After Adam’s Peak and the tea country we made our way down to Yala National Park. We woke up at 5:00 a.m. and hopped in our private Jeep for a safari through perhaps Sri Lanka’s best and most famous national park. One thing I liked about Sri Lanka is that at times I felt I was back in Southeast Asia, at times, Central America or Hawaii, at times India, and in Yala, it felt like what I imagined Africa to be jeeping through a savannah on a safari. The terrain was much different there from the rest of the country we had seen. It was flat with brushes and trees, muddy wetland and grassy fields, and huge dome rocks and boulders scattered about. We drove over the bumpy and sandy dirt roads and spent hours watching the array of animals. We were even fortunate enough to see the pride of the park, the spotted leopards. We rounded a corner and amid a clump of trees was a giant boulder flattened on top where two spotted leopards sat lazily on the warm surface of stone, their black spots in full view canvassed across their tan fur. They looked out to us as curiously as we looked up to them and then they slowly rose, turned about with their tails curled and walked calmly to the back side of the rock, hidden behind stone and trees. We drove off looking backward at where the leopards had been, knowing I would remember the elegant cats sunbathing on a cool dawn in Sri Lanka’s prairie land.
We drove all around the park, with birds arrayed in rainbows of colors flying above or perching on hanging branches all around us. I am not a bird watcher, but still am awed by their bright colored feathers and elegance, and enjoy their chirping songs and whistling tunes. Crocodiles swam in the waters of mud holes, ponds, and shallow lakes, or basked in the warm mud perfectly motionless, statues of coarse green nobs with cold mechanical stares and eyes that never blinked. I have never seen an animal lie so perfectly still as can a crocodile, and have often wondered and second guessed if the predators I have seen were ceramic or clay, seeming so un-life like in their stillness and silence.
We saw large wild elephants foraging trees and slowly stomping through dry forests. They nuzzled trunk to trunk in a tender touch of animal affection. They must have been long-time lovers, cuddling foreheads with the rub of rough skin. Perhaps it is how elephants kiss, or whisper sweet words in secret. We saw peacocks spreading tail feathers or perching proudly. We saw mongoose and iguanas, dear and wild boar, water buffalo, foxes and more. They rested. They perched. They sung and chirped. They cuddled and kissed, hunted and fished. They basked and they bathed. They stalked and they stomped. This was better than any zoo, any orphanage or shelter. This was no guarantee, no petting or touching, no feeding or riding, but only hope, and uncertainty, and excitement. This was real and wild.
I threw off my shirt and flip flops and ran out to the street and to the puddles where I belonged. It was my moment, and I lived it. We ran and jumped in to the ocean, the warm water washing over us as the rain beat and slapped and the waves lapped and crashed. We swam and talked with the groups of locals also enjoying the rain and watched their play and their dances to mamba drums. A group of local guys invited us over to chat and snack with them and they played drums and sang traditional Sri Lankan songs. They were wild and friendly and loud. I wrestled with one in the sand and down in to the water. It was a fun day, right up until one who had too much to drink became obnoxious and demanding and kept insisting I meet him later for sex. That is when it was time to go.
At night, we went out for a cheap dinner with a few others at a food stall and then grabbed a decadent desert on the porch of a nice restaurant with the waves of the ocean crashing against the wooden beams where we sat, entertained by the sound and the smell of salt and ocean. The next morning we drove out to another beach to try surfing. I didn’t do much, but I did surf and hit a few waves. I have surfed California, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Australia, Indonesia, and now Sri Lanka. That isn’t a bad list for someone who isn’t really even a surfer, despite deceptive hair and frame. Some aspects of my life are blessed. I have made them so. It is what I can control, what I can give myself. We continued to drive up all along the coast to Colombo. We stopped for walks along the coast and hopping lighthouse walls, sitting at the edge of cliffs and peering down to the ocean and rocks below. We watched Sri Lankan boys swim and wrestle in the calm waters, and spied a cricket match, the sound of cheers and the sound of waves a blended tune. We arrived in Colombo in time for a few hours of sleep before hopping on a plane back to the U.A.E. I stood out on the balcony in the dark of early a.m. saying my last goodbyes to Sri Lanka, to beautiful drives through tea plantations, sacred mountains and tropical beaches, and my last farewell, to this country called paradise, was a safari sayonara. Anyway, I tire, and am anxious to get caught up to the present date, so let us say fond farewells to Sri Lanka and get ready for the next adventure.