First trip down to Yala

After a 4 hour journey of winding through villages that sprawl onto the highway, where everyone’s front room appears to be selling something. Along an enormous three lane virgin highway that was built by the ex-President in his constituency of Hambantota, which is totally out of place as the only people using it are blokes on Ox carts. Arriving at the site for the first time we were greeted by a guard and a notice board informing us what had been on the track in the last few weeks. Elephants, leopards and crocodiles were the ones that stud out. I thought this place was going to be wild, but after the enduring journey it made me realise how remote I’m actually going to be.

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Looking through the site
Wind blown tree on site

Google maps does not accurately depict what’s really out there. Golden sand, turquoise water and a splattering of greenery is what I was expecting. False. The wind was whipping spray of the ocean, sand stinging the eyes and the thorniest of bush. The 7 acre site has clearly never been inhabited before, pure Jurassic Park. There’s a lot of work to be done. Enormous piles of rocks litter the landscape, with few substantial trees offering shade. The dry heat was only lightly suppressed by a sea breeze that blew up through the site. SPF 50 on, this isn’t the place for tanning oil… Yet!

Construction of the first ever Looper tent had been taking place until the project was put on hold by the SLTDA. The membranes on, first fix electrics in and the plantation teak flooring is down. As you approach the 8 metre high building, its surprisingly well hidden by the bush. Raised a metre off the ground, the structure hardly inflicts  on the wild panoramic at eye level. Giving you the chance to scan your surroundings for leopards and snakes.

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With some snagging to do, we moved in and around the structure. Outside I heard something rustling in the bushes. A 5ft monitor lizard just finding lunch. Nothing to be worried about apparently. The security guard on site has a little hut. Around the perimeter he’s tied nylon fishing line in the trees. He explained in broken English and hand gestures that it was to protect himself from elephants. Who knew that elephants didn’t like fishing line? I thought a mouse would suffice.

Finding accommodation

Another reason we were down in Yala was to find some accommodation. The nearest village is a small Muslim community called Kirinda. Louis had visited here before and had a property in mind. (There’s isn’t much on offer through spareroom.com) Just up from the beach, along a little track is a ‘building’ that has now been christened, The Shack. Built for aid agencies after the 2004 Boxing day Tsunami, it stands in a 2 acre compound. The main structure is wall-less, but two lockable outbuildings and an outdoor shower, it has potential. Of course it will need a little bit of TLC. Replacement of timber rafters is a priority as carpenter bees have started wood work classes on them. But with ocean views, its own security guard and a 2 minute walk to the beach, I hope friends and family arn’t too deterred and will make a trip in the next 12 months. In fact any one that fancies coming and making my acquaintance is more than welcome. I think it’s going to be a long year.

Kirinda Beach
The Shack

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