Sunday, March 17 - Colombo and Kandy

The next morning we took a bus ride into Colombo proper. The city was crowded, and I'm sorry to say that garbage collection is something of an emerging technology there. In the entire city, we saw one garbage can, and that was indoors. To a western nose, the entire city smelled.

We saw many children sleeping in the streets next to their parents, begging for money. While the threat of terrorism never materialized, its shadow hung over us all - aside from the northeast part of the island, Colombo is the most dangerous part of Sri Lanka. Technically, Katie was not supposed to be in Colombo, and we nearly ran into the Peace Corps director at one point. Fortunately, we avoided that particular awkward situation.


The only fast food on the whole island!

Colombo was probably the least enjoyable part of the trip, so it's fortunate we got it out of the way early. We found a Pizza Hut (the only Western restaurant around - the nearest Subway joint is on the far side of India, much to Katie's reget) and had a relatively enjoyable lunch. Be warned, though - the "vegetarian pizza" is not quite what an American would expect!

The city was very quiet while we were there. The World Cup in cricket was being played that day, and Sri Lanka was facing Australia for the world championship. Tensions were very high - it was the first time Sri Lanka was up for the World Cup. Also, the year before, Australia and India had refused to play in Sri Lanka, citing fears about terrorism. Sri Lankan pride was hurt, and there were great hopes that Australia would be taken down. Since cricket is a long game, things were peaceful for the entire afternoon, and well into the evening.

Late in the afternoon, we boarded the train for Kandy. Kandy is situated in the mountainous heart of the island, and is very proud of its history. It was the last kingdom to fall to the British, and held out for about a century after the others fell. Even now it is socially advantageous to be from Kandy - in marriage, a lower caste from Kandy might in some cases be more desirable than a higher caste from elsewhere. (People speak of "marrying into Kandy".)

The train ride was glorious, as we went from the coastal tropics all the way to the mountains, seeing every type of environment along the way. Sri Lanka's wildlife and plants are more diverse than perhaps anywhere else on earth.


On the train ride from Colombo to Kandy.

There was a gentle rain for an hour or so, but it went away soon, never to return while we were there. (I'm told it's quite different in the rainy season - then, you might have an entire week of rain with just an occasional break.)

The sun was going down as we arrived at Kandy. Because of the cricket game, very few buses were running. This was a problem, as we planned to visit one of Katie's original host families for the night, and they were outside of town. Katie found us a trishaw driver who was willing to take us out to the "suburbs".

Unfortunately, the slowness of the Sri Lankan postal system worked against us. Katie had sent a letter teller her family she'd be stopping by with some friends, but their reply didn't reach her before she left to meet us at the airport. They were hosting a V.S.O. couple from England at the time and had no room for us. They were terribly upset and apologized profusely, but we assured them that it was no problem.

The father had been a professor, and his wife and daughter were highly educated. They all spoke perfect English and made us feel welcome indeed while Katie tried to flag down another bus or trishaw driver to take us back into Kandy. It was here that we had out first true Lankan-style tea - lots of cream and sugar, as sweet as hot chocolate in the States.

Finally, we found a trishaw driver still running during the big cricket game, who took us to a hotel in town. It turned out to be something of a dive, though - the food tasted sandy and we woke up with many insect bites.


KT reading in the "Hotel Sunray".

In the middle of the night, I awoke to hear firecrakers and such going off around town. As we found out the next morning, the cricket team had won, and Sri Lanka had the world cup! For the rest of the trip, people would ask us if we were Australian, hoping to get the chance to boast to their rivals. Sometimes, they didn't believe us when we said we weren't.