong-pongs".
Many tracks from eremite crabs, large beetles, dears and birds criss-cross the sand. Some bulbs are exposed in the dunes, but I can't determine which. As we turn back, even more birds are spotted, but we find it hard to really appreciate the individuals in those amounts. Claus decides to run back from the visitor office - I don't. When we get back the the hotel, breakfast is served.
After that, we get everything packed, and head on towards Tissamaharama. It is through the lowlands, with huge rice fields, but also plenty of nice nature. We find a nice, but rather expensive hotel, right next to the centre of town, but with a high porch, overlooking the numerous mango trees in the town.
We immediately head out to find the 2500 years old dagoba; Yatala Wehera. It is through the lush, green rice fields within the city, and pass tiny, old shops. The dagoba sits in its own little lake, filled with water lilies and lotus. The brick wall is made-up to look like the front of elephants. Old stone work is found around and in the little museum next to the dagoba.
A baby water monitor and some tiny puppies draws my attention, while Claus is experimenting with some cool features in his camera. We head on the the man-made lake; Tissa Wewa. It is filled with blue flowered water lilies and loads of fish. Some local are fishing in it, others are bathing.
When we leave the lake, we follows a river, which also is used for bathing an playing. A shop lures Claus in for rice & curry, and I get a cup of tea. Next adventure is a parked truck, on which's bag, a band is playing. Claus records to great amusement for the crowd.
Next stop is Tissa Dagoba, a 55,8 metre tall, 165 meter in circumference white stub. Not that beautiful, especial with the scaffold. We do another bare-footed walk around it, and returns to town. On the way, we see a small zebu bull and I find a mysterious Cucurbitaceae.
The tiny shops have all from clay pots for cooking, to cell phones and TVs. I find some elastic fabric, then a tailor. Claus have some slews, which when wet, cools the body real effective. I want my own. We call them "grouse slews" and the tap-water used on them as "slew-water". I have to pay 50 LKR for three persons work in 20 minutes, making the half meter lycra for 100 LKR quite expensive.
Back at the hotel, we listen to prayers from the dagoba, chat with the owners and enjoy a cup of tea while writing. We order a visit to Yala National Park in the morning, although 11,000 LKR sounds quite a lot: A month and a half work at the tailor shop.
As the dusk approaches, giant fruit bats covers the sky. We get a restaurant called "Royal" recommended, and try their cashew chicken and veggie-rice. A rather boozed guy want to tell us everything, but still in a most friendly way.
At ten, we have to give in, considering the 5;15 wake-up call we are about to experience. Does not help much; we still have a hard time sleeping.
20/12. The jeep arrivals on time, and we squeezes into the single seed, next to the driver. It is a 20 km drive to the park entrance, and the dark night is rather chill. A few rabbits crosses the headlights. When we reach the park, a huge line of safari trucks are lined up. The driver do the waiting, while we check the nearby lake and museum with badly stuffed animals.
We enters the Yala National Park, just as the sun raises. It is a huge park; 1268 sq km. Here are shrub, light forest, grassy plains, brackish lagoons and sandy beaches. The trucks are scatted around, and we feel like we have it to our selves. We kind of lack the guide, and the driver defiantly lack the skill to spot photo options. Never the less, we see so many peacocks, even dancing.
At one of the first ponds, a four meter crocodile is basking in the early sun. A peacock have caught a scolopender, and try to disarm it. On a meadow, hundreds of spotted deer are gathered, while the buffalos prefers the water. A large elephant bull is approaching the road, and the drivers seems to have a lot of respect.
Huge family groups of boars are foraging in the grass, a jackal crosses the road without rush, and a peacock are rather cautious because of a small crocodile. The sounds are fantastic with what sounds like most of the parks 215 species of birds. We do short stops from time to time, and a few longer ones, at the ponds and elephants.
Huge, old granite boulder and bedrock starts to dominate the landscape, and "Elephant Rock" towers them all. Some mongooses crosses the road, and seems reluctant to leave it, before we do. We reach the sea with its perfect sand beach. The old visitor centre is now a memorial to the 43, who lost their lives due to the tsunami.
Huge timber bees at the size of hummingbirds, fly from flower to flower, while crabs live up to their name; shadows. Common garden lizards seems to be rather relaxed, while the large water monitors believe they owe the dirt roads - quite rightfully. Most of the storks, herons, terns, stilks, cormorants, pelicans, bee-eaters in 2 variations, kingfishers in 3, eagles, ibises, sparrows, singers, starlings, pigeons, doves, and many more are here two. We see a pair of jungle hens and a huge group of hornbills, above our heads.
Both species of monkeys are scattered all over the park, especially the two places we are aloud to leave the car. I see a few familiar plants like the 15 meter tall "cowboy cactus" of an Euphorbia, and a square Cyphostemma. The orchids, on the other hand, seems to have vanished totally, which is a great disappointment to me.
We returns from the coast, by another route. A huge swamp turtle is basking in the sun on one of the few ponds, without its own crocodile. The rather bad road twist and turns, and ever corner reveals a new, great view.
At one point, we get our driver to go up to a huge lake, filled with water lilies. From here, we can se two elephants on the other side, the huge, dark sambars deer, a water monitor, many different birds, butterflies, two crocodiles, a peacock, water buffalos with personal white herons, ducks in large numbers and a great view in general.
Another huge elephant bull, presumably more friendly, grasses along the road, but it lack the scene to pose. After 40 km within the park, we are full of impressions, except of a leopard. Back in the city, we find some buns and alike for late breakfast, enjoy a rare hot shower and head on.
The first sight is a new concrete statue of Buddha, next to a temple. Claus get to sound and record the bells, while I have a look through the garden. A smiling man, who talks quite good English tell about the place, and send us off with two pineapples and two water melons.
We drive on the smaller road towards north, and make a detour on a real bad gravel road, to the monastery of Sithulpahuwa. On some huge rocks, a dagoba overlooks a great part of Yala National Park. Here are quite some locals, and as we reach the degoba, a ceremony take place. We make a photo- and cola break, before negotiating the road back.
As most of the road we have been driving on this afternoon, it is within the Yala park, and we spot fantastic views and lots of animals. Besides from the ever-spotted peacock, some boars seems to be trained to get treats from cars. We get close to some spotter deer, and I have to avoid water monitors all the time.
We passes a control post, but get away with asking for directions - both times. Back at the small, but pawed road, we go further north. I spot some elephant droppings, just as Claus flips his seed back. Then a elephant cow and her calf stands right next to the road, eating grass. I make a U-turn, and we enjoy them, along with some moped drivers, a lorry and a bus.
We have not been driving long, before two youngsters of elephants stands on the road. They do seem a bit too frisky to me, and I back off, while they joyfully follows. Another car passes, throwing two sticks of sucker cane to them. We figures they are begging for treats, and allows them closer. More cars feed them with bananas and alike, and it seems like they have a great scam.
Along the road, the usual Yala animals are found, but eventually, the park ends. We reach some fantastic rock formations, and the low sun sits perfect. We make a great stop, but I want to reach a city before dark. Buttal is next in line, and we find a brand new hotel with a nice room for only 1000 LKR. We store the bags, and drive down town to find some dinner.
Surprisingly, restaurants are hard to find, and we end up with the usual Rice & Curry buffet. Outside, tractors, tuck-tucks and other vehicles are mixed with pedestrians, but everything goes on, in a relaxed pace. Back at the hotel, I start to work my way through way too many photos and diary. At eleven, I have to give in.
Photos from the south are found in this slide-show.
From here, we head up to the central highlands.