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1 December

Page history last edited by PBworks 17 years, 9 months ago

Thursday 1st December

Day Off, mostly spent travelling


We all meet for breakfast at 7.30, pack up the bus with all our luggage, pay our bills and are on the road at 8.45. A stop to get petrol and another stop to change travellers' cheques, but basically we spend the whole morning travelling, very slowly, on the playbus till 1.00 pm, when we eventually reach Tissa, our next port of call. Basically we covered 75 km in 3 hours of actual driving - averaging a not very encouraging 25 km per hour!


Slow motion excitement


It's Nat and John's first day driving the bus, and they did great. It may be that they will be able to speed up soon, when they have more confidence, but the bus really doesn't seem to go very fast. We have to travel pretty slowly anyway because we have to check that we are going to get under the electric wires that frequently criss cross the road (bearing in mind that Eshan apparently took out a main power cable on his way down to us from Colombo with the bus the other day!) Paddy is near the front of the top of the bus with the 'Y-stick', ready to lift wires if necessary, and Shane is standing near the rear of the top deck with a very firm eye on what is coming up ahead of us.

Apart from the wires, there are branches, palms and leaves to worry about - loud cries of 'branch' and 'duck' abound and we all bow our heads frequently. I sit on the right hand side of the top deck (Sri Lankans very sensibly drive on the left like us!) where there are less branches to worry about, and so do Jo and Roo, but Holly sits on the left, and seems to relish the excitement of it all, despite the risk of a palm leaf in the eye.


Stately progress


We are driving eastwards, inland - it is lovely to get into real countryside, after being stuck on the coast road for so long. There are paddy fields, and lakes and salt marshes, and we see lots of white egrets, a sea eagle, a kingfisher and more. It really is very beautiful, and travelling at this sedate speed is actually a very enjoyable experience as we are not in a rush to get anywhere today - if one was hurrying to get to a session, it would not be so enjoyable! We will leave plenty of time and spare to get to our session at Kindira tomorrow.


People are amazed by the bus - they have never seen anything like it before and they do a big double-take when they see it, with us all on the top deck, then they smile and they wave - it feels rather like a royal progress or being a triumphant football team being greeted by its home town. Women in paddy fields wave delightedly and so do children in school playgrounds, road workers, market stallholders and monks.


Remember the CW playbus?


Despite getting rather sore bottoms from the hard seats and bouncing along on rough, uneven roads, and stiff necks from ducking our heads under all the branches, it is a lovely and very happy way to travel - I fear though that the speed of the bus may make it impractical for touring. In a way, although the bus is a delight, it is a bit of a 'red herring' - unlike the playbus that we used to run in Somerset for schools and special schools, where children actually did different activities ON the bus, this bus is not used by the children - it is really a glorified furniture van, storing and transporting equipment for games and activity sessions. One or two brilliantly painted large vans with seats and storage space might do the job more efficiently. Children's World's playbus had badge and art workshops downstairs, and an 'environment' with a play or story upstairs (under the sea, in the forest, or whatever), and when they had participated in the play, the children left the top deck by sliding down a slide to the ground.


Only problem is you really have to man the top and bottom of the slide really well, and there is still a distinct shortage of staff to take over the bus when we leave.


Monkeys and pelicans


After hours of royal progress we eventually arrive at Tissa - a glorious approach of huge ancient trees bordering a road by a beautiful lake. There is room to park the bus in the hotel car park and we unload our luggage and settle into our rooms. The rooms are nothing special, but the position of this hotel, right by the lake, is stupendous. There is a small island about 300 metres away, covered in trees and dense foliage, and on the island are hundreds, if not thousands of white birds of different sizes - including some huge and majestic pelicans. We have lunch and then go and swim in the pool for a while. Suddenly there are strange noises, and to our delight we see 3 large adult monkeys, one with a baby clasped to its chest, leaping up the tree above us. At this moment 3 stately pelicans soar overhead in a V-formation. A very blissful moment!


I stayed at this hotel when Peat and I visited Sri Lanka in March with Mohan Samarisinhe to run a mini-tour of camps for tsunami-affected children. This hotel is really near the Yala National Park - last time we were so busy that we didn't have time to visit it, but tomorrow morning Jo, Holly, Rooben and I are getting 5.00 am alarm calls and are leaving in a jeep at 5.30 to do a mini-safari. We will be back by 10.00 in plenty of time to leave for Kirinda camp at 12.00.


A real pain


We have just heard that both the Saturday and Sunday gigs have not actually been set up, which is a real pain. On Saturday we want to work in Hambantota (which we drove through today, seeing the vast devastation that the tsunami created here) and if nothing has been set up then we will just head there and 'wing it' and do a session anyway, wherever we can. We passed a sheltered housing area, and I'm sure if we just set up and do it, children will arrive. And I'm sure that on Sunday we will be able to do the same thing somewhere on our way between Tangalle and Waduwa. Irritating - but we will overcome!


My 28 sand fly bits feel marginally less itchy today, and Jo's feel better too. I have been dousing myself with TCP, and this combined with my rose water scent and the citronella I am using to keep mosquitoes away, create a very weird melange of smells!


Any leopards - please?


It's 10.00 pm, and now the diary is up to date I am going to bed in readiness for a 5.00 am start for our mini-safari - what a treat! Roo wants to see a leopard - there are lots in Yala, but one is unlikely to see them outside of February to July apparently. Well, fingers crossed. We may have to pretend!


2 December

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