This was a lucky encounter! We travelled to the Galkadawala Forest Lodge, located a few miles from the Habarana town. It was a wet day with a mild, intermittent showers. Upon arrival we were welcomed by Maulie De Saram, its proprieter and chief hostess. Galkadawala is an architect designed lodge built and operating in sync with nature. In fact, it is a catalyst for nature as the “jungle” within the property has been allowed to grow by Maulie. She said it was a “chena” cultivation when they had purchased it. “Chena” is a slash and burn technique increasingly used in the past here in Sri Lanka to cultivate forest land based on the cyclic monsoon rains.

Galkadawala Lodge, like Maulie rightly said is akin to the tropical fruit Durian; you either love it or it is not to your taste! Google it; it is delicious and nutritious. It has a distinct odor and I love it! If you love nature and are comfortable walking into a jungle, or would like to sincerely try it, Galkadawala Lodge is a great choice! It is a unique and unparalleled experience. If you are a gadget geek like me, it is the ideal opportunity to try out your camera, GPS and other gear.

WILBER The Bull Elephant
WILBER: The Bull Elephant of Galkadawala

On our way back from the meeting with Maulie we were overtaken by a motorcycle. On it were a dad, mom and their little infant wrapped in a quilt. My student Moiya Hazell waved at them as they passed our jeep and so did they, with an innocent smile unique to this area. Only a few minutes later we were shocked to find the trio racing back. As they passed us they said “aliya, aliya..”, which meant elephant in the Sinhala language. I asked the driver to keep driving and stay calm. As our vehicle approached it, WILBER (named in this instance..) moved off from the road into the jungle and turned back facing us. I got down and “spoke” to him. I am no whisperer, to dog-or-elephant and am surprised people still buy into this notion. I asked him to get back and stay there. He trumpeted from the tip of his trunk. Moiya later recalled how WILBER responded to the “commands”. The idea was to keep him in and enable the motorcycle family to pass through safely. I saw them stopped and ready to getaway and asked them to pass through. I said the elephant was not on the road but fear made them turn back and go home or wherever it is they came from. This is life in Galkadawala and many other elephant inhabited areas in the beautiful island of Sri Lanka.

 

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