Elephants in Uda Walawe
We headed south to our only planned rustic outing and overnight, Athgira River Camp. Nearing our supposed destination, we drifted down a single stretch of dirt road, lying several kilometers from the park boundary. This scattering of shack establishments, all lining a single side of the road, contained no more than a couple of restaurants and tour operators. There was more dirt and dust than business in this town. After our driver dropped us off at an empty cafe and restaurant, we spoke with the seemingly proprietor hiding in a telephone booth of an office off to the side of the restaurant atrium. He calmly assured us another car or truck would come shortly and take us on the final leg of the journey to the river camp.
After another quick stretch of dirt paths, ambiguous turns, and deeper dirt and brush, we arrived at the river camp. A calm and serene grouping of canvas tents overlooking a slow turn of the Rakwana river. Presented a menu of American and European staples, we caved and ordered a grilled vegetable sandwich and french fries—then completely devoured that and ordered another eagerly. We both feel a need to experience the cuisine and flavors of a new country, but sometimes the thought of french fries can break a seasoned culturally-inclined visitor's will.
We then retired for some reading in our canvas tent and its accompanying wooden porch. We'd grown accustomed to the mosquito nets draping each new bed on our trip, although these pesky insects seemed much more attracted to Sid's blood than mine. At one point, she might have had ten bites on one thigh while I experienced maybe one bite over the course of the trip.
Our arranged safari vehicle arrived early the next morning, as it was suggested we leave by 6 am. After a predawn breakfast buffet with some much needed tea, we eagerly trucked toward Uda Walawe park. The guides are adept at filtering out throughout the park, past the single entrance. We saw a variety of endemic birds, hornbills and kingfishers, water buffalo, and many Asian elephants, but missed the elusive sloth bear. Our safari expedition was cut a little short because Sid's bladder was about to fail due to her religious hydration regiment, something we had difficulty communicating to our guide, but he understood after we returned to the park entrance and she sprinted towards the washrooms.
After our half day safari, we chartered yet another car to take us onward to Sinharaja Forest Reserve.