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Sri Lankan Journey Begins at an Elephant's Pace

Serendipity in Kandy Hill Country

overcast 83 °F

My new friend in Sri Lanka - as long as I keep feeding him yummy fruits

NEW! Watch these youtube videos of Pennewala Elephant Orphanage

Mud Bath at Pennewala

Playful Tussle in the River

I don't want to think about how long it took to get here. I began travel on a Tuesday morning in Ohio, and here it was Saturday morning in Sri Lanka before I awoke to my first real day of sightseeing. I had planned on taking the train from Negombo, a beach town not far from the airport, to Kandy, in Sri Lanka’s hill country. However, the observation car and all assigned seats for first and second class were completely booked up all day. This seems to be a flaw in Sri Lanka’s supposedly comfortable train system: very difficult to book tickets in advance, and all seats sold out by the time your travel date arrives.

Negombo's canal, built in colonial days, connecting it to the capital, Colombo

Serendipity is a frequent travel acquaintance, though. My hotel arranged a shared taxi with another traveler in a similar situation. The driver was awesome, and was happy to stop whenever I wanted to take pictures, plus suggested more stops. Negombo is a mostly Christian town in a Buddhist majority country. The driver stopped at the town’s main church, where a colorful, Sri Lankan wedding happened to be taking place. As we continued out of town, he suggested we stop at the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage, which proved to be the highlight of the day and a very cool experience.

Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage takes care of a herd of elephants rescued from the wild

This organization rescues elephants orphaned in the wild and raises and cares for them on their property. We pulled up just in time to catch the milk feeding of the baby elephants. They were adorable, as you can imagine. Next, I got a chance to feed an adult elephant (healthy fruit, of course!). The driver was acting as our tour guide, too, and showed us where the bulk of Pinnewala’s herd was taking a mud bath prior to be walked down to the river for their daily bathing and swim. He showed us to the best spot to photograph them crossing the road, and zipped us aside afterwards to a cafe which has an amazing balcony view of the elephants bathing in the river. One older elephant repeatedly sprawled out on his side, floating in the river. Others tussled or played with each other, while still others used their trunks to shower themselves. It was obvious the herd was having a wonderful time. This was doubtless the highlight of their day, as it was mine.

Why did the elephant cross the road? To get to his favorite time of the day - his bath in the local river

Next, we stopped off at a few scenic overlooks and then wound our way into Kandy, the island’s second largest city. Sri Lankan traffic is torturous, and any trip by car or tuk-tuk involves lots of time stalled in traffic as drivers aggressively attempt to slip into the oncoming traffic lane to edge their way past others. Motorbikes are the worst offenders, tuk-tuks (think three wheeled, souped up golf carts with gas engines) second worst, and cars third. I witnessed numerous motorbikes deftly miss being pancaked by oncoming trucks and buses by milliseconds time and again. Sri Lankan's are not big on waiting in line, as I would come to find out. The competitive, speedway traffic is simply a manifestation of this disdain for — as their British former colonial rulers would say — queuing.

It was fun to watch the elephants wallowing in the water, just like humans, enjoying themselves

My hotel is a fairly new one in town and is aptly called The View 360. Most taxi or tuk-tuk drivers don't know where it is, which caused some anxious moments trying to navigate there over the course of my stay. It sits high atop a hill overlooking Kandy with amazing, as advertised, 360 degree views. Looking out on Sri Lankan hill country all around, I could imagine hoe awesome it would be to just sit out on my balcony and take in the view. Or to relax in the infinity pool while enjoying the panorama. There was even a work out room with inspiring views!

The amazing view from the penthouse workout room...which I did not use, ahem!

It had taken awhile to get started, but once here, my vacation in Sri Lanka was off to a great start!

Hill country around Kandy, Sri Lanka

Posted by world_wide_mike 02:45 Archived in Sri Lanka

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