After my sentimental morning on the waterfall, I decided to treat myself to a much-needed (okay, desperately needed) pedicure. I wandered the streets (there are really only two) of downtown Ella, passing many Ayurvedic massage shops. I needed far more intense intervention than a foot massage.
Finally, I came upon a place that advertised pedicures and manicures. An older man in sarong ushered me into a small office, where I discussed my desire for a manicure and pedicure with another man in sarong. We agreed on a price and I was handed over to a young man. I passed through a lovely room with lounge chairs and spa music...into a dark and dirty makeshift beauty salon type room and an old office chair.
When he didn't know how to take off my old nail polish, I should've known. But, being me, I helped him figure it out. As he'd finished with each tuft of cotton, he'd toss it on the floor behind him. I sighed and figured it might be a lost cause, but at least I'd get a good foot massage out of the deal.
But when he came at me with clippers that appeared about as sharp as a spoon and hadn't seen disinfectant in, well, ever, that was it. I jumped out of the chair, attempted to get across to him that I had somewhere to be, threw down some rupees and got the hell out of there!
It's been a few days and I've no sign of gangrene, so I'm hoping I'm in the clear.
That afternoon, I spent relaxing on the balcony of my guest house and chatting with the owner and Ewi and J Ari, a lovely German couple. Then, once the afternoon train came in I met up with a friend from the elephant project, Kerri. We had a wonderful time.
I marvel at the amazing connections and friendships I've made on this trip. So many incredible people. Somehow, our hearts are more open to people when we're in a strange place. I find this both wonderful and sad at the same time.
The next morning, it was time to move on. I hired a driver to take me to Tissaharama, aka Tissa, a small town near Yala National Park. He was a kind gentleman, probably in his 60s. Didn't speak much English, and so the drive was relatively quiet. The windy mountain roads flattened and the forest plants became more scrub like.
We had to slow a few times, as iguanas or monitors were crossing the road. My driver perked up when he saw my reaction.
When he swerved quickly to avoid a log in the road however, and I realized that it wasn't a log but a giant snake, the fun really began. I apparently felt that the snake could actually pose a threat and picked up my feet and squealed.
He thought that was hil-arious! For the final hour of the trip, he had a giant grin on his face and kept looking at me. I'm pretty sure he was hoping I'd do it again.
Ah yes, acting a fool always gets a laugh, regardless of language barriers.
My home stay in Tissa was clean and basic, though I didn't much enjoy the town. Being a solo Caucasian female attracted a bit too much attention. After about three "I love you's" screamed from passers by and a marriage proposal, I hopped into a tuk tuk and arranged a makeshift tour.
Gihan drove me around the lakes, pointing out fruit bats, crocodiles, and monkeys. We stopped at an ancient stupa, built in 400BCE. We also stopped at a few others. Stupas are mound-like structures built to honor the Buddha.
And they're everywhere. No really.
Also everywhere? Buddha. Big ones, little ones, standing ones, reclining ones. And they're beautiful. What I don't understand are the newer, brightly colored plastic-y looking Buddhas, generally with multi-colored LED flashing lights. It's like Buddha is in a disco. And these are located in the center of roundabout intersections or simply alongside the road.
Anyway, LED lights are also a popular option for personalizing one's tuk tuk. Lots of them have some sort of image of Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. He seems to rank up there with Bob Marley in terms of tuk tuk representation. So, it's sort of fantastic to be whisked around, hair swirling in the breeze, with music (generally Justin Bieber) blaring, disco lights flashing with Captain Jack by your side.
Anyway...in Tissa I met Greg and Lynn, an Australian couple. Lynn wasn't feeling well and was in her room most of the time, so Greg and I quickly bonded.
He's truly the Aussie version of my father. Quick to laugh, an easy smile, and generally pleasant to be around.
He and Lynn are retired teachers. And he used to own a vineyard. So we had plenty to talk about.
Early the next morning, Greg and I awoke at 5am for a safari in Yala National Park. The safari vehicle, essentially a jeep with a truck bed and three rows of seats in the back, was a tad breezy as the driver raced like a bat out of hell, passing other similar vehicles in the pre-dawn dark.
Eventually we pulled over at the entrance to the park, along with roughly fifty other similar vehicles. Our driver ran to the end of a line to get the daily pass. As drivers received their passes, they'd race off in a squeal of tires.
The early driver gets the leopard. And the leopard gets the tips.
It was a bit like being a fairly vulnerable observer in a safari version of The Gambler. Being lifted in the back of a vehicle magnifies each and every movement. And racing on rutted dirt roads is a tad bouncy.
And we saw crocodiles and mongoose-es...mongeese? Many of the mongoose...
We also saw a leopard. Well, we saw other people see a leopard. In a safari vehicle traffic jam worthy of Times Square, we saw others see a leopard. By the time we drove by the spot, there was no leopard. But I saw a crocodile eat a giant pelican-type bird. So that was a bit incredible. Though, having been on safari on Tanzania, I'm ruined for life.
Regardless, six hours of dusty bouncing and seeing few animals had me ready to move on.
Greg and I said our farewells, I grabbed my bags, and was off to the south coast town of Unawatuna. My time in Sri Lanka is waning.