Sri Lanka 8 See-Saw Safari
Another day of ups and downs.
Possibly a large contributor to this was the fact that I had to get up at 3am as we were heading down to Yala National Park. I’d had a bad night sleep to begin with, filled with more crazy, heat induced dreams. Also adding to the fun was some idiot down the beach setting fireworks off until the wee small hours.
2:30 rolled around and I showered, chowed down on some Fruit & Nut and we all piled onto our bus.
Our driver bombed along the darkened roads at speeds approaching insanity, halfway there having to swerve violently to avoid an elephant. Yes, we finally saw one of the famed night elephants of Sri Lanka. But just two, another elephant was in the fields so it wasn’t quite the hordes we’d been warned of in Badulla.
I dozed for a little and finally we arrived at the halfway point, where we bailed out of the bus and onto the jeep.
I loved the jeep, the rugged simplicity, a dashboard pared down to the bare bones and I took up my seat in the shotgun position.
We arrived at Yala and I was buzzing, I’d never been on this kind of safari before, as I’m not sure Longleat counts.
Barely through the gate and we saw water buffalo and a wild boar drinking at a waterfall, suddenly the boar got jittery. And then we saw why. The muddy reeds shifted and breaking the surface was a long line of spines, a crocodile. The croc froze and seconds later the boar returned to the water’s edge, again the croc’s edging forwards spooked the boar but as our jeep moved on the dumb pig was again trotting back for a sip.
Driving around the park we saw more buffalo, a few more boars, deer, pelicans, storks, more crocs, an elephant and jungle fowl, which our guide explained were the national bird of Sri Lanka.
We drove on and on, and at this point my mood dropped.
I blame the tiredness, and the heat. The front seat had no cover and we seemed to spend most of the morning driving directly into the sun, meaning I roasted. It didn’t help that the engine by my feet was emitting massive amounts of heat. I was hot and crotchety.
It didn’t help that along with heat the engine was also pumping out unhealthy belches of petrol fumes.
Also up front I felt isolated, the guys were all in the back (in the shaded back, the bastards!) and chatting away, while all I had for company was our driver, who while nice enough wasn’t a great conversationalist.
It didn’t help that the main event of the park, leopards, were not forthcoming. We saw none. We did get into a minor traffic jam with the other jeeps because someone thought they saw a puddy-cat.
By now, I wanted to get out of the stupid jeep with the lack of anything car-like, the faulty dials and loose wiring on the dashboard and the boiling, fume belching engine.
Our driver provided a commentary on the animals we saw but I think David Attenborough’s job is safe “Big bird- Pelican” or “Coloured bird- Painted heron”, were the extent of his insight and repeated several times. If we had seen a leopard what would his comment have been? “Spotty cat”?
The heat was wigging me out. I tried to sleep and quite frankly, was on the verge of screaming if I saw another jungle fowl, which basically look like Elton John’s version of a chicken.
A dark thought entered my mind- I bet these trips were more fun when you could shoot things.
Finally we left and were dropped back at the restaurant where we’d caught the jeep and obviously where our minibus driver clearly recieved a kick back. We grabbed food and with some pizza, tea and coke inside me my mood quickly improved. Chatted a bit and then we got into the minibus.
My mood was buoyed by some Theroux and then I heard some familiar words- “Grease is the word”. Yes, our minibus driver was playing the Grease soundtrack, I sat there fighting the urge to sing along to “Summer Nights”, “Greased Lightning” and “You’re The One That I Want”. After these were various 50s songs, which is a type of music I love.
We grabbed a bottle of water at a roadside shop and with the CD over our driver switched to an easy listening station where seemingly all the music played was classic hits covered on a casio keyboard. Bizarre.
But even with the odd soundtrack I enjoyed the ride back, chatting a bit, reading a bit of the Australian version of Zoo magazine (which unsurprisngly given that Zoo isn’t that classy anyway and this was in the hands of Australians was pure trash) and enjoying the stunning landscapes that had been shrouded in darkness on the drive out.