Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

Riding Wild Animals

Monday, July 14th, 2014

We went to an elephant park with the intention of looking at the elephants and of riding one. (Well, I had no intention of riding, but this is irrelevant at the moment but shall become more relevant later in the story).

Now here’s a thing. Elephants are either wild or they are not.

If they are wild, then the park/sanctuary will be very large and won’t be able to guarantee sightings. Visitors won’t be able to get close to the elephants, they won’t be able to feed them, they won’t be able to ride them.

The sanctuary may be one of those rescue places that saves injured or orphaned animals and then releases them to the wild. In these cases, if they are doing it properly, visitors shouldn’t be able to feed or get close to the elephants because that will damage the animal’s chances of surviving in the wild.

The park/sanctuary may have captive animals. They may have been born wild and rescued/captured at a young age, or they may have been born in captivity. In these places the animals will need to be broken and trained. Some of this training may include ill-treatment.

So it seems that animal lovers have a choice. They can get up close and personal with the animals they love, but those animals would have to have been trained. Which may mean they have not always been treated well. Alternatively, animal lovers can visit animals in the wild, but they will have to maintain their distance.

Given that both wild and captive elephants kill people sometimes I think keeping a distance is a very good idea in either case!

So back to the elephant park in question. It was one that had captive elephants (on very short chains). The mahut was hitting the elephant with a stick. It wasn’t very pleasant for the elephant lovers amongst us. Not only that, but due to this being the ‘treatment season’ we weren’t able to ride them. I decided a couple of years ago that I don’t want to ride animals since it doesn’t seem quite fair to make them walk around with me on their back purely for my entertainment. That’s what pushbikes and autos are for!

And the animal lovers amongst us were somewhat torn. Having seen how the elephants were treated, they weren’t sure if they wanted to ride after all, but given that riding an elephant is something that most elephant lovers want to do, it was a disappointment to have gone all that way and not been able to ride.

Elephants really are quite amazing creatures though! I don’t think I’d say ‘beautiful’ but they are interesting (despite being somewhat scary up close). I’m certainly very happy to be sharing a planet with them! 🙂

A Cat In A Well

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

This post is unrelated to politicians of any description, but it is about a cat.

The house I’m staying in in India has a well.

There was a cat stuck in the well.

09b Cat in a well_1024x612

This has happened before (with a different cat).

The well is quite deep and it was maybe 8 or 10 metres from the top to the water level.

So we mobilised the troops (Johnson, Dany, Johny, their father, Lisba and me).

09d Johny, Jament, Dany, Lisba saving the cat_1024x612

We did this in the evening so we needed light. Lisba held the battery lamp, I had the flashlight app on my phone.

The boys tied a rope around the handle of a bucket. (An actual bucket, not me. I wasn’t going down into the well. Certainly not for a cat.)

09c Johny and Dany and bucket_1024x612

The bucket was lowered into the well.

The cat meowed at it.

We meowed at the cat.

The cat seemed not to understand what was going on.

The bucket was pulled up again.

The process was repeated several times.

It seems the last cat had caught on quite quickly and had jumped into the bucket on the second or third attempt.

This cat was not playing ball.

At one point the cat was hanging on to the edge of the bucket with its front paws.

The bucket was raised. The bucket was spinning. The cat was unhappy. The bucket got most of the way up. The cat let go. There was a splash. The cat meowed.

We tried again.

Several times.

The cat seemed not to understand what was going on.

Nor did it understand English.

Or Malayalam.

We tried again.

This time the cat crawled over the handle of the bucket.

That’ll do.

We pulled up the bucket, with the cat unceremoniously draped over the bucket handle.

The bucket made it to the top, with the cat intact.

The bucket and cat were tipped onto the ground as we all jumped away.

The cat was not a happy cat, but at least it was no longer a cat stuck in a well.

We had dinner.

Everyone was happy.

Note: since the rescuing of cats from the well there have been several cat incursions into the house (which, until recently has been insufficiently fortified against cat infiltration – the back door didn’t close properly and was just propped up against the frame leaving a gap big enough for a cat). The cats have decided they like fish curry. They’ve worked out how to tip the pot lid off the pot in order to get to the fish curry. They’ve worked out that most of the household have a nap just after lunch. Dany asked me if I know of any way to kill cats. I said he should stop rescuing them from the well! (Joking: neither he nor I want to actually kill any cats, particularly not by drowning them in the well, it would pollute the water and we need that water for watering the plants etc. Plus, we wish no harm to the cats, we just wish that the cats wished no harm to the fish curry.)

Uda Walewe

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

We visited a national park called Uda Walewe. We stayed in a nice little hotel not too far from the park. The guy at the hotel arranged a jeep safari for us.

We got picked up at 6am. In the morning. 6. In the morning. Before breakfast (actually, that was good, I really didn’t want to have to get up early enough to be able to have breakfast in the morning before leaving at 6).

There were four of us. The jeep was pretty funky. We drove to the park. There were some very nice views on the way to the park of the sun over the hills and the mist beginning to rise off the trees. Beautiful!

We got to the park and got our tickets and our guide.

Off we went. I was standing on the seats (as was the guide) in order to be able to get a good view. Plus I could hold on to the bars on the roof (the canvass had been rolled back). It was a bit like being on a Sri Lankan bus. 🙂

We didn’t get far into the park before we started to see interesting things.

We saw peacocks in trees. They fly you know. Not far, only about a 100 meters. But they don’t like the rain (their feathers get wet and heavy) so just before the rain comes they fly up into a tree (not entirely sure how that helps them, to be honest, but I applaud them for having a plan – it might be that when wet they can’t get into the tree – (but they can get out) so maybe getting into the tree first just opens up their options).

We saw land monitors.
We saw hawks of varying types.
We saw spotted deer.
We saw a golden jackal.
We saw a wild dog (more about the dog shortly).
We saw painted storks.
We saw pelicans.
We saw parakeets.
We saw black robins.
We saw a couple of different types of bee eaters.
And we saw elephants!!!!!

Lots of elephants. Baby elephants (one that was probably only a week or two old). Some young males and females. Some bulls. Some older females. We saw some bulls on their own (and in pairs). We saw the herd of adult females and babies.

We also saw other tourists and a BBC camera crew.

But they were less interesting than the elephants. 🙂

There was also a dog. As many of you know, I’m not a big fan of dogs. It turns out elephants aren’t either. It seems that dogs hunt the baby elephants (“do di do do do do do do do do, do do”). The adults are (understandably) a bit miffed by this and seem to respond by chasing dogs when they see them (or smell or hear them – their hearing and sense of smell are much better than their eyesight). If the elephants catch the dog, they will kill it.

There were two elephants from the herd who had noticed the dog so they were chasing it. At one stage the dog was on the right hand side of the road and the elephants were on the left. We were on the road coming up to this point. Fortunately, our guide signalled for the driver to stop. None of us fancied being in between a charging elephant and the object of its dissatisfaction.

The elephants didn’t catch the dog on this occasion.

It turns out elephants are quite nimble things! They can run quite fast. They are agile. Watching them use trunk, teeth and feet to strip bark off tree branches is fascinating!

After watching lots of the birds and animals in search of food, we went back to the hotel for an awesome breakfast for us (pol roti, pol sambol, seeni sambol, butter, jam)!

Weekend in Kandy

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

After a good but difficult but successful first week of the projects, the volunteers and I went to Kandy for the weekend.

Lora and I were changing host families. So we took all our stuff and left our host family. We got a three wheeler to Atulugama and left a few bags at Lauren and Emily’s house. We collected Lauren and Emily and jumped on a bus going to Kegalle.

No seats at first but it wasn’t long before we managed to get some. Which was nice.

At Kegalle we changed buses and got a very crowded bus to Kandy. Note to self: travelling on a Friday afternoon is not a good idea, there are a lot of people going home for the weekend. Ah well, this gave Emily, Lauren and Lora a taste of the real Sri Lankan bus experience. Emily had been telling me earlier that she was surprised that the buses weren’t as bad as she thought they were going to be. This bus changed her mind a bit. 🙂

We got to Kandy and went to The Pub. The Pub is one of my old haunts. They do french fries and grilled vegetables and mango juice and tea (with separate milk) and it’s a pub (well, sort of). But you can get food with no rice, no curry, no chili. And you don’t get forced to eat it if you don’t want it. A welcome change from Avissawella.

We headed up to the guest house (Forest Glen, another one of my old haunts). Not the cheapest place in Kandy. But it is quite a nice place. And Indra, who runs it, is lovely.

On Saturday we had breakfast (no rice, no chili, no curry) and then wandered down into town. We walked around the lake for a bit. I tried not to be too rude to the people who were hassling us (why do I feel rude not talking to people who I don’t know who are just hassling me?) We stumbled across a practice session for the perahera which involved a few dance groups doing bits of dancing on the street behind the temple. That was cool. A bit of a flavour of the perahera for Lauren and Emily who will be back in the UK when it starts.

The others went to the Temple of the Tooth. I’m still avoiding it. So I went to the Dialog shop and then sat in the Queen’s Hotel drinking sprite and checking my mail.

They joined me later and the four of us headed up to the Randolee hotel. This is owned by our in-country manager and she’d arranged for us to have a meal there. Which was very nice of her.

The hotel is up in the hills around Kandy and has a great view. We had fresh mixed fruit juice. We had a lovely lunch. We sat in the foyer area watching the rain pouring into the pool. We drank tea.

When it was time to go they arranged a three wheeler for us to take us back down the hill. Back to The Pub then back to the guest house.

On Sunday morning we packed up and got ready to go. We watched the monkeys playing outside our windows. Awesome! We headed down to find a bus and went to Kegalle. From Kegalle we got a three wheeler to Pinawalla. Pinawalla is where the Elephant Orphanage is.

As soon as we piled out of the three wheeler we got accosted by a local guy. He said that the orphanage costs 2,000 rupees to get in and you can’t feed or touch or wash the elephants. He said that for 2,000 rupees each we could go to his place (nearby) where we could ride an elephant, feed them, wash them and see his spice and herb garden. Might be a good deal. Might not. But I said that we needed to check about ticket prices since we might be able to get discounts as we are volunteers.

Turns out that this was indeed the case, 100 instead of 2,000. The guy vanished pretty quickly when he realised he wasn’t going to convince us. I’d been to the elephant orphanage before and decided that I didn’t want to go again so waited out the front minding the bags for the others.

They saw them being fed and got to pat one of the baby elephants (do do do do do do do do do do, do do (ok, so the Baby Elephant Walk does work better as an aural thing rather than a written thing)) who was only 6 days old. The elephants were taken down to the river to be bathed. So we all walked down that way too. Well, all except me. Since I didn’t have a ticket I wasn’t allowed to walk down the street to the river. There was a barrier across the middle of a road and I wasn’t allowed through. Fine. I didn’t want to buy anything from those shops anyway. I went in search of coconut roti but couldn’t find any. So I just sat and enjoyed the sunshine and watching the people.

When we’d finished there it was a three wheeler back to Kegalle, a quick lunch and a bus back to Atulugama. We then got a three wheeler into Avissawella where Lora and I met one of the teachers who would take us to our new boarding place.

A very nice (if busy) weekend.

I love being on project, and the others loved it too. But it is very nice to be able to escape sometimes for some independence and some sightseeing.

Mosquito Proof Clothing

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Before I left the UK I did some investigating into mosquito-proof clothing. Not only did I investigate, I actually bought some. 50GBP for a pair of trousers and a shirt – which is ridiculous money in my mind, well ridiculous for clothing but not so ridiculous if it turns out to be mosquito-proof. 🙂

And they didn’t have them in black so my mossie-proof clothing is the only clothing I currently own that isn’t black. But, important as fashion is to me, it is far more important for me to be mossie-proof. 😉 So I succumbed and bought the non-black clothes (the shirt even has silly pink trim on bits of it, dear god).

I was slightly sceptical about the stuff but was keen to see how it would work. The trials in the UK were positive. I wore them several times there and didn’t get bitten once – the fact that I didn’t encounter any mosquitoes is (in my mind) somewhat irrelevant. 🙂

I have now worn them in Sri Lanka, in mosquito-infested areas. And I can now say – unequivocally – they work!!

I’ve worn my normal clothes in Mahesh’s living room and in Sujith’s house. And I got bitten. I wore my mossie-proof clothes in Mahesh’s living room and in Sujith’s house. And I didn’t get bitten. Well, I didn’t get bitten on the bits of me that were covered by the clothes, the skin on my feet is a veritable dirty blanket of mosquito bites.

But the mossie-proof clothes work!

Oh, and I should mention they appear to be dog-proof as well. I have never been bitten by a dog wearing these trousers. Wish I could say the same for my other trousers. 🙂

Wonder if Craghoppers do a range of mossie-proof socks. Hmmmm.

48 Mosquito Proof Clothing

Before I left the UK I did some investigating into mosquito-proof clothing. Not only did I investigate, I acutally bought some. 50GBP for a pair of trousers and a shirt – which is ridiculous money in my mind, well ridiculous for clothing but not so ridiculous if it turns out to be mosquito-proof. 🙂

And they didn’t have them in black so my mossie-proof clothing is the only clothing I currently own that isn’t black. But, important as fashion is to me, it is far more important for me to be mossie-proof. So I succumbed and bought the non-black clothes (the shirt even has silly pink trim on bits of it, dear god).

I was slightly sceptical about the stuff but was keen to see how it would work. The trials in the UK were positive. I wore them several times there and didn’t get bitten once – the fact that I didn’t encounter any mosquitoes is (in my mind) somewhat irrelevant. 🙂

I have now worn them in Sri Lanka, in mosquito-infested areas. And I can now say – unequivocally – they work!!

I’ve worn my normal clothes in Mahesh’s living room and in Sujith’s house. And I got bitten. I wore my mossie-proof clothes in Mahesh’s living room and in Sujith’s house. And I didn’t get bitten. Well, I didn’t get bitten on the bits of me that were covered by the clothes, the skin on my feet is a veritable dirty blanket of mosquito bites.

But the mossie-proof clothes work!

Oh, and I should mention they appear to be dog-proof as well. I have never been bitten by a dog wearing these trousers. Wish I could say the same for my other trousers. 🙂

Wonder if Craghoppers do a range of mossie-proof socks. Hmmmm.

Dog Bite Aftermath

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Here is what happened to me after the dog bite.

In the first post about it I mentioned that I went to the hospital and that they gave me the first rabies booster injection. And I think I mentioned that the doctor didn’t really look at the wound – certainly didn’t treat it but that when I went home, Suchintha’s mother helped me to dress it after I’d cleaned it. I also mentioned that I had to go back to the hospital to get the second booster.

So here’s what happened then.

I bought a larger dressing and removed the sticky plaster. The wound was about 3cm long, the width of a sticky plaster (they only come in one size in this country) is about .5cm. The length of the pad bit of a sticky plaster is about .5cm even if the length of the sticky plaster itself is about 5cm. So I needed a bigger paddy bit. This proved to be tricky. But I did get a giant (10cm x 10cm) surgical dressing and some micropore tape. The pharmacist assured me it wouldn’t stick. The phrase “my arse” springs to mind for two reasons. It stuck. To my arse. Well, the top of my leg.

I found another type of dressing a few days later which is like a sticky plaster but bigger (about 10cm x 20cm) which I thought was an improvement, though way too big, but too big is better than too small. The problem was that the pharmacy in Kandy where I got it seems to be the only one in the country that sells them. So when I got to Anuradhapura I had to Macgyver 4 normal plasters into one big one by carefully cutting the side sticky bit and then overlapping so that I had a big enough pad with no sticky bits in the middle. It mostly worked. 🙂 By this stage there was only the occasional drop of blood on the plaster anyway, so it wasn’t bleeding profusely. Then the plasters came off. Yay! And stayed off. Yay!

On the Saturday I went back to Kandy hospital for the second injection (one injection, two sites, so they stuck half of it in one arm and the other half in the other). That didn’t take too long. But I did get sent from the injection room to the rabies room then back to the injection room where I had to wait for 15 mins (which turned out to be 1hr). But that was ok.

One of the other interesting consequences of the dog bite was antibiotics. The doctor didn’t say anything about antibiotics. But Suchintha’s sister’s husband is a doctor. When he heard about the bite, he asked if I had been given antibiotics. I said I was on Doxycycline (which is a broad spectrum antibiotic that was prescribed as an anti-malarial), but he said that wasn’t enough. So he suggested another one. Suchintha’s mother had some sample packs in the house so I dutifully started taking antibiotics twice a day (plus my anti-malarial, plus some panadol to help with the swelling and the pain). Suchintha’s brother in law said he thought that the doctor had probably been so excited treating a foreigner that he forgot to mention the antibiotics. Which seems a pretty major thing to forget in my mind and a pretty feeble excuse for being overwhelmed. But, I had my own personal medical team helping me out so I was ok. 🙂

And the final piece of annoyance was my trousers. But I took them to a tailor in Kandy. I needed to get them taken up anyway. Which was lucky. Because the bit they cut off the cuffs they used to mend the rip. Which they did in a day and charged me a very reasonable sum of money for it. So I now have trousers with no holes (except the important holes that you need for getting into the things and sticking your feet out the ends).

And now, the injections are done, the antibiotics are finished, the wound has healed, the trousers are fixed, I can sit down comfortably. It’s all good.

I saw the dog a few days ago and it didn’t bat an eyelid at me. It seemed completely unconcerned by my existence. So that’s also a good thing.

Here endeth the dog bite story.

Mosquitoes

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

If I were able to type the rudest words in the world, in any language, they would not even come close to doing justice to my feelings towards mosquitoes.

Seriously, there would need to be a slew of new rude words invented specifically to describe the annoying, little blighters (feel free to replace ‘annoying’, ‘little’ and ‘blighters’ with your favourite rude adjective, adjective and noun) and my feelings towards them.

I am from the waist down almost one single mosquito bite/scar. I am scratching in places it is impolite to scratch in (like the kitchen). I am scarred and red and sore and irritated (both senses of the word).

I am getting a lot of exercise from the “ow, slap, I’ve just been bitten” contortions that involve trying to slap bits of you just before you feel the sting by which time it’s too late. I’m also getting exercise from the “grr, itchy, don’t scratch, must scratch, how do I reach there anyway” gyrations. And the human body and mind being what they are, as soon as either dance begins, I then feel imaginary bites and itches on parts of me that were perfectly fine until I started irritating them by scratching at bites that don’t exist.

And the flies aren’t exactly high on my list of creatures towards which I feel nothing but positivity either. There is a really rather irritating one that has been flying around my head for the past two hours.

Ratnapura seems to be much worse for mosquitoes than Kandy was. And my insect repellant is about to run out (I have a new shipment that should be delivered shortly, depending on whether it has been posted yet). I may need to try buying some here and seeing if it works.

So while I love this country and everything about it (even the bits I hate). I really do just hate the mozzies. I don’t even love hating the mozzies. I just hate them. Like I said there aren’t words rude enough!!

Wildlife Update

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

I have encountered some new and exciting wildlife since I moved my base of operations to Ratnapura.

Ranjith killed a rather large (and apparently poisonous – though not deadly) centipede thing.
Ranjith chased a scorpion out of the kitchen – photo on my flickr photo page. Wa!! A scorpion!!
Wasana caught a tarantula in half a coconut shell (coconuts really are the most useful thing in the whole world).
When I’ve been out in various rivers bathing I’ve found I’ve had to keep moving so that the fish don’t nibble me. It’s almost tickly – but not quite. 🙂
There was one river bathing experience where we saw a snake swimming across the river. He seemed quite small but still freaked me out slightly.
There was another case when we just walked down to a river and apparently scared a snake as we walked past. I saw something move but couldn’t have said what it was. The guy who was with us said it was a snake.
We saw lots of monkeys in the Peradiniya Botanical Gardens when I was back in Kandy. Some of them were really very tiny and some of them got really quite close to us (it seems they like meringues).

The one thing worse than seeing a big spider in the shower

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

Is not seeing the big spider that you know lives in your shower! At least if you can see it you know where it is.

I have shared my bathing and sleeping facilities with spiders, geckos and frogs so far. Scary, cute and cute (in that order). Photos of these on my flickr page.

I’ve also seen: cats, dogs, tiny squirrels (about half the size of the ones in the UK), lots of birds, cows, bats (possibly my new favourite animal), butterflies, beetles, roosters, a dragonfly, a goat and a monkey!!! It wasn’t so much buttling (Simpons: Das Bus episode – desert island – monkey butlers – I’m on the lookout in case Sri Lanka is the island of the monkey butlers) as trying to open a rubbish bag – but it was a monkey just the same!

I haven’t seen many of the animals that are on my animal sighting checklist (a few friends, a pub, a pen and my journal) but I have started a list of those that I have seen.