On Monday morning I caught the train from Colombo to Kandy, which has to be the most unforgettable train ride I’ve ever experienced. My new friend, and co-volunteer Cheng, grabbed my hand as soon as the train started and pulled me to the doorway of the train carriage. Here we sat down on the step and looked out at the passing stations, villages, people walking on the tracks and rolling hills filled with gorgeous green trees. Hanging out of the doorway with the wind pulling my dress and hair would have to be the epitome of freedom. Every time we went through a tunnel, Cheng, the local Sri Lankan kids and I would yell out the doors as loud as we could, and then crack up laughing. The other people on the train probably thought we were a little insane. The train ride was completely liberating. I don’t think I can accurately describe just how awesome this experience was, so I just have to say: go to Sri Lanka, catch a train and get wild hanging out of a carriage door! (On a down note, be safe while doing it…obviously accidents can happen).
Getting excited about the train ride
View from the train
Cheng is an absolutely hilarious girl from China. On the train she pulled out a portable karaoke microphone and explained in her broken English that we would have fun with this while volunteering. Cheng has definitely contributed to a lot of my entertainment while being here.
At Kandy we were met by Sipun, one of the field staff, and began our arduous 3-5 hour bus ride to Hettipola. Hettipola is a small town surrounded by little villages of farmers who grow rice, maze, beans and other crops seasonally. We had to get a tuk tuk for half an hour along bumpy roads to reach our destination at the SLWCS fieldhouse in a village named Pussalayaya.
Sunrise at the field house
We were welcomed by the other volunteers, field staff, researchers, house staff and a nice, simple house to live in. Everything here is extremely open, and the bedrooms are bricked off with a curtain for a door. I think the mattress may be made of straw or definitely has something plant based in it, and are surprisingly comfortable. The windows are just gaps in the brick wall…who needs glass anyway? Mosquito nets are draped over the beds which I am extremely grateful for, as I am covered in itchy bites. I actually love just how open everything is, it is very homely. From the lounge area you can look out onto a large manmade water tank which is absolutely stunning at sunrise. It attracts lots of different birds, especially some nice big kites and eagles which are great to watch.
Here at the fieldhouse are two other volunteers, Nick and Yufei, who are both absolutely lovely. There is also Kylie who is doing her PhD on beehive fences, and Bri who is doing her honours on elephant activity at the local dump. It’s great learning about their projects and getting to help out with data collection; it also just highlights how high the human-elephant conflict here in Sri Lanka is. I’m so grateful to have people like Kylie here who can give me so much advice and insight into the world of elephant research. I think I’m already in love with this place…