Sri Lanka 3: Getting my Theroux on.
17th July, Colombo, 9:45am
Badulla? Its over halfway there, why not? It’ll be an adventure, an 8 hour train ride where we can meet some locals and see the country.
17th July, Badulla, 8:30pm
Here’s what happened in between:
Second class was rammed, and with no available seats we set up a base in the dining car. I stood in a doorway as the train set off, waving at locals, full of life and optimistic, grinning like an idiot in the light rain shower.
Soon we left the city behind and chugged into the jungle. I glimpsed a monkey disappearing into the trees, or its tail at any rate.
I drank sweet, milky tea which is how it was brewed, all the ingredients thrown into one big pot and boiled up togethere. Its almost sickly sweet but over the course of the day I’d pound down half a dozen or so.
Snack wise I scarfed down some rottis, a samosa like pastry filled with spices and veg.
The locals seemed quite fascinated with us and made friendly conversation. They’re very polite and not intrusive, asking a few questions and seeming to sense just how long they can talk before outstaying their welcome, at which point they say goodbye, wish you luck on your journey and then move along.
The children were even more interested. A young girl looked at me with a kind of bewildered fear. I suppose I did look a bit scary- a towering, sweating, pale-skinned, long-haired beast.
Llyw picked up two sidekicks for different stretches of the journey. They perched next to him watching him intently, grinning and wearily acepting the biscuits and sweets we passed around.
But you still have to keep your guard up. A cute little tot sat on the table opposite and when I smiled at her she began to rub her stomach and grimace in such a theatrical fashion that I couldn’t help but laugh.
The train rolled on.
Reading, dozing, cups of tea, swigs of water. And repeat.
An endless cycle of monotony.
I broke up the journey and saved my numbed arse by wandering about, going to stand in te doorway and lean out and watch the gorgeous Sri Lankan countryside pass by.
Lush green jungle and towering, mist-shrouded mountains. There was part of me tempted to hop off and explore this wonderful part of the world, but the train rolled on.
I started to flag.
We all did.
And then, bizarrely, brilliantly, we all hit our second wind at the sam time.
Chatting and joking we broke out the cards and under the gaze of a bemused German we played chase the ace and cheat.
Buoyed up, the next section of the journey passed easily.
But then it got dark, and it got a lot harder. I lost all concept of time and distance. Drifting in and out let me confused.
Finally, tired and hungry, we pulled in to Badulla.