The Krait, The Peacock… and Anula

Our day in Mirissa deserves a post of its own- not because of the beach that attracts tourists by the scores, but because of our surreal experience there, and a colourful character named Anula. We left Unawatuna that morning at around 10am and by 12 o'clock we were already in Mirissa. When we got off the bus and started walking towards town, we were greeted, or rather intercepted, by a woman named 'Anula' who said she had a room in her home that we could have for 1000 rupees. She said it was just a couple of minutes away. After walking for about 20 minutes we were relieved when she took a hard right off the dirt road and continued down a narrow path through the forest which led to her home. The house was in a very secluded and very beautiful location surrounded nearly entirely by jungle. In front of the house she had cleared away some of the dense vegetation to plant an amazing garden full of exotic (to us) plants and flowers. Within minutes of being there we saw many incredibly colorful birds and could hear the calls of peacocks coming from the jungle just behind her garden. Then she took us to our room. It was obvious that she hadn't had guests in a quite while (actually more than two months according to her guest registry) as the bed sheets were covered with insect exoskeletons and enough dirt to plant a reasonably decent garden on them. The floor was just as gritty and had the scat of various small creatures on it. The first thing we saw when we entered the washroom was a gecko on the floor that had been dead for quite some time. We both looked at each other like we wanted to get the hell out of there, but we didn't want to disappoint Anula, and hey, it was only 1000 Rs! So we agreed to stay there for the night. Anula then asked us if we would like some tea. We said we would. After a few minutes of much-needed room cleaning and the unpacking of a few things, Anula returned with our teas which we took in the next room. Over tea Anula complained to us about how expensive things like water, electricity, tea, sugar and toilet paper were for her. By the time we were finished our tea, we knew a lot more about the slightly eccentric Sri Lankan spinster named Anula. She then asked us for 100 rupees for the tea! After tea we wanted to check out the Mirissa beach which is the main reason why people come here (along with whale watching). Before we left, Anula imposed an 8 o'clock curfew on us and said the gate to the path would be locked after that. Awesome! On our way up the forest path leading to the gate and dirt road I nearly stepped on the deadliest snake on the Indian subcontinent- a common krait. It was a big one too- about six feet long and well camouflaged in the dry leaves on the forest floor. Apparently its about 15 times more venomous than a cobra and the most deadly snake not only because of its potent poison but because of their bad habit of hanging around in leaves and brush in populated areas. A lot of people in India and Sri Lanka step on these things and the snakes don't like it! Luckily it saw me before I could step on it and repositioned itself away from my feet. It then slithered off into the forest. I''m not even going to lie- I nearly shat my shorts! So we got some lunch and checked out the beach. Within an hour, we were bored of the beach and headed back to our home in the jungle. It didn't take long before Anula found us and took us on another path through the jungle behind her house to show us her vegetable patch. It was there in her vegetable garden that we saw our first peacock. It was on top of a tree next to a river almost posing for us. I went back to our room to get my camera. The peacock was still in the tree when I returned. To get a clearer and closer shot we had to jump over a swampy creek that separated the vegetable garden from a river bank that offered a good vantage point. Hyo Jin didn't quite make it though and she sank to her knees in dank swamp muck. As I was snapping pictures of the peacock, a giant water monitor lizard swam across the river. The whole scene was surreal. About a half hour later Anula returned and called out to us to get away from the river bank because there were snakes and crocodiles about. On the way back it was my turn to go knee-deep into the swamp. We cleaned ourselves up and went for dinner- all the while well aware of our eight o'clock curfew.

Shot of the peacock scene taken @ 70mm

When we got back to the house it was a quarter past eight and Anula was waiting for us by the gate none to impressed. She asked us how much we paid for dinner. It was pitch dark outside her house (electricity is expensive you know) and from her garden you could see every star in the sky. Closer to the ground hundreds of fireflies illuminated the trees around us. With it still being so early and not much else to do in the middle of nowhere, we crawled under our mosquito netting and finished off the last two episodes of “The Walking Dead” (Season 2) on the iPad. We fell asleep with a dozen or so fireflies clinging to our mosquito nets and all the sounds of the jungle outside our door. Maybe it was the fresh zombie gore in her head, or maybe it was the grit in her bed, or perhaps it was the fear that Anula was watching her through the crack in the door, but Hyo Jin barely slept at all that night. By 7am Anula was knocking on our door telling us it was time to get up. When we finally did she told us that the room price of 1000 Rs was just for one person and that we needed to pay an additional 500 rupees. I told her to forget about that idea and we quickly packed our things and got out of Dodge. Before we said our last goodbyes, she handed me a piece of paper with her contact info on it and told us to come back again in the future and to spread the good word about her lovely guesthouse in the jungle.

Shot of peacock taken @ 200mm

Just another day at the beach!

 

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