Last month I visited Yala National Park in Sri Lanka. The morning of the trip I woke up with a low grade feeling of nausea. Besides feeling lousy, I began to panic that I would miss this adventure that I had been highly anticipating for months. My worry worked itself into a vortex of anxiety. I knew all I needed was distraction. I had a few hours before the tour departure so I went for a walk, took a shower, leaned over the toilet (nothing). Into the backpack went a plastic bag just in case.
Once on the bus that would take us to the park, the sights along the streets of Hambantota were the distraction my mind needed. Everything was so colorful and alive. Sri Lanka was currently electing their next leaders, so people flooded the streets. Their excitement billowed around us as they shouted slogans and cheered as our bus roared past.
Once inside Yala, we boarded open air jeeps, our cameras at the ready. All I wanted was to spot an elephant or two. Even if they were in the distance, just knowing I was looking at an elephant in the wild, would be enough to send me into a good version of hyperventilation.
The first elephant we saw was hidden behind stalks of foliage. He seemed comfortable in his shaded post, not minding our camera clicks. I of course was shaking with emotion to be so close to this being, and him not minding a bit.
We drove on and soon encountered the reason for my morning ailment. A family of elephants. There they were, walking directly towards me. It was breathtaking and surreal, like I should have been home folding laundry, not actually five feet away from a mother elephant and three babies. They silently strode towards us, then made a soft right turn into the leaves, their magnificent hind-ends in my camera lens.
In retrospect, it was the sheer anticipation of witnessing these beautiful animals up close and personal that whipped me into the tizzy I had experienced that morning. Because after we drove on, I leaned back into my seat, breathing deeply, knowing what I just saw was a high point of my life. I never felt so good.