Sunday, July 16, 2006

The bus station was pretty crazy and I was glad that we hadn't gone alone. The St. Bens driver took us and said that he knew which bus we had to get on. When we got to the station, however, it was evident that he had no idea which bus it was. He asked around and someone pointed in the direction of a tiny, rectangular, white bus. We walked through the sea of people coming in and out of colombo. He asked them if this was the bus that would take us to where we needed to go, Udawalawe Junction. It was. He nodded his head at us and said, "Ok, good."
"How much?" I asked.
"Yes, Udawalawe Junction."
"No, how much will it cost?"
"Yes." Okay, that would be fruitless, so we just got on. It was a tiny air conditioned bus, nicer than most of the other busses. Fake flowers decorated the ceiling and crazy Hindi or Sinhila music blaired througout. We waited for a half hour and then were on our way. When we got there we were supposed to call a guy named Nishantha. His number was given to us by the man who took us to Hikkadua the weekend before. I called Nishantha from St. Bens on Friday.
"Hello? Nishantha?"
"Oh, is this Nishantha?"
"Okay, well your name was given to me about going to Udawalawe park?"
"Yes, ok."
"So... what... He said that you could pick us up from the bus station and bring us to a hotel, and then to the park the next day?"
"Ummm... at which hotel will we be staying?"
"No, which?"
I figured I would just ask a question that would be met by his answer. "So you have a hotel ready?"
"Okay great. Where should we meet you then?"
"Yes.... Get down at Udawalawe Johnson. Call me. I'll pick up." It was understood that if I called him he would pick up his phone, so I think he meant to say that he would pick us up.
"Udawalawe Johnson?"
"Yes okay, bye!"
"No! Wait! 'Johnson?' Really?"
"Yes, goodbye." And with that, he hung up. So if Nashantha was really going to pick us up or not I was uncertain, but I kept on. I asked Bro. Augustine about the Johnson part, it turned out he meant Junction.
The bus went on for about three hours. Just as I was about to loose all hope of ever getting there the bus assistant sprang up and poked me. He pointed to the street and then told the bus driver to stop at the corner. We leapt of the bus and it sped away. Then there we were, at a tiny town known as Udawalawe Junction. And that's all it really is, a T where two streets meet. Its about 50 yards big. In the center of the famous junction after which the town is named is a Bow tree with a statue of Buddha under it. It served as a traffic circle. Buddha, sitting under that tree reminded everyone that "All Life is Suffering," and to slow down.
"Okay so let's call."
I took out the cell phone and the crumpled up piece of paper on which the number was written, along with all of the candy wrappers which were in my pocket. We had no service.
"I'm sure we can find a place to call around here somewhere" Blair said. We looked around, it was right behind us. We went in and asked for a phone. Then I gave the lady the phone number and she called for us. I was expecting her to hand us the phone once someone picked up, but she had a nice conversation with Nishantha. She hung up.
"He'll be here." She said. The town was so small she probably knew him. We waited outside for about eight minutes. A guy of about 24 walked up to us and said somethings which I did not understand.
"So... you're Nishantha?" I asked. I thought I heard that name in there somewhere.
"No, he went to town, but I can take you." To town? We were in town, I could have yelled his name and he would have heard us.
"Okay then!" I said. And we followed him.
100 meters from the junction was the hotel. It had two rooms, the right one and the left one. Each had only two beds seperated by a plastic night table. We took the right one. We had sat down for five minutes when the power went out. The only light in the hotel came from the incense that was burning next to the statue of Buddha. So this Buddha said, "Become one with everything, except, don't hit your head on the low clearence door." Nishantha eventually showed up and droopped us off at a restaurant and it was arranged that a "took took" would bring us back.
"Six thirty, your jeep will be here." He said. We went to bed, Blair and Melissa slept in the bigger bed, I slept in the small one.

We woke up at six and were out by six thirty. The three, always shirtless, guys who lived at the hotel together, woke us up with some tea. We got to the park. Everything was mysterious and elusive as no one really spoke. We paid and then pulled into the park. We could see elephants at a distance. The guide that came with us told the driver to go offroad. We got close to a family of elephants. Then we got closer. We were so close that I could hear the elephant growling at us. IT came up to the jeep. No danger came upon us. We went on, spotting crocadiles, (the last thing I watched before I came to Sri Lanka was Lake Placid) Jackle, myriad birds, deer, and more elephants. I was never afraid of the wild elephant to which we came uncomfortably close. I wasn't afraid, that is, until one tried to attack us.

It seemed as if our safari was coming to an end when we spotted a lone male by the side of the road. We stopped. The elephant kicked some grass at us. Nothing yet. I took some good pictures. "Okay, we can go." I said. The driver turned off the car, assumingly to not disturb the already disturbed elephant which was ten feet away. It yelled its loud trumpet roar at us and then threw some dirt. It leapt at us but the guide yelled and hissed at it and it backed down. Trumpet call again. More dirt, another jump. We pulled away. Our hearts started again. It's a known fact that most deaths caused by animals in jungles are caused by elephants. More than snakes or lions or any animal like that.

The last elephant we saw was an old male who stood in the road. He walked off slowly as he was hurt. His hips were damaged by another elephant, or so I gathered from what the guide tried to say.

We were dropped off on the other side of the junction. We paid the driver (or rahter, Melissa and Blair did, as I was out of money for the day and the bank was closed). We waited for the bus. We took a public, non-air conditioned bus. Seven Hindu gods with flashing red, yellow, and green lights around them decorated the windshield. Hindi music blaired. It was a fun novelty, the bus, or at least it was at first. However, after standing for three hours on a crouded, dirty, hot bus, I was ready to get off. I got a seat for the last hour.

We got to the station and found a "took took" driver.
"De La Salle, in Mutwal?"
"Oh! I went to school there when I was kid!" He said.


At 3:53 PM, Blogger Peter T. said...

Hey Mike,
Glad to see you are doing well and that there wasn't a Deer Watch 2006 Part 2. Mickey Spillane died, so if you are ever asked "who do you think you are Mickey Spillane?" you can say "yes, he is dead and i have become him!" We all miss you here. We've sadly just been hanging out thinking of new reasons not to practice for the Marathon.
Good Luck and stay safe. Tell everyone i say hello.
So long


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