We were woken up by the alarm clock at 5:05. I was so tired and didn’t want to move, but I had to. Our safari jeep was coming to pick us up in 25 minutes.
I got dressed, brushed my teeth, and got my stuff together. I introduced myself to our safari driver/guide, Milan, and we all (Swiss guy Cyril, American guy Dave, German girl Valerie, Adrian, and I) got going.
We asked Milan if we could stop somewhere on the way for food. He took us to a small shop selling a variety of traditional breakfast foods— roti, hoppers, string hoppers, daal, sambol, and a bunch of different breads. I got one roti and a package of string hoppers that came with coconut sambol. We bought so much food— I think over 20 items— but the total came out to less than 1000 rupees ($6) for all 6 of us. Insane!
We reached the Yala National Park entrance 30 minutes later and got out of the Jeep to pay the entrance fee. For a group of 5, we had to pay about 15,000 rupees, or $20 each. I thought it was odd how the price decreases the bigger your group is. I feel like Park entrance fees should be the same no matter the group size, but maybe there’s a reason for it.
Before we barely even got through the entrance, we saw some wild hogs and a mongoose. The mongoose was so cute and came right up to our truck and stared at us. I think it wanted some food.
We drove in and immediately noticed the amount of people. There were people walking on the dirt paths, carrying heavy loads on their heads. I assumed it was for the big festival (Perahera) going on, but I was confused why they were walking through the park. The amount of people increased to the point where there were dozens, maybe even hundreds, walking towards us. We asked our driver what was going on. He told us they are the Tamil people from the north, and they walk 200 kilometers once every year for the pilgrimage.
I was a bit worried that the people would prevent us from seeing any wildlife, but we turned into a different section of the park and there were no more people.
We stopped at a lake and saw a crocodile in the water. At first we could see his body, but he gradually submerged until you couldn’t see him at all anymore. There was a bird nearby (maybe a Cornish?) eating and slowly walking in the direction of the crocodile. We patiently waited, watching as the bird got closer and closer. Eventually it was right next to the crocodile. All of a sudden, the crocodile leaped out of the water and tried to grab the bird with its mouth. But it was too slow, and the bird escaped its death. It was really cool to see the crocodile just living its life and doing its thing. I’d never seen anything like that in person before.
See the entire drama unfold below…
Along the ride, we also saw a few more crocodiles, 2 elephants, a bunch of wild hogs, wild buffalo, jungle roosters, many birds (peacocks, Cornish, storks, bearded vulture), and deer.
We waited for a while at one spot for a leopard, but one never came. I was a bit sad since this park is known for its leopards, but oh well. We still saw a lot of cool animals.
On the way back, we saw no more pilgrims but we did see TONS and tons of trash everywhere. It’d be easy to assume they had been staying there for days, when in reality it was probably just one night. I couldn’t understand why they would completely trash their own national park. Maybe it’s a lack of education, but isn’t it also common sense? Why would you litter everywhere when you know there is wildlife all around you? It really made me upset.
We were back at the lodge around 11, and I was starting to get hungry. We had to decide if we wanted to stay there another night, or head closer to Mirissa beach to shorten the driving distance a bit. I thought the second option sounded better, so we decided on that.
The lodge owner prepared lunch for us, which was daal, some sort of green vegetable salad, red onion salad, and hoppers.
After lunch, we spoke with Hernando, the owner, and asked if we could check out a day early. He had no problem with it, which was nice.
We packed up our stuff and said bye to the 3 others, who were also leaving.
We were on the road by 12:30. The ride to Hambantota was pretty uneventful, and we arrived at our guesthouse at 2. We waited a bit for the owner to show up to show us to our room.
The place was right on the beach, which was really nice. But we couldn’t swim in the water since the waves were too crazy. So that kind of defeated the purpose of staying there.
We walked to town to get some fruit. There was a big market selling a whole bunch of produce. We got a papaya and watermelon, and then bought some crackers and chips from a small shop as well.
Adrian topped us his SIM card since he ran out of data, and then we made our way back to the guesthouse. We cut up half the watermelon and half the papaya and ate them on our little porch. The watermelon was sooo refreshing.
Adrian’s data wasn’t working, so we walked back to town to ask the shop about it.
The guy working there couldn’t figure out what was wrong, so he took us to a shop a few doors down and asked the guy working there to help us. Then that guy couldn’t help us either, so he took us to another shop. It was like a relay race, but instead of a baton you pass off the white guy.
The third guy finally figured out what was wrong. We needed to put money on the calls/text portion of the card in order to activate the internet portion. So we did that and it started working. Phew.
Back at the guesthouse, I blogged and Adrian napped for a bit.
Around 6, we did some strength training exercises. I wanted to do them outside, but there were a bunch of local kids playing soccer on the beach and Adrian was too embarrassed to do the exercises in front of them. I didn’t really care— they were just little kids— so I did them outside anyway.
I did some push ups, planks, back raises, squat jumps, and lunges. I knew the little boys were looking at me and laughing, but I tried to just ignore them. Then they started making sexual noises at me, and that’s when I really got pissed. These boys were probably no more than 13, and already they were acting like pigs. Why are boys like this??! Why do they think it’s ok?? Ugh.
I got showered and then we walked to town for dinner.
We went to a local restaurant and ordered fried rice and ginger beer. I wanted to try the ginger beer since I’d seen it everywhere. It was basically ginger ale, but a bit spicier than the western versions.
Our fried rice was special— it came with roasted carrots and potatoes (shaped like fries) on top. I’d never had fried rice like that before, so I appreciated the creativity. It was expensive, though. About double what we normally pay for a meal. Maybe that’s why the place was completely empty.
We drank a couple glasses of the wine, which we had bought in Hatton a few days prior, with some chocolate. Sitting out on our porch, listening to the roaring waves, eating dark chocolate, and washing it all down with wine… I felt so lucky. I was in my last few days of travel and was dreading the end. What’s life going to be like after this?? What am I going to do?