Sri Lanka Day 1: The Colombo Striptease
‘The moon is made of some sort of dairy product, probably cottage cheese.’ – Nasseruddin Shah, Waiting(2015)
I arrived in Colombo at 9pm. While I waited in the immigration line, the jet staff transported my carton to the SOG belt, used only for oversized luggage. I had started reading Anne Mustoe’s novel on her journey from Kathmandu to Kandy on a cycle. The queue was stagnant for a long time but i didnt seem to mind. Anne had followed the route from Sita’s house in Janakpur (Nepal) all the way to Kandy (Sri Lanka), home of the ten-headed Raavan. She took a pit stop at Ayodhya, picked up Ram on the way and then moved towards Bombay, to be greeted by the monkey-god, Hanuman. I really like how she incorporated a mythological epic with her own travel, that too on a bike. While she narrated how she took 5 winters to complete this mammoth of an expedition, I couldn’t help but think of the damn queue. It was starting to bother me now. It reminded me of the movie i was watching in the flight. It was called Waiting, starring Naseeruddin Shah and Kalki Koechlin. While Kalki’s husband undergoes brain surgery and Naseer’s wife suffers through a coma, these two spend the entirety of the movie patiently waiting in the visitors room. I seemed to be hating the wait as much as them now. Not for the queue but to be reunited with my bike. It had been a week since my last ride and I was growing impatient. This tour was going to be a test of patience and endurance, but i didn’t seem to be coping very well. Just hold on, ET!
Uber had blocked me so i took a Kangaroo Cab from the airport. The driver was a 30 year old from Yala. Yala happens to be one of the largest national parks in the island, and Aliha was very proud to call it home. He tried to explain some of the norms of the island in broken English, but i wasn’t facing any problem comprehending, Back home in India, he would be pit under the category of an ‘average speaker’ of the language. He told me about the abundance of hybrid cars and why the currency was so weak. One Indian Rupee converted to 2.17 Sri Lankan Rupee. Thats a lot. I was a little surprised when he skipped right over to the part where the law serves you with a death penalty. One of them was for carrying more than 4 grams of cocaine. So thats it, I’ve warned you. Be careful with the snow, yeah?
I hadn’t booked a hotel and was in no hurry to do so. I asked Aliha to find me a cheap hotel but we had no luck. Rooms were either too expensive or booked out. I had a budget of 2000 LKR which would amount to about 800 INR. I looked up Booking.com and found a nice hostel. I recommend this place to anyone reading. Located in Colombo 4, just off the beach, Drift BNB is the best bet for the budget traveller. There are other such hostels like the Colombo Beach Hostel, but they were out of vacancy.
I checked-in and headed out for dinner. The streets were completely empty. One trash collector was pushing his cart on the side of the road, making up for much of the missing traffic. 10pm was rather early for the city to shut down. Broad roads are supported by broader footpaths. There is not even a speck of dust on the streets. I was really mind blown by the cleanliness prevalent in the capital. Dinner was at a local place called Pilawoos. Its famous for its Lankan delicacy, the Kotthu.
Chunks of roasted chicken lay on a bed of semi-fried rice and curry. It looked very delicious but i wasn’t in the mood for adventure. Some daal-chawal would have done the trick. I used the stab and retreat approach, taking lots of quick bites and then recovering for the next 5 minutes. It resembled my training plans which included intervals on a hill. Except here, I was dealing with a mountain of rice. Dangerous.
The waves were very audible from where I sat. I knew I was close. I walked a few hundred meters further and found the majestic blue waters. The road and the rocks were separated by two parallel train tracks. I imagined sitting in a train and going along the ocean. Before I could smile or say Hoo-ah ! to anyone, I promised myself that I would take a train journey once I return from my tour. Just sitting on the rocks all by myself was making this one heck of a moment. Every 5 seconds a wave would crash into the rocks and disappear into the depth of the ocean. I recognized a clear pattern that had developed between me and the ocean. Puff, wave, puff-puff, wave, small wave, puff, wave and so on.
Back in the room, I found a passed out Italian and a Chinese taking a shower. I asked them their names but cant seem to remember them. Though from two corners of the globe, they had one glaring habit in common, Every time I walked into the room, I used to find them in their underwear. The room was chilled all the time and there really was no need to bare it all. Im not cringing at their bedroom preferences, but just stating that it was a little odd.