Day 20 – Colombo

28 Nov

I could tell you all about how very difficult, dangerous, and unpleasant it is to drive in Sri Lanka, where this is an unusually quiet moment on a major intercity highway:

and where even this counts as a major highway (photo taken shortly before nearly being killed by a bus, one of the ancient death-trap Tata buses with a colourful but long-faded paint job, a musical horn, black clouds of carcinogenic fumes, and a homicidal driver):

and where your sat nav thinks this will be a good idea, not realising that the road becomes so steep, rough, and narrow that you can not get through there in a very small car, never mind an SUV, leading to 90 minutes of an increasingly nerve-wracking stress test including a 27 point turn when you finally reach a place where to continue would require a machete and some sherpas:

or about the sense of relief when you return the hire car that is miraculously undamaged, followed by an even more stressful journey into the city in the back of a taxi, witnessing two more accidents along the way, and finally more relief in the form of afternoon tea in the executive lounge at the Hilton:

but instead of all that, here’s a picture of a monkey that looks like Donald Trump:

Trump Monkey getting angry at fake news:

Trump Monkey getting angry at crooked Hilary:

Trump Monkey saying up yours to the fake news media:

He wouldn’t be in a bad mood if he’d just discovered that rising bitcoin prices have paid for half of his holiday while he’s been away.

Day 19 – Sigiriya

27 Nov

The weather forecast is for a day of crap, so off early to the Lion Rock to be first in and beat the coach loads of Chinese tourists, even though it’s still shrouded in cloud.

Sod off, local people, your cultural heritage isn’t for you.

There’s only one other visitor this early.

Cloudy, but I’ve got the place to myself.

No waiting on the staircases, just a lot of climbing in really humid conditions. Soaked in sweat in the first minute, glasses and camera fogged up anyway even if there wasn’t mist all around.

Entering the Lion’s lair.

Turns out there are plenty of other visitors. Loads of wild dogs begging for food.

A spectacular view of the surrounding plains is hidden by cloud.

But yesterday’s Chinese tourists have left their mark. There’s really not much else worth seeing after all that climbing.

It clears a little, but not much. Stand 2 feet to the right or 20 feet to the left and the view is exactly the same, but the next person to arrive at the top decides to stand right behind me then ask me to move so she can take a picture. Seriously? Step to your right, the view is exactly the fucking same. You stood right behind me, of course I’m in your shot. There’s 100 square metres of top platform to choose from and you choose the one spot right behind the only other person here? You’re a fucking idiot…

As more people arrive, I learn that the first thing people do on reaching the top platform is stand with hands on hips.

It starts getting busier.

So I head down the still mostly empty upper staircases.

With a better view under the clouds, revealing the gardens below the precarious cliff-edge walkways.

And the approaching hoards of Chinese.

On the way out I’m really glad I came early and didn’t get stuck in the queues of slow climbers surrounded by the pestering hawkers selling “wooden box very cheap” and “nice elephant made by my family best price for you”. The dogs were bad enough, but the crowds, the tour groups, the sweltering humidity and suffocating heat even at 7am, topped off with the locals endlessly pestering people for money, would make it a very shitty experience if you don’t get an early start.

Day 18 – Sigiriya

26 Nov

When my motorcycle rental fell through before I even got to Sri Lanka, I wasn’t bothered because I’d seen the weather forecast. It’s been even worse than forecast with heavy rain for most of each day and ceaseless rain for the past two. My backup hire car got upgraded 4 groups to a nice big automatic 4×4, the roads have been really shit, and the people on those roads behave like they have no brain, so no loss.

Today, despite the rain, I found some good roads coming down out of the hill country and started wishing for a bike. I even found a rare opportunity to stop for a photo without being run over. There’s a train going by up in the hills behind the mist.

There are plenty of people out in the rain on their shitty bikes and scooters to show me the right way to travel. I pretty quickly lose the desire for a bike of my own though when the next one comes round the corner on his scooter holding an umbrella and the one after him is riding along emptying half a pint of water out of his shoe…

Notice that they have no idea what line to take through a bend. Given the evidence so far, it’s safe to assume they are in fact clueless, but if you’re really generous you might allow them credit for knowing that on any bend there’s most likely going to be one of these in the middle of the road going like hell:

In any 100m of Sri Lankan road you will encounter:

Someone on the wrong side of the road, a dog sleeping in the road, a puppy walking in the road, 3 scooters doing 5, 30, and 130mph, an unaccompanied 3 year old child, a man aged at least 140 standing in the middle of the road barefoot wearing what looks like a nappy, a bus driven by a psychotic lunatic and on which the only maintenance performed is to keep the horn working, a lorry that never even had brakes, a cyclist carrying a ton of wood, and an assortment of the most mechanically dangerous bikes, trucks, and tri-shaws you will ever see.

Every so often you might also encounter a man in the middle of the road shooting monkeys out of a tree with a catapult. True story.

The stupidity and total incompetence of the drivers is beyond belief. Ive already seen 2 horrible accidents and 3 minor ones, and by seen I mean watched happen right in front of me, usually shortly after thinking “no, dont do that you stupid f… oh fuck…” and then steering around the debris and body parts…

Bike? No thanks, not today. On to Pollonaruwa, more ancient temples. I’m all templed out, thanks anyway, and it’s belting down so hard that 30 seconds out of the car leaves you soaked and your camera lens fogged.

Thankfully you can drive right through the middle of some of the temples. Conservation, anyone?

And no, I don’t want a guide, thanks. No, I don’t care if you’re cheap. No, I dont believe you’re a very special official guide for this temple. No, I’m certain you can’t show me a good time, do you even know what youre saying? No, I DON’T WANT A FUCKING GUIDE!

At least the hotel is good, with a view of Sigiriya rock at the end of the pool, spoiled only by the power line:

You can try to get artsy and blur it out:

But it doesn’t really work. Best to just sit and look at it and make your own sunset with a cocktail while the rain keeps pouring.

And later you can try some of the delicious local cuisine