Sri Lanka: Just getting there was a wild journey

OK, I admit I am a wee tab bit emotional when it comes to seeing/reading/hearing anything even remotely touching. My sensitivity gene got an extra link. If someone says anything kind, the tears can flow like a faucet.

This can be a good thing, or embarrassing, depending upon the setting. When on an airplane, sitting next to a total stranger, it can fall somewhere in-between. Perhaps more toward the uncomfortable side.

My tear ducts had already gotten a workout on the long flight from Los Angeles to Doha, when I watched a tear jerker, Breakthrough. It is based on a real story about a young adopted boy who falls through the ice on a frozen lake and is under water for over 15 minutes. At least there was just Tim and I on the row, so it was not quite as obvious that I was taking the movie seriously.

On the second leg of our trip, flying from Doha to Colombo, Sri Lanka, however, we had a middle aged man, on his way home, sitting between us as I once again tuned into another movie that Karen recommended, Overcomer.

I should probably back up just a little, to set the stage.

The “middle-aged man” had been coughing, blowing his nose and periodically using a rescue inhaler the entire flight. With the current Coronavirus outbreak ravaging China and quickly spreading to numerous countries, this was not the ideal person you want sitting next you you. Airplanes are already flying petri dishes.

My new movie was progressing from one sad, sensitive moment to the next and I simply could not turn off the water works. I had tears literally flowing down my cheeks. Tim is used to seeing this side of me but the man between us was beside himself and did not know how to handle me being in distress. I, of course, was oblivious to his discomfort (which was later related to me by my husband) until he started rubbing my shoulder (with hands that had been holding snot filled kleenex for the past two hours), telling me not to cry.

I was both touched and horrified by his concern. It was not a very comfortable moment.

Shortly thereafter, my movie ended, I dabbed my eyes as I turned the screen in front of me to the “map” view to see how much further we had to fly. Perhaps irony was working her magic as we were just about to fly over Tehran. Of course memories of the recent commercial airplane being shot down flashed through my mind. What was further ironic to me was it just happened to coincide with sundown. It was prayer time in the Muslim world and across the screen flashed a reminder to all passengers to please remain seated while praying.

I can report that I did both…

Landing safely in Colombo, we noticed that quite a few people waiting for their flights were wearing face masks. There was even a station set up where arriving passengers walked past a heat sensor camera where anyone with a high fever could be stopped.

All of the immigration officers were also wearing masks. Getting through immigration and customs formalities was a non issue. I handed the gentleman my online visa printout with my passport and arrival form. He promptly gave it back to me without even glancing at it. I thought that was odd, but then figured there must be another place that would be checked.

I was wrong. I was never asked to present it. Perhaps because it was checked in Los Angeles, that was all that was needed.

After collecting our luggage we simply walked out the customs exit labeled “nothing to declare”. It was time to exchange some currency into Sri Lankan Rupee. Tim and I had several different foreign bills from previous trips to get rid off, so we stopped at an exchange booth while Dick and Karen used the ATM.

Today’s exchange rate is: 1 USD = 182 LKR (Sri Lankan Rupee). In my mind I rounded that up to 200, just to simplify the conversion.

Time to figure out how to get to our hotel. It is somewhere around 4:00 in the morning by this time.

Jan had already researched, and found out that going the 20 miles using Uber was less expensive than taking a taxi, roughly $7 vs $23. All of us are frugal, so Dick put the request into his phone, and within only a couple of minutes a TINY 3 passenger Suzuki with no place for luggage arrived. The four of started laughing and took on the challenge. It was kind of like one of those local fair challenges “how many can you stuff inside a phone booth”.

Karen, Tim and I squeezed into the two person back seat. We managed to get three of our backpacks behind the back seat, and two roller-board suitcases behind the driver seat. Karen was plunked down on the far right side with her legs up in the air over the top of the suitcases. I slipped in next to her. One leg over the suitcases and one under the seat. Tim next to me, holding one more roller-board on his lap. Dick sat up front holding both his suitcase and a back pack.

The driver sits on the right side here. As is usually the case of former British colonies, people drive on the left side of the road. We expected it to take us roughly 25 minutes to get into town.

It brought up funny memories of our trip to Malaga, Spain years before where we had similarly squeezed six of us into a rental car with our luggage when the rental car company Tim and I had booked with could not find our reservation and no additional cars were available. On that adventure we had a flat tire only a couple miles after leaving and had to return to the rental car facility.

Finally on our way toward the Grand Oriental Hotel, we were sleep deprived, giddy over our cramped quarters and laughing that as long as we don’t get a flat tire, we will be fine.

Oh boy…A flat tire might have been better…

As it turns out, our driver was even more sleep deprived than we were and was ALL OVER THE ROAD. Now mind you, we are on a freeway, in the middle of no where, with no offramp, and not quite sure what to do.

If we get out, we would literally be stranded on the side of the highway with no clue where we are or how to get another ride.

Oh yeah, did I mention that our driver does not speak English.

Dick is poking the driver, trying to keep him awake, talking to him, with hand signals offering to drive and even singing trying to keep him engaged. All four windows are rolled all the way down. Dick was ready to grab the wheel if needed.

Now to further make things interesting, the gas gauge is on empty and the fuel light is on…

AND, the car is making some ominous sounds, which Tim diagnosed as overheating, and the hub bearing was bad.

At times our driver would slow way, way down to almost a crawl, and we wondered if we were out of gas. Then he would pick up speed again.

I continued to clutch the silver St Christopher around my neck that my parents had given me for a graduation gift over 50 years ago, and that I always wear when we are traveling. It has my name engraved on the back of it.

I prayed both silently and aloud, “Lord keep us safe”

FINALLY we reached Colombo and got onto city streets. I spotted York Street and knew we were getting close to the hotel.

A quarter of a block before the hotel, the car died…

Getting all of us out of the car was no easy trick, we were locked in, but the driver managed to unlock the doors and we rolled out, one by one.

We had made it!!!!

GRATITUDE MOMENT: Somehow I think this entire post is a gratitude moment. Our flights were on time, all of our luggage has arrived, we are healthy, our sense of humor is in tact, and mostly grateful that the four of us arrived safely at our hotel about 5:00 in the morning. Jan and Gary had arrived about an hour before us and we would meet up with them over breakfast.

And, if your tear ducts need a cleansing, I do recommend both of those movies…

I’m looking forward to getting some sleep, going exploring and taking some photos to show off this new land. Hope you will join us.

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About Tim and Joanne Joseph

Hi and welcome! We are Tim and Joanne Joseph and we have just embarked on our latest adventure. We hope you will join us!
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41 Responses to Sri Lanka: Just getting there was a wild journey

  1. Y says:

    What a trip so far!! Seldom do you guys have a boring adventure. Looking forward to posts and pictures!


  2. Gaye OBrien says:

    You gave us a laugh, we are all set to sit in our armchairs and enjoy Sri Lanka with you. Our Daughter was saying it’s the ” in place” for a holiday this year.


  3. Hello from Singapore. Looking forward to the rest of your adventure 🙂


  4. Quite the adventure, Joanne. Makes for fun writing and reading. Not so sure about the doing part of it. –Curt


  5. Have fun in Sri Lanka and keep letting us know how the travel goes.


  6. joliesattic says:

    It helps to have a good attitude on trips. I was laughing so hard, just imagining how you all looked and the poking of the driver was priceless. Have fun!


  7. sheilsm says:

    You have such the knack for writing!!! I could picture every moment of your airplane flight!!!
    Looking forward to your adventures in Sri Lanka.


  8. OH wow, what a journey! We’ve had some doozies but I think this one takes the cake. Glad you arrived safely.


  9. Your discomforts make for a very entertaining post and totally enjoyable read. I seem to get a cold every time I’m on a long haul flight and would have been mortified to have that guy next to me. Hope you have as much fun in Sri Lanka as we did.


  10. You wrote this BEFORE sleeping?!?!? It’s a great post, and I can hardly wait to start seeing photos. I wish someone had taken a pic of all of you jammed in the car – but who would that have been? Oh, well!


  11. Getting there is an adventure you will never forget! As your described all of you fitting into the care I pictured a clown car at the circus. Glad you made it safely to the hotel. The rest of your trip can only get better.


  12. lulu says:

    Ow that you e gotten there I hope you enjoy your adventure. You re a good teller of tales!


  13. Mike Alesko says:

    What a story.


  14. Fran Vukovich says:

    All I can say is Holy Crap!!!! glad you made it safely with a great story to tell.


  15. John Love says:

    Wow, do I want to travel? Yes, but I don’t know if I have the disposition to take some of your adventures in stride!


  16. Amy Pantone says:

    What a crazy trip to the hotel. Luckily all worked out and you arrived intact! Ready for the adventures!


  17. salpal1 says:

    OMG! I hope that was all the drama for the trip!


  18. krandi says:

    You are welcome to Sri Lanka and I appreciate to encourage others to visit my country..


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