Uda Walawe

Into Africa
Deniyaya, Sri Lanka

 


After another amazing breakfast of curd, syrup, fruit and egg hoppers looking over the waterfall, we were off.

Today we’re being rich tourists.

And have a driver for the day.

To fit everything in today and get to where we want to go, it would not be possible to do it all in one day via bus. So we didn’t have much choice.

Our first stop was a nearby tea factory – Uva Halpwette. It was closed yesterday so we are squeezing it in today! It’s the largest in this area and is able to process up to 5 tonnes of tea per day. There are 5,000 pickers who bring their leaf pickings (2 leaves and 1 bud!) here and are paid by the kilo.

Usually women are able to pick around 25kg per day and are paid around $3 per day. This factory is huge – especially compared with the very small one we went around earlier in the week, outside of Kandy. They had around 20 drying machines, 8 rolling machines and several drying machines.

The same process is followed – same rolling and drying methods. Each huge bag of tea ends up at the Colombo auction and sells for just over £300, depending on the quality. We tasted a variety of different leaf shapes and strengths.

Then the journey South.

Sad to leave Ella behind.

We drove for 2 hours around winding roads through the hills and countryside.

I felt quite ill. Around 12pm we arrived at Uda Walawe National Park.

The entrance fees here are high – 6,000Rp for 2 people (£28) plus 4,000 for a jeep (£19). We had a whole 9 seater safari jeep to ourselves!

The park is 308 square kilometers in area and is spread over a forest and a lake/reservoir. And apparently around 500 elephants here. That’s what I wanted to see – lots of elephants!

The roads were very bumpy. Even in our safari jeep. It felt just like being back in Africa – and just like Chobe National Park (in Botswana). The scenery was so similar, less a few zebra and giraffe.

The park was unexpectedly tourist-quiet.

During the 3 hour drive we saw only 2 other jeeps. It was nice to have the place to ourselves! Everyone else that we have met along the way has gone/is going to Yala National Park. Consequently that one is apparently really busy.

Yala is famous for its leopards. I saw leopards in Tanzania so not that bothered.

We saw: Several monitor lizards, Chameleons, Mongoose, Lots of buffalo – and lots sitting in puddles! Alligators, Langur monkeys, A wild cat – apparently these are really rare Lots of peacocks, sadly none with open feathers, Lots and lots of birds – so many I can’t even remember, or even know the names of them – storks, hornbills, heron, pelicans, eagles (3 types). And many more.

I was so busy looking at a peacock that I didn’t notice the elephant sidle up along side us! A lone male.

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We saw several large, lone males. But the females were proving harder to find. Eventually we came across a couple, then a couple more, then a herd of 10. In total, we saw 22 elephants.

One of them was a small male with 2 large tusks – the guide said that in the park there are only around 10 males like this. It was really fun. And just like being back in Africa!

Sadly it was soon over, but I was pleased with what we saw. And it was back to the car for a few more hours of driving South.

We hadn’t eaten anything and it was now 3pm, so we asked the driver to stop off at a bakery and we bought a few ‘short eats’. More triangle soft roti with spicy vegetable fillings. Nice!

As we headed further to the coast, the hills were replaced with rice fields. And lots of them.

We finally arrived in Mirissa at 6pm. Just as the sun was setting and the sky a lovely pink colour. Sadly we didn’t have enough time to run to the beach to watch.

Maybe tomorrow then. Just as soon as we had had a shower and ready to head out, it began to pour with rain. A little while later it still hadn’t eased off. So we headed out anyway.

Torch and umbrella in hand. And got soaked.

The roads turned into huge puddles. Buses speeded past and I had waves of water passing over me. Not fun. It took ages to find a restaurant. We ended up on the beach in a small beach restaurant. The food was disappointing – really the first rubbish food we’ve had. The rice had far too much garlic I couldn’t eat it, otherwise would be ill. Disappointing.

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