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2 December

Page history last edited by PBworks 18 years, 3 months ago

Friday 2nd December


Wildlife Park, Caterpillar Freak-out and Kirinda School


Luckily I woke up at 4.30 and was therefore not too alarmed by the 5.00 am “Good Morning Sir” alarm call I had ordered. I had ordered alarm calls for Holly, Jo and Rooben too, but apparently their rooms don’t have phones, so the hotel staff hammered on their doors, which woke all the members of our party, which didn’t go down too well at all, especially with Paddy and Charlie who had decided they would rather sleep than go on a mini-safari this morning (silly beggars!)


Sleepy animals


Holly, Jo, Rooben and I have arranged to meet downstairs in reception for tea and coffee and to collect our packed breakfasts and bottles of water for the mini-safari, but the entire ground floor is in darkness and we sit for quite a while before everything arrives. We slurp down our caffeine and potter out to the road, where our jeep (£12 for all 4 of us) and driver is waiting. It is still pitch dark and we head off on the 45-minute journey to Yala National Park. All the animals seem to love sleeping on the road (I assume because the tarmac retains the heat of the day during the night?) and there are endless dogs and cattle on the road - but our driver obviously does this drive every morning and the animals seem to know that they have to move, so actually it is not as dangerous as it first appears.


As we drive dawn starts to break, and before we even reach the park proper we see peacocks - I have never seen peacocks in the wild before - normally you just see them strutting around English stately homes, and to see them just sitting in trees or standing on the road seems really strange. One was just a little way off to the side of the road, with his tail fully out, with his back to us. “Oh please turn round”, we whispered, cameras at the ready, and, believe it or not, he did, slowly turning in a full circle to show us his magnificent patterns and colours.


We arrive at Yala National Park at about 6.30 and pay £10 each (and no charge for 5-year-old Roo) and a uniformed guide leaps into the back of the jeep and off we go.


Buzzing with excitement


Even if we had seen no animals it would still have been worth getting up this early for the sheer beauty of the surroundings - but we saw so much: jackals, peacocks, hornbills, monitor lizards, water buffallo, mongoose, spoonbills, ibis, eagle, deer, wild boar, bee swallowers and more. We waited for ages to see elephant, and eventually met some, including a baby. It was really wonderful, and we were buzzing with excitement when we got back to the hotel at about 10.30.


A quick badge-centre cutting out session, and then it’s time to leave for Kirinda at noon. After our experiences of yesterday with the slowness of the bus, we feel we need to leave lots of travel time, just in case.


We head off with John driving and the rest of us, save Charlie who stands on the lower platform, on the top deck. The view is glorious as we start the drive along the edge of the magnificent lake, covered with lotus flowers. There is a beautiful, very large stupa and temple, and then we turn left down the road to Kirinda.


Mind the overhead wires!


The electricity and phone wires are pretty low, and Paddy and Shane are at the ready with the Y-stick and the broom, but we just manage to pass beneath the wires each time, though we have to take care to duck our heads. Some bats were not so lucky - we see at least 10 dead bats stuck to the electricity wires.


Then there seem to be more and more trees with low branches, and they are hitting the top of the bus, and we are all having to cower down in our seats to avoid being gouged. A large branch falls off and gets stuck under our undercarriage. After a particularly low tree where the branches and foliages had really bounced along touching us, Roo says, “Oh look, there’s a caterpillar” and indeed there is - green and very hairy and with strange bumps along his back. We are quite interested and having a look, when Percy and Shane (the Sri Lankan members of the crew) swat the caterpillar and kill it, saying that it’s poisonous and gives a nasty rash. At this stage we suddenly notice that Percy has at least 10 caterpillars on his shirt, so we swat them off him, and start looking around more carefully and discover, to our horror, that there must be at least 60 caterpillars on the top deck, many of them actually crawling around on us. We are all inspecting each others’ backs and necks and getting a tad hysterical. Natalie uses her walkie talkie to tell John to stop the bus, and we all get off and have a really good look. Nobody seems to have had them on their skin thank goodness, but it really was quite a frightening experience. This bus is going to take people into very close contact with nature - rather closer than one would like really! Say it had been a nest of hornets that we had dislodged, it could really have been quite dangerous! They are going to have to plan routes for the playbus very carefully, or people just won’t want to travel on it!


Gather the children


Despite the caterpillar drama, Kirinda is not as far away as we had thought, and we get there about 1.00pm. We stop in the middle of the village to get directions. The camp we are meant to go to is down a side road, and the electric wires are just too low - there is no way we will get down it safely. We see a small and shady courtyard belonging to a Muslim school. It’s Friday and all the men are at the mosque for prayer, but as soon as they return, we hunt out the head teacher and ask if we may use his school. He kindly agrees, and someone is sent to tell the camp children to come up to this school at 2.30.


We use a raised classroom as our backstage space and set up the show in the yard, where there are trees and lots of lovely shade. It is tremendously hot nonetheless and we are all dripping with sweat. There is great excitement in the village, and children and parents start to arrive till we have an audience of around 230 children and 150 parents. They absolutely love the show and find Charlie, particularly, incredibly funny. He has worked out a nice, new little routine involving umbrellas, where he constantly gets rained on - we envy him being wet and cool!


Three parachute games are run during the break in the back field, with great success - John and Natalie running their own games and gaining in confidence. Then it’s the second part of the show which works very well. The children and their parents have really enjoyed the afternoon and we are very pleased with how it has gone. We know we have to leave at 5.00 to be sure of getting back to the hotel by 6.00 before dark - we really can’t risk travelling once it starts to get dark or we will get clobbered by trees and wires. As we pack the bus, John and Natalie try to give out the yoyos - it descends into chaos. It really is very hard to give things out with any calm order - I feel that presents, if one is to give them at all, should be given to the head teacher or camp manager to be distributed after we have left really. I think John and Nat may come to this conclusion themselves soon.


Fried bat to the right!


Huge wave-off by the children and off we set again, down the road with the ridiculously low trees, the call of “Bug Check!” alternating with cries of “Low wire”, “Branches!”, “Duck, duck, duck!” and “Fried bat to the right!” A few bugs fall on us, but we are very alert about it after this morning’s shock, and escape being stung or anything.


Jo lies on the floor of the top deck and takes a video of the proceedings, which should be tremendously funny.


Back to the hotel just in time, before there is the most incredible thunder and lightning storm and a complete deluge of rain for about an hour. We watch hundreds of huge bats making their way from the island on the lake over the hotel to the rice fields.


Dinner and make plans for tomorrow. Aruni has not set up a proper session for us, but we met a man at the school today who works for Unicef in Hambantota, so we hope he is going to arrange something. If he can’t we will just head there and set up in one of the camps and “wing it”. Early to bed again as we have arranged to meet for 7.30 breakfast and make an 8.30 start.


3 December

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