February 10th ~ Final day in Sri Lanka
Our tour was rapidly coming to an end as very late this evening we would be heading to the airport for the long, long flights home.
But first we have some final sightseeing to do.
Madu River Safari
A boat ride on the Madu River made for a relaxing morning. Life jackets were passed out and our group was divided into two boats.
Fishermen place shrimp baskets strategically along the river. They are lit up at night, which draws the shrimp in so the fishermen can gather them in the morning.
Passing through mangroves for some strange reason reminded me of an amusement park ride through the tunnel of love.
We stopped along the river at Cinnamon House for a demonstration of how cinnamon is harvested from under the outer bark. We were also shown how rope is made from coconut husks. **Remember I had mentioned in an earlier post that all parts of the coconut are used.
Stilted homes and a vegetable stand were seen in the middle of the river.
Victor Hasselblad Sea Turtle Research and Conservation Center is well known for rescuing injured turtles, hatching eggs, and raising baby turtles until they are three days old. You may recognize the name, as this is the same Hasselblad who manufactured digital and film cameras. He founded the first turtle hatchery on the island in 1978 and over the years they have successfully returned over 4 million turtles to the sea.
Injured turtles are kept at the center to live out their lives.
Eggs are gathered on the beaches and brought to the center where they are “planted” in the sand and labeled. After the eggs hatch, they are kept in large vats for three days which greatly increases their rate of survival.
We got to hold a baby that was three days old, as well as an older turtle that could not be returned to the ocean.
We also got to see a very rare albino turtle which would never survive in the wild.
Back in Colombo
The six of us (Dick, Karen, Jan, Gary, Tim and I) had started our journey here in Colombo, arriving three days prior to our Gate 1 tour. I’m very glad we came early, as it gave us an opportunity to see more of the highlights of this very interesting city.
We did see a couple new places though including:
Independence Memorial Hall
This memorial hall is an open pavilion where religious events and annual national holidays are marked. It was built to commemorate the independence of Sri Lanka from British rule.
Old Parliament Building
Old City Hall
Heshan tried valiantly to explain the rules of cricket to us as we watched a bit of practice. I was absolutely, completely, totally confused.
Post Script: Pick up at the hotel was 10:45 p.m. for a 2:45 a.m. departure flight. Once we took off from Colombo, it was another 24 hours before we touched down in Los Angeles. We loved our time in Sri Lanka, but as always, it is wonderful to be safely back home.
Coming Next: What souvenirs did I bring home from Sri Lanka?
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am very grateful to our excellent driver, Susantha, for navigating us safely from one end of Sri Lanka to the other. Always polite and professional. I’m thankful for our bus assistant, Thilina, who greeted us everyday with a huge smile, kept the bus clean, passed out water, sprayed our hands with sanitizer every time before we got on the bus and so much more. He was a bright spot each day.
I’m especially thankful for Gate 1 choosing and hiring our exceptional guide, Heshan. Heshan was very knowledgeable, friendly, helpful and kind. His job has to be more challenging than herding cats through a typhoon. Somehow he never lost his patience with us as answers to numerous questions were repeated, times were reminded, and facts were reiterated.
Thank you Sri Lanka for opening your hearts and homes and making us feel welcome!