The transport around Sri Lanka is also worth noting. Here are a few of the memories from cars, buses and trains that will stick with us the most.
We got stuck on a 2 lane road (the only one from Kandy in the South to the North) trying to travel back to placement on a Sunday after a weekend in the hill country. The 2 lane road was made into a 6 lane road by inventive and bonkers drivers. There was a pedestrian, moped and tuk tuk lane, 2 inside lanes with also buses, lorries and tuk tuks undertaking and overtaking eachother all at the same time, a middle lane with cars who maybe weren’t sure what direction they were going in, and the exact same on the other side of the road for people heading the other way.
At one point, after a toilet break, the driver turned the key in the ignition, looked at me, and when we heard only silence, we both burst into hysterics with eachother. If our nerves survived about 4 near front-on collisions a minute when driving, they definitely did not survive a broken down minibus in the middle of nowhere during Poya. Picture 6 girls pushing a minibus trying to jumpstart it in the middle of a crowded Buddhist festival. Not OK. Another brilliant moment was a driver attempting a dirt track up a hill to show us the white Buddah statue – Bahiravokanda – that overlooks Kandy, and the boot swinging open for suitcases to fall out, with the driver not noticing at all (though I’m still certain screaming ‘stop’ in English surely crosses language barriers?!).
Public trains and buses have their ups and downs. We were lucky to be travelling in a big group of sassy girls, but it is hard to see how single women would travel here on public buses without being harassed by men a bit, some of us did and ‘Ehatiyana’ (meaning ‘go away’) was used more than we’d have hoped. Getting from the north to the south cost us around £1.75 for a five hour train. We thought this was a boss price compared to home, however maybe we should have pushed to 1st class. During those five hours we both went through every emotion possible. At first, the novelty of not having a seat and having to stand up next to a door that does not close with a 18Kg rucksack on was quite fun. Then the train started moving. Maybe we should have been scared when all of the Sri Lankans sat down sharpish and didn’t show their typical hospitality by offering us a seat, but we were oblivious. The second hour, and meltdowns came. It was like being on a runaway trainride in a themepark. Except with no handlebars. Or carriages in fact. Or any security at all. We could both honestly say it was the closest we’ve ever been to actually vomiting due to fear. Sitting down was OK, if you clung to your rucksack, and made sure you were bracing yourself to stay in one place. Let’s just say we got off that train and Sri Lankans looked at us as if they were congratulating us for surviving. Glad we did it, but never again.
Hannah and Erin x