Monday, 13 December, 2010
Hill Country, Sri Lanka
After a few days in the beautiful mountainous town of Ella, we needed to take the early morning train to Kandy. The only problem being that there is not a single cash machine in the entire town and we were short on pennies.
The train was scheduled for 9.47am and we only noticed our cash emergency at 9.15am, so, we were in a fairly desperate state.
We briskly informed a driver of our time constraints, as we bundled our way into the back of his tuk tuk – he smiled, before telling us that he was born with a tuk tuk wheel in his hand and that this mission would be a cakewalk for him. We were relieved to hear his confident words.
He seemed unconcerned about speed limits, which frankly, suited our needs – we were looking good for time. Well, until he suddenly slammed his foot down on the brake pedal and brought the vehicle to a dramatic stop.
It turned out that he had seen a Buddha statue and decided to pull up for a little prayer!
This wasn’t how I saw things going. We waited agonisingly in the ride as the most ‘reliable’ tuk tuk driver in the world presumably prayed that I would still pay his fare after this debacle. Also, from what I know of Buddha, he seems pretty chilled out. I’m sure he would have been cool with a less disruptive 9.48am prayer, to be honest.
In the end, we found the cash machine and made it back with five minutes to spare. The driver got paid, Buddha received an ego boost, and we were on our way to Kandy. All’s well that ends well.
When travelling unfamiliar territory, it’s important to always remain alert and never drop your guard. In Kandy, I had a momentary lapse in concentration, and as a result, I was robbed!
Don’t be alarmed though, my injuries were more mental than physical. The thief in question, was not actually a human, but instead, a monkey – more crocodile karma, when will it end?!
The wily, hairy, little bugger whipped a plastic bag out of my hand at the speed of light – skills that indicated I was far from his first victim. Within seconds he was way up a tree, sat on a branch and rooting through the bag. Monkey Crook was probably pretty disappointed to find that I was looking for a bin. Therefore, it had actually just saved me a bit of time by taking away my empty cartons of chocolate milk and banana peels.
Just to clarify though, regardless of the bag’s contents this was still a victory for the monkey. His attack destroyed my defence – I was just fortunate that I wasn’t carrying anything valuable.
One of Monkey Crook’s pals actually tried to steal our newly purchased Malaysian guidebook from Ruby. Thankfully, it would seem her strength surpasses mine – which is good as guidebooks are not cheap. One thing that is for sure, I now know exactly where the term cheeky monkey stems from – their complete lack of regard for the law.
There is a manmade lake in Kandy where the monkeys swing from tree to tree, by the way. They’re not lurking around alleyways with masks and black and white striped tops on or anything like that.
The evening would also present us with a strange encounter – although, occasion two would see us following a persuasive, fraudulent monk, rather than chasing a forceful, speedy monkey.
He was midway through a prayer when he saw us. However, he wrapped that up pretty quickly as he needed to inform us of our good fortune. We had won the opportunity of a lifetime – at least, that is how he pitched it. Our boy had the power to get us backstage passes to the head monk of the city’s room. He even went as far as to use the word ‘congratulations’ – somehow we had won the ultimate competition without even entering.
As odd as his pitch / award was, we did accept the invitation – out of curiosity more than anything else.
We arrived in the special one’s room, and honestly, it was very anticlimactic. He wasn’t even in his expected gear – we were simply looking at a bloke, sitting in a chair, playing with a Rubik’s Cube. This, apparently, was our ultimate prize. Furthermore, he did not seem to appreciate our presence, and instead, just looked pretty annoyed at the little religious guy for bringing us to see him. Understandable though, he had completed two sides of his cube, he really didn’t need to be slowed down by this nonsense.
He reluctantly put his cube down to share his brilliance with us – this would mean wrapping a piece of string around our hand, dabbing some oil on our head and then asking for a donation. While the audacity of his actions took me a little by surprise, I did still cooperate and placed a small amount onto his plate.
Unfortunately, I’m a cheap git in the eyes of the great one apparently. Our little tour guide chirped up and informed me that the head monk would be offended by such a small donation. I thought monks were supposed to be beyond all that? Without wanting to disappoint anyone, there was zero chance I would give more money for a bit of string.
We parted ways with the wise one without even so much as a goodbye.
As our guide walked us out of the premises, the cheeky little bugger requested a tip.
“Your tip is on the plate of your unsatisfied hero. Take it up with him.” I explained.
“Shhh! God could be listening.” He replied with a finger to his mouth.
So, to clarify – he was fully aware that pressuring me into giving a donation was contradictory of his belief system. However, he believed that his boys had built a God-proof building. Amazing!
We finished the Sri Lanka section of our trip in rather epic fashion – by dragging ourselves up the 5,200 torturous steps of Adam’s Peak. I enjoy a challenge, but also like to complain about partaking in difficult tasks, so this trek ticked all the boxes.
We were convinced to start the walk at two in the morning, due to the unmissable sunrise that would greet us at the top. Therefore, sleep was limited to just the thirty minutes that evening.
Now, I don’t have time to tell you about the pain that was issued by each step because the internet cafe closes in seven hours – just know that it was agony.
Instead, I’ll start my recap from the hike’s most challenging point.
We had reached an admirable 4,000 steps before we needed a break. However, as well as we had done, our current status allowed only two options – either take a breather or collapse, and I didn’t fancy an ambulance’s chances of getting to us at a rapid speed.
We bought a couple of bottles of water from a lady with a drinks stall and parked our sorry arses on a close by bench – on a side note, the walk that turned my legs to jelly is this poor girl’s daily commute to work. That makes her a real-life superhero and myself a bit of a wimp.
Well anyway, as I put the bottle of water to my lips, a gym-goer couple took a seat on the bench opposite us. Seriously, they both looked as though they work-out for fifteen hours per day – Adam’s peak was probably merely a warm-up for them. Mrs Muscles then turned to Mr Muscles and said, “Woo! Only 1,000 more steps to go. It will fly by!”
I looked up and saw the beaming smiles on their supermodel faces – this was clearly their Friday night pint after a long week at work. Of course, I initially wanted to punch them – however, I was evidently too weak for that. So, instead I found inspiration in their spirit. I held Ruby’s hand and charged us all the way to the top, it was glorious!
Ok, it didn’t exactly go quite like that, but we did make it! Sure, the misty fog prevented us from seeing a sunrise and I doubt that I’ll be able to walk for a week – but who cares, we did bloody well!