Sri Lanka is a pretty big island - about 200 x 400 km. Our starting place was Negombo, a small, quiet town near the main airport north of Colombo.
We left Canada at about 10:00pm on a Saturday and arrived in Sri Lanka about 4:00am on a Monday, including 10-1/2 time zones - worst jet-lag ever...! On a more pleasant note, here is our resident painted turtle at the guest house.
It's nice to be back in the tropics - flowers and fresh fruit everywhere. Our first guest house is pretty fancy, with a pool and yoga classes. They served breakfast, lunch and dinner outside under the roof in the background (behind the pillar).
Seafood drying in the sand - the silver ones are fish and the red ones are squid. Salting the seafood keeps away the birds, flies, dogs or cats.
The buddhist temple in Negombo is decorated extravagantly, with rooms full of almost life-sized statues and great hallways full of paintings.
There are a few 'foot-fish spas' here, where wee little fish munch on your dead skin cells - very tickley! The fish are called garru ruta fish or more commonly doctor fish. That's John squealing like a girl...
Sri Lanka is a mostly buddhist country, but there are still hindu temples like this, and Catholic churches and mosques.
After a week in Negombo to get acclimatized, we moved north only about 10 km into the jungle along a river near Waikkal. We stayed at Ging Oya Lodge: “birds and butterflies everywhere, and total and utter peace” (Lonely Planet).
The lodge provides free bicycles, kayaks and a canoe. We took the canoe ‘cause we’re from Canada, eh!, but mostly because there’s a set of mugger crocodiles that "decided to take up residence in our section of the river" (we didn’t see them) and lots of monitor lizards (did see them). The crocs "have shown no signs of aggression towards people and this species is generally not considered to be as dangerous as its cousin, the salt water crocodile, which does not inhabit this area." The monitors are not aggressive, but good swimmers and swim on the surface a bit like water snakes, except they can be over two meters long. We saw cute little half-meter ones up close, and meter+ ones at a distance. With delightful understatement, the info booklet in our cottage says, “The river is cleaner than most in Europe and other countries, but we do not recommend you swim in it”.
Myrjam (pronounced Miriam, but with a Belgian accent) and her young cow Elodie (like melody without the ‘M’). Myrjam and Leo are the owners of Ging Oya Lodge where we're staying. Elodie was saved from the slaughterhouse and adopted by the lodge – saving cows is a Buddhist tradition. In appreciation, Elodie head-butts everyone who comes within range.
Trees 1: Cannonball tree. The fruit is edible, but not usually eaten by people because it smells bad. Leo planted them years ago, but is now a bit regretful because they shed all their leaves 5 times a year, making for a lot of raking. Myrjam is a sculptor so there are strange little statues all over the grounds.
Trees 2: This banyan tree is only 17 years old - Leo says you can almost see it growing.
Outdoor church. This part of Sri Lanka was Portuguese in the spice trading days, so there are lots of Catholics here. This little church was clobbered by the big tsunami of 2004, but has mostly been rebuilt.
Moonshiners! In Sri Lanka some locals take the sap from coconut flowers, ferment it and distill it into a highly potent alcohol called arrack. To avoid the inconveniences of taxes and the law, they float it around in barrels on the canals. These guys offered us some as we paddled by in our canoe.
We had a golden pothos plant in Ottawa with leaves the size of the ones by the red arrow. Here they grow to the size of the leaves on the left.
Ranmenika dancing. We are now at the Millennium Elephant Foundation working as volunteers for 3 weeks (www.millenniumelephantfoundation.com ). We’ve been assigned as helpers for Ranmenika and we spend most of the day doing chores for her. This is her dancing around first thing in the morning when we go with the mahout to get her.
One of our tasks is to give the elephants scrubs with coconut shells - nice cool fun for everyone!
Roxanne and Ranmenika.
Dung boy! One of our other tasks is to clean up the 'night beds' - the places where the elephants are chained up at night to eat supper and sleep. Once a week for each elephant, the dung is collected and taken to the paper factory where they make elephant poo paper.
At the elephant poo paper factory gift shop.
Heading off to start the day with Ranmenika carrying her lunch beside her mahout Ananda (our 'boss' whenever we're around her). We make up some vitamin balls (vitamin pills hid in tennis-ball-sized dough balls) and her medicine (herbs, honey and milk hidden inside half a loaf of bread) and feed these to her. Most of the elephants will take all their vitamin pills (10 vitamin C pills, 10 multivitamins, 10 vitamin B, 5 ferrous sulphate, 10 vitamins A & D, 10 folic acid) all hidden inside one large dough ball, and a second larger dough ball containing 3 lbs. aminol powder. However, her highness Ranmenika insists that all of the different vitamin pills are in individual balls plus the large aminol powder ball or else she'll spit them out.
Please go to the next page - Sri Lanka: Feb.2016.