Pinnawala and the Beginning of Colombo

We arrived in Kandy a little disheveled and worn out from a long, hot car trip, but no worse for wear. Sri Lanka reminds me of Costa Rica a little bit; everything that you want to do is at least a couple of hours away. Anyways, earlier in the morning, we had decided to stop in Pinnawala to see an elephant sanctuary/orphanage because, well, we all love elephants. We first ventured over to a station where you could pet an elephant, and even feed him some pineapple if you paid a little extra (we opted not to pay a little bit extra). I got to pet the elephant’s trunk, and the texture was not what I thought it would be. It was hairy, coarse, and wrinkly. I don’t know exactly what I expected (I knew it wasn’t going to feel like silk), but I definitely expected something different. He seemed to be in good spirits though, as we all were. We moved on to another area.

We happened upon a clearing where there were a lot more people, with elephants grazing in an open field. Kasey had us take a picture of her in front of the elephants, and was then asked to pay for said photo. In this area, the elephants seemed to be in a somewhat natural environment, just living it up. On the other side of the path, there were elephants with some chains on them. I understand that they are still wild animals, and that you don’t want them going crazy on paying customers (probably bad for business), but it was still a little depressing to see. We moved on to the next station where we bottle-fed elephants, which turned out to be a very quick five-second experience where you put your hand on the bottle as the guy handed it to you. We left the area with more of a feeling of ambivalence than true joy. We weren’t really sure how to feel about the chains, and the spear that was used to coerce the animal into moving in a certain direction.

The true highlight of the morning was watching the elephants bathe. They were led in a group over to rushing rapids across the way, and in this moment they truly seemed to be happy. One elephant in particular, which had tusks, laid down on his side in the water and almost seemed to be smiling. This was the redeeming moment for me. I tried to record the elephants walking by the small little shop that we were in, but was too slow on the draw (I couldn’t get my freak phone out of my pocket). At this point, the temperature was really starting to rise, so we moved to a table with an umbrella and all we ordered a fresh Coke. I rarely drink soda these days for a wide variety of reasons, but there was something about sipping it out of a glass bottle on a hot day that was borderline romantic. We explored the shops a little more after this break, where many of the products touted the fact that they were made from 100% recycled elephant dung (I wasn’t sure how to feel about this either). Alas, we had to be getting on with it; today we start our fieldwork.

Once we arrived in Kandy, there was little time to waste. The team that we were meeting with had already been in the area for a few hours, so we had to grab our stuff and run. The first part of our trip was to explore a canal in Kandy that had since fallen into a state of disrepair. We hoped to formulate a plan for this canal so that it would one day be a public space that families could enjoy. I won’t go too deeply into this because I’m not entirely sure if it’s a sensitive subject or not. After seeing the canal, we decided to see Kandy Lake.

The lake was beautiful to say the least. The water was pristine, and there was actually quite a lot of fish in the water. I definitely wasn’t expecting this much wildlife in the area, and we saw a few birds, copious fish, and monkeys. It was unsettling at first to see the monkeys roam so freely, you weren’t sure if they were going to be friendly or not (they pretty much ignored you unless you had food to offer, which is pretty much how I act on a daily basis). I couldn’t help but think of Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield, the next town over from Reading, Mass (my hometown). There’s a beautiful lake there where everyone jogs or walks around on beautiful days. After walking for a bit and seeing a turtle (picture to follow), we decided to find a bar.

The hotel we found was called something like the Queen’s Hotel. It was a swanky place with a fifties feel. They decided to serve us, despite the fact that we were not actually hotel guests (they were not exactly thrilled with us). I was served a gin and tonic with a lot of tonic and very little gin (perhaps this was a form of punishment). We then discussed what we had seen that day, needing to debrief a bit and digest all that we had seen W/R/T the canal. We were all pretty exhausted by that point, so we paid up and moved on.

Kandy is such a radically different place from Unawatuna. Unawatuna was more or less a beach town (think Fort Myer’s in Florida, or really any beach town). It’s also much different than Colombo (Colombo is a tough city to compare, it’s just much more city-ish than Kandy). Kandy has a lot more personality, and a lot more stuff to do. Today was such a rushed day, and we are excited to get out tomorrow and see what the city has to offer. Plus our hotel offers complimentary breakfast and a four-course dinner (I didn’t know any place did that). I’m looking forward to the next few days, I hope that y’all enjoyed the read.

P.S. Photos are being a nuisance right now, will be posted later.

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