wk 32 – tea, trains & the leopard

After a lovely relaxing Christmas in Colombo we headed up into the hills in the new ‘exporail’ train carriage, the only form of train travel now bookable directly online in Sri Lanka, in comparison India is so advanced, you can book all your train trips online through what must be one of the most complex reservation systems in the world!

Back to the Sri Lankan hills, first Kandy, a visit to a temple to see a shrine behind which hidden somewhere there was a rather sacred tooth, then another train ride right up into the tea plantations to Nuwara Eliya…for a civilised cup of tea…

It’s an oldie but a goodie, change your spots for the new year, and no better way to do so than with a safari on 31st December, culminating in the most amazing leopard spotting imaginable…right there…on the track in front of us…the second photo below is exactly what I saw, the leopard was not in the slightest bit scared, as in Sri Lanka there are no tigers, so the leopard is “top cat” so to speak, also love the close up of his spots, so stunning.

Has anyone read ‘Blink’ by Malcom Gladwell? I was half way through the book, and thinking about the situation afterwards, realised that when we saw the tiger in Mudumalai, exactly the same thing happened as with the leopard; a mixture of adrenaline, a rush of excitement, perhaps a tiny element of fear and on both occasions Loc and I took precious seconds to manage to get our cameras to work, it was as though they had suddenly frozen, but it was probably time slowing down in our minds and the focus shifting to keeping the cat in view as opposed to sensing how and when to press the shutter…so no photography success with our first sighting of a tiger and leopard in India.

This time around in Sri Lanka, the jeep driver experienced the same thing, he stalled 3 times trying to get closer to the leopard, nothing wrong with the jeep…interesting case-study I thought…perhaps when you see your upteenth big cat in the wild it’s relatively normal and the ability to take a photo improves…will just have to test it…anyway to see a leopard in the broad daylight is incredibly rare and to capture it on film was an amazing feeling!!

The reason we were lucky I think, is that we decided to head back to our jeep before the other groups, took a quick look at what was a beautiful beach halfway through the safari, and were rewarded with the leopard…Yala national park is without doubt one of the most beautiful spots for wildlife I’ve been to so far, dunes, lagoons, coast, jungle..elephants, leopards, crocodiles, wombat, exquisite…

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