posted on Friday, February 26, 2016

Colombo


Final report from the Land of Smiles. The stretch from Ratnapura to Colombo was much more than the boring transfer to the capital I had imagined. For at least half of the way, the road was winding through forests, hilly and often following a large river called Kalu Ganga. In the airline world we talk of ditching as a procedure when an aircraft has to do an emergency landing on water. The few times I had to deal with heavy traffic during this holiday, my ditching was much more straight forward and literal. When I would see a large truck coming at me, hear another one behind me and the hooting growing into a crescendo, I would quickly turn and jump into the ditch at the side of the road. Very efficient if a bit humbling. When my ditching practice today started, reaching the outskirts of the capital, I knew it was time to call it a day; I sat by a fruit stall to savour my last sweet watermelon, before folding the bike up, dive for safety into a tuk tuk, letting his experience do the dangerous driving. Reached my guest house and refreshed it was time to explore Colombo. I didn't have high expectations as it is often not part of a Sri Lanka sightseeing tour. I really enjoyed the evening stroll through the Gangaramaya temple and the ocean sunset on the long beach but other than that it seems to be a city desperately trying to win a world chaos competition. I can easily say that my tuk tuk driver taking me back last night was an experience in itself. Everywhere else where traffic is tame and follows some civilised rules, this guy would have long been jailed and banned from driving anything that has wheels. Tonight, in the Colombo evening traffic jam, he was my hero! In the half an our it took to get me back, he was driving as if possessed by the devil, spanning all lanes and winding its way through cars, large trucks and buses like a gifted maniac. I thought we would crash at least five times, had to close my eyes a few but he was always in control, calm and unperturbed. What to say of Sri Lanka. It's been a wonderful setting for this adventure. Perfect it is certainly not. I haven't mentioned the pollution of its cities, the garbage one constantly finds thrown along the roads and the condition of poverty and squalor too many people still live in. Yet what has been imprinted most in my memory are those huge smiles and greet from all the people I crossed path with. Their generosity and good heart together with the island's wonderful tropical landscapes, its forests and mountains that will make it hard to forget.