Vagabonding Field Report: Leopards and Elephants and Bears in Yala Park, Sri Lanka-Oh My!
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
A monitor lizard!! I wasn’t even in the park. I was just walking down the road, and I almost tripped over it. It was HUGE and scared me to death. I have been in awe of all of the different types of animals in Yala Park, though. Sloth bears, peacocks, a leopard and her cubs, elephants, monkeys. It’s incredible.
Describe a typical day:
On safari days, we leave at 4:30 AM, so that means trying to get to bed by 8:00 the night before. My hotel makes me a cup of Sri Lankan tea, and then we take a Jeep along the very bumpy road to the park. We almost die along the way from all of the cows that are in the road. The driver barely slows down for them and just expects them to move. When they don’t, we slam on the brakes. Entering the park is magical. The sunrise is gorgeous. I can’t get over the variety of the animals. Seeing elephants in the wild is so much different than seeing tame ones. I feel a mixture of awe and excitement as we drive through the park.
Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local:
At the end of the day, I thanked my driver for showing me so many animals. I told him that I was disappointed though because he didn’t show me a unicorn. He laughed, and said quite seriously, “It would be impossible to show you a unicorn. There is not one in the whole world.” I told him with a serious face that I had a pet unicorn at home. “You are joking.”, he said. “No, I’m not”, I said. “You can get anything in America.” We both burst out laughing. I find that no matter what language people speak, laughter connects us all.
What do you like about where you are? Dislike?
I love the variety of animals and the countryside in Sri Lanka. I very much dislike the food. I am very much a protein and salad kind of eater. Here, they don’t seem to eat lettuce at all. In fact, it seems they rarely eat any vegetables at all. When they do, they are very overcooked and covered in sauce. I also don’t like to eat a lot of carbohydrates. But here they want to serve you mashed potatoes and french fries together!! It’s also a lot of rice and roti bread.
I also had a tuk tuk driver try to scam me with a friend of his. His friend met me on the street, and told me there was a special festival I should go to. He said he would make sure I got a metered tuk tuk. When we got in, I asked where the meter was. “Up there.”, the man who I thought was my new friend replied. When we got to the destination, the driver tried to tell me I owed ten times what I should pay. I asked to see the meter. Of course, there wasn’t one. I paid the fair fare and refused to pay more. I had to scream in both of their faces first though because they didn’t want to let me out of the tuk tuk. Apparently these type of scams are quite common in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
What new lesson did you learn?
In Sri Lanka, I learned not to trust someone just because you think they are helping you. It’s sad because I felt like I had to put more of a guard up when I’ve usually been able to be trusting. I also learned that nature and animals will never cease to amaze me.
After seeing the tea plantations of Sri Lanka, I am off for a little R & R at the Sanctuary Resort in Thailand. Lots of yoga and salads, so I can’t wait. Vacation!