Second thoughts on Sri Lanka. 2/12/15.
We have now cycled well in excess of 700km. All in all, this is a great country. Interesting culture, amazing history, wildlife that is world class, and the people: so friendly, I almost think they are all trying to sell me something, but they are not! They are genuinely interested, from the 2 year old’s who wave at us as we cycle past, to every school child who sees us and shouts ‘hi’, to adults who ask where we are going. Even Tuck-Tuck drivers who chat as they go past. Just seem to be naturally open, curious and without guile. My right arm is almost tired from waving. The shouting brings me onto a theme. Noise.
Sri Lanka is a noisy place. I am sitting in a (cheaper, but not cheap) hotel’s garden with the Indian ocean 20 m away trying to deafen me. Its not working, quite. The noise is so soothing, each wave individual but each seems only to gently rise in volume, adding to the background sound. Every now and then a louder noise as waves meet in harmony. With the sea gentle, as it is now, this is so peaceful. But I am reminded that this noise can become deadly. Rising in tempo, angry, crashing, pulverising the coast and even killing, as it did in 2004.
There are so many other noises. Bird call waking us up at dawn. A different quiver of noises than in England. It reminds me of a David Attenburgh film about birds in the rain forest. Hooping, gun fire staccato, clattering and chattering. I would love to be able to name them all. Then the sound of people, honking, saying hi. Every moving vehicle has a distinct noise. An angry, growling deep exhaust note from lorries, insistent repetitive horn blasts from buses saying’ I’m coming through, get out of my way, or…’, to a squirting rattle from the Tuck-Tuck’s. Sometimes a melodic tune from the bread van that sort of becomes annoying as it will not leave my head for hours. On a bike you become atune to the noise behind you, anticipating each one and having to decide what sort of action is needed. Run away, or stand your ground? Mopeds can avoid us, buses generally choose not to. Be afraid, but only a bit.
Other noises: muslin call to prayer. Bells of a Buddhist temple, people. Just a lot of people in towns, shouting to each other, shouting to us as we wander past. Sometimes dogs bark, very occasionally they get a bit cross. Sometimes some men, usually, seem to have had a bit much Arrak and get a bit leary.
There are even signs up on the road asking for no horns. I’m not sure this is enforced. The whistle of police, randomly blown, to add to the chaos of the traffic. One police man stopped me, then saw me and just waved me on.
The crackle of a cooking fire. The list is endless. Very different noises to the UK. More interaction with people, more shouting, louder generally. Like the colours, bright.
The noises of Sri Lanka define it as much as the smell. I havn’t even talked about sight yet! For another day.
First Thoughts In Sri Lanka. 20/11/15.
I’m sitting outside our very basic bungalow, whilst it’s raining and not incredibly hot. The view is spectacular over a lake, with a protected nature reserve in the near distance. Its a bit like Africa Masai Mara. Sri Lanka so far: smells are powerful. The smell of people in Columbo, a bit sweaty, but sometimes the light fragrance of coconut, maybe where someone has hashed their hair. The smells on a bike ride are more surprising. Again people, exhaust fumes, the slightly fetid smell of rubbish going into a village. But other smells are lovely. Cycling past a jasmine plant with its flowery fragrance. Incense on the air past a temple. Pine trees in the mountains. Eucalyptus stands. The smell of freshly trimmed grass by the side of the road. Dirt when it is damp. Each one intertwined with each other, all as strong as the heat and light.
Cycling in Sri Lanka is a challenge. Lorries belch out heat, noise and fumes. They also own the road so each manoeuvre needs to be negotiated and taken with care. They will win. I will lose. But more often a Tuk-Tuk will give a friendly honk on the horn, mainly to say hi, rather than get out of the way. 2 major accidents seen so far, in 3 days cycling. Each one involved a tuk-tuk. One with a car, other with a police 4×4. Ouch.
My thoughts. 1 week to go.
I could get engrossed with all the kit. Looking at reviews of solar chargers, dynamo’s, maybe water sterilizers. The list could be long: Which peddle is the best for our needs? How about best waterproof jacket? Aagh, a cycle cape?? This trip is getting to me, mainly in a good way. A two year old foetus, about to be born. Kicking and crying, but alive. Gosh, its good.
There is something about just ‘Riding a bike’. If we get wet, we will dry out. If we get cold, we will warm up. The kit may not be ‘the best’, but it will work, probably better than any stuff 30 years ago. Part of the point of cycling is to connect, both with the people and the environment. I welcome the connection. It is only not perfect if I allow myself to want something else. I will try to enjoy whatever I get.
The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see. (GK Chesterton).
I do not mean traveler good, tourist bad. Its just a mind set. I will be a tourist often, but I hope to be a traveler as well.