Travelling to Udewalawe National Park, Sri Lanka

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Travelling to Udawalawe National Park

Travelling from Nuwara Eliya to UdawalaweAs always we have an early start because we have quite a way to go to our next destination – the National Wildlife Park of Udawalawe which is famous for its elephants. Of course I say it’s quite a way but this is Sri Lanka – the actual distance is relatively small, but the roads are not to be underestimated. Going everywhere takes a long time!

Udawalawe is a large national park, one of 20 wildlife reserve parks in Sri Lanka. All the parks have their own specialism; the largest is Wilpattu National Park which is in the north west of the country, not far from Anuradhapura and it specialises in Leopards. However this was far off the track for our journey so we had planned on travelling round the south eastern coast of Sri Lanka to spend two nights in Yala National Park which is also famous for its leopards. However the weather in Yala the week before was extremely wet so we ended up and other of the other large national parks – Udawalawe which is 6th largest and is located towards the south of the country in the province of Uva.

As always Chris has some stops planned along the way and he tells three very excited children that we’re stopping off for a quick horse ride. So we say goodbye to Tea Factory and in the same big bus that brought us up the mountain, we bump our way back down to Nuwara Eliya.

The Children riding ponies while on holiday in Sri Lanka travelling to Udawalawe National ParkHaving transferred back to the van we drive for a couple of hours and stop at a small town where 3 or 4 men are languishing by the side of a road near a large recreation ground. Chris calls out to one who, recognising him calls out to his friends who disappear momentarily, returning with 3 small horses/ponies, saddled up and ready. In short order all three children are sitting comfortably on the horses and they set off for a short trip round the recreation ground. Lisa and I are a little worried to say the least because there are no hats or other safety equipment but our fears are unfounded as every child has a man leading them carefully. There are several games of cricket being played on the recreation ground and there is a slightly weird feeling of being at a school in the UK because the weather is overcast but the heat has returned.

Back in the van and heading south again. We’ve seen quite a number of Buddhist temples and Chris has promised to take us to a Hindu one. There is a small mutiny from the family about the number of temples we’ve visited (really I don’t think it’s that many and if you really want to get a sense of a completely different culture, temples are the place to go!) but its quickly resolved and we are soon pulling up on the side of a steep hill, where the top of a brightly painted temple is peaking out from beside the road.

This temple is unlike anything we’ve visited so far. In Buddhist temples there is simple oneness. While the temple may contain more than one statue of the Buddha, they are all very simple (only varying in the position that Buddha is in and there are no statues of anyone else. Hindu temple on the way to Udawalawe Sri LankaIn a Hindu temple it seems that as many of the deities in the religion as possible are covered in the walls, ceilings, roofs as well as inside the temples themselves.

The colours are spectacular giving an immediate impression of a circus. Golden pointed roofs have small colourful statues spaced along their sides and then open up into a gable which contains a much larger statue. We take off our shoes and walk down with Chris to the temple floor. We are greeted by a withered old man who doesn’t seem to speak any English. Chris translates for us. The man is, in effect a caretaker of sorts, who looks after the temple. While we’ve been read in many books not to take pictures, the man is encouraging and almost insistent that as we move around looking at the many colourful statues that we take photos of all the important Deities. It is a wonderful experience and we willingly offer a donation to the temple on our way out.

The whole family at the Grand Hotel in Sri Lanka on our way to Udawalawe National ReserveMoving on, it’s past lunchtime and Chris turns of a particularly narrow road that is snaking downwards as we head towards Udawalawe and we enter the very impressive sounding Grand Hotel. This is definitely not a Grand Hotel as we might think it. It is small and relatively rural with clean restaurant and friendly staff. However the real treat is out the back of the hotel where there is a small garden with a long balcony that looks over a wide value with large hills and mountains on either side. There is a strong impression of scene from an epic saga with impenetrable natural forces on either side while a deep gorge makes its way slowly down towards the sea which remains tantalisingly out of sight!