Join the Khiri Sri Lanka team as they set off in search of soft adventure in the Cultural Triangle!
Soft Adventures with the Khiri Sri Lanka Team
When you hear of the cultural triangle, you get the picture of world heritage cultural sites and history but adventure is not one of the first things that comes to your mind. We as a team thought of trying to change that mindset and create a few experiences for those looking for a bit of adventure. However, we have to admit that we are not hardcore adrenaline junkies and hence these experiences tend to be on the “soft adventure” side of the spectrum.
We left Colombo around 2am which started off with the adventure of waking up so early. Although we were planning to reach Habarana at 7am, our chauffeur Namal had the imagination that he is Michael Schumacher’s Sri Lankan version and we were there by 6am. The final bit to our first destination, Elephant Watch Hut (EWH) falls through wild elephant territory and this was still the time that elephants move around. We drove with caution and in an apologetic tone we woke up our good friend Riza and his team earlier than planned.
Elephant Watch Hut
A stay at Elephant Watch Hut itself is an adventure. It has only the basic amenities sans electricity but it is an ideal example for a sustainable community-based tourism venture. The owner Riza calls it an eco-solidarity project and the whole operation is run by villagers. Built with only wood, the rooms are upraised from ground level, you might ask why, well it is because of the visitors they get during the night! Yes, the name of the property gives it away, elephants make a normal stroll across the property during the night. The owner doesn’t believe in Electric fences so the elephants roam freely.
The food that was served to us in a scenic location within the property was authentic and mostly gave the sense of the warmth of hospitality in the cultural triangle. We first joined a village lady in preparing our breakfast – String Hoppers (a rice noodle kind of dish) with Coconut sambol and curries.
Hues of Habarana - Exploring the Villages on Bicycles
This is arguably the most authentic cycling experience in Sri Lanka it has plenty of local interaction on offer. Although the terrain is not that tough, it had a distance of approx. 12-15KMs and it was a task of finishing in one piece for the team. Starting the journey, our first stop was the brick manufacturing couple that produces almost 600 bricks per day. Even though it is a tiring job the couple did it with enthusiasm. Of course, the Khiri Team jumped in to create those bricks as it was a hands-on experience followed by a competition of creating Elephants with the mud mix. Let’s just say that part didn’t go well for us, ours looked like pigs more than elephants.
Our journey continued passing the tall grasses and you can hear the heavy breathing of the team as we paddle through the terrain.
The next stop was a small hut in which we were served freshly fried lake fish fillets with belimal, a local herbal beverage served in coconut shells. Leon still regrets sharing his fish fillet with Naduni even when each of us was offered a separate fish.
After such a refreshment we paddled towards our next stop which was a dancing school where we could learn the 3 types of Sinhalese Traditional dances that portray different types of styles originating from various parts of the country. Even though the men held the water bowl like a rugby ball, Upeka and Naduni held it in such a way it was elegant and full of graze.
Our journey passed various neighborhoods in the area and lakes and paddy fields and we came to a place where a mother and son were creating something special. They were making oil as medicine for any type of bodily pain you might have. Watching them create that oil by beating the seeds, heating up the seed dust, and finally extracting oil from the heated seed dust was like professionals displaying their mastery. For me, it was master at its best. Now it was time to test the theory by now the team was huffing and puffing firing on those last cylinders well what do you know the oil was disturbed among the team and we gladly applied on our knees and legs where we had our pains but we were a glimpse of hope that we will be arriving for lunch next.
So, with all cylinders firing the team put everything on the final stretch as lunch was the prize we were longing. As soon as we arrived at your guide who was our guide Indika’s house where the lunch was served we were greeted by wet cold towels and lunch was served. With a traditional and warm spread of food, we dived right into it even though the food was warm we didn’t care we went all in. Then our bellies full we realized that the pain in our knees and legs has vanished.
Cricket with the Locals
Next, we need to burn those calories we just consumed. A cricket match was arranged even though Cricket is highly played in Sri Lanka well we haven’t played in years and in some cases in decades. Anyways we went in against some talented young blood. With a hard-fought fight we lost to them it was finely displayed by their captain who showed excellent form in her batting and their fast bowler who had 3 scalps by the end of the match.
We proceeded back to Elephant Watch where we were greeted with some brewed coffee and a dip in the plunge pool and a hot bath. The team joined in for the BBQ and our traditional sing-along by the bonfire prepared by the staff of Elephant Watch Hut. The wild elephants were roaming around quite close by and keeping a close eye while you are intoxicated is not the easiest thing to do. Click here if you are interested so watch a small video clip we did as a memoir of our activities in Habarana.
Safari & Sundowners
Next afternoon was the time for a safari adventure. Although all of us had done safaris here in the cultural triangle, it is something that we never get tired of doing over and over again. Afterall, seeing these majestic creatures in their natural habitat in huge herds is not something common. We were lucky with the sightings at Minneriya National Park and managed to see around 150-175 elephants.
Around 5 pm we came out of the park to experience our new sundowners experience that will be followed after the safari. Hands down the location and the atmosphere is amazing and ideally this is the place you take your profile picture for social media. The cool breeze, sunset, the view of the mountain at the back and the Gin and Tonics created the perfect combination for the end of the evening.