Or, how I’ve crossed my heart and went to visit the captive elephants of Pinnawalla!!!
When an animal lover hears the ward “captive”, his cognition process collapse. The part of the brain in charge with analyzing data, refuses any intake of information.
I am one of these people!!!
The ward “captive”, will throw us in a instinctual denial of any logical argument, attesting it’s benefit. How can being captive be beneficial; it’s absurd!!!
After giving up on Zoos, and Aqua-parks, or on chasing what some consider as a thrilling experience: (taking photo with a sedated wild animal), I have finally decided to give a chance to a so called, animal orphanage.
My mind is still dueling upon my decision, but somehow, my heart tells me that, at the end of this journey, some strong believes, will be changed.
I already knew that Pinnawalla Elephant Orphanage is home for more than 88 Asian Elephants, making it, the largest herd of “captive elephants” in the world. Its base was set in 1975 in an intent of changing the core definition of captivity. Orphaned baby elephants, from all around Sri Lanka and, later abandoned or maltreated elephants from Pinnawalla village, were brought here and offered protection.
The village spreads on 25 acre of coconut plantation, crossed by Maha Ouya river, and tourists, are only allowed to observed or get involved into the elephants natural habitat, without altering their routine.
Hence, you can offer the elephants a bath, or watch them bathing from the shore, feed them but just during the feeding process, or join them, wile herded, about 5 km twice a day, towards the river.
With an opened mind, and no time to think twice, I departed as soon as I reached Sri Lanka, towards what I hoped to be a game-changer.
For the 2 h 30 min. journey ahead, my tiredness, was not to be payed attention. I had to see by myself if these beautiful, imposing creatures, are cared for, and so my hope in Humanity can increase a bit more.
I was sure that if I reach there, somehow I will feel it, I will know!!!!
My eyelids are falling heavy, letting trough, just flashes of a distant world; a young girl selling fruits along a dirty road, a bicycle, full-loaded with fish, colorful clothed, people melting together like in a dramatic peace of art.
An entertaining decorum which pushes me to reverie, for what seems more than 1 hour!!!
While I do consider Sri Lankan people as warmhearted, trust-worthy and peaceful people, I still needed to get to know a little more, the man which suppose to drive me around, far from any familiar place.
Therefore, in a sign of courtesy, I have invited my taxi driver to join me for a local tea. I here find out about, the diversity of samusa( a local savory pastry), and tasted the most questionable but delicious Karak tea (a cardamom or blend spices and milk mixture, boiled together with a tremendous amount of sugar).
The aromas, opened up our souls to sharing, from Buddhist philosophies to family matters and ethical values. Grateful for our meaningful break, we now continue our journey towards Pinnawalla.
The drive became more cheerful. Fully awake and with a more open conversation with my driver, the 1 h 30 min. left, passed as the summer breeze.
At the orphanage entrance, I was offered a variety of activities, based on the day schedule of the elephants. The feeding time has already finished, but I was just on time to catch a glimpse of the beautiful creatures, enjoying a bath under the summer heat.
The river is at just 20 m from the entrance, so in just a few steps, my heart starts pounding. Three beautiful elephants were enjoying the refreshing water, while others were approaching from the depths of the coconut plantation. The view was breathtaking!!!
No, it was not the first time to see elephants, but the feeling, now making its way at a nauseating speed trough my body, was different.
I could feel their serenity, they were at peace, splashing water at the two girls, which were trying to handle a giant sponge, rather tingling than scrubbing the elephant’s back.
What made me even more happy, was the lack of tourist crowds. Maximum 10 people were scattered around the plantation, blending into the elephant’s habitat.
Closest to me was a beautiful Tusker. ( The Asian female elephants have none or very small tusks, which leaves the dominant male elephant, possessing big fearful tusks, with the name Tusker).
The size of this elephant was overwhelming, but my heart was drown towards the furthest elephant. A small female, introduced to me as Rani. “Rani is a former temple elephant, who came to live here in 2002 when her owners could no longer afford her.” She is also one of the painting elephants.
I have entered the knee-deep water and stood near her. My body was shivering. I tried to wash her but soon I have realized that I was loosing my sens of motion.
I could feel her body ,moving with every breath, and she stood calm, as waiting for our souls to meet.
I am not aware of the passing time, standing in silence near her, felt like I was challenging the lows of nature.
But she had to go. Each elephant stays around 1 h at the river and heads back, soon after, letting place for others to enjoy.
With a sad heart for seeing her maybe for the last time, but at peace, knowing that she is taken care of, I make my way back to the taxi.
The ride back was almost in silence. Crushed by the heaviness of my thoughts, and with Rani’s scent still deep impregnated into my senses, I felt into my usual reverie.