Category Archives: Travel

The shameful neglect and abuse of Sri Lanka’s abandoned dogs.

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The shameful neglect and abuse of Sri Lanka’s abandoned dogs.

YogiMeet Yogi.One of the thousands of dumped, neglected and abused dogs of Sri Lanka. Cute don’t you think? Could you walk past and leave her starving on the side of the road? Step over and pretend she’s not dying of hunger? Well, many like her suffer daily while people walk past and do just that – nothing. Even worse, many puppies (and kittens) are deliberately dumped along busy roads, at temples or in the jungle by careless owners who don’t have their dogs neutered or vaccinated. Other “luckier” dogs, who’ve somehow managed to survive past infancy, have to face the risks of speeding buses, trucks and tuktuks, most of whom don’t slow down or deliberately drive at the dogs. Or when they become a “nuisance”, they get chased away with rocks and fire crackers. It may seem unbelievable, but this is the reality hundreds of dogs face on a daily basis in Sri Lanka.Yogi 1

Yes – this is the island that sells itself as the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean”. Idyllic beaches, nature parks, temples and tea plantations. Sun, surf and happiness. But look a little harder through your coconut cocktail tinged glasses and you’ll see the vast number of neglected, abandoned and abused dogs. Strays that nobody wants and very few care for. There are an estimated 3 million street dogs, surviving on scraps and the mercy of a handful of kind people. Tourists often avoid them like the plague for fear of picking up some heinous “disease” and the locals chase them away because they actually just don’t give a damn.

Yogi was dumped on the side of the road at about 10 weeks old, weighing almost 1.3 kgs, badly malnourished, severely dehydrated, neglected, infected with mange and babesia, which can be fatal if not treated. This is the plight of thousands of dogs in Sri Lanka.

Yogi 3

 

 

 

We came across Yogi while driving along a potholed road in a farming community on the outskirts of a village called Komari, on the east coast of Sri Lanka. Not far from the increasingly popular surfers hangout of Arugam Bay. She was a small, grubby bundle of patchy fur stumbling through the bushes on the side of the road. We stopped and gave her the only thing we had in the car at the time – a yoghurt drink, which she slurped up frantically. We initially thought that she may have strayed from one of the homes close by – dogs like this are common place here. We were headed into a nearby village and thought if she was still there when we returned in a short while – we would take her with us, but she was nowhere to be seen when we returned.

Yogi 4It rained that night and I was worried that she wouldn’t survive unless she had found her way “home”. Sadly that was not to be – we went to the same spot the following morning and found her lying in a crumpled heap on the edge of the road – as if she had crawled there in a last desperate attempt to be noticed and saved, but Tuk Tuks and motorbikes were casually cruising past without a second glance. Thinking she might be near dead, I tried lifting her to her feet but her legs just collapsed. Picking her up and running from house to house to ask if anyone owned her, we were just met with shoulder shrugs and total disinterest. This was not surprising. We brought her back to our hut and fed her some buffalo curd and banana. She was dying but still had a fiesty will to survive.

 

We took her to a local “vet”, which is not common in this area and when you do find one its usually a livestock vet with very little interest in dogs. The woman reluctantly lifted Yogi’s eyelid, mentioning the obvious that she was dehydrated and handed over worm tablets and a multivitamin syrup and sent us on our way.

Yogi 16Despite our attempts to fatten and clean Yogi up so that she would look more appealing to any potential adoptee parents, nobody was interested. This feisty little creature was already barking at the bigger dogs after just a few days of care and food.
Our attempts at contacting animal rescue groups in Colombo to take her in, were futile. Inundated with daily calls for help, they are all already under so much pressure and pushed to their limits, both financially and in terms of numbers they can handle.

Yogi 12

 

Yogi  started looking a little stronger and we decide to use the recommended dosage for deworming. This turned out to be a big mistake – a few hours later, with a rectal prolapse and looking like all her intestines were about to leave her body we knew we had to get her off to a proper vet if she was to stand any chance of surviving.

Racing towards Colombo, our desperate calls were heeded by Animal SOS Sri Lanka,  who offered to take her in despite their resources being beyond capacity and strained financially. This was her only chance, she was so weak in the car and wouldn’t drink anything and once again we thought she would die.

250  kms and 6 hours of non stop driving like a deranged local bus driver we arrived near the surfing hotspot of Midigama. We were met with some of the Animal SOS staff and vets,  who treated Yogi with such care and a genuine concern for her well being.  A few tests later and she was diagnosed with Babesia, but they refused to give up on her. We realised later on that this is their approach to every animal that comes in there. They will do everything possible against all odds. Despite a very shaky start and doubts about her strength, Yogi pulled through, but sadly many don’t.

Beach dogs, street dogs, jungle dogs – call them what they may, nobody wants to take responsibility for them and that a volunteer organisation like this has to pick up the pieces is disgraceful. Many local organisations are unwilling to help and the locals consider them a nuisance factor. The Government solution is to “destroy” the street dogs.

Animal SOS, Sri Lanka,  is a free ranging sanctuary, working tirelessly around the clock to save and rehabilitate so many desperate dogs and cats. They also operate  neutering/rabies vaccination programmes in the local area, adoption schemes and animal welfare education amongst others. They are a charity funded rescue centre and for more info on what they do and how you can help please read this.

Mahatma Gandhi said ‘The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. You have a long way to go Sri Lanka.

For a country that is 70% Buddhist they seem to have lost touch with the essence of their belief system.  One of the key teachings of Buddhism about animals are,  “Animals and humans share the same essential nature. We are not a separate class of beings to whom a separate class of ethical rules applies. The highest Buddhist virtue is compassion, which we are to show to all sentient beings at all times.” Somehow that compassion is massively lacking amongst a lot of people. Unless you think its kind and compassionate to lock away your child or grandmother in a cage all day, or throw stones at helpless strangers?

If you are in the Midigama area,  please pop in and visit Animal SOS. You will be amazed at the incredible work they do. They do need your help and no amount is ever too small to make a difference. Please see what you can do to help here. Thanks to AnimalSOS-Sri Lanka for saving Yogi and so many other lives!

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Maldives – Paradise at a Price

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Thulusdhoo, Maldives

 

As a keen and experienced SCUBA diver, learner surfer and all round lover of the ocean, it’s been a dream to visit the Maldives. All the travel brochures flashing the same cliches and photos of Tropical Island Paradise. Sparkling warm oceans, great visibility, teeming with abundant marine life,  clean white beaches, colourful coral and bountiful pelagics. Snorkel, dive, fish and surf till the sun sets for cocktail hour. It’s packaged and shrink wrapped bliss. Honeymooners mingle with the Rich and/or Famous, beautiful people all round, the holiday of your lifetime. Some wise old codger once said – “If it sounds too good to be true – it probably is”. Read the rest of this entry

Coked up on Surfing in Thulusdhoo, Maldives

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Coked up on Surfing in Thulusdhoo, Maldives

Cokes Surf, Maldives
Mention the word “Cokes” to any surfer and it’s not the fizzy Cola variety that springs to mind, but the famous surf break on the island Thulusdhoo, situated in the North Male Atoll of the Maldives.  It’s one of the most talked about and popular surf breaks in the Maldives. Read the rest of this entry

Pack away the surf boards – It’s a day for kiting!

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Pack away the surf boards – It’s a day for kiting!

Pack away the surf boards - It's a day for kiting!

While the wind gusts relentlessly across Arugam Bay, most surfers, wannabes and instructors have gone into hiding while the kiteboarders come out to play.
Main Point saw a few die-hard, desperate surfers try in vain to get a decent rideable wave, which popped up infrequently as the small swell was flattened into submission by the wind.
As they bobbed around, wistfully staring at the horizon trying to will a set into action, their frustration was further aggravated, as the kitesurfers cruised around them in the line up, snatching a few waves beyond their reach. One crashing his kite into a batch of unimpressed surfers. Oh well, “What to do ? “. Pack away the board, slip on the party shoes and sip on a coconut arrack, as the one thing the wind will not be putting a dampener on, is the regular Friday night Party at Sababa’s, Whiskey Point or The Nest, Arugam Bay! 😉

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Main Point, Arugam Bay – “of mice and men”……

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Main Point, Arugam Bay – “of mice and men”……

 

ImageMain Point Arugam Bay – A world class break they say. Many learner surfers stare longingly at the “hardcore” surfers at The Point, hoping that they too will one day progress to the level of capability to venture across the reefy bottom from Baby Point to Main Point. 

But having counted around 65 surfers in the line up one sunset evening with a small swell,  it held as much appeal to me as attending a packed shopping mall on Christmas eve, with a hangover. And 20 screaming kids in tow. And no bar in site. While the turkeys and gammons are all sold out. Get the picture?

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Arugam Bay Surfing Contest

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Arugam Bay Surfing Contest
Arugam Bay Surf

Arugam Bay Surf Contest

 

In order to get some inspiration to tackle a new (in fact any) adventure, we find it essential to carefully observe, take notes and learn a few tricks before storming head first into a potentially life threatening exercise. Of course it also helps if there are a few cold beverages on hand, bikinis, palm trees and good tunes. Thus, we set out in the blazing sun to watch and learn from the masters of the art, in order to pick up some of the lost surfing “skills” from last year, before foolishly rushing in to confront the masses in the beginner’s line up, armed to the teeth with boards and bodies of immense proportions and shapes. This is how we found ourselves parked off under a palm tree for 3 days, watching the sun, surf, bikinis and surf talent do their thing. It’s not easy I tell you! Read the rest of this entry

Why all the Surf Rage?

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Why all the Surf Rage?

Surfs Up.
An article in a local newspaper recently highlighted an age old incident of surf rage, something that seems to be on the increase. What’s causing all this aggro attitude in the water? Does it boil down to so called “tribalism”, locals who think they own a spot and lay claim to it above everyone else? Is it overcrowding due to the growing popularity of the sport? Or are we simply becoming a selfish, goal driven, generation of greedy humans? Read the rest of this entry

New Addition to the Cape Town Market Scene

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New Addition to the Cape Town Market Scene

Sri Lanka MarketAfter 10 weeks traveling around Sri Lanka with it’s beautiful beaches, warm water, gentle surf, tropical climes, great spicy food on every street corner and bustling markets, (not to mention coconut cocktails), we’re finding it near impossible to adjust to life back in Cape Town. Lets face it – it’s not entirely a shabby place to come home to, great beaches, “the mountain”, vibey bars, warm weather.

BUT the water is 10C, the surf zones are either packed, sharky (if you’re in England then read “man-eating, shark infested waters” ), or you’re going to snap your board (or at my age your neck), the wind can howl for days on end until your last sanity cell fuses and you scream at everything living or not, and also you should mortgage your house if you’re in the mood for a sundowner cocktail or 6 along the sunset strip of trendy Camps Bay. Sadly, spice is not the order of the day and you are often met with bemused stares from your waiter when asking for fresh chilli to perk up a bland meal. Along with that, unfortunately we seemed to have developed a fast food, supermarket culture that provides anything and everything pre-cooked, packed, wrapped and ready to eat. Read the rest of this entry

Jaffna Resurgence.

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Jaffna Resurgence.

Moris Minor


The trip to Jaffna, the Northern most city of the island, was going to be interesting to say the least. We have all heard bits and pieces about the notorious Tamil Tigers (LTTE) and the war that raged in Sri Lanka for 3 decades, ending in 2009. So leaving from surf happy, Marley mania in Arugam Bay, to the once war torn and tsunami ravaged Jaffna was going to be an adjustment of sorts.

Jaffna market

We were not sure what to expect from Jaffna, as many Sri Lankans have never made the trip north and know nothing more about it other than, “LTTE stronghold, war, but now it’s ok”. Or, “Oh, there are Tamils.” Intrigued by these stories of “Tamils” as if we were talking about little green martians that had descended on planet earth and stumbled into a mormon gathering. It’s like coming to SA and saying, “Durban? Oh ya Durbs, cool spot. There are lank Indians there. And they are Hindu.” And the Dutchman hide in Bloem and Pretoria (usually wearing two-tone khaki short pant and shirt). Read the rest of this entry

The not so subtle art of distraction and computer avoidance.

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The not so subtle art of distraction and computer avoidance.

Sri Lanka’s, surf capital, Arugam Bay.


Beer, cocktails, beach, surf, sun and sand, interesting people, not so interesting people, freaks, power cuts, beer, coffee, lack of coffee, dogs, cats, crows, cows, and squirrels. Together or singularly, all these things are to be blamed for my slight tardiness in updating ChillieAndRum. Not to mention my aging rum fueled forgetful mind….. But here is something more on Arugam Bay…… Read the rest of this entry