#1  Q: Why Did the Elephant Cross the Road?    

Kinda Like "Warning: Deer Crossing"


Elephant Orphanage


Monkey Monkey In a Tree


A:  I have no idea, but it certainly was a slam-on-your-brakes, holy cow kind of moment!  Fortunately, my driver, the lovely and talented Mr. Roml, has far better reflexes than I.  He successfully avoided a pachyderm collision on the highway, while I was too slow to even snap a photo of anything but the windshield  (until, that is, I jumped out of the car and hpped up on a stump to get a better view of it munching the bushes by the roadside - kind of like some sort of giant moose.  A really big moose, but way cooler).

Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon, is elephant central.  They're all over the place.  Wild, domesticated, working, you name it.  Today I visited an elephant orphanage (seriously) and  I spent a good hour sitting on the side of a river watching  60 or so elephants playing.  It was amazing.  Lots of baby elephants who were having absolutely the best time rolling under the water, pulling each others's tails and frolicking about.  The adults were more mellow, hanging out, splashing themselves, and making sure that the babies stayed safe.  Oh, and the bottoms of the babies' feet are pink.

Right now, I'm in a place called Kandy, which is in the hills.  Very picturesque.  I'm staying high high high up above town, with a gorgeous view of the windy brown river (which 3 different people in the span of maybe 2 hours told me is the longest river in Sri Lanka) down below making its way through the jungle.  Right now I can hear a ton of frogs going beserk, as well as crickets (and the occasional, ubiquitous dog).  Fortunately, not too many mosquitos, although the staff here assures me that *their* mosquitos carry neither malaria or dengue.  Right.

However, as I was getting my tour of this lovely, idyllic place, walking across their funky tropical grass lawn, the manager uttered the sentence I really hate to hear "Watch out for leeches".  Oh yay.  I firmly believe that one "leech encounter" story is plenty for any traveler.  And I've got mine already.  In spades.  Plus, I've signed up for a stay in leech country next week, when I'm traveling to a UNESCO world heritage rainforest in the south.  So far, so good here, though.  Ugh.

Let's see, other fauna....millions of birds.  Gorgeous birds that look like enormous butterflies, hummingbirds, eagles, etc etc.  Big honking monitor lizards, little teensy geckos,  crocidiles (cute ones about 3-4 feet long - very cool.  From afar, anyway).  Ohmigosh, and  flying foxes.  Hundreds of them, hanging in the trees and squeaking.

And, of course, this being the tropics, there are also about a gazillion monkeys of all shapes and sizes.  Sitting on the side of the road, eating the mango offerings at the temples,  (apparently there are 16 varieties of mangoes here.  And 16 varieties of bananas, too)  While I was at breakfast the other morning, an entire troop of them came rolling out of the jungle, and put on quite a show, leaping from tree to tree and catapulting on to the roof of the restaurant.  Riotously funny to watch.A few more things and then it's time for bed.

I went to a place called Sigirya the other day.  It's kind of like a mini-Machu Pichu perched on top of a smaller version of Ayers rock. (apparently it's a magma plug, left over from some ancient volcano)  You reach it by climbing this insane metal staircase (like a cut-down fire escape kinda thing) which is somehow drilled into the side of this rock and just sort of hanging out in space.  Lovely.  Especially in the tropical rain - weeeee.  But well worth it.  Mr Roml said that there are 1300 stairs to get to the top.  Frankly, I was too busy looking purposefully at where I was putting my feet to really validate his count.  But it sure felt like at  least 1300.

Sri Lanka share quite a few similarities with Southern India, one of them being a lot of Ayurvedic medicine.   This means that virtually everyplace offers Ayurvedic massage.  It differs from western massage in a few ways:  1) The masseur uses about a gallon of oil per massage 2) There's no sheet 3) The massage is significantly more "full body" (without being X rated), and, consequently, only women massage women and men, men.  4) The head massage part lasts a good 15 minutes, and is done while you're sitting in a chair.  Wild.

So far, I've had two.  Each came with a special bath afterwards.  After the first, they plunked me into a tub full of reddish brown water and a bunch of fresh and dried leaves.  I felt like a big teabag.  The second one was a "flower bath".  It was oh-so-exotic-hey-I'm-in-Sri-Lanka - a big hot tub full of fresh jasmine, water lillies and some magnolia-looking things while the frogs croaked and birds sang outside.

Okay, finally: I've been staying in some really great places (Sri Lanka is where lots of Europeans come for beach-y and/or chi-chi relatively inexpensive vacations, so there are a ton of chi-chi -type places).  So I was staying at this painfully hip hotel a few days ago (Where I decided that there is a special place in hell for chi-chi hotel designers which build rooms with amazing bathtubs but do not equip them with the hot water-making capacity to fill them.  Boo hoo).  Brand new.  Individual villas set amongst actual rice paddy fields, alongside their lake, etc.  I had a paddy field villa, complete with my own plunge pool.  Which was great except for one minor thing:  There were actually villagers alongside my villa planting rice.  Sri Lanka is a very modest country, so there was no way I could really get into my bathing suit and use the plunge pool while the people were planting the paddies...

Okay, time for me to go to bed.  Tomorrow morning I'm heading farther south to go hiking at a place called, of all things, "World's End".  Sounds cool.  Hopefully no leeches.

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