Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Sri Lanka, Day 1

There's an open competition to see who has the worst drivers. Consensus in Canada seems to be that surely God it must be the ones in Montreal. I kind of have my doubts about that. I'm not sure they're bad, just so much desperate to keep moving lest a bridge fall on top of them or a sinkhole open up underneath them or a watermain explode and wash their car away.

Judging by my trip home at Christmas St. John's is in the running, although whether it's because of the goddamn townies who don't know how to drive or all the goddamn baymen who don't know how to drive remains unclear. Perhaps they can all just unite and blame people from Mount Pearl.

And Iqaluit, of course, laments French taxi drivers and lunatics on skidoos, but it's pretty mild stuff.

No, for world class insanity, let's take my day. Early this morning I arrived in Colombo, Sri Lanka. One of my best friends is getting married. If Moses reappeared in the Middle East tomorrow with 10 brand new sets of commandments, it would only be slightly more surprising then this turn of events.

Being the gracious host and genuinely thrilled that so many of us made the journey to see this (honestly, how often do you get to see miracles? Of course we had to come) he helped a lot with the arrangements, including getting a driver for me and three travel companions for the next five days. Rather than hang around Colombo, we decided Kandy, in the central highlands, as soon as we left the airport.

The driver is good, I should add, but he's good in the way that all Sri Lankans are insane when it comes to driving. Let's take, for example, the winding hill we were travelling up to Kandy. Our driver decided to over take a bus on a blind curve. Which is potentially more than a little crazy, of course. Except the person behind us, deciding we weren't fast enough, passed us on the outside. So at one point, we were three abreast, going up a hill and around a blind curve.

The first thing that occured to me was that I hadn't written up my will. So Cathy, you get everything. Even the comic book stuff you can't be bothered with.

Later on the in the day, when a city bus driver apparently had a last minute change of heart about committing suicide by ramming into us head on by veering away at the last second, I noticed the front of the bus had the phrase "Jesus Save Us" on the front. Sri Lanka is about 70 per cent Buddhist, so I would have though his attention would be elsewhere, but hey, thanks for the help today, big guy.

So yeah, you think you've got crazy drivers....Sri Lanka laughs at you, my friends. Because that was the two highlights of a dozen "Oh holy fuck we're going to die" moments today. I don't know how people on motorcycles do it. They should be dead 20 times an hour.

Of course, I could have been hallucinating it all. Twenty hours from Ottawa to Colombo, with very little sleep. And a bit of good luck when I decided to change my ticket from Iqaluit to Ottawa from Saturday to Friday because I was worried Environment Canada might actually get a blizzard call right. They did...all flights on Saturday were cancelled, which would have made my life a lot more stressful.

Because honestly, even with the long travel and crazy driving I'm thrilled to be here. I got to watch the sun light up a valley with mist this morning. I watched bats and monkeys in a botanical garden. I saw a Buddhist prayer ceremony and, possibly a holy tooth from Buddha. It was very quick, so it's hard to be sure. And tomorrow there are ancient ruins and possibly elephants.

So let's see what the next day brings us.


John, Perth AU said...

Cathy, if you don't want the comic books, I'll take them. ;)

I remember a scene from Arthur C Clarke's novel "The Songs of Distant Earth", where one of the items that was preserved on a starship that escaped Earth's destruction was a Buddha's tooth, in a bell-shaped receptacle. That tooth was probably inspired by the one you saw, considering Clarke's connection with Sri Lanka. Imagine that.

Aida said...

i just came back from Malaysia, exceptionally insane drivers because they are not only able to drive literally within 2 inches of each other and some drive big trucks, but for most parts, survive. They dont stop at stop signs neither do they signal much. Pedestrians really do risk their lives crossing the streets! So i can totally get Sri Lanka.