Our driver advised that we start early, for two reasons: Firstly, to dodge the standstill rush-hour city traffic; and secondly, to get to our midway stop at Pinnawalla Elephant Orphanage for feeding time at 9:15AM.
Shortly after leaving Colombo, as we gradually entered rush hour, things got nuts! The fact we were out of Colombo meant it wasn’t standstill, but there were times when I couldn’t help but think that might have been better – or at least safer. I mean, ever since we arrived I had thought the roads (particularly in the built up areas) were chaotic, but the combination of rush hour traffic, an early start and no breakfast all coalesced to have my anxiety on 🔥. Props to our driver though, notwithstanding a few near misses, [spoiler alert:] we completed our trip with no accidents and got home in one piece – except for my knee, which was my fault, anyway (read Day 10 – Unawatuna to Hikkaduwa).
It took a few hours to get to the Elephant Sanctuary, but it was well worth the early start. It made what was really a transitional day into a day of its own. On route our driver suggested an alternative, close by, where you can pay a few pounds (UK) extra and actually ride an elephant. In the end, a combination of my heightened anxiety and the morality of riding elephants resulted with us sticking with the orphanage. Notwithstanding the fact that even the orphanage had been subject to criticism over the years, it felt like it would leave us with the clearer conscience of the two.
We got there just before 9 and got to see a heard of Elephants in what seemed like a fairly decent size field. They were amazing animals to watch! After this, you head down to another part of the park to watch two babies being fed (milk). This is the part I understand had come under fire in terms of animal welfare, and I can see why, as they did seem a little on edge, hence the reason we didn’t pay the small additional fee to actually feed the elephant (AKA hold the milk bottle). Next, you have the opportunity to pay another small extra to feed an adult elephant a selection of fruits. Aside from the fact that I’m not certain how available pineapple and watermelon are to elephants in their natural environment, it was an amazing opportunity to get SUPER close to an adult elephant. Coming from Europe, which has to be the health and safety capital of the world, I was amazed that the elephant was essentially, free, in the public area, for people to literally put their hand in it’s mouth to feed it, with just a man holding a stick to stop the elephant running a mock. Even if you don’t pay the additional fee to feed the elephant, you are within touching distance and Amy managed to cop a feel of Nellie’s trunk (oi oi). Me and Amy thought this was it, but as we left our driver ushered us across the road to where they take the elephants to water and bathe in a nearby river. It was quite a different experience to what we had just seen, as they felt so far away, but it was a nice opportunity to see them in another, more natural environment.
Not long after we hopped back in the car, our driver stopped at a spice farm, on his recommendation. Having only known our driver for a short time at this point, it felt like a bit like a ploy to get money from tourists, since this wasn’t something that we’d asked to do. That said, the walk/talk about Sri Lanka’s local alternative medicines and plants was interesting and informative, and you didn’t have to pay anything, if you didn’t want. Although, after the free (awkward) massage, partial (unrequested) leg hair removal and cup of (actually, quite nice) cinnamon tea, you felt obliged to give something, even if you did manage to avoid buying anything from the ‘pharmacy’ (read: ‘gift shop’).
On arriving in Kandy, I remember feeling a little underwhelmed to be honest. I mean, it was ok, but nothing special. More than anything, I was surprised at how busy it was in terms of traffic. For some reason I expected it to be quiter than Colombo, and although it was less urbanised, it was about as hectic. All that said, now my head has processed everything, my memories of Kandy are a bit sweeter, but one night was enough.
We visited the Temple of the Tooth that evening, where we had a nice stroll around and relax in the tranquility of the temple and its gardens, before going to a local dance show in the evening. The show was obviously very popular, with a full room well before the show started, but the show itself was very average; not bad; not good; just average – worth the £3.50 (UK) ticket price, but maybe not the tip requested on the way out.
We hung around in Kandy briefly on the morning of day 4. Check that blog out to read about the Royal Botanical Gardens (a must visit if you’re in the area).
Read the rest of my Sri Lanka Stories, here.