Before setting of abroad there is usually a little apprehension… What will the weather be like? Have I packed the right clothes? What about the food…can my stomach cope? Are the locals friendly? Will our group get along?
And so it was on Valentine’s Day we escaped the cold British winter and headed to the tropical island of Sri Lanka. The Australian’s amongst us were swapping warm for warmer with a hint of paradise thrown in. Those of us who left our other halves at home were going to have some serious making up to do….
Sri Lanka has an ability to put you at ease from the moment you arrive. Well that is as long as you ignore the insistent horn honking whilst driving. Honk, mirror, honk honk, possible signal, honk, honk, honk, maneuver and the thank you honk. After two weeks in the bus the group were starting to decode the language of the Sri Lankan horn.
Every study tour starts with a welcome meeting. Whilst sipping cocktails, watching the sun start to go down across the warm waters of the Indian Ocean from the majestic splendor of the colonial Mount Lavinia hotel, a swift executive decision was made to hold the meeting outside.
Thirteen nights later, having really got beneath the surface of Sri Lanka professionally and culturally we sat as a group of close friends for our tour debrief. What is fascinating is sharing everyone’s highlights; usually there are marked similarities and some a little less expected. This tour was no different.
Rather than take you through the tour itinerary let me share some of the groups highlights with you…
Visiting Mr Gunasoma the last surviving quartz spectacle lens maker in Kandy
Seeing blue whales at Mirissa
Climbing to the top off Sigiriya Rock Fortress
The history and culture
Beautiful people and country
The colours, smells and sounds
The boat trip to a Chena village for lunch
Travelling back in time at The Hill Club
Elephants at Minneriya National Park
The lunatic tuk-tuk drivers
The variety of transport including bus, train, boat, tuk-tuk and a bullock cart
The impromptu stops
Traditional cookery and pot making
The drive down the mountain road from Nuwara Eliya
Cocktails at the pool bar in Centara Ceysands
The professional visits including a stop at one of the Brien Holden Vision Institute practices.
Most memorable for me was our encounter with the infamous Gemunu the tusker elephant, at Yala National Park during a jeep safari. Bananas, open vehicles and hungry elephants are not a good combination. Having pinned the lady in the front to the seat as it vacuumed the seats and floor with its trunk for food, rather than a scream we heard the immortal words shouted out to her husband, “take the photo!” In the excitement we missed the leopard.
Our group has now also moved on, most of us back home under cold grey skies, but with only a little imagination it is easy to be transported back to the sights and sounds of the tropical island paradise Sri Lanka and the inviting warm blue waters of the Indian Ocean.
David Shannon – Optometry in Sri Lanka March 2015