• Tara B. Vasi

Day 19, 20 Sri Lanka: ROAD TRIP, Whale Watch, Yala National Park, Ravana Falls, 9 Arch Bridge, Ella

Updated: Dec 16, 2019

The one where I complain a lot.... I‘m incredibly grateful for this entire experience, I swear, but we have been back a few days, and I am still so hungover from this road trip.

If you didnt know, I get really bad motion sickness in cars. I always have, even if I sit in the front seat. I’m sure my parent just thought I was being a whiney brat all those times we drove to NJ or NY as a family, but, I promise you, it’s a real thing... even if I don’t look at my phone. Sri Lanka is the work travel sick I have ever been in my life. driving anywhere is seriously stressful. Drivers are on their phones. Drivers are drinking and driving. Drivers go unnecessarily fast, are constantly changing lanes, and pass cars going head on into on coming traffic and swearing back into the lane at the last second. They speed up only to slam the breaks. There is so much beeping. So much beeping, even worse then Vietnam. The pace of Sri Lanka really gets to me sometimes. Because of the car sickness and I guess my sensitivity to NOISE, I feel like I am nauseous the majority of the day because we are always coming and going and its always SO LOUD! This is physically and mentally exhausting. I have been doing such a great job of evolving my being, and I feel like this is setting me back. I am too often on edge.

So then, why did I go on a ROAD TRIP? GREAT QUESTION AUDIENCE! Because I love animals, adventure and torturing myself. 🤷🏻‍♀️ I feel like maybe I set ever it in some way? 🤷🏻‍♀️ “Oh, it won’t be THAT bad!” I say. Seriously. What was I thinking? maybe I haven’t evolved as much as I think I have...

Oh, it gets better, not just a road trip, but a road trip to a whale watch. Car sick, meet the open sea.

Luckily, the Whale Watch guys had Dramamine. (I make a mental note to buy some the next time I am at the pharmacy, for regular day to day life. I don’t think Dramamine is meant to be used on the reg. Is that ridiculous? Thoughts?)

We wake up for the Whale Watch at 3:30am so that we can get to Marisa by 6:00am. We get there super early because, you know, we went very fast.

Cristy and I get on the boat and are served hot black tea, which feels extra good on such a cold morning. Everything is going to be fine. Boat ride, Whales. I work hard to shift my mindset and be positive, even though I want to vomit from spinning exhaustion.

For as early as we got there, when we got on the boat, the front few rows were already taken by an extremely well dressed Chinese family. They seemed elite in some way, or just well to do. They had a nanny for their small son and really expensive cameras. We don’t leave the dock until 7:30am. Something is beeping. Like, the captain didn’t have his seatbelt on, and the boat was trying to remind him. The beeping did not shut off the entire trip. Ugh. Sri Lanka, you are really testing my nerves! Luckily, I keep ear plugs in my backpack, but they only softened the noise and my misery slightly.

They serve us a breakfast box. Inside there is a hot dog bun with onions and cold egg, a half tuna (maybe?) sandwich, and a small cube of dense chocolate cake. It wasn’t a brownie. I eat the cashews from my bag and the cake, which is unexpectedly and oddly delicious.

We have to wear life vests…. The entire time….. GOD DAMN SAFETY.

The chairs were made of concrete, I think. Unless there is a harder material on the face of the earth? Relaxing is impossible.

The clouds are pretty low so we can’t really see much of Sri Lanka as we ride into the ocean, until the sun rises completely. We ride for two long hours into the ocean. It’s cool for the first 20 minutes.

At one point, we see a bunch of other whale watching boats in a circle and we ride to join them. I guess this is the spot. We sit and we wait for maybe an hour. The crew pulls out cushions for us to kneel on while we stalk the ocean. I lay down and fall asleep under the assumption that if someone sees a whale, I will know it.

Sure enough, I am woken up by the crew pushing my shoulder and screaming WHALE! We see the back of a blue whale in the distance and everyone loses their mind. The whale is so far away we can barely see it. Maybe I am spoiled from being from Plymouth, MA and frequently going on the Captain John Boats as a kid. We’d see humpbacks breach on the reg so I’m not exactly impressed by a fin.

The crew keeps saying “We are so lucky!” I mean, it was cool. I’ll be excited if I see some solid breaching, but then again, I may just be spoiled. There are probably many people on the boat that have never seen a whale in the wild before, so in that case, yes we are so lucky.

We wait for more action and get nothing for quite a while until two whales swim to the surface. They seemed to be hanging out, but the captain said, “We are so lucky! We go!” And turned around and left while the whales were still in the area. Cristy asked the guy to wait and he said no, we had to go. The whole thing made very little sense, but instead of getting upset, I just went back to sleep. I had a cushion now.

A guy woke me up to ask if I wanted a piece of water melon, and then again, to tell me we were close to being ashore.

I checked the time when we arrived back and it was 1pm. All I could think was, “Welp, that was an expensive nap… and cube of cake”. Come to find out, this was another one of Chamara’s experiments, and I was the guinea pig. He wanted to know what I thought about the activity. Oh, I told him All right.

The crew tried to get my to write a review on Trip Advisor. I told them, they really don’t want me to write a review on trip advisor. I didn’t take one picture.

We exit and I can hear a man on another boat yelling to the captain. Apparently they didnt see any whales at all on that cruise and the guy wanted his money back. I don’t know what happened, but wonder if they give your money back for that kind of thing…

We drive 3 hours to Yala National Park, the largest national park in Sri Lanka. I feel bad for being a stick in the mud, because it seems like my job is to entertain, but my brain is spun, my belly uneasy and my body is knotty. I need to lay down.

We drive to the Elephant Hotel. We quickly shower and change into temple appropriate clothes. We drive 30 or so minutes to a the famous sacred city of Kataragama.

Kataragama is a holy place for Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, and Vedas. The temple is crowded and when I breath I can smell the magical incense in the air. I ask Chamara if its so crowded because of the full moon and he tell me that its this crowded every night. We buy a fruit platter and flowers as offerings to Kataragama. we pray and get blessed by months. I pray to make The spinning stop. We leave the flowers, but bring the fruit trays out with us.

There are many stray dogs and puppies within the sacred city. I make note to bring dog treats next time we come. (Or is it even a good idea for me to do this again?) Chamara tells me temple dogs are already the luckiest of stray dogs. We see three puppies curled up with what we think is the mama, but its a male, maybe the dada. We see the mama join and I am so glad they have each other.

After the temple, we go to dinner and order the traditional Sri Lankan dish, Roti. Its made with diced up flour tortilla, shredded vegetables, and egg. It’s served with a spicy curry sauce.

We wake up the next morning at 5am ready to be picked up by the jeep for the safari through Yala National Park. I love Safari’s more then anything, who doesn’t really? This part of Sri Lanka is SO LUSH and clean. There are still stray dogs, but they seem happier. This is what I pictured when I imagined Sri Lanka.

YNP is known for their rich wildlife including leopards, elephants, wild boars, crocodiles, birds, and so much more. As we enter the park on a paved road, the sun rises, and I am excited for a morning full of animals. Today is going to be much better. It has to be!

We see a leopard almost immediately, which is incredibly unusual. She is sleeping on a rock and her tail is wagging. She is beautiful. MAJESTIC

We continue around the park on the ridiculously bumpy road. Is the bumpy road a part of the experience? I imagine its meant to slow down the jeeps, but really? I get car sick and annoyed and I hate that I am the way that I am.... chill.....

We see some beautiful animals, but I have a hard time enjoying the experience, still. We see peacocks and these really cool birds that are similar to flamingos. There are a ton of water buffalo and deer. We search for the elephants, but don’t see any.

After the safari, we head back to the hotel for breakfast buffet, but there isn’t much food left when we get there, BUT there is a guy cooking eggs, so I eat four fried eggs.

Chamara tells us he will take us to Ella if we want, but it will be a lot of driving in the day. I don’t want to go because of the long drive, but Cristy does, and I can’t really object because this may be her only opportunity ever to see Ravana Falls, the nice arch bridge, and the little town of Ella In her life. I’ll be in Sri Lanka a while, so I feel like I have to accommodate and after all, I really want to see these places too. And yes, I have been thinking, Ella, Ella, under my umbrella, the entire trip.

We drive two hours to Ravana Falls. It is half way up Ella mountain and the roads are just as windy as you’d expect. The falls are really beautiful. The mist from the crashing water hits my face and calms my throbbing head. People are swimming in one small pool at the bottom. There are asshole monkeys everywhere, digging through trash. There are shacks lining the street selling roasted ears of corn, and the air smells like burnt salty popcorn, a smell I am used. IE, I am such a bad cook I can’t even hit the popcorn button on the micro leave right.

Chamara hurries us along so that we get up and down the mountain before it starts to rain, because a few days ago there was a big landslide and the side OG the mountain completely fell and covered the road. Good to know…. We pass the spot where there was a landslide and it hasn’t even been completely cleaned up yet, so we go down to one lane.

We get to Ella town and its pretty cute and reminds me just a bit of Ubud mixed with the entire state of Vermont. We are told we have to go to the arches first, and then we will come back, but based on previous experiences, when we do things like that, we never end up going back to the place we initially wanted to stop at, so I press the idea, so we can for sure see the cute town of Ella. We pop in a few shops and look for souviners. Blah Blah blah onto the Nine Arches. The train bridge is pretty cool. Construction finished in 1921 and the whole thing is made out of brick. The grounds around the bridge are covered in black tea plants. Apparently all tea comes from the leaves of the same plant.

There are houses high up in the mountain completely covered in trees, almost like a tree fort. Can I come hang out with you guys? It looked so peaceful.

We are told that a train is coming soon, so we wait to see it pass. Everyone scrambles excitedly when they hear the train sound in the distance. The people in the train are taking photos of us just as much as we are taking photos of them. No dogs or humans were injured in the train crossing.

The tuk tuk we took to the arches forgets about us, and we have to walk up the mountain and back to the car. We pass a house that has 5 or so old liquor bottles with purple liquid in the front yard. I ask Chamara what the bottles of purple liquid are about and he says they are to keep the stray dogs out of the yard. That is officially the most bazaar thing I have heard so far on the trip. If anyone has any insight, please let me know.

We start our decent down the mountain and back to Balapitiya. Its supposed to take about 5 hours to get back to the Villa. I try my best to sleep, but I can’t. Cristy lays down in the back. At one point there is such a sudden brake that she rolls off the seat and onto the floor.

We get back to the villa and go our separate ways. They prepared a bunch of food for dinner, but I can’t eat, and think they are annoyed by that, but I don’t know what to say, other than I am sorry.

This road trip really made me question my future in Sri Lanka. Not to mention the other obvious culprits, that a week or so ago, I was being cut open due to an infected spider bite and just a few days ago, I was burying a dead puppy.

December 12th was my 70th day traveling.

Even though there have been some tough times, there’s still the part of me that believes fully that this is all apart of the process...


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