Yesterday evening, I quite literally sank into my seat in the hired van which took me from the Elephant Freedom Project in Rambukkana to my next stop, Dambulla. I am not entirely sure why but I am positively shattered and the overwhelming sensation of peace and quiet in having a van to myself in which I didn’t have to make polite conversation with anyone trying to improve their English or ask and answer the same questions about my trip made for a nice change. Don’t get me wrong, local transport and the people you meet on it are of course all very enriching and part of the whole experience, but it is also rather enjoyable at times just to sit in utter silence and gaze out of your window as the landscape rolls by.
I was supposed to visit the EFP earlier last week but at the last minute I found out that one of the elephants was at a religious festival with its owners and the other was injured. Those who know me know how I love a change of plan (not) but I dealt with it rather well – if I do say so myself. I arrived by train on Friday evening and was greeted by an array of homemade curries and a mountain of rice. Absolutely delicious! After going to bed at 9pm and sleeping like a baby, the nice man at the project informed me that Manika, the injured elephant, was still unwell – no elephants for me, it would seem!
In any case, I had a lovely day on Saturday and enjoyed a glimpse of true Sri Lankan family life. They fed me plates and plates of food and still commented that I didn’t eat much, and I sat around reading my book listening to their daughter finish her homework. I also popped into the local school (private English class) to speak with the students who wanted to practice their linguistic skills and walked through sunny palm groves with them to a small ancient temple. Shortly after we arrived back home, we had a delivery – it was none other than Seetha, being delivered back from the festival on a truck! I was fortunate enough to go down to the river and give her a bath, one on one. She seemed so peaceful and happy to be back home, snoozing lightly as I scrubbed her hairy back. In the evening, before yet more delicious curry, the delightful project organisers suggested that I stay the following day for free and that they then contribute towards my taxi van to Dambulla, which turned out to be fab and saved me a 15min-tuk-tuk-2hr-train-2hr-bus journey!
The full elephant experience the next day was actually also great fun and I was joined by a couple of Belgian girls and a Dutch couple. We started off by mucking out Seetha’s sleeping area, which was interesting for want of a better word. Still-warm elephant dung in this heat is not the most pleasant thing to be hurling around! Anyway, having sucked it up, we then went for a leisurely stroll through the jungle, during which Seetha tried to eat everything in sight and delighted in rubbing herself against the rough trees, much like Baloo in the Jungle Book! Lunch was prepared by ourselves during our cooking class – potato and coconut milk curry, with the coconut milk being made from scratch – and followed by another trip to the river to bathe Seetha. And I wonder why I’m tired!