Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Road Trip to Trincomalee

After one day and two nights in Colombo, I was beginning to feel what I think many visitors to this storied place feel:  the overwhelming need to get the hell out of there!  It's noisy, crowded, and the atmosphere is heavy vehicle exhaust.  Many guide books and tourist sites gamely try to play up Colombo's positive features, but it's a lost cause.   Your rational self recognizes the city's culture and its exotic essence, but you still want to leave.

We had arranged for Musharraf to pick us up the next morning at 9:30.   The trip would take somewhere between six to seven hours.  I was in the shower at 8:00 when my phone rang.  It was Musharraf.  He was downstairs and wanted to talk.  I dried off, and went to see what was up.  He had a request.  Since it was a holiday, would I mind if he brought a van and his family?  They had never been to Trincomalee.  No problem!  I really liked him, and thought it would be fun.  

Securing a van, and getting the family together took a while, and we didn’t hit the road until close to 10:30.  Our crew consisted of Musharraf’s wife, his sister, her son and daughter, and Musharraf’s younger brother.  His kid was apparently a slug-a-bed and remained home with Grandma and Grandpa.

It was a grand road trip, which took us into the mountains.  The road was very curvy and mostly under construction.  If you’ve ever traveled on roads in Asia, you experience a more adventurous style of driving.  Passing on blind corners is a common occurrence, and I’ve grown accustomed to the practice.  Somehow, you don’t die, and it really is the only way to get around the dump trucks.  Unlike China, there are a lot of traffic cops everywhere, and the speed limit is strictly enforced.

Sri Lanka is a beautiful place, and sacred places abound.  We passed countless temples, stupa, shrines, churches and mosques.  Lots of jungle and farms too!

We stopped at one roadside stand for some coconut milk and when we got hungry, we stopped for some rotti at a roadside stand.  Damn monkeys came out of the jungle and joined us, expecting a handout.  So did a Hindu woman who preached at us about some things I didn’t understand.  She didn’t go on too long, and Musharraf, gave her some money as we were leaving.
Our traveling companions at the four star rotti stand.

Rotti on the grill.

Rotti with nuclear chili paste.

Damn monkeys.

As we came out of the mountains the land flattened out, and there were clusters of brush and trees amidst some very deep grass.  The grass was trampled in places, and looked as though something had been grazing.  Sure enough, we caught a few glimpses of elephants.  Cool!  Also a few peacocks.  I kept looking for crocodiles, but no luck.

We stopped by a large reservoir late in the day.  We bought ice cream cones for everyone from a guy with an ice cream tuktuk.  We watched fishermen in their boats and a family taking care of laundry and bathing in the lake.  I still didn’t see any crocodiles, which was good luck for the bathers. 

Laundry and bath time
Fishing boats
No elephants in the rice fields

During the drive we talked religion, politics, culture, business, sports, family, food, and most anything else that came to mind.  It was a great day that ended when we arrived at our lodging in Trincomalee.  I promised to call when we returned to Colombo.  We’d have dinner at their house.  We bid farewell with hugs, and looked forward to seeing them again.

Musharraf, the highway star

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