I can’t remember ever having seen a pelican before. The son was driving me down from Negombo to Pelawatta through the usual heavy traffic. As per normal I was looking all around me at the shops, the colleges, the government departments and the people, trying to take everything in.
I glanced up at the long double row of street lights in the middle of the road and thought, ‘That’s a very strange place to put a model of a bird!’ I didn’t comment out loud as you don’t. When you are a guest in someone else’s country it’s not your place to make any observation that might be received as a criticism, besides I didn’t want to appear stupid, but stupid I was.
As if reading my thoughts, the son asked if I had spotted the pelicans! And on cue one beautiful large whitish bird with its handbag sized pouch rose into the air and swirled off to the adjoining lake. I have since tried to take a photograph of this species and held the camera phone ready but the minute the phone went into sleep mode, a bird appeared in the air above me as if to say – catch me if you can.
It was the same with the small chameleon like lizard yesterday which I must ask the driver about as I can’t precisely identify it on line. It was at the side of the road as we were travelling to the Maalu Maalu resort but although we tried to park off the road we were causing a traffic problem and there were police everywhere on the journey up yesterday. They were obviously checking credentials, licenses etc, the driver of one minibus which overtook us at a rate of knots was obviously fined for speeding as he was pulled over by the police when we passed him a couple of miles later.
We had a projected six hour journey North from Pelawatta which lasted longer than that with a stop at the magnificent Aliya hotel for breakfast. It will take a couple of blogs to report on yesterday’s sitings.
We passed Paddy Fields, and plantations of pineapple, tobacco, rubber, coconut, mango, and teak. It was amazing as we drove through the dry area of the country and one place which was a distribution centre for the small growers The driver explained that the paddy fields are owned by individuals or families – no corporation owns them. I watched men working very hard in the fields and I am told the remuneration for this Sri Lankan staple is small.
There was a delay at one point because the road had collapsed and we edged around a makeshift roundabout to safety. However there is a huge amount of road building here. Everywhere you go there seems to be teams of workers dissecting the countryside. Not a lot of heavy machinery in evidence, but lots of man power in the shape of teak-coloured skins, lean wiry men whose strength belies their frame.
We were on the road from 5.30 am so we would miss the worst of the Columbo rush hour traffic. It brought back memories of leaving Kent at that hour to have a straight run into London and breakfast in the city before starting work. The things we do!
My driver is just lovely. He drives an automatic car and he is the epitome of a gentleman. He is kind, considerate and courteous and has guided me through the Aliya Hotel and Spa in Sigiriya, which deserves a blog of its own. He hardly toots the horn, stops at zebra crossings when no one else does, and uses the indicators in the car when again no one else does. I felt completely safe with him.
I was completely lost when I arrived at the Aliya Hotel and he pointed me in the right direction and was waiting for me in the foyer when I had finished breakfast. There was a misunderstanding at the Aliya Hotel and Spa as I didn’t pay for my breakfast. I had tried to but my attempts got lost in translation and I must sort that out with the relative connected to the hotel.
My driver was just the same when we arrived at Maalu Maalu Hotel and Spa, as I was like a lost soul not knowing which or where to go. He made sure I was handed over to one of the managers. I was met with a melon sorbet and another member of staff gave me a traditional local welcome with a red dot of colour applied to my forehead.
The view as you enter is just as per the website and I have a lovely bedroom, balcony and a bathroom big enough to party in. I am level with the tops of the coconut trees and the only sound is the ocean and some birds whose home is in the vaulted thatched roof of my suite.