Its pitch black as we await the caretaker, Nandasari. Sitting in the jeep on an unmade road next to a lake, my mind wanders to Elephants, quite common in this area. Our black jeep is about the size of a female elephant, on impact not sure who would come off best, hoping for no surprises. Nandasari flashes his torch light at us and we follow.
We arrive at the River House, rustic though built creatively on a series of cement pillars and RSJ’s , infilled with old timber as the ceiling, and see through blinds to keep you close to nature. Its 3am in the morning and with our hosts we sit by the river and have few gin and tonics and hit the sack by 5am.
The openness of the rooms manifest itself with no ceiling to most of the bathroom, and we are joined by the many creepy crawlers that exist in a forest next to a river, today its mainly centipedes. These little creatures are not to be underestimated. Some years earlier Jessebel and I were stopping at The Culture Club hotel in Dambulla and stayed in a luxury mud hut. It sounds a contradiction but inside the room was well equipped , clean and was substantially furnished. Before we went to bed Jessebel had the management get someone to spray the outside of the hut.
At least three times I heard her say, “I don’t want a snake or animal getting too close”
She is frightened of snakes, spiders and crawly things. Strange for a girl brought up in Australia, but she was a Sydney girl. At about 2am she jumps out of bed saying there is a snake in the bed and its just bitten her, although I tell her “that’s ridiculous and get back to bed”, she insists on a full bed check. After so much fuss and screaming, there is no snake. we go back to bed. Morning sees a lump on Jessabel’s arm the size of half a chicken egg. We rush into the reception and the staff member looks at the lump and says “Centipede madam, need cream”
A slow start by all in the morning reveals the house sitting on three acres of wooded undulating land at the confluence of a stream and a river. The peacefulness of the place embraces you. There is a light drizzle which chills us and makes you feel even closer to nature.
We set off from Dambulla, stop off at a nearby hotel and pick up a safari jeep. In twenty minutes we are in the game park area and head to Muralu Park noted for its elephant herds. There are about 60 jeeps and off-roaders in the car park and about fifty people trying to buy entry tickets for their group. Our jeep driver asks us to pay him Rs.8000 so that he can get the tickets.