Early morning I jumped on a bus from Dambulla back to Kandy, on my way down to the south coast, getting bored of rain and mist, even though I don´t really need sand between my tows, but mud, humid highland climate, sticky clothes, messy shot, more Buddhas, more temples, I welcome the beach! Beside I have a ligamental strain, this time at my left foot, again, so walking is not a road anyway. Yeah, Sri Lanka and me, still… I want to be in a at least hiking condition in less than three weeks, when I will arrive in Kathmandu. So I hobbled on the bus to Kandy, 100 rupees for a stance, for 2 hours, good morning, excercise! I was with one other white, senior, not dislikeable, calm, enjoying, with a spit of humor, assuming he is an experienced traveler, and in particular as I watched him how he caught up with locals, respectful and humble, the way, the only way you should, white or whatever kind of colour, traveler or host. But at this time we didn´t talk, just crossing gazes. Standing in a loaded bus with a speedy driver, you focus first on grips and a firm stand. After a chat with a local, “Hey man, you listen to metal?”, telling me he will fly tomorrow to Japan for an exchange to finish his engineering, spotting a twitchy excitement in his eyes. Education is free in Sri Lanka, even the school uniform is provided till the 11th degree, then they seperate the weed from the butt. Of course it is, like everywhere, a save mark to be from a wealthy family, even though there are scholarships, lots of move oversea, especially Sri Lankans engineers are a precious export product – and programms as well to encourage young people to stay, someone has to maintain the agriculture development. Who takes care of the weed then. Talking about weed. beside the fact that it is dangerous to buy or smoke, like in every asian country, and beside I don´t want to be wasted when I travel, awareness is the best shot of memory, I don´t like to motivate young pusher to sell to foreigners, motivate them not to think about a change. They charge certainly more, so best business, but selling to tourists is quite a higher risk to be caught green-handed. So buying means taking care of their path down behind bars. “Are you a smuggler?” my metalheaded friend asked. “Haha, why?” “You look like. – But you know smuggler.” Finally a lovely guy, a bit too admiring maybe. “Yes, I do. To what kind of metal you listen?” “I like Firewind. And you?” I didn´t know where to start and fortunately the next curve pitchforked us to another topic, back to the loony driver. But we arrived as safe as always, in Kandy. Jumped off the bus and start walking straight to my former stay, where Jose was waiting for me, my good company. Caught up with the other white, “Where you go, you have already accommodation?” “No, not yet. So where you go?” I told him I know a nice place, he should have a look, quite, familiar atmosphere, sort of cheap and close to the lake´s shore, which is a busy fumy road anyway. So we walked together. His name is Jaime from Brazil, living in the States, so holding an american, brazilian and italian, where his ancestors come from, passport – a traveler´s wonderland! This trip he decided to travel as an italian, having a transfer in Spain and they not really like the brazilians. An experienced traveler and very likable type of. It seems I am better with seniors than young party bashers and honeymoon couples – surprisingly. We arrived, he decided to stay, I introduced Jose. We sat down, enjoyed our welcome tea. We echanged some traveler stories. Where we have been already, where we want to, and why not somewhere welse. Jose was starting to tell his favorite anecdote about the random hassle putting up at hostels, in dorms, about room mates complaining you are snoring, farting whatever. “YOu know, when I stayed in Israel, there was this canadian guy” – Jaime interrupted, questioning when Jose was there, in Jerusalem. “4 years ago.” “I knew I met you before.” The canadian, who complained about Jose´s sleeping routine, had the bed between him and Jaime. What an amazing coincidence. We laughed and laughed. The world becomes a turd of a fly, if you know how to use your wings and spend the value of time. I love the roads and the crossings. Beautiful. Thank you guys for being a part of.
Slowly and carefully Sri Lanka and me are catching up. After the rough and challenging trick school of Colombo, thank you for this lesson, truly, feeling arbitrary unwelcome, abandoned the idle awareness of the last weeks, months in Southeast Asia, I learn to play game. And I play it with amusement. I still smile cynical, rocking my understanding, remembering my second tuk tuk ride in Colombo. “Don´t trust anyone on Sri Lanka.” A second later the driver and his company, and there is always a mate, blocking they way out of the tuk tuk´s cabine, tried to rip me off, as blank as their rudeness and unscrupulousness allowed – and I suppose there is no limit when it comes to a union of greed and stupidity, charging not less than 15 times the regular price. And as if this is not enough, he asked me to support and complete his compilation of foreign bills, “I don´t have a 20 € bill. Can you give me, only small money for you.” If they see a spark of insecurity, fear or hesitating doubtfulness in your eyes, and they see it if you want or not, your are fucked, just fucked. But anyway, as I said and as you know, there are fuckers are all around the world.
So. I am now a player too, be aware, scumbags!
From Fort, the main railroad station in Colombo, we jumped on the train to Kandy. We? Jose, a pleasant company from the Philippines, whom I met at the hostel, a marathon man, a experienced traveler, sort of senior and a bemused but amusing guy, asking every ten meters for the way, even if there is no way to get lost. My first company for the next two days. Well done. Thank you, Jose. We waited at the station for the very local 2nd and 3rd class train to Kandy, which is named the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, the main hub, from where to explore the heritages and wilderness. The trains are usually as I have seen so far packed. In Europe you would call it train surfing, on Sri Lanka taking the train. Jose´s jaw dropped, eyes bloated. He turned to me. I knew what he was intend to say. “I told you, it´s cheap, like you said, but don´t expect a seat.” “Oh my god.” His standard comment, with a lovely undertone of humor. So I laughed. We exchanged the 2nd class tickets, ended up 1st class, AC and TV. I didn´t mind. I don´t need to proof myself anymore, traveling from A to B as local, mostly barely doable, as possible, arriving completely soaked with sweat from your tiny space neighbours and your back a roadkill. There is a point you realize it is not worth to, not for your traveler ego and not for you backpacking pride. This kind of pride is heavy enough anyway. So we enjoyed the cool ride, the view and the comfort up to the mountainous Kandy district. Kandy itself reminds me to Italy, with its lake and the river twirling around, the climate, fresh air, less humid, nearly cold at night. With its flying foxes, monkeys, huge lizards, momma spitting old women, black diesel puff and blow – sort of Italy, if you narrow your eyes, your just shut them. It´s a busy town, the capital, trading center, melting pot and touristic hub. Seems like hundreds of buses crossing and jamming the roads all day long, far up and down in any hilly direction. So we did the tourist attraction. Visiting the marvellous Sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic, the Royal Botanical Garden, hiking some hills, enjoying the rainy and misty view, more Buddhas, more entrance fees, more disturbing the believers, praying and being blessed. If I wouldn´t feel that bad, meaning ignorant, I would have passed all of it. Another temple? Staring with an artifical interest at monks and their daily boring life of a lemming. Being watched by monks, guards and other tourists, asking me if they can shoot a picture of me. Temples. Religion. Reading descriptions, name of kings and queens, conquerors and other loathsome morons… I admit, it is a matter of knowledge, my lack of knowledge to put them in a bigger picture, to judge them not randomly but basically. I need people. I need to watch them, to smell them, their excrements, for an incremental approach to empathy and sympathy. It needs time, more efforts, awareness and patience, but finally it is far more rewarding than dates and names, which I will not keep anyway.
Sri Lanka offers me something… had already dismembered my emotional mayhem. I keep it open, weeping. It´s a dark place, mystical on the surface, behind – I sticked my hand through and cried my eyes out. Slowly we catch up, Sri Lanka, we still have enough time to discover our obscurity, you, with your army of crows, me, with my black inked vulnerability.
Finishing my entry with a laugh, I lost my cap today, clipped at my shorts to dry, pouring rain today. – My cover, talking about vulnerability, at least it hides a part of my dubious appereance. I felt suddenly naked even I didn´t wear at. I must have been less then 5 meters walk after I realized my loss. I went back, no cap. “Hello my friend, where are you from?” One of the numerous persons of interest involving me in a chat, playing the game – don´t trust, remember. “Oh your cap. I found 1000 rupee bill in the morning on the sidewalk. A woman lost it. It didn´t belong to me. Your cap is gone. Same like everywhere.” He was a beggar. Beautiful face, life carved in bony flesh. “Not true,” I think of Myanmar or Cambodia, “but probably the cap is gone, yes.” We had a chat, we said goodbye. Less than 15 minutes later I passed the same corner again, the center of Kandy is quite compressed around central market. Pouring rain again, elephants and monkeys. The dogs here are too chilled. The cats, haven´t seen one yet. A seller was covering with plastic his stall, with my cap on his head. I was sure he saw me loosing it, and not only him. “My friend, my cap fits you perfectly, ha?” And at the drop of MY hat, “Take it.” That´s it? – I laughed and left. Oh my Sri Lanka.