Thursday, January 10 was a travel day from the Manheim Hotel in tea country back to Colombo. Although the distance is only 200 KM, due to lack of highways, the treck took five hours. A stop was made for some tea and small eats as they call them here in Sri Lanka. I had the most interesting piece of pizza that required an additional slice; cheese, chilli pepper, onion, carrot, and other veggies.
Upon our return to Jehan’s house, final shopping was completed where I adopted a small wooden baby elephant to display in my home as a special memory of this trip. In addition, a wooden Buddha statue came home with me; it is the peaceful and serene version that was seen throughout my two weeks in Sri Lanka. A beautiful Buddha prayer bead neck lace was also purchased, a very special gift handmade by Jehan’s friend who owns her own jewelry store called 1948.
The highlight of the evening was dinner with Jehan’s cousins. Pictured are Chrishan, daughter Karin and wife Mihela from Dallas, TX and his other cousin Ravi’s family from Colombo including son Shael, daughter Shemiah, and wife Sanchita. The dinner was a traditional Sri Lankan meal (minus the wild boar due to some issues previously mentioned) that was delicious. I cannot wait to make a meal like this at home.
After dinner it was time to go to the airport. When it was time to say goodbye to Jehan, I will admit that I teared up and had difficulty expressing my gratitude other than giving Jehan a hug and a quick thank you. He made this trip so special; his hospitality was so genuine and he opened up his home to me as if I had been his friend for years prior. Thank you Jehan and thanks to Julie Rivinus who invited me to go to Sri Lanka to visit her Wooster College friend. What an amazing trip this has been.
Well, the hunter who was hunting wild boar for our farewell dinner was arrested so we had blackened pork curry with Jehan and his family instead. Afterwards, off to the airport and now in Paris waiting connection to Toronto. More details later.
Two days at the Manheim Hotel located in tea country. Unlike the beaches, this part of the country is very green and mountainous. Driving through this area involves a lot of hair pin turns and not for the weak stomach. Tea was brought to Sri Lanka in 1867 by the Scottsman James Taylor. Sri Lanka is responsible for 11-12% of the world’s tea and mainly produces and exports black tea.
The countryside houses several Hindu Temples that are decorated with numerous statuettes along its roofs. It is very common to see Buddhist priests in bright orange attire walking the streets amongst the people.
Although it represents a very short portion of this trip, a dedicated post on the Buddhist Temple is in order. This was an unplanned visit; Jehan needed a few hours to focus on work and the suggestion was made to visit the Temple. I had to drive there without Jehan but Julie and Jehan’s housekeeper Chintaka were in the jeep to make sure I stayed on the left side of the road. Both Julie and I had to make sure our legs were covered to enter the Temple so we both put on the wraps we purchased on the beach the previous day.
The Temple was (ready Joanne Vorih?) amazing. Very peaceful and serene. Although nobody spoke English, the artwork told a beautiful story and the various statues helped illustrate the teachings. Buddhism is a way of life where one does not overindulge on things including food, drink, work, etc.
From the main area, it was necessary to hike barefoot up the smooth rock mountain up to Temple where the priest awaited. There, he blessed both Julie and me via a traditional Buddhist blessing. After being blessed, time was spent gazing into the ocean and soaking in the breathtaking view. We later found out that the point we were standing on was the approximate location of where the priest stood when he saw the incoming tsunami that devastated that part of Sri Lanka. The location of the Temple is so high up that it was not affected by the tsunami of December 2004.
three days and two nights at Panthera Lodge, Jehan’s place in the outskirts of Yala National Park. It is an open home concept where you are sleeping under a roof on a great bed, covered in mosquito netting, and completely exposed to the outside…no windows, no screens, no nothing. It was some of the best sleep I have had in years
During this stay, a safari was organized in Yala. The wildlife was abundant and we were very lucky to see three leopards although my camera not good enough to get a shot worth posting. A small herd of elephants was encountered. Mama elephant wasn’t too happy and actually made a noise to let us all know to back off. She simply wanted her baby and her other kid to cross the road safely. Beyond seeing water buffalo, crocodiles, wild boar, etc., we did see an albino boar. Unexpected, rare, and totally cool.
Before leaving Panthera for tea country, Jehan let me take his jeep to a Buddhist Temple down the road. After hiking up a steep stairway, the shoes had to be removed and additional hiking was done barefoot, up the Rocky Mountain to the temple where I was blessed by the priest.
Limited internet access….wanted my family and friends know that I survived DRIVING Jehan’s jeep from Lagoon Beach to Panthera Lodge (OMG!!!) and have spent two wonderful days experiencing two safaris in Yala National Park. When I have access to WiFi for more than a few moments, will outline this adventure. Unbelievable. Leopards were seen, elephants were encountered, crocodiles considered my leg for lunch, and much more.
In the city of Tangalle, spending 2 nights and a secluded hide away with a private beach that has very limited access to people. After breakfast, took a long walk in the beach and then met up with Jehan, his family, and Julie to swim in the ocean. We found a gem is Sha Sha’s restaurant which is basically an ocean front shack run by three guys that serve the coldest beer along with the freshest seafood.
We were served an awesome lunch of prawns, red snapper, and calamari that was caught fresh that morning. The sun did peek out a bit and made for a fabulous way to spend part of the afternoon. From there, poolside and then getting ready for a dinner on the shore of the Indian Ocean. Apparently, the chef is preparing curry crab and chile crab, all caught fresh this afternoon. Tomorrow, off to Yala for a safari….hope the leopards don’t make a meal out of me!!!