Ever since the Choir was told we would be touring Sri Lanka this Christmas, our visit to the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage was a point of great excitement for each and every one of us. And finally the much-talked-of moment arrived on our way to Kandy. Eagerly buying feeding tickets, we all headed straight to the feeding rings, where much joy was had feeding the babies bottles of milk and some of the older elephants with fruit. For someone who has never seen an elephant in real life before, they are quite awe-inspiring – and very big! It was so exciting to not only be able to see them, but touch and feed them! Not far off from the feeding spot, a big herd of elephants, comprising a combination of elephants orphaned from birth and those injured in the wild, waited to be taken down to the nearby river to bathe. The choir followed their path and gathered along the edge of the river to watch and take an abundance of photos with elephants as a back-drop (to the envy of many of our friends and family back home).
Leaving the elephants to continue their bathe without us, we were each quickly distracted by the abundance of elephant trousers, poo paper, wooden elephants, leather bags and innumerable other knick-knacks being sold at the market stands and shops on the way back to the coach…
While some used the coach journeys to catch up on much-needed sleep, others entertained themselves with chatting, listening to music and enjoying the stunning views outside. Every moment of the drive was filled with new beauty and glimpses of ‘normal’ Sri Lankan life, meanwhile the mountainous terrain as we approached Kandy afforded us some truly breath-taking views. After a long drive through this countryside, we arrived in the centre of Kandy. The first sightings of wild monkeys on the streets provided great amusement as we headed to the Kandyan Cultural Centre to watch the ‘Rangahala Kandyan Dance’ show. An hour of entrancing traditional dances followed.
Not having any singing commitments that night, we all enjoyed the chance to relax, drink in hand at the bar until dinner was served – a delicious buffet-style meal provided for us at the Hotel Suisse. Despite our tiredness, every one of us found great entertainment in being serenaded by a mariachi band while we enjoyed the abundant food. The ‘Banana Song’ and ‘We Love Sri Lanka’ were particular hits and many took the chance to let their hair down, singing along and dancing in great style. Even Mark’s initial disgust with our enthusiastic though perhaps not very polished singing was turned to amusement with the chorus of the song ‘Who the Hell is Alice?’ Meanwhile refrains of ‘No! Banana today!’ were often to be heard throughout the rest of the tour.
Next morning we were up bright and early, dressed in white and pale colours to visit the Temple of the Tooth. Despite slow but constant rainfall, the Temple of the Tooth was a fascinating place to visit, both culturally and historically. We were lucky to have both an excellent guide and Professor Senanayake’s commentary to enhance our understanding and enjoyment of the Temple. The Central Shrine was beautiful and the museum rooms gave a detailed history of The Tooth and the Temple.
The minibus ride, from the Temple of the Tooth to Trinity College Kandy, kicked off an afternoon of pranking, girls versus boys, in which various shoes and items of clothing were stolen (to be returned at a later time as appropriate). Once at Trinity College, we were joined by several school choirs for a two-hour workshop. Everyone learnt well and much fun was had by all, adding actions to Gardner’s arrangement of The Holly and the Ivy and learning a number of other songs such as Jingle Bells and Blue Moon.
After a lunch kindly provided for us by Trinity College Kandy, we rehearsed with Trinity College Choir for our joint concert that evening, in which both choirs came together to sing a number of pieces, including the Sinhalese song Pudamu Geetha Mal and a new piece Ah Dearest Jesu. Rehearsal over, we had a few hours of down time before the concert. While some enjoyed games of water volleyball in the swimming pool, others investigated the shops in town and still others enjoyed some time of quiet and relaxation at the school. The evening’s joint concert with Trinity College Choir was enjoyed by all and singing, not least because of the novelty of singing in a chapel which had no walls. Read more about our concert in the following review: http://bit.ly/1AWRQuY.
A short but cozy minibus ride brought us to a nearby hotel, where a wonderful dinner had been prepared for us by the Trinity College Old Boys’ Association and we had a chance to mingle and get to know some of the members of Trinity College Choir and past members of Trinity College. It had been a thoroughly enjoyable but tiring day, so everyone was glad to get back to their rooms at last, although, despite our great need for sleep, high spirits and lively chatter entertained us all for some time before the rooms fell silent.
Up at 6am the following morning, we had an early but tasty breakfast at Hotel Suisse before we started our onward journey – the long drive north to Jaffna. It was, at first, a far more subdued coach journey this time, as many people took the opportunity to sleep or read quietly. We stopped along the way at Cinnamon Lodge, Habarana where tea and snacks were generously provided. With a little time to explore the resort, many of us wandered off to enjoy the beautiful peace and quiet, especially enjoying a bird-watching bench located up a tree and looking out across a huge marshy lake. Definitely the sort of place I could happily disappear in for a few hours to enjoy the beautiful views and peace of nature…