I am not at all a great traveller and I was always dragged to trips first by my parents and then by my wife. So it is but natural that when I visited Sri Lanka for the first time, I would experience a truckload of firsts.
Listing some of them…
Saw a complete rainbow…
As rain was playing hide and seek with us throughout the trip, I noticed a complete rainbow on the horizon of the ocean standing on a boat. I realized that all the rainbows I had seen in my life were partial and faint! Maybe that’s why “A pot of gold at the end of the rainbow” was phrased. The other end isn’t usually seen by an observer.
This one was simply breathtaking and was a perfect semi-circle. It was so strong that it looked as if giant hands had painted it on to the sky. As they say, there’s a first time for everything even if you’re on the wrong side of 40!
Saw a double rainbow…
Within a very short time of the above incident, I saw a double rainbow and didn’t even know such a concept existed! This happens due to light reflecting twice inside the water droplets and the order of the colours is reversed in the second rainbow.
Such things makes one realize how cut off from nature we actually are. I also saw the night sky rich with stars after ages. In the olden times, mankind used to sleep under the black velvety sky and look up in wonder and awe. Sleep must have been sound and full of great dreams.
Today we know all about the Big Bang, the history of the universe, the composition of stars and can see tremendously faraway star images on our computer screens via the Hubble Telescope but we fail to notice the beautiful night sky right above our heads every night thanks to light pollution!
Saw a pet porcupine being taken for a walk…
We saw an old woman walking with two leashes and noticed that they ended in two porcupines! There was a full-grown one and a baby one and both of them were being taken by this lady much like you would walk pet dogs.
I am not good at reading animal expressions but the porcupines actually seemed smug and happy!
Saw an iguana crossing the road…
I didn’t know Sri Lanka had iguanas! Saw one crossing the road ever so slowly. It was a fun sight to watch and looked ever so grand. The traffic in this country is disciplined and follows the speed limit and I didn’t see a single road kill on my trip in Sri Lanka, something quite common on Indian highways.
There were iguanas even in the hotel premises and they look kinda cute. I can understand why they are popular pets in America.
Went whale watching…
The rainbow incident happened when we went whale watching, another first for me. While the whales we went to watch here were much smaller than those I had seen on TV, it was a good experience all the same.
They kept surfacing in bits and people kept running all over the boat to catch a glimpse. In the end we saw two whales together and the boat guide smiled and said, “Now that’s a couple: One girl and one guy!”
Was woken up by monkeys dancing on the roof…
While sleeping in a resort at the centre of a wildlife park, we were woken up quite early in the morning with monkeys jumping on the roof. It wasn’t a one-off event and the noise continued for quite some time. It was almost as if they were disco dancing on top.
Outside the window one could see both monkeys and wild boars. A resort employee told us that we were unlucky for a few days back one visitor saw a leopard staring at him through the window early in the morning!
Saw flying fish fly…
I’ve heard a lot about them and seen them on TV, but nothing beats the experience of seeing a fish defy the laws of gravity for what seems like an indefinite period.
Swam in a lagoon beach…
I’ve been to many beaches but never a lagoon beach. That’s when a rocky barrier cuts off a body of water from the main beach and you are saved from the aggressive waves which scare many people from going deeper into a beach.
It’s quite a different experience where the waters are much deeper and much calmer. The waves come and go quite gently. While all the children were initially quite disappointed, they soon got the hang of it and didn’t want to leave.
My wife also managed to go neck deep in sea water for the first time in her life.
OK, this is pretty minor, but it happened all the same. While escalators have become ubiquitous part of city life, moving walkways not so much in India.
Drank from a water fountain…
Another minor thing, but a first for me: Both the moving walkways and water fountains were in the new terminal of Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport.
Used a Jacuzzi…
I have been to many resorts with Jacuzzis, but this was the first time there was one in our room. We were pleasantly surprised to be upgraded to get a room the size of our flat and the bathroom the size of our living room.
This was the first time we had a personal Jacuzzi and it was a great experience.
As I said that I’m a very unadventurous fellow I’ve never been on a proper road trip. Sri Lanka is a small country and many of the packages consist of a vehicle at your disposal and a different hotel booked every night in a different city.
One day we were at a historic town. The next day at a wildlife resort. Another day at a hill station. Yet another at the beach. It was a totally different 8-day vacation for me.
Fed an elephant…
Fruit baskets were for sale which could be fed directly to elephants, so my son and I made the most of it. It was the first time I put food directly into the mouth of a big elephant and held its trunk.
We were told that there was a very unique daily event of baby elephants being fed from a large bottle of milk. Sure enough there were many baby elephants in a circle tied in chains. While most were trying to break free, one kept pulling and screaming.
It didn’t let up and kept pulling and screaming. It pulled so hard that it finally fell down and it started bawling loudly. It would have been a cute sight had it not been for the chains.
I couldn’t take it and went off. That’s another thing about the human race. Our cruelty to animals is so inbuilt and natural that you don’t even notice it anymore. I’m sure all those mahouts take great care of their elephants and love them, but still…
Saw a man being hacked to death…
Our boat was about to leave for whale watching when suddenly a few people jumped down from two wheelers and started attacking a man with machetes. The man fell down and the attackers hacked away meticulously as if they were chopping wood.
It was all a surreal blur from a distance and we hardly saw anyone’s faces but a mesh of figures. Soon they sped off. What was left was an old man with a long flowing white beard who had seen the ghastly incident. He started bawling like a small child. As our boat made its way towards the ocean, the old man’s cries got fainter and fainter but they still stuck with us for the rest of the trip.
The whole boat full of foreigners was stunned into silence. Some never recovered. Some fell asleep on the way and many more became seasick. We noticed a bunch of plastic bags and wondered why there were so many.
That bunch got over with people vomiting into them left right and centre. Then another one… Then another… Maybe the hacking had something to with it, I wouldn’t know. But the whole day was like that. In the afternoon we saw our only road accident in Sri Lanka. The front part of a large trailer got detached and crushed an SUV.
Elsewhere we were shown spots where people had lost their lives in the tsunami of 2004. The death toll of that disaster in Sri Lanka alone was 35,000. We also visited the memorial of a rail-disaster where up to 1500 were killed when tsunami waves knocked down an overcrowded train.
All around us people are dying and we are usually more traumatized by minor illnesses and incidences that inconvenience us in our mundane lives.
Of course all this happened on my first visit to Sri Lanka a beautiful country that I fell in love with. If India suddenly became cleaner, more disciplined and less populated, it would become Sri Lanka. People talk of India matching up to Europe and America.
I think we are way behind even Sri Lanka which is in the process of rebuilding itself after the extremely long civil war.
Mistaken by my wife for…
In a large shop my wife was looking totally lost and I went and stood next to her. She looked at me and asked, “What material is this… How much… Where does it…”
Then she looked at me blankly and said, “Sorry I thought you were the salesman!”
She later attributed it to a new T-shirt I was wearing (a gift from her no less!).
This after I had been separated from her for just two minutes and married to her for 15 years!
The first time I was mistaken by my own wife for a salesman!
With that trivial first, I end this pretender of a travelogue…
© Sunil Rajguru