This non-research of mine has lead us in some really interesting places such as this one. After checking out all the highways and by ways and always within minutes of the hotel we eventually happen upon the correct junction to lead us there. The hotel has an open veranda style restaurant overlooking the pool and the lake immediately beyond. We are shown to our room which is huge. We enter through our private veranda and double patio doors which face onto the lake. On the back wall of this vast room is the vast bed (well it's big). So if modesty and discretion are not your thing you can leave your curtains open at night to wake to a view of the lake and sunrise in the morning. Five in the morning sunrises that interrupt a good sleep are really not on my bucket list. Now strolling home from a summer gathering where the raising sun tells you its time to go home is a totally different mater and would usually merit a cup of tea on arrival to accompany with the dawn chorus; that cannot be beaten. This is a stunning location and we had booked to stay for a few days which I anticipate wont be too much of a trial. The hotel isn’t very busy and of the people staying they are mainly families.
Viewing the bats by the lake
There is a pier that runs out into the lake a short distance but it wasn’t in very good repair. Some of the planks were clearly rotten but I ventured out on them anyway with some advice from an Indian family staying at the hotel that I met along the way. The father was a barrister from Delhi and of his two sons one was studying law while the other was planning a career in IT when he finished high school in a year's time. The father was so proud of his sons and who could blame him. They were all so relaxed and enjoyed each others' company it was such a lovely thing to see. I wondered if these boys had gone through that rebellious stage where your parents know nothing or was it ahead of them yet, or perhaps in their culture those lines are never crossed. Either way these were not questions I asked as we all enjoyed the joy of the moment. As we made our way onto the pier they told me which planks were safe to walk on and which were not, judging by the different depth of colour along the boards. The board walk was quite high allowing for the passage of great big buffalo who enjoyed wallowing in the mud at the end of their days work. The worst that could happen is if the pier broke and then being covered in mud and possibly needing assistance to get out, "ah sure wouldn’t it be a bit a Craic". It was worth walking on the sketchy planks just to watch the giant bats fly inland in the evening. Those bats looked like winged foxes and were of a similar size. As the sun descended hundreds of the flying beasts would sweep in low over the hotel. If they stepped up in front of me in vampire form I wouldn’t have been surprised. I found it hard to believe these fruit bats only ate fruit. It was dark by the time we had finished watching the spectacle of the bats and impossible to see the way back but the Indian family waited for me and guided me every step while lighting my way with their mobile phones. I never cease to be amazed by the little courtesies given by strangers. Its not a bad world out there given half a chance.
Buffalo relaxing in the water
Safari in the National Park
The main attraction of this area are the Safaris in Yala national park. The early Safari requires you to get up at 4 am which I really did not fancy. The idea of bouncing around in the back of a jeep in the dark catching intermittent glimpses of startled animals' eyes peering out from the dark didn't appeal to me at all. So we booked our trip for midday which is the hottest time of the day in this part of the globe but it is a covered vehicle with open sides so feels pleasantly cool. The seating area of these jeeps is about 8 feet off the ground so wild animals would have to be pretty determined if they want to attack us. The creatures would need a ladder to get into our transport so wasn’t expecting any near death experiences we have all become so familiar with on YouTube. Our lovely guide picked us up from our hotel as arranged. Many of the tour operators offer that service which saves messing around with pickup locations. He was great craic and we found we got along very well as he seemed to get the Irish sense of humour. So what’s the Irish sense of humour? Guide; “No hanging out of the jeep trying to pet the tigers.” Irish guest (in an incredulous voice); “Excuse me! I signed up for a near death experience, what am I supposed to do with the steak in my bag?”. The correct response from the tour operator is to laugh any other response means they just don’t get it and you are required to tell them you are joking. Some guides I might have to jibe them four or five times until they get to the point where they laugh rather than ask if I’m joking. I usually take pity on them and follow my witty remark with an “I’m joking” at least until they have adjusted to the theme. I can never let a good line go. I have been known to interrupt a conversation in the most inappropriate times rather than let a good laugh go, but I always apologise.
We drive for about 30 minutes before arriving at the entrance to the national park. The drive did bring us through the town which turns out not to be too far from the hotel and has a number of shops there including a bakery, God but I'd kill for an Éclair. The country side is very lush and green which is surprising considering the heat (about 30 degrees celsius). Channels run by the roadside and are as broad as canals. Just like the canals at home on a scourging hot day where people take to swimming in them, here its swimming, washing, and playing in them. As we pass through the town secondary school children are heading home for lunch and in their excitement at seeing tourists again they all wave and smile at us and of course we return the gesture. Tourism is a big part of the economy in Asia. The past two years with the absence of tourists has borne a heavy toll on these countries economies. We always get a generous welcome wherever we go in this region.
Not the first time I have been mistaken for Russian, cant see it myself, open to suggestions and insights in the comment section, nothing rude! The park is huge and you can travel from open plains to thick jungles. Each area brings it's own surprising inhabitants. There were the beautiful families of elephants which we stopped and took time to admire elephants. The sambur deer which are prehistoric in size, dwarfing any deer species I have ever seen and making our Phoenix park deer look miniscule. Buffalo wallowed in deep mud pools so that only their heads were visible. The king of the lizard world, the land monitor, making his way around this landscape and in so doing scares the monkeys into the trees where they screech their warning to the other creatures. Wild hogs which for their stumpy size are brave enough to charge the jeep into moving on. The huge crocodiles moving silently and pre-emptively through the water to catch its inattentive prey. A leopard prowling through the low shrubbery in view of the flashy peacocks. We make our way over many tracks. Occasionally we would cross the path of other tours just like ours but mostly it was just Róisín, myself, and the guide. All of a sudden the jungle opens to reveal a beautiful white sandy beach and the crashing waves of the sea. It was as if we had come across an abandoned fishing village. There were a few one roomed cottages just back from the beach and within the tree line. Outside these cottages were fishing nets blowing in the wind but not a soul to be seen. Our guide told us that these cottages were used by the fishermen to store their equipment when not in use. The final part of this trip took us to Elephant rock a fitting finish to our day. As we headed back to the hotel I saw a man by the side of the road helping himself to a bunch of bananas growing in the park leading me to think that perhaps bananas are the blackberries of this part of the world. I have yet to find the answer to that question.
On the matter of the tailor. As I mentioned in the previous article I didn't get time to look at the items before I paid for them. How could I not trust her she was just so friendly. So off we travelled to our next location, looking forward to try on everything when I got there. On arrival I opened the bag to reveal my prizes. Of the three blouses, only one was made of the material I picked the others were made of a man made material and not the cotton I requested. Linen shorts and trousers were not awful other than the white material was sewn with black thread. But the best of all was the length of fabrics she had given me. I still have no ides what she thought I would do with that.
Our safari guide organised our driver for the trip to Ella the following day. After our breakfast we checked out of Tara Watergate with a thank you and a goodbye to the lovely staff. To our surprise the manager had organised a packed snack box for our journey. The box of cake and fruit was a great addition to our journey and an unexpected kindness.
Hi, I'm Olive and I am the writer of this blog. I am traveling the world with my 22 year old daughter, Róisín, who has just graduated University. I wanted to document this journey because it is unusual for a woman of 58 years old to go on adventure that most students do on a gap year. I will try to share my insights into this epic journey with you along the way and maybe inspire more people my age to go on these crazy adventures too.