Monday, January 7, 2013

Travelling around Kuwait

Although we are on our last year, it is still possible to see some new sites. Or to re-visit old sites with more appreciative eyes.
Here's a couple pictures from a fall trip out to Failaka Island and a spontaneous visit to the Dhow graveyard. As with anything, it's also the company that makes the trip.

A quick trip to Germany

Anna was in the play " The Importance of Being Earnest" at the end of November. So I took the opportunity to fly up and see it. She was fabulous, the play was fun and it was a great chance to see how the college kids live. Ah, those were the days!

Beach time is alright by me

Here are some of my favorite beach shots. What a pleasure to listen to the surf every day ( and night).

On safari in Yalla National Park, Sri Lanka

Commentary by David

After our trip to Singaraja Rain Forest, Anna and I traveled to see more nature. We traveled east to go on safari and see the elephants. Nadine again decided to do something different. Off we went again in the same taxi van. Nadine went with us as far as Matara where Mali, our maid, has a home. We met Mali there at her home and left Nadine there to spend the day. We spent another 3 hour ride on a road along the coast. When we got to the road leading to the Nature Reserve, we had a small lunch and got into a jeep. Like Singaraja we had a long ride to get to the park itself. Again lots of potholes, but the seats on the jeep were quite comfortable. The park had a single lane dirt road and we were one of about 150 jeeps in the park. The guide was quite good at spotting animals along the side of the road. However, we were not allowed to get out of the jeep and so there were times it was hard to see the animals. Then when an animal was spotted, there tended to be a traffic jam with jeeps jockeying to get a good look. To see the leopard there were at least 20 jeeps lined up two deep on a one lane dirt road. The diesel fumes got a bit over-powering at times.
We saw water buffalo, mongooses, an owl, deer, crocodiles, elephants, peacocks, and jungle fowl – the national bird of Sri Lanka. We also saw an orange spot that we told was a leopard. We saw bats, monkeys, lizards and wild pigs. In total we drove around for 3 hours and then a ride back. It was getting dark and there is a rule that jeeps cannot use headlights in the park. Driving in a jungle with large animals around on potholed dirt roads with no lights is an interesting experience.
Then another 3 hour drive back to the villa. About an hour into the drive, were we stopped by a cop. Upla, our guide, asked me to be sick because we were going too fast to get me back to my villa. After explaining to the cop that I was “sick”, the cop agreed to accept the 500 rupee fine there and then. So, the cop got his 500 rupees to put into his pocket and we continued on.
The night ended with picking up Nadine at Malis house and venturing back to our villa. What an experience..but I am glad that I could have this adventure while in Sri Lanka and not have to travel to Africa.

Visiting the Rainforest in Sri Lanka

written by David

One of the places I wanted to make sure we visited in Sri Lanka was the Singaraja Rain Forest park. It seemed to be an opportunity for adventure-- just the right mix of new sites and scenery. After reading the information about the park, Nadine decided that it was indeed the perfect adventure—for Anna and I. She was afraid of the leeches and decided to spend the day doing the far more dangerous adventure of shoping.
So Anna and I visited the park on the third day we were in Sri Lanka.. To get there, we went north via taxi (van) from Galle for about 66 kilometers which is not far, but because the road wound through the mountains, so it took three hours. The traffic situation is not like driving down Interstate 94 in Minnesota. The road is single lane traffic and due to slow moving trucks, little three wheel vehicles (tuk-tuks) and the occasional tractor, it was at times teeth-clenching when the van was passing a tuk-tuk and a truck was coming from the other direction.
“We’re going to die”, Anna muttered more than once.
“Yes we are” I said in my best calm father voice, “ but not today. “
Despite the thrill of the ride, the drive there was quite nice. Wonderfully lush green scenery of jungle, rice paddies, tea plantations. It was the perfect eye -feast after living in the desert for 5 months. Once we got to the entrance of the park, the road became more pothole than road so we had to switch to riding in a tuk-tuk. The driver was quite good, but I was glad I did not have a bad back. We eventually got to the park and we were off on our trek.
Vinny, the guide, wanted to make sure we saw everything so he lead us at a brisk pace. Although we were in a rain forest, the trail was packed dirt and quite easy to walk on. I had read there was not too much wildlife to be seen, but I was a bit surprised at the lack of bird noise. Initially, the biggest animals we saw were foot-long lizard and some large millipedes. Later on we saw a 6 foot snake and a couple of monkeys.
We crossed a river and to a visitor center where Anna discovered her first leech. It had been on her for a bit and when she pried it off, her ankle bled quite a bit. By the end of our walk, she totaled 21 leeches. I found 2 leeches, but later in the van, Anna noticed that I had blood all over my shirt. I had had a leech on my inside elbow and at sometime dislodged it and the blood got onto my shirt. I also had one on my ankle I didn’t know about and the bite later became a bit infected. Nadine had made the right decision not to travel with us.
At the visitor center we were joined by two couples of Russians. After travelling with them for abit, and finding them a bit noisy, I think the Russians have replaced the Americans as “ugly” travelers. Anna described them as “wussies”. Needless to say, we weren’t impressed.
We didn’t really have a destination in mind so Vinny suggested the 5 waterfall walk and we blithely agreed. Up the mountains we went. Gone was the packed path and we wandered through a trail made of rocks and tree roots. This trek could have been a real ankle twister and of course, not having the ADA handicapped accessible law, there were no handrails. Occasionally, there were steps cut into the hill, but they were few and far between.
At the top of one difficult hill climb, Anna paid me a nice.
“Hey look Dad, you outlasted the 20 something Russians.”
The most awesome part of the trip was viewing the water falls- one beauty after another. We had to wade streams and climb over boulders to get to them, but we were rewarded with incredible sights and sounds of water. The last one had a wonderful pond and I went swimming – a great way to cool down after our sweaty 3 hour hike.
Now it was time to start back and it being the rain forest of course it started to rain – a warm soaking rain for our last hour of walk. We got to the restaurant and had a nice meal of soup and sandwich.
We had one last adventure while returning to the van. It was now getting dark and we were driving down a mountain road with huge potholes in a tuk tuk that had a headlight about as strong as a large flashlight. Once back into the van, the drive back to our villa was downhill and our driver was passing vehicles in the dark with not much idea what was coming around the bend. At one time he was passing and he turned off his lights to see if there were headlights coming from the other direction. We passed a tractor and the headlight he was using was a flashlight. Thankfully, we arrived safely. And as I thought, this was not the day we were fated to die. Nadine was happy to see our leech scarred bodies returning tired but happy.

Sri Lanka for the holidays

We had fabulous time in the country of Sri Lanka ( below India). Here are a few of the highlights:
A. We enjoyed having Anna with us this year. This photo, taken on a boat cruise of nearby islands, shows that we were happy almost all of the time.
B. Sri Lanka is primarily Buddist. It was interesting to tour the different temples.
C. Anna and David enjoyed a tour of a rainforest area one day.
D. David at one with
E. Another fabulous sunset...or was it sunrise? Both were glorious and delightful to watch over the Indian ocean.
F. Surfin Sri Lanka style. Anna picked up this new hobby quite quickly. Thankfully she has her fathers athletic ability.
G. This is the family of our main, Mali. It was a great treat to meet them. Lovely people.
H. Mali and I and her two daughters touring a Budfist temple.