Yala and the bull.


I reached the checkpoint or entrance to Yala national park a bit late in the day. There were a number of worrying factors. Finding somewhere to camp and sleep was a pressing matter.  I did not know if I would be allowed to cycle through the nature reserve known for its leopards and elephants. Lastly I had read of overseas visitors being fleeced by extortionate entrance fees.
As I cycled up I was waved to one side by park rangers. I was told that I could not go in: ‘Too dangerous! Elephant!!’
I politely asked them if I could be allowed through… and that really I would be fine. ‘No, no. Elephant!’ was the reply. They suggested I stay the night in Kataragama. But again I insisted that I wished to get to Buttala to the North of the reserve and that it was a cool time of day for cycling. I looked at my map at an alternative way around the Park and asked them the best route. At this point a ranger asked me if I had lights for my bike. I put my two cateye front lights on and the rangers checked them. I was then told I could go through but that I had to hurry and was allowed an hour and a half to cycle through. I thanked them and said I would be quick.
The light faded fast although the full moon provided a good light to view the surrounding parkland. I did go quickly although there were a few hills. A pickup truck came alongside and man shouted; ‘Dangerous! Elephant!’
A little further there was an elephant cow on the road and we both passed her and the truck drove between me and the elephant. I thanked the driver. A little later a chap on a motorcycle said the same thing and suggested I go back. But I refused and told him that I quite like elephants…
Next thing.. I passed a bull elephant on the opposite verge of the road. It was close and very BIG with huge long tusks. We looked directly at each other and the bull moved towards me and stamped one his front legs. Ok I thought; it is your park. And I cycled as quickly as my legs could take me. It was a tense moment!
Another cow elephant moving across the road and then I came across a roadside shop. Now on the Northern fringe of the Park I had the problem of finding a place or spot to sleep. But what a great ride in the moonlight!

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