The Taster Journey – The Safari, Day Two

Ambalantota – Udawalewe

Starting the day in Ambalantota we headed towards the Girihandu Seya Vihara, this is the oldest temple we visited dating back over 2500 years, the relics inside were given by Lord Buddha whilst he was still alive and had recently become divine. We got a little lost as we did most days, so we pulled in to a little shop on the road side to ask for directions when we say the cutest kitten I have ever seen!!!

The size of your hand
The size of your hand
Swagger Cat
Swagger Cat
Sherard sharing the love
Sherard sharing the love

We reached the Girihandu Seya Vihara, which is right on the road side when heading towards Hambantota, you can’t miss it! This is a free temple and appears to be empty but then a gentleman walked up to us, his English was fantastic and he told us his name was Marasinghe and he was the curator. This was a great experience as he could converse so well we learnt a lot about this temple. He also told us that in other temples Sri Lankans will not try and explain to white people what the different things mean as they are embarrassed that they can’t speak great English not for any other reason. The relic at the temple was Buddha’s hair given when he was Lord Buddha before he had died and been enlightened. The statues surrounding the temple were 1500 years old, when entering the temple the frescoes dated back to the age of Sigiriya (1A.D), there were also Buddha’s footprints scattered around the temple.

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From here, we realised we were pretty darn hungry and so asked Marasinghe where there was a bakery, it turns out we were opposite one, happy days! We bought some sweet bread (a favourite breakfast staple), little cakes and some jelly sweets – very healthy! We then travelled back the way we came towards the B&B as we had to go inland via the A18 straight up, all the way to Udawalewe National Park. Along the way we stopped off at a truly awesome reservoir.

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When we reached Udawalewe, we pulled in to ask for directions to the turning off the A18 and into the national park where there was a safari tour available. We were informed by a gentleman named Indika, much to our disappointment, that the Tuk was not allowed into the safari (which wasn’t technically true as you can drive into the complex and jump onto a Safari Jeep from this point). Indika actually ran, and owned, a guesthouse that offered safari tours by jeep – the shabang. He showed us somewhere we could grab some lunch, called The Common Rose. It was a buffet style restaurant with rice, Dahl, green bean curry, ochra curry and two other veggie dishes, you could also order chicken curry if you wished, it cost LKR580 per person. Sherard had chicken curry and all the veggie trimmings where I still felt full from breakfast so enjoyed my rice and Dahl. As I hadn’t had much from the buffet the owner was kind enough to give me a cheaper rate than the set price. 🙂

From lunch Indika collected us and directed us, in Lucy, to his B&B, most definitely off the beaten track – pot holes the size of Tuk Tuks and windey mud and rock tracks. At one point the Tuk was on 2 wheels and pretty much threw Indika out the side, Sherard lost his flip flop, it was all very dramatic until we reached this little oasis named Palm Island. It was truly very beautiful with individual rooms scattered across green planes with a small lake in the middle.

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We met two other travellers whilst staying here, a gentleman, half English half Italian, and a lady who was Dutch. They had actually met on the plane, swapped numbers, went their separate ways and met up a few days prior to our meeting to do a bike and bus tour of the major sites in Sri Lanka. We met at the entrance to the guesthouse at 2p.m where we were picked up by a jeep to go on the safari. It was really just great fun being in the jeep and the sights entering the national park are pretty stunning, especially when you reach the reservoir!

We headed off into the national park where we saw an abundance of elephants, baby elephants, peacocks, buffalo, a jungle cat, kingfisher and toucan. As we are in Sri Lanka, Sherard and I are determined to use as much Singhalese as possible and so every animal we saw I asked our lovely tour guide Sanjeewaa what the translation was (phonetically):

Elephant = aliya

Baby elephant = ali petiya

Big elephant = locu aliya

Tusked elephant = eta

Buffalo = miharica

Peacock = monera

Jungle Cat = Kali Pussa

Kingfisher = Pili Hiduwa

Toucan = Caandida

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We finished the safari at around 5-5.30 and already darkness was setting in, however, the silly nonse that I am, I had forgotten shampoo and really needed to have a wash as I was feeling less than fresh from two days on the road. We headed out in the Tuc and somehow found a completely new way out of the jungle, than the way we had come with Indika or in the jeep, this was a little worrying, especially as we were convinced we had made the same turnings. We went to a local shop and picked up some biscuits and wash stuff. As we left I noticed thousands of what I first thought to be birds flying over head, we soon realised, however, that they were bats, which was really cool!

On our way back to the guesthouse we were so determined not to get lost we, in fact, got completely lost. We hadn’t got the phone number of Indika and couldn’t remember the name of the guesthouse. It was completely black outside and we were in the middle of the jungle, so we started to panic, as you do when you think you will be travelling around all night looking for your bed, then we saw lights – a Tuk! Quickly we headed towards them and found a guy driving towards us we said, “excuse me,” we were totally blanked and he drove on – what a douche we thought, but luckily there was another Tuk who stopped when we shouted. We asked about Indika and the guesthouse nearby, the man just smiled and waved for us to follow him into the darkness, we did. Low and behold he lead us 2 minutes down a road and we were there! So close the whole time without realising how foolish we looked – but it didn’t matter, we were back 🙂

We ate dinner at the guesthouse, pretty much the same selection we had for lunch, rice, Dahl and a number of different vegetarian dishes. We weren’t as keen on the food this time as you could taste the oil it was cooked in but we didn’t mind as the location was lovely and it was very convenient – having dinner in the same place and being picked up for the safari, plus the price was, again, very cheap, we were happy bunnies. We retired to bed after reading a few of the guide books, we had single beds and, unfortunately, no mosquito net. We asked Indika so he got his brother to instal one. We pushed the beds together and slept better under it. The mattress was bloody uncomfortable but it was cool and dry – what more do you need? Goodnight xx

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Please find a table of our expenses for the day for both of us below:

Breakfast and Cakes

LKR350

Lunch at the Common Rose

LKR1243

Water

LKR70

Safari

LKR9000

Ciggarettes

LKR390

Shampoo and Goodies

LKR450

B&B room

LKR1500

Dinner

LKR1550

Coffee

LKR150

Total

(£73.50) 14,703

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