We got into Sri Lanka late, and then struggled to get money and taxi/transportation sorted. But the next morning, we were met with a magnificent breakfast
and then with an Uber driver with a smallish car who turned into a friend: Asif.
Asif insisted on treating us to fresh coconut water and corn-on-the-cob and other roadside drinks and treats along the way.
Our first day, we went up into the hill country where tea plantations (and towns) where British names abounded. Colonial residues everywhere.
The waterfalls were beautiful! The place we stayed was pretty gruesome, but we were very close to the church where Betsy, James’s infant aunt, was buried.
We were able to find her grave, meet the man who tends the graveyard, and visit the church.
The next day, we visited one of the tea plantations that J’s grandfather had managed,
and they sent a field officer to open the house up for us. He was so kind–inviting us back to his house for a drink of yogurt! (and the house J’s family had lived in was so big, in such beautiful surroundings!)
On we drove, through the hill country, down toward Yala National Park on the far coast. We passed some monkeys on the way–Asif offered them his corncob.
The safari camp where we stayed was (as promised) hard to find and a little off-putting upon first arrival, but the food was good, and we could see its charms more fully as we adapted to this new environment.
The nearby pond was a wonderful place for birding
and an early morning walk introduced us to our first land monitor.
Our guide picked up a peacock feather for us, and we marvelled at the iridescence of its individual strands and barbules.
We went on two half-day safaris, wanting to avoid the heat of mid-day. Our first sighting was a chameleon, right at the entry to the safari camp:
Within Yala, there were again many many different species of birds:
Our favorite was the tiny, elusive, brilliant bee-eater:
In general, we decided that trying hard to spot a leopard meant spending a lot of time looking at other jeeps,
so we asked the driver to give up the hunt. Still, we were lucky enough to be the first to see a large bull elephant in the bush.
Are you supposed to avoid direct eye contact with wild elephants? This one looked at us long and hard and then swung around to pursue us down the road as our driver reversed at relatively high speed.
Perhaps our favorite elephant sighting, though, was this small family group, which included a baby estimated at only 4 days old (hiding behind an older sibling in this photo).
Zoë took a highly pixelated shot of the baby, with its big sister grinning in the midst of a dust bath, which may not “read” well, but it makes us happy nonetheless.
More generally, though, we loved the quieter times at the camp itself, with the flowering bushes that foster the insects supporting bird life.
We loved the weaver bird nests
and the quiet of the dusk.
Then we were off again, this time to the coast for a little swimming and surfing action. We splurged on a beautiful beach-side hotel
where Jeremy and James spent hours building sandcastles and swimming skills
and all of us experimented with surfing. Chicken wing, lizard leg, up up up!