To drive from the Uva hills to the east coast in the early morning is to travel through some of the most picturesque scenery at a magical time of day. The crisp morning air adds to the feel of the thin mist hovering around and the quality of light is very special, making the condensation on the foliage glimmer like prisms. The flora itself metamorphoses as the trees and shrubs indigenous to the hills give way to the dry-zone species. The hills peter out at Wellawaya and from then on the dry zone holds sway, turning more and more arid as the coast gets closer. The Sheriff meets me at the ‘office’ and after a few hours of work, I return to base for a late lunch and a well deserved rest. I must have dozed off, but not for long…..

Heeyy maan! Too bad you didn join Sheriff an me to go see Radn. You be workin, so we go over an had us a brew and a smoke wit dat crazy honky. Know wat dis cat be upto maan? He go an pro-pose to dis village chick. Say she bin givin him da eye, so he write her farder a note – in Tamil, maan, aksin fo her hand. Crazy mahfuh!. Den you know what happen? Dig dis sheet maan, she done turn his white ass down for dis tuk-tuk driver dat live in Kandy – sheet, aint dat somtin? So fust he be heart-broken, but now he be relieved, an Java give him som good advice about deese local babes.
I dread to think what Java infused in Radn’s head, but didn’t articulate my apprehensions.

Den da Sheriff an I we make our way back here an on da way he show me where dis po-liceman get stopped las week by som cat and shot tru da mouth an head wit a 9 millimetre Brownin automatic. He say it be da weapon of choice for dem Tiger pistol-gangsters. Dis sheet still be goin on in dese parts, so we mus watch our butts, hear? Now I go over an shoot da sheet wit Tucchi an hear what happen when da Muslim mob be on da rampage after dose cats were killed in da jungle. Tell you bout it later.

And he was gone. The Sheriff and I watch South Africa get smashed by New Zealand, have an early dinner and hit the sack. 

Sunrise on the east coast can be spectacular at the best of times, so dawn finds me on the beach. The first hint of light reveals a slate sky and soon little specks of pink and orange and gold are piercing the thin wisps of cloud, adding their reflections to the calm steel-grey water. The red orb rises slowly out from where the ocean meets the sky, adding to the spectacle as the light expands and the water takes on a coppery sheen. The lightly undulating waves shift the reflected light so that flashes of colour from the lightest of pinks to the deepest crimson create a strobe-like effect that is magical.

Sheet maaan! Dat’s som sight huh! Remind me of dose mescaline trips ah be on – make you feel like Jah be right here wit you, right?

Java’s joined me in time to see the first of the boats come in with their over-night catch. It’s soon light and the beach is lined with around sixty or more boats. The various NGOs names are embossed on these brightly coloured fibreglass vessels with their Suzuki 15 outboard motors – manna from heaven for the tsunami affected fishermen, most of who had no boats to begin with, but crewed for the few that did. There are hardly any out-trigger canoes anymore – a dying breed. We walk past the bustling crowd, some clearing the nets of their catch, some already attracting the mudalalis and little boys gathering the damaged fish for the pot. The beach-dogs look extremely well fed and wait patiently for the time they can get their share without risk of a well placed kick. Bluefin Trevally (Caranx melampygus), Yellowfin Tuna (Thunnus albacares), Baracuda (Sphyraena jello) and masses of Herring (Amblygaster sirm) are the main species netted today – a very good catch all round. Soon, however, the north-east monsoon will have set in and fishing will be curtailed due to rough seas. 

I head back to base, shower and have a breakfast of string-hoppers with the Sheriff, then get the gear together and head for the hills. Lahugala has no elephants to offer today, but there are plenty of armed STF personnel scattered on the periphery of the sanctuary. The trip back is uneventful and the dogs are ecstatic to see me return.