After years of thinking about it, and months of planning and booking for it, we are finally off. We quit our jobs, rented out our house and set off for our year long world adventure. Sitting on the plane with metal cutlery and then in a comfortable designer seat in Zurich, it was hard to imagine the experiences that lay ahead of us and yet two days in writing this we have already had to acclimatise to budget travelling.
After a short hop from Heathrow to Zurich, a four hour wait and another ten hour flight we landed in Colombo, Sri Lanka. We didn’t know entirely what to expect, even after spending countless hours watching YouTube vlogs and reading blogs and guidebooks. We knew we had to get to Sigiriya where we were staying that night, but we weren’t really sure how.
Upon landing, we did exactly what I had planned not to; take the express bus into Colombo City Centre (Colombo Fort). I had had hopes of finding the local bus stop, “200m walk down the road”. As it happens, taking this bus was a good idea, as instead of the five buses I think we would have needed we instead only needed to take three including this express airport shuttle. Though saying that, the other route may have been just as suitable and would have arrived us in Sigiriya an hour or so earlier.
The Colombo fort bus terminal is where this day really started, it is chaotic with hundreds of buses all embarking and disembarking at the same time with people mulling around the yard, selling items, offering services and some (though very few) of them begging too. This theme continued on to the buses as people (not passengers) got on randomly along the way. This was great as we could top up our water supply but the chant of a man praying and asking the bus for money over and over got a bit wearing after the 20th time. The journey in itself was generally easy and cheap, took 5.5 hours from Colombo to Dambulla costing less than a pound (215 LKR).
Unfortunately the trip itself isn’t the most comfortable. No air conditioning in 34 degree sunshine, sitting five abreast and limited window space is uncomfortable but acceptable. However, although the hours of hearing the driver honking his horn every couple of seconds starting to grate a little, I do now know of at least the following reasons to honk a horn in Sri Lanka:
- to ask to overtake
- to thank another person for allowing an overtake
- to show aggression to other drivers, cows, pedestrians, other beings
- to say hello
All I know for certain is that the driver hit that horn with the same level of enthusiasm and efficacy each time it took his fancy, that is to say lots of the former and very little of the latter. This was most poignantly demonstrated when passing two lorries and a tuk-tuk whilst another equivalently large and beeping bus drove straight towards us. Our driver luckily timed it to swerve at the last minute, almost off the road, to get back into our appropriate lane and off on our journey.
It’s fair to say though that this first bus was particularly eventful, and other subsequent trips have been a little more sedate and after all we did arrive, after another 20p (40LKR) bus, in Sigiriya when we expected and alive and well if not a little weary.
After more than 27 hours of travelling, we lay down in our much needed bed wondering why we decided to do this at all. Spoiler alert! We wake up the next morning and decide that we were just tired, but the first day I think is always going to be a struggle. But we are starting to like Sri Lanka.
See you tomorrow, Sigiriya rock awaits!
*This image was originally posted to Flickr by mckaysavage at https://www.flickr.com/photos/56796376@N00/1630266689. It was reviewed on 2 November 2012 by FlickreviewR and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.