Thursday, April 02, 2009

Pinnawala and Colombo

So, after one final sunrise from the comfort of my bed, it was farewell to Kandalama this morning.

On our way back to Colombo we took a detour via the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage.  After seeing the hotel’s elephant yesterday and then reading in the Lonely Planet guide last night that there had been complaints about the way the mahouts handle the elephants at Pinnawala, I was really in two minds whether I wanted to pay them money to watch.  I went though and all was well with what I saw.  We arrived in time to watch the herd being bathed.

I didn’t count but there must have been forty or fifty of them mucking about in the river.  The river was quite shallow, running over rock terraces mostly, with some deeper pools.  There were a couple of males having a scrub and clearly enjoying it.  Once they were out of the way, the females and the youngsters were herded into the deeper water.  There was one group in particular that found the deepest pool and seemed to have an underwater love-in; mostly submerged and rubbing against each other with little to be seen of most of them apart from an occasional trunk curling up and spraying water.  I got plenty of cute photographs.

One of the herd only has three feet, having lost the fourth to a landmine (according to Wikipedia) and I was impressed both by how careful and yet how agile she was over the uncertain terrain of a rocky river bed.  Another reminder that elephants are not mindless lumbering beasts, but have minds up there alongside primates and cetaceans.

Once we’d seen all there was to see, we were back in the van for Colombo.  After a detour via the JetWing office to pay up for Maliq’s services we arrived back at Mark & Chris’ place.

I’d been in touch with Chris by SMS throughout the journey, so when we arrived lunch was waiting for us on the table and we all had massages booked for later that afternoon.  After scoffing the scrummy grub with lashings of ginger beer, Chris drove Brett and I down to their local spa for my first ever Ayurveda massage; a lovely experience and, for all that there was a cute guy rubbing oil all over my naked body, a surprisingly relaxing one!

As we were finishing up, Chris & Ping were just arriving for their massage.  Brett and I headed back to the house to chill and surf.  A strong wind picked up not long after we sat down and then the heavy rain arrived.  There was a lot of noise, but it wasn’t until Chris and Ping got home with Mark that we realised either lightning or wind had brought down two trees, one at either end of the road.  We were completely oblivious.

We got changed and relaxed with Mark and Chris to catch them up on the rest of our trip over drinks and then headed out for dinner at a nearby restaurant called Tintagel; home of the first president of Sri Lanka, now converted into a really gorgeous boutique hotel and restaurant.  Dinner was lovely – almost like a private restaurant for us.

Later on Mark was telling us a little of what’s happening with the civilians in the north and it is truly awful.  It sounds like 150,000 civilians are caught in a tiny area between two opposing forces but with nowhere to go and not much sympathy on either side.  All sobering stuff; kind of puts the quality of the Kandalama’s coffee into perspective.  Human beings are often strange, selfish and vicious animals.  Our social herding instincts combined with our often irrational belief/trust in causes and leaders gives us great potential to be self-destructive as a species.  It’s quite out of step with the people we’ve met on our trip; you wouldn’t think the easygoing, friendly folk elsewhere on the island are capable of doing the sorts of things that are going on up there.

We put aside the heavy thoughts after a while though and enjoyed the luxuries that we are fortunate enough to enjoy, one of which was a tuk-tuk ride back to the house.

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