When Anton collects us for an early start, he asks us what we thought of the hotel. He tells us that although there are staff quarters for the drivers, they all sleep in their cars because they believe the hotel is haunted – I’m glad he didn’t tell us that the day before!
We drive for some time to reach the Sinharaja Rainforest (one of the few virgin rainforests left in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinharaja_Forest_Reserve).
Having been warned by the tour organisers that there are leeches in the forest, I am paranoid to avoid them. I am wearing my new trousers with elasticated bottoms with socks tucked inside, which may not have looked too bad with hiking boots, but alas, I only have my walking sandals, and my fear of the leeches is greater than my fear of looking an absolute fool!
We are allocated a guide at the welcome lodge and Anton accompanies us on our trek. Our guide is a charming young man, who seems quite shy but very keen that we don’t miss anything of interest.
He and Anton are both very interested in all wildlife and particularly the feathered variety. Between them they point out dozens of birds, but of course by the time we have focussed on where they are pointing our feathered friends are long since gone from the scene!
The first creature I see is a tree frog and Anton grabs my camera and positions himself to take a shot. On removing his foot from the boggy ground he quickly removes a leech from his leg which had attached itself underneath his long trousers in a nano second. I really appreciate Anton’s bravery (or stupidity) when he tells us that he has an alergic reaction to leeches which can make him quite ill.
The guide assures us that if we walk in the middle of the track, away from the boggy areas at the edges, we should avoid being attacked.
It is obviously a beautiful and lush environment with many colourful flowers on show, and it is very fresh and pleasant at this reasonably early hour – 08:30 by the time we get started.
Our next creature is a snake which poses more considerately for a photo
There are, strangely, a lot of chickens wandering the forest paths – some very fine specimens
Our guide offers to take us off the main track on a walk to see something of interest, but warns that we are more likely to be attacked by leeches on this narrow path, so it wasn’t a difficult decision to decline his offer. Just as we approach the junction to this track, another guide emerges with his client, who looks like a character who might have been journeying with David Livingstone – complete with pith helmet, long khaki shorts and gaiters. The poor guy was totally unaware that his legs were pouring with blood, which was trickling down over his gaiters. Anton and the guides set to removing very many leeches from under his shorts – totally disgusting! (No photos of this you’ll be pleased to note!)
A little further on our guide invited us to take a track to see the tallest tree in the forest (possibly in Sri Lanka?). Ella opted not to join us on this diversion as she didn’t have suitable footwear for the steep climb, so Anton stayed with her whilst we found our way to the tree on rough tracks with steep log steps and twining creepers, over a rickety rope bridge with the biggest millipede I have ever seen.
The Giant Nawada tree is 43 meters high with a girth of 6.3 meters and a volume of 110 cubic meters. Anyway I couldn’t see the top, but whilst we were there I did see a rare hump nosed lizard.
Apparently there is an elephant and twenty or so leopards in the forest but they are very rarely seen and didn’t put in an appearance today. And although we could hear them, we didn’t see any of the monkeys that live amongst the trees. All in all it was a very enjoyable expedition, with the added benefit of not having our blood sucked by the dreaded leeches.
En route to our next stop we pass by an elephant reserve where the inmates hang around at the perimeter fence hoping for tourists to feed them. We stop and donate the contents of our packed breakfast box which includes an odd assortment of food including bananas for which the elephants are very grateful. Whilst we are stopped we look up and see a hornbill in a tree overhead.
We make our way, via a stop for lunch, to Tissamaharama where we stay at the Hibiscus Garden hotel in a decent room with a small veranda that overlooks a green field. There is a pretty pool area and an interesting restaurant where there is a wide choice of food from a buffet bar and we can have some dishes cooked to order at the counter. We have another very early start in the morning so get to bed reasonably early.