What a way to start off the new year. Sri Lanka – It’s hot, it’s green and lush, palm tress, beautiful ocean, fruit and more fruit, it’s relaxing, and there are elephants. It’s like a vacation from vacation….if you can image that!
We started out in Negombo where we rang in the New Year. We had a small inexpensive room with a great view of the beach right outside our window.
We were awoken at midnight to fireworks that went on and on. So up and out of bed, a few steps outside our room and onto the beach, and we were surprised to find the most amazing fireworks display. Much bigger then any 4th of July celebration I have seen. (Well I take that back…Austin and Chicago put on pretty good fireworks shows!) The next morning the owners of the guest house shared a traditional new year custom. This is an auspicious time when Sri Lankans boil milk in a clay pot on a fire until it froths to the top and overflows.
This signifies an abundance of success and prosperity in the upcoming year. David and I had different ideas about success and prosperity. I am thinking this year will bring spiritual prosperity. We spent time walking the beach, exploring the local market (clink on this link for a video at the market), and eating great food.
Next we ventured to Galle and stayed in Galle Fort. The Gall Fort or Dutch Fort as it is also known, is a fortification first built by the Portugese on the Southwestern coast of Sri Lanka. The initial fortifications, which were built in the late 16th century, were quite basic. However the fort underwent extensive modifications in the 17th century by the Dutch, making it one of the most important archeological, architectural and historic monuments to illutrate the European influence in South East Asia between the 16th and 19th centuries. According to a statement by UNESCO the site was recognized as a World Heritage Site for its unique exposition of an urban ensemble which illustrates the interaction of European architecture and South Asian traditions from the 16th to the 19th centuries which is the criteterion number four for such recognition.
Now Galle Fort is a quaint tourist area with restaurants, shops, and the old fort wall to walk and explore. We stayed at a guest house a short walk to the lighthouse and beach. What a treat to take afternoon swims in a warm ocean! We sat and watched peaceful sunsets. We visited the Peace Pagoda. And, the fruit was incredible. Passion fruit is David’s new favorite!
Next stop was Udawalawe National Park. I love elephants and what a dream to see them in the wild! I am not a fan of zoos or animals in captivity. It was AMAZING! The ride itself felt a bit like my younger years four wheeling in Weare and Henniker but the views were quite different! We saw over 50 elephants, a herd of water buffalo, numerous unique colorful birds, lizards, and lots of peacocks. Sri Lanka has the highest density of elephants in Asia. Elephants are among the most intelligent of all mammals, the communicate largely by touch, live until they are about 70 years old, and they are vegans. Click on this link for a little video I took of the elephants. The jeeps would shut off the engine so we could just sit there in silence and watch and listen to the elephants and other animals. It brought me to tears just watching the elephants and water buffalo. Really. What an unforgettable experience.