Monday 14th April
The title of this entry is not indicative that I have taken leave of my senses. Today is the Hindu and Sinhalese New Year.
We started the day with another trip to the Elephant Orphanage (Transit Camp) before returning to the hotel where we relaxed by the pool for the rest of the morning.
After lunch we headed out for another game drive. This time we explored primary forest in the faint hope of seeing leopard. We were not that lucky but instead were rewarded with Spotted Deer and Mongoose to add to our list of species. Elephants were far fewer in this part of the park and we only saw two individuals well back from the track and obscured by the scrub.
It was a lovely drive and very different from yesterday's Elephant Bonanza.
We returned in the late afternoon and the guests and local villagers were all out on the hotel lawns celebrating the New Year. We were enthusiastically greeted by the hotel owner; Kalu. Kalu was the Opening Batsman and Wicket Keeper for the World Cup winning Sri Lankan Cricket Team in the mid nineties. He was a charming and attentive host who did much more than simply "press the flesh" and move on to the next guest. He went and fetched fresh tea for us and as we were chatting the children started to parade around the volley ball court in the hope of being selected as New Year King and Queen. 30% happened to mention that she thought a particular young girl should be Queen. Kalu instantly raced over to the Judges and paused the proceedings. 30% was appointed as Judge and a delighted ten year old's face lit up as she was selected as Queen for the day.*
Kalu later mentioned that he was delighted with the choice as the girl was a local rather than a guest. It was evident from our conversations that he was very keen to improve the lives and opportunities available to the locals.
The party was lovely and the greasy pole competition was hysterical. We also learnt that Sri Lankans take their Musical Chairs very seriously and this was the first time I have ever seen Judges demand a re-run of the final stage of the game due to an "infringement" by the New Year King.
After helping present the prizes we headed in for a splendid dinner before retiring early as we have a dawn game drive tomorrow.
* I did notice a couple of stone faced "Indian Princesses" and warned 30% to keep looking over her shoulder for the remainder of our stay as I am certain one of them had a flick knife.