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Sri Lankas wildlife takes some beating

Sri Lanka's wildlife takes some beating

A couple of nights ago Jack and I were watching a video of our last trip to Sri Lanka (sad I know, but until you’ve lived with Spanish TV for 6 years, don’t knock it) and we were reminded of the incredible variety of birds and animals that you find on that island paradise. Kingfishers, cormorants, weaver birds, parakeets, fireflies, monitor lizards, elephants – and that was just in the space of one trip down the Mahweli River in Kandy.

By comparison, the island of Tenerife is rather thin on the ground when it comes to wildlife – Whiskas being the exception of course.
We once had a bizarre conversation with a Brit ‘swallow’ on his last winter sojourn when he casually informed us that wild deer roamed the pine forests around the edge of Teide National Park. When pressed, he had to admit that his information was based solely on the existence of several traffic warning signs which clearly showed the outline of a deer within the red triangular framework. We assured him that there had undoubtedly been a cheap job lot of deer warning signs for sale and the Tinerfeños were using them to advise drivers to watch out for ‘mouflon’, in their typically mas o menos way (which incidentally is the reason why bends only ever occur at 3 kilometre intervals on Tenerife…there was a sale of ‘bends for 3 kilometres’ signs – okay that’s completely unsubstantiated, but I reckon it’s true).

Mouflon are in fact wild sheep with incredibly impressive long, curled horns like some sort of mythological creature. Which is quite appropriate really as we’ve never, ever seen one. Jack thought he saw some on a ridge in the Anaga Mountains once but they were too far away to be sure and to be honest, I thought they looked more like goats. The mouflon allegedly inhabit parts of the Teide National Park and graze on rare species of plant life so they’re considered pests and apparently are killed if spotted by rangers.
Still, the point is that in six years of travelling the island and never having seen one, it seems highly unlikely that they should warrant the use of warning signs to alert drivers to their presence.

He may not be monitor sized, but hes a handsome chap neverthless - Lagarto Tizon, native to Tenerife

He may not be monitor sized, but he's a handsome chap neverthless - Lagarto Tizon, native to Tenerife

Other than the illusive mouflon, we’re pretty much restricted to lizards or run-of-the-mill rabbits, rats, bats and assorted domestic animals. Even the birds, although some are clearly spectacular, pale into insignificance alongside Sri Lanka’s 400 plus species.

But then yesterday afternoon, just as I was leaving the car park to drive to a meeting in the south west of the island, I had to brake hard to avoid hitting a kestrel which swooped down right in front of the car, grabbed a large lizard in both claws and then struggled to achieve height with the weight, flying low in front of the bonnet until it adjusted its carrion and finally flew over the banana plantation wall.

The wildlife might not come up to Sri Lanka standards, but it can still put on a show for you when you least expect it.

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“I’ll mix us a small aperitif” shouts Sarah above the din of the steady disco beat emanating from the speakers and the constant whirr of my hairdryer.
It’s Thursday night, Sarah’s last with us before she returns to Doncaster and makes final preparations before leaving for Sri Lanka and 2 years as a project worker with VSO.

It’s been a busy day; up with the lark at 9am (larks sleep late in Tenerife), fruit for breakfast, make up the bocadillos for lunch, pack the rucksacks, grab the hiking boots and head off into the hills for some crater walking.
Parking the car at the visitor centre in El Portillo, we set off to do the circular Arenas Negras walk.
The north coast of Tenerife is laid out like a jewelled carpet 2000 metres below us as we traverse the crater, climbing steadily until we reach the flat retama scrublands with their myriad of earth tones where the debris of millions of years of volcanic activity has created a landscape where lakes of white pumice sit beside rivers of russet, brown, orange and crimson.Hiking the Arenas Negras trail Into the lunar surface, a vast canyon yawns, its sheer slopes layered in a cross section of volcanic evidence.
We sit on a bed of white pumice and, beneath Teide’s icy stare, tuck into our bocadillos.

The landscape turns black as we skitter and ski our way down the loose descent of the eponymous Arenas Negras before joining the wide pista of Siete Cañadas which will take us back to our starting point.
On the way, Jack teaches us how to ‘get in step’ Marine-style by way of a short stamp with the right foot to the back of the left heel which, almost imperceptibly, changes the lead foot. I’m extremely impressed by this revelation and we practice changing step in perfectly synchronised route-march style for several hundred yards, causing general hilarity and Sarah to drop her sunglasses, undetected, somewhere along the 2½ kilometre stretch.
We begin to re-trace our steps but luckily, I ask a couple of German hikers who are heading towards us if they happen to have seen the escapee ‘fendis’ and they produce them from a top pocket, thus saving us a great deal of wasted time and effort.
Unluckily, they then ask us if we can give them a lift back to their car which they’ve left at the Parador; a 40 minute round trip completely out of our way, thus causing us a great deal of wasted time and effort.
With the compulsory customary beer at the end of a Tenerife walk and the long drive home, there’s little time to relax before we have to head off for the bus and Sarah’s vodka aperitif gives us a much needed boost.

A second aperitif in Plaza Charco and then it’s off to Mil Sabores for a meal that does exactly what it says on the menu; a ‘thousand flavours’ racing around our palettes, the final lap being performed by the best profiteroles and tiramisu ever to grace Canarian crockery.
A couple of mojitos in ‘Elements’ bar round off a perfect evening and it’s near 2am when we arrive home, to find that Sarah left the freezer door open when she mixed the vodkas. The ice bag is now floating and our nightcaps are tepid.
On Friday night, at 10.30pm, a text arrives from Sarah:
“Hi, just got home to find I accidentally switched the freezer off before I left…whoops!”

Is Sri Lanka ready for Sarah, I wonder?

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