Negombo to Habarana is almost a 150 km drive and can take upwards of 4 hours depending on where all you stop.
We had started off from Villa Shade, the homestay near Colombo where we had docked for the night upon landing from India, at around 9 pm. For most part, it is a drive through paddy fields, little hamlets, and busy towns.
Our driver cum guide, Shushanta, said we’d make a stop at the Pinnawala Elephants Orphanage about an hour and a half’s drive away. By now, I had had enough with the elephant centers around the world – we had been to one in almost every country in the last 3 years — David Shepherd Elephant Centre in Nairobi, Elephant centre in Coorg, Elephant centre in Phuket! As I said, I had had enough! But not the daughter and the husband. They overruled me and strutted off upon reaching Rambukkana.
Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage: From the look of it, it was extremely crowded – the street, the ticket counter. It was bound to be. It was after all 25th Dec, a holiday. One last time I tried to dissuade the duo, but they refused to re-consider. Elephants we have come to see and elephants we shall see, they retorted and went off for the tickets. I, on my part, recovered from a feeble OK and went up to the ticketing area to see if they had anything for disinterested souls like me. Yes, there was — Sri Lanka’s famous memorabilia store, Laksala. I hovered around the store while Jayant and Niharika, squealed and ogled at elephants eating their lunch and eating veggies off their hands.
The orphanage is popular with kids and grownup alike (as you can tell from the interest shown by my family) since it offers a whole lot of attractions, such as, bottle feeding thrice a day, bathing in the river twice a day, once in the morning and once, late afternoon. Tickets are fare for Rs 2500 for adults and Rs 1250 for kids. If you belong to one of the SAARC nations, tickets will cost you Rs 700 and Rs 350.
Poo Paper-Making Center: This center is right opposite the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. The staff there take you through a tour of the paper-making techniques through the elephant’s poo, and then take you to the adjacent shop where you can buy products made of the paper you just saw being made. Quite an educational tour for kids. It is free and not binding upon you to buy the products. We’d recommend you to go, take a look.
We stopped by at a nearby joint for a plate of Sri Lankan rice and chicken, and then set off for Habarana. Roads are mostly good, and traffic good too. They hardly honk in Sri Lanka, thereby giving you a peaceful drive…
We reached our hotel in Habarana, Cinnamon, in good time for a tour of the massive place and a dip in its pool. Review of the place follows in the next post.