We were somewhere around Kandy, central Sri-Lanka, in a rural dodgy eating place / bar house when the Captain Morgan began to take hold. I remember Johan saying something like “Let’s go and find some Wild Boar, I am hungry for some boars”
You will not be mistaken to think that sounds an awful lot like Hunter S. Thompson’s 1971 Gonzo Journalism Novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Well you are correct! But our Journey to Sri-Lanka was not nearly the drug fuelled binge experienced by Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo on their Vegas trip, thank goodness! Ours was a little different, we were not in search of the American Dream, but we were in search of T20 Cricket, strong drink and Wild Boar and this is how it all unfolded….
It was September 2012 and we had a long weekend on our hands. It just so happened that across the ocean, in the tiny island country of Sri Lanka, there was a World Cup going on, the T20 Cricket World Cup. Four of us decided to jump on a plane, head over to Sri Lanka, catch three games, then return just in time for work the next week. It was going to be a tight trip. We (very smartly) decided to not do any driving and opted to rent a vehicle with local driver who would drive us around for the three days. This was one of the best decisions we have ever made! Sunny was our driver and we had a Toyota Landcruiser Prado at our disposal.
Arriving in Colombo at 03:30 in the morning, getting the car and finally arriving at the hotel at 05:00, then having to leave at 07:00 again to head to Kandy for the first game was a bit rough. But nothing that an hour of sleep and a few breakfast beers cannot remedy! The drive up to Kandy was an eye opener and this is where we realised that Sunny was our hero! We would never have managed on those roads with that crazy traffic, it was just nuts! The plus side is that we could open the cooler box and enjoy all kinds of refreshments all the way up to Kandy!
Arriving at the Hotel, we could fit in a quick one hour power nap, then it was off to the stadium for the first game, New Zealand vs Bangladesh. It was no real match as New Zealand made mince meat of the Bangladesh team, but hey, it was awesome to sit in a stadium again, watching a live cricket match. We do not have those in Doha, and it has been a while since any of us had a taste of good live sports!
The evening really kicked off after the game with Johan insisting we find a place where we can eat wild boar. He had heard from someone at work that wild boar still roam the forests of Sri Lanka and he wanted some! So, Sunny stopped a few times, asking locals for info, and then we were directed to the local “boar house”. Well, it was a dodgy little restaurant, they were closed at the time, but 4 big white dudes do not visit their establishment all that often, so they gladly opened up for us. They told us that they unfortunately cannot serve us alcohol, but we are welcome to bring our cooler box inside and park it next to our table, they can supply the mix and the boar……DONE DEAL!!!
News spreads very fast in a small town like this, specially if it is 4 big South African guys, eating and drinking in a small dodgy eating place, so within 20min we had drawn quite the crowd. We even had a local Tuk-Tuk driver pitching up in his Springbok Rugby Jersey, bringing along with him some local concoction in a 2L coke bottle. He said he made it at home and it is really good stuff…..from the look of it we were not keen, only Vernon gave it a go, and he confirmed that it tasted horrible!!
The chatting singing and party went on until the very early hours of the morning, we all neglecting the fact that we need to be on the road by 06:00 to reach the next game in Hambantota on the southern tip of the Island. Although only about 250km, it is a 7 hour drive, and scary as hell! We almost died about 20 times! Again, thank goodness for Sunny! I kid you not, it was a scary drive down to the coast, dodging anything you can imagine, from elephants to dogs, to trucks, to tuk-tuks, to people and everything in between! We were happy to arrive in one piece! We were so nervous that we finished everything in the cooler box. But we stocked up very quickly!
Today’s game would be the one we were looking forward to the most, South Africa vs the hosts, Sri Lanka! Due to our long drive, we stopped at the hotel, had a shower, jumped back into the car and headed to the game, no time for sleeping today!
When we booked the tickets online, this game was pretty much sold out already being the host team. We managed to score some tickets in the real “cheap seats”, they were about $0.50c each! You get what you pay for and we were thrown right into the Sri Lankan populace that can afford tickets in that price bracket, it made for a very interesting experience! Needless to say we were a major attraction to the locals. They have never seen an almost 2m tall white man! I do not know in how many cellphone pictures were are! We could not walk 5m without someone wanting to take a picture of us, and of course as soon as one takes a picture the masses follows. We just smiled and waved, it was quite fun actually!
The downside was a risk every cricket game faces…….rain….. The rain was terrible, and the match was eventually reduced to 7 overs each, so we missed out on a lot of cricket, but the party and the atmosphere made up for it! For the third night in a row we partied until the early hours of the morning. Thankfully we could sleep in a bit the next morning as we would leave at 10:00 to head back to Colombo for the last game that evening.
The 240km to Colombo via Galle went by very quick due to a massive brand new highway linking Galle and Colombo, it was a welcome relief to the near death ride of the previous day! When in Galle, we could hear and see for ourselves the massive impact of the 2004 Tsunami that hit. It is hard to imagine how high the water went up and to comprehend the damage it caused. It was 8 years before, but some damage is still visible.
I will try to explain:
You have the sea, then you have a massive wall, then there is a walk way/promenade about 50m wide, then a massive 4 lane road, then about 50m further on and about 10m higher there is a railway line, then above the railway line there is some shops and buildings. When the Tsunami hit, those shops and buildings were under water……just imagine…..it is mind-boggling!
We arrived just in time for the England vs India game in Colombo. The atmosphere was electric and the vibe great. It is really special to watch a live cricket game in the Sub Continent, specially if India is playing. I can only imagine what it must be like to watch this in India!
After the game we were under pressure to finish everything left in the cooler box, we do not like wastage! So we went for it! The ride back to the Airport after the game was a singing jovial affair with Sunny learning lots of Afrikaans songs! We arrived at the airport, sat around for a while, caught the flight back to Doha at about 02:00 and then arrived, had a shower and went to work. That was a tough day at work!
All in all we had a great time in Sri Lanka and I loved every minute of it, it was spent with great friends, filled with lots of laughter, scary driving, great cricket and something I will remember for a long time!
One day I will visit Sri Lanka again, but take my time to see things. It is a stunningly beautiful country with such friendly people and rich culture. I cannot wait to go back!
I would like to thank Vernon, Johan and Michael for an awesome trip!!