March 22-24, 2012 – Colombo, Sri Lanka and the sea day to get there.
A very pleasant two days at sea and we arrived in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Saturday morning. Sri Lanka is the former Ceylon, an island south of India….
Officially known as the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka has been held by the Dutch, Portuguese, and for almost 2 centuries, by the British, achieving independence in 1948. Until 2009, Sri Lanka had been troubled by rebellion and civil war for almost 30 years. A Hindu tribal minority (18%) in the northern part of the country, the Tamils, had been pressing the Buddhist Sinhalese majority, often violently, for the creation of a separate state. The terrorist faction of the Tamils, known as the Tamil Tigers, conducted bombings and assassinations throughout the country making tourism untenable for many years. With the assistance of foreign nations, including India who had originally backed the Tamils, peace was achieved in 2009, and the country is now benefitting from a “boom” in tourism. With a 92% literacy rate, spurred by an excellent, competitive, education system, Sri Lanka does not have high unemployment but suffers from “under-employment” with more highly educated people available than jobs for them. Does this represent an opportunity for a Sri Lankan software development company????
Our tour here involved a 3 hour bus ride through Colombo and in to the interior of the island. En route we got a bit of flavor of Sri Lanka.
The tour was a trip to the Elephant Orphanage at Pinnawela, and it was a trip that I am sure will be Sally’s favorite of the entire trip. There are about 5000 elephants in Sri Lanka, some in the wild and many used as work animals in rural areas. The Pinnawela facility was created as a home for orphaned elephants and those unable to work with the intent return them to the wild eventually, but the constant close association with humans made it impossible for them to live in the wild, since they would seek out humans to feed them rather than foraging on their own.
Our first stop at the orphanage was an interesting facility which manufactures paper – from elephant POO!
Apparently the elephant’s digestive system passes fibers through allowing these folks to boil the Poo, and mat it into paper goods. Naturally Sally bought some products made from Poo paper.
We had lunch at a restaurant looking over the river and were treated to the elephants bathing in the river. After lunch, Sally went down and with the assistance of a mahout was able to feed the elephants.
After watching the feeding of the babies, from giant baby bottles, we watched the elephants for a time in their open pasture area.
As we started back to the bus a group of elephants returned from the river and passed within 6 inches of us, no fence, no rail – just really big animals!
Reboarding the bus we began our trip back to the ship and we snapped a few shots of life in Sri Lanka. One item of note was that each village seemed to have one or two sawmills which turned huge hardwood logs into workable lumber, not for export or inventory, but apparently for sale as custom building materials to the locals. Better than Home Depot!
Back on board, and just one day to rest before four straight days in India!