Thursday, May 5, 2016

Animals, birds and plants, Oh my

As usual life got in the way of finishing this series on Sri Lanka. But I just finished renaming all the photos and organizing them so I feel that it will be easy to finish it as soon as I have a few minutes to write. The renaming and organization takes a lot of time and gets in the way of regular publishing.

I have so much to share that I better get on with this.

We only spent one night at the tea factory but I could have spent many days there. The hotel itself was fascinating. They had retained a lot of the original structure and machinery. Some interior shots of the hotel. This is the lobby.

From our floor - the second one.
Looking up at the ceiling from our floor.
Our first stop, as we left the nest morning, was to wander through the town of Nuwara Eliya. This is the post office. It has a distinctly European feel to it.
Nuwara Eliya is a place where Sri Lankans come on holiday. There is a lovely lake with boating facilities.
Our next stop was a Sita temple near by. Sri Lanka features prominently in the Hindu epic the Ramayana. In the story, the demon Ravana ruled Sri Lanka. He kidnapped Sita, the wife of Rama, and kept her captive in a place in Sri Lanka called Ashoka Vana or Ashoka Forest. This temple is built on the presumed location of Ashoka Vana. According to the story, the monkey-God Hanuman, when asked to bring a herb from the Himalayas to help heal a wound suffered by Rama's brother Lakshmana, brought an entire mountain and dropped it near-by.
This is the image of Sita in the temple and this, supposedly, is the mountain that was brought from the Himalayas and dropped here by Hanuman.
Our Sinhalese guide pointed to another mountain - an island in the Indian ocean - as the one dropped by Hanuman. That was many miles from here and I'll show you a picture of it when we get to that part of our trip.

After visiting the temple, we headed off to Yala National park to see wildlife. But on the way, we stopped by a waterfall.

We got to Yala in mid-afternoon. Our hotel was right on the water. This is the Indian ocean.
Sunset from our balcony. You can see the building next to ours. We were on the 2nd floor of a 2 room building. One hotel room was on the first floor and a second was on the second floor with a loft on the third floor.
Looking the other way...
That is the hotel pool and the dining and main lobby building. Looking yet another way - inland - you can see it is all mostly scrubby vegetation.
Our first stop the next morning was the temple complex at Kataragama. This is a place venerated by both Hindus and Buddhists and there are both Hindu and Buddhist temples in the same place. It is a huge compound with a lot of temples. We had to take off our shoes when we entered and walk barefoot through the complex. At 11 am, the sand was already quite hot and by the time we finished, my soles were sore and almost blistered from the heat and the friction from the sand.

We first went to see the big Buddhist temple, the Kiri Vihara. The Kiri Vihara has one of the saplings of the Bodhi tree under which Gautama Buddha gained enlightenment. One sapling was brought to Anuradhapura and this one is a sapling from that tree. After that we went to the Skanda temple - which is a Hindu one. Skanda is the son of Shiva, one of the Hindu trinity. The temple is very simple, unlike most Hindu temples. We were fortunate to be there for one of the worship services because otherwise, the temple is closed and you can't go inside.

On our way out, we saw a procession of worshippers headed to the Skanda temple

And a lovely little kingfisher.
The bright blue larger object in the middle of the picture is a plastic bag. Look above it on the branch and you can see the little bird. He's bright blue but small with a white face and black feathers to set off the blue.

The rest of this post is going to be all wildlife. After lunch we headed out to Yala for a safari tour. We'll start, as we did, with a drab peahen.
An eagle in a tree.
We were lucky enough to see a leopard close up but I wasn't fast enough to get a good shot of it. This is the best that I have and you can see the leopard's hindquarters and tail in the middle of the picture if you zoom in. He is right in the middle of the picture just past the tree that is in the center.
We waited around for a long time to see if he would reappear, but he didn't and I took a lot of shots of green bushes hoping to get a glimpse of him to no avail. I have a shot of his head in the shadows but no one believes me when I say it is his head because it is just a shape. And you can sort of see him here closer up but he blends in pretty well with the shadows.
That big dark patch in the center consists of his legs and tail. We moved on, disappointed and elated at the same time. We saw him - one of two jeeps that actually did - but we don't have great pictures.

A boar with some birds. Did I mention that Sri Lanka is a prime bird-watching location? And Yala is one of the places that people come to watch birds?
A little green bee-eater. One of two we saw.
After many peahens, we finally saw a peacock. The first of many.
A mountain that looks like an elephant.
Jungle fowl. The national bird of Sri Lanka.
Another peacock who strut for us but refused to display his tail. I guess we don't look like peahens.
A shore bird
Yala was one of the places hit by the tsunami in 2004. On our last day, we stopped at the tsunami memorial on the other side of the island which was very badly hit. But today we stopped at a bungalow that had been occupied by some tourists and the bungalow's caretakers. The tourists were in the park on a safari so they escaped but the caretakers were washed away along with the bungalow.
All that is left is the foundation.

This is the ocean that was so destructive that day. Just steps from the bungalow is a beautiful beach.
The memorial to those who were lost. It is supposed to represent the wall of water.
We continued on from the tsunami memorial. A boar family with babies.
A hornbill in the middle of the tree.
This time I was lucky as he took flight. I followed him from this tree to another one and got some lovely photos.

This is a red bee-eater. Much harder to see than the green one.
Another peacock.
Two more green bee-eaters.
A little below center is a snake eagle. Very hard to see due to how effectively he/she blends with the tree. The body is brown but smooth, compared to the tree bark. Shooting down at the animals works better than shooting up into a dark tree against a bright sky!
And then a lone elephant decided he wanted to cross our path, but balked a few times. This gave me ample opportunity to get some fabulous photos of him.
He finally crossed and we followed him visually on the other side of the road till he vanished.
Another shore bird.
A closer picture, but not a great angle.
And with that, we left the park and headed back to the hotel. Our last glimpse of wildlife was a snake crossing the road.
We caught the sunset as we drove home.
There are many, many more pictures and movies of the wildlife in the album. I think if you click on one of the photos, you should be able to go back and forth to see the other photos if you are interested. 

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