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361 Pairs of Ribs

The air was crisp as we journeyed into the bush at dawn. The serenity of trees wearing diamonds of morning dew, gently sparkling as the sun rose behind them, surrounded us. However, not too long after being isolated in a wilderness just waking up did something else surround us. Something 11 feet tall. Something with 19 pairs of ribs... each.

elephants at ahaspokuna 2This half-day morning bushwalk makes for a tale to tell the grandkids! As we traversed the steep climb of the mountain and trekked into the bush, we heard the sharp rip and crack of branches. Apart from the bushwalking party, there wasn’t another human around for miles. It was nothing but dense forest and mountainous terrain as far as the eye could see. What we didn’t see of course is the creature ploughing through the forest in earnest, waking up the birds and making them somersault off the trees in fright. We looked around and held our breath as the tree-branch-breaking thunder got closer.

Soon enough we witnessed a movie-like sight! Towering wild elephants emerged out of the bush, crossing the path from the mountain to the forest. As a few of us took out our cameras to immortalise the moment, and although we were quiet, our photography movement alerted one of the elephants and he in-turn alerted the rest of the herd with a series of trumpets. This would have been regarded as run-of-the-mill in a safari jeep, where we could rest easy and simply drive away if these giants decided to charge. But we were on foot, and they were on foot. We were alone in the forest, and they outnumbered us 19 to 4. We froze as the warning trumpets travelled down the herd like a vocal domino effect. Soon we were surrounded, and the elephants knew it. However, in their nature being gentle, they continued to walk past us harmlessly. Perhaps we were trespassing on their bushwalk!

As the last elephant made its way towards – what we think – a morning bath in the Samanalawewa Dam, we breathed a sigh of relief, even though the adrenaline still coursed through us. What a fantastic start to a day; an experience of a lifetime, all before breakfast!

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A H A S - P O K U N A

In the Sinhalese language (spoken in Sri Lanka), “Ahas” means “Sky” and “Pokuna” means “Pond” or “Pool”. Ahaspokuna is so named in reference to the lake here, high up in the hills, that is only fed by rain water. A former settlement that sprung up on its shores was subsequently also named “Ahaspokuna”. Today, the jungle tide has washed over where people once lived and the camp provides a wilderness retreat for those in search of something different.
Ahaspokuna by Eco Team

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