We are staying at Wilpattu House with the wonderful Sereno and his wife Kumari as our hosts. Sereno treats us like good old friends he is happy to see again and we indeed feel at home straight away. It might have to do with the fact that he knows “Westerners” very well as he had actually lived in New York for many years and only came back to his native Sri Lanka a few years ago when the Civil War drew to an end. He decided he wanted to live a tranquil life in a rural area and found a beautiful spot near Elawankulam village, close to Wilpattu National Park which ich famous for Leopards, Sloth Bears and Barking Deers. Hence, the occasional visit from a wild elephant is nothing out of the ordinary.
This is a fantastic place to relax and unwind, find back to one’s own pace and recollect thoughts by sitting still, observing animals in their natural environment and letting the mind wander.
Sereno takes us on a short walk into the bush (around here is considered the “dry zone” of the country although it’s still very green around due to the many lakes in the are – and Wilpattu means in fact Land of Lakes) where we spot monkeys und beautiful colourful birds. And then – WILD SWIMMING!
Wow, I throw all my concerns (that I only have b/c I’ve heard too many horror stories from people who most likely have no idea themselves) overboard and abandon any theories of crocodiles and other “dangerous” animals. Sereno knows these waters very well, he even guides us to “feel” an elephant’s footprint in the loamy, argilliferous ground under water! *What an experience*
The next day we go on safari in the morning and then late afternoon for some elephant watching and that’s quite an adventure. A wild boar yawning at us at sunrise, the Ceylon junglefowl (Sri Lanka’s national bird) busily going after its own business and the famous peacocks all over the place. We almost see a leopard, twice 😉 We do see the very fresh poo-poo of a sloth bear and we watch an elephant bathing, that’s pretty fun.
In the late afternoon, this is when the elephants come out of the bush. We go together with Sereno to observe a small community with females and little ones (elephants are led by the oldest and largest cow who is the matriarch) and then we also see a lone male. When it starts flapping its ears, Sereno becomes quite nervous and urges us to leave before the elephant start running into our direction;) There’s also a story he tells us about a previous guest who brought along a big camera with tele lense to photograph the elephant. The grey giant felt extremely uneasy because it apparently reminded him of the war and also poachers who are shooting at elephants. Another proof that elephants have an extremely sharp long-term memory…
And Sereno is right, in our Tuk Tuk we might not be in the most secure position when it comes to an angry elephant who may feel threatened by our presence.
Tuk Tuk – a rickety-looking three-wheeler – is the national vehicle of Sri Lanka. There are about 1.5mio of them around all over Sri Lanka. They are equally used as taxi, family car, delivery van, etc. 😉 …and supposedly they will even make a move to go green in 2018 with electric vehicles starting to come onto the market. Sereno is a great conversationalist, we learn so much from him about the country, challenges of a small-scale agriculture, some aspects of the history and culture of Sri Lanka and even learn to eat with our fingers in a cultivated way. I have the honour to try and summarise here:
- use your right hand
- don’t let food get past the second knuckle or onto your palm
- using your thumb to push the food into your mouth
- don’t lick your fingers after eating – wash them before and after eating
It’s been a awesome time with our hosts and exploring the secluded flora and fauna around Wilpattu National Park together. We really enjoyed the long conversations with Sereno and are grateful for the splendid travelroute we worked out together, tailored to our ideas and style of travelling. Now, on the the next adventure up north! *stuti and thank you*