I decided to go out for a walk since Adrian was still sleeping when I got up at 7.
I walked to the beach and then up to the main road. I wanted to find a coffee.
I walked into Barista Coffee, which had coconut milk! Hurray! But they also spelled quiche “kish,” which was rather depressing.
We had our breakfast of the fruit we had bought the night before and then got in our tuk-tuk around 10.
However, the engine wouldn’t start. We tried all the different ways to start it, but it would turn off every time. A local guy who worked for the hostel tried to help us, but he couldn’t figure it out either.
I started to feel like the tuk-tuk wasn’t giving us the freedom we wanted when we decided to rent it. It was becoming more of a burden than a fun addition to our trip.
Eventually the hostel guy called over another guy, who somehow figured out how to start it.
With the engine finally working, we drove the tuk-tuk to a place that looked like a mechanic shop. It turned out not to be, but the guys there pointed us down the road to somewhere else we could go.
We saw a tire store, which could possibly (we hoped?) double as a car shop.
They ended up being able to help us. I had no idea what they were doing, but I guess something was wrong with the engine plug and it was letting in too much air…? Or something. I don’t know.
But when we were back on our way to Kataragama, the engine was still being funky and turning off on its own and making weird noises. Ugh.
We stopped by lunch at a random beach town.
I went to the toilet, which was essentially a hole in the ground in a tiny and really dirty outhouse. However, it didn’t smell that bad considering how gross it looked.
The food was delicious, of course. You can never go wrong eating at one of the tiny local restaurants anywhere in the country.
You really don’t realize how populated Sri Lanka is until you drive through it. There were so many cars and people around us the entire time, it was crazy.
When we were about 20 km from Kataragama, some guy in a tuk-tuk called out to us, saying something was wrong with our tuk-tuk. We pulled over, thinking that he wanted to help us. He asked us where we were going. We told him Kataragama.
“Oh, you shouldn’t stay there because there is a festival tonight and there’s too many people.”
“Oh, but we already booked something.”
“Oh ok, are you doing a safari tomorrow?”
And so it started. He didn’t want to help us with our tuk-tuk. He wanted to sell us a safari tour.
I took his number, telling him I’d call him later, but I knew we probably wouldn’t.
A few minutes after we left him, I realized that the only reason he told us not to stay in Kataragama was so that we’d stay somewhere close to him so he could pick us up in the morning. Sneaky sneaky.
We got lost a couple times in Kataragama, but we eventually found Humbhaha Eco Lodge and were parked by 4:30.
There were a couple people sitting outside, so we joined them. One was American, one German, one Swiss (from the German-speaking part). It turned out the owner also spoke German (he lived there for 28 years), so there was a lot of German going on.
Our treehouse that we had booked was already taken by another group, so we were given a “room” instead. But the room was door-less and looked more like a storage space than a place for guests. There were extra beds folded up in a corner and a random old unusable drawer. The only thing that made it a room was the bed.
I was a bit confused, but too lazy to look for somewhere else. Plus, the other people staying there seemed cool.
I went out for a run and accidentally ran straight in to the festival. There must have been hundreds of people, all of whom were STARING at me. I felt like an idiot.
The dogs were meaner than in other areas of the country— a lot of them barked at me and tried to jump on me.
As I was showering after my run, I realized my bottle of body wash was running out. I also realized that it didn’t really matter anymore because I’d be home in 5 days. That was a really sad moment.
Once I was clean, I re-joined the others, who was still sitting in the same place that I left them. I met a Dutch family who had also just checked in. All 3 of the kids were SO tall. The two teenage girls were at least 6 feet, and the 12 year old boy was catching up to them quickly. One of the girls looked at LEAST 18 but was 14. They were a really nice family, though. I could tell the parents were really good at the whole family/parenting thing.
We ate dinner at the resort (using that term loosely), and it was my first time eating with my hands! I was glad it was dark out because it was NOT a pretty sight.
I asked the owner for sambol (chili paste) and immediately regretted it. He told me we “eat like village people here. This is “not a restaurant,” and that they don’t have sambol everyday. “Maybe tomorrow,” he added.
But then he ended up bringing out two kinds of sambol two minutes later anyway, so I was confused.
We all left for the Perahera festival (the one that I had ran into on my run) around 8:30. It happens every year in Katagarama, and is a celebration of the god Skanda. Thousands of pilgrims walk 200 kilometers from northern Sri Lanka and arrive in Kataragama in time for the festival.
It was so crowded and a bit sad to watch. They brought out all these elephants dressed up in elaborate cloth, their feet locked in chains. The music and dancing were really cool, but the elephants just looked really sad to me.
But is it also wrong for me to judge them? I’m sure there’s lots of history behind it and reasons why they use elephants and such. I’m looking at this with very limited knowledge, so I feel like it’s not really my place to be so critical. But I can’t ignore my gut…
After the parade was over, we walked over to a Hindu temple. Some of us got a bindi, the red mark you put in the center of your forehead that represents the third eye.
I went to bed after we got back to the hotel. I think I was the only one— everyone else hung out outside. I felt a bit of FOMO, but I also didn’t really care. I wanted to sleep if we were going to get up at 5 am the next morning for the safari.