Our final safari of the trip was to Udawalawe National Park – apparently one of the best locations to see Elephant in Sri Lanka. We were up well before dawn to pick up the jeeps and get to the main gate for opening time. As we’d already seen Elephant well at a previous location we concentrated on birding. Our main target was the range-restricted endemic Marshall’s Iora, which we saw within the first hour and then on a couple more occasions as we toured the park. The supporting cast included: Yellow-eyed Babbler, Philippine Shrike, Jacobin Cuckoo, Yellow-crowned Woodpecker and Indian Roller. We arrived back at the park entrance, transferred from our jeeps to the bus and drove ten minutes to a local restaurant for lunch. I’d just sat down when, for no reason, I checked my back pocket – no wallet! Simultaneously our guide was receiving a call from our previous hotel. They’d had a message from the post office in the village where we were having lunch, saying that my wallet had been found in the park. They knew to contact the hotel because I’d kept the bar bill receipt in my wallet. We drove straight to the post office to reclaim my wallet – all my bank cards were safe and my driving licence too but all our cash, in four currencies, was missing! Admission to the parks is strictly controlled, with details of each driver recorded. There is only one place you are permitted to get out of the vehicles – presumably the place I’d ‘dropped it.’ Handing the wallet into the post office, rather than taking it to the police, was done anonymously. I’m guessing that the ‘finder’ consider the cash a fare return for leaving my bank cards intact. True, I was very grateful to not have to go through the worry and hassle of cancelling cards but I was disappointed that someone thought they could help themselves to £200. Oh well, that’s travel for you – it broadens the mind but, occasionally, diminishes your faith a little in other people.
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