Just had fantastic weekend of mini safari in Yala National Park. Met up with other volunteers in Tissa on Fri night and had a great house party in Will's house, which mostly involved dancing madly with lots of Sri Lankans to the sound of bongos and various bad dance music. Managed to lay off the arrack more than usual so didn't feel too bad on Saturday morning!
Went to Yala after lunch on Saturday and along the way, saw hundreds of pilgrims walking down towards Kataragama for annual Hindu and Buddhist festival. Most of them had been walking for days on end and were remarkably cheery considering! I wasn't quite as moved by this demonstration of humanity's ability to do mad things in the name of religion as some of my more spiritually-minded pals, but still it was an impressive site!
Safari then began and by the time the day was out we'd seen an impressive number of crocodiles, painted storks (which we promptly renamed pink-a**ed storks), mongoose (or is it mongeese), a cobra and, last but very much not least, a leopard cub - very cute!
We then made our way to our campsite and after much use of the 4x4 facilities on the jeep, eventually emerged at an idyllic little riverside spot where we pitched our tents on the beach and relaxed around the massive camp fire and barbecue prepared by our fabulous guides. An hour or two later we were very happy campers with a plate of rice, vegetables and melt-in-the-mouth fish - we all agreed it was the best meal we've had in Sri Lanka!
There was much arrack and beer consumption but not too much by me as wanted to be alert for 5am start the next day. Headed to bed about 1am and had a pretty broken sleep, including a few concerning rustles next to the tent and sounds of something big-sounding swimming in the river! Funny how you get quite sanguine about potentially being eaten by a crocodile when you're absolutely knackered! (don't worry mum, I'm sure there weren't crocs there really)
Next morning was amazing - because we'd camped we had park almost to ourselves and we were really lucky to come across a pair of leopards (male, female) at a watering hole just off the road. Magnificent doesn't come close to describing them, they were absolutely beautiful and so dignified - unlike us in our 2 jeeps frantically snapping away and jostling with each other like paparrazi!
We also saw a bull elephant wallowing in a lake full of lotus flowers and more crocs, a python and lots more birds. All in all a brilliant experience - and excellent value as the whole thing was about 35 quid.
The bus journey back to Galle was a bit of an epic with even more maniacal bus drivers than normal, but we eventually got back about 7.30pm Sunday, tired, weary, filthy but very, very happy!
This week I'm busy at work as my NGO has suddenly decided to make good use of me for my last few weeks and today will see my third strategic planning group meeting in the space of two days! I'm also doing bits and pieces with other NGOs so it's all good.
Love to all