Hiking Sri Lanka’s Hill Country: birds, a modern monk and two stray dogs

Our guide stops in his tracks and abruptly turns to the left. A second before, we heard a bird calling and immediately, our guide knew what he was looking for: the Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill. Did we see it? Yes, right before they got chased away by the dogs defending the property we passed.

 

That morning we were picked up at our hotel in Ella. Right on time we got in the SUV to drive to the starting point of our hike in the Hill Country. The plan was to hike for a day, spend the night at a Buddhist temple, hike another day and return to Ella. Part of the trip we booked via I like local, was meditating together with a monk and we found this to be a very appealing addition to the itinerary.

Gloomy

Day one was easy. The weather was a bit gloomy but we all agreed that gloomy was better than sweaty. Okay, I usually like my pictures better when it’s sunny but sporting a sweat-stache looks bad no matter which shade of blue the sky in the background is.

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We visited the second oldest Buddhist Temple of Sri Lanka, had lunch in the shadow of a bridge designed and built for a train that never came and picked up two stray dogs as company for our hike.

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Funny thing about these dogs, they were clingy but not begging and seemed to enjoy our company as much as we did theirs. It turned out that they were too afraid to cross the high bridge and after some yelping and barking our new friends decided to just swim across. The band was back together and on a roll.

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Tea and thought

When we arrived to the temple, it was tea time. After readying our beds for the night we sat outside. Tea is the national beverage in the country formerly known as Ceylon and while enjoying a nice cup of the brew we got a brief history lesson of our host country. The place was incredibly peaceful and we felt as if we were given a rare insight in normal life here, far away from big modern cities. I don’t think I was even able to finish that thought before the resident monk strolled by with a big smartphone pressed to his ear.

He invited us inside the temple and started off by asking us about pre existing knowledge of meditation and Buddhism. We much enjoyed the conversation and meditation part, and to be honest, it could have lasted a bit longer in our eyes.

Shades of red

The next day, the hike was not long but uphill and the sun really was out to get us this time. I soon turned a very bright shade of red and our guides tendency to stop and check for birds was not just welcomed by my interest in bright colored flying creatures. On the way we stopped to buy some water. The shop didn’t have any but offered us tea, gave us the biggest and tastiest avocado ever and showered us with the typical Sri Lankan head waggles and bright smiles.

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We didn’t come across any other tourists, a welcome change from backpacker flocked Ella, and had tons of fun asking our guide questions, spotting birds, being a guest at the temple and observing rural life in Sri Lanka. And our dog friends? They slept on our doorstep and walked with us until we passed a bridge with water underneath it they dared not cross.

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It took me quite a while to shake their incredibly sad howling. I hope they soon found another pack of hikers to join.

♥ Dagmar

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