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Pinnawala Elephants

  Colombo airport arrival 

  Our flight arrived just after dawn in Colombo.  Going through immigration procedures quickly, we picked up our luggage and headed for the exit.  Right after customs, we changed money from a Thomas Cook exchange counter which had available low denomination notes, a necessity for the thousand or so tips we were expecting to give.  All the currency exchanges had roughly the same exchange rates which were not bad.  Proceeding to the exit, we made contact with our driver, Mr Chaminder, who immediately rushed off to get his minibus.  The vehicle was a slightly
old Toyota minibus which was spacious and clean.  Within 10 minutes we were departing from the airport taking advantage of the almost non existent traffic and heading for our first attraction, the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage.
   This first drive in Sri Lanka was an accurate introduction on what a big part of our trip would be about.  Snake shaped roads flanked by either silvery rice fields or vegetation in almost every imaginable hue of green.  Dogs and cattle taking leisurely walks about, even in the middle of the road and a myriad small shops sporting huge multicolored signs.  Those sights would become very familiar by the end of our journey in Sri Lanka.

  Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage - Elephant mud spa

  Pinnawala (or Pinnawela) is home to a herd of about 100 elephants of all sizes.  If you have only seen living elephants in a zoo, this is a completely different experience.  The big elephants are awe inspiring with their size and posture and the baby ones are absolutely so cute you will want to take one home with you. 
  Visiting Pinnawala in the early morning as we did has the advantage of seeing the whole range of activities in the orphanage and doing so when the 
temperatures were reasonable.  At first the heard was displayed in a huge field and with plenty of photo opportunities.  The mahouts, the elephant minders, did assist the children in touching and posing with the elephants.  Action then shifted to a shed were feeding younger elephants milk with a bottle takes place.  We were expecting to see baby elephants there but instead young ones were fed.  The speed with which milk disappeared from the bottles was truly amazing.  Next came time for the spectacular elephants bath.  A big part of the heard was led to the nearby river.  The sight of 60 or so elephants plunging and playing in the muddy water was truly amazing.
  Baby elephants seemed to be playing hide and seek around the herd and we could swear a family of elephants was taking a mad bath treatment on the far bank of the river.  We sat sipping soft drinks high at a restaurant above the rocky river edge for almost an hour admiring from above the huge beasts while others were examining them up close near the water.  As we were leaving we did a little window shopping on the shops lining the elephants route between the river and the orphanage.  What impressed us was paper made out of elephant dung!  Apparently an elephant which consumes huge quantities of leaves and branches is a walking pulp factory!  It does not take much to convert what comes out of their digestive system into good looking textured paper...

Despite the visit to Pinnawala lasting only about two hours we all felt the weight of our long journey take its toll.  We asked Chaminder, our driver to take us to our hotel which was still a good two hours drive away.  Off we went through Kurunegalla heading for Dambulla and the Heritance Kandalama which was going to be our hotel for the next three nights.