Traveling through Sri Lanka I came to the conclusion that I reached the point of traveling where I am “easy to satisfy though hard to impress”. Buddha must have heard my thought and good karma instantly came to me in the form of a Tuk Tuk and a big friendly giant.
To celebrate our 10-years of friendship, my South African friend and I met at a beautiful beach in Southern Sri Lanka, where we rented a Tuk Tuk for a little adventure. And the adventure wouldn’t be an adventure with a driver, so we took a 5 minute crash-course “How to drive a Tuk Tuk in Asia” from a local friend (as there is no theory involved on Sri Lankan roads and I believe in learning-by-doing, 5 minutes was plenty of time). Backpack and 1 person – the passenger – in the back, the other behind the steering/gearing-bar and off we went! Depending on the amount of packed trucks, scooters and other vehicles in front that slow down for their passengers to smile their big smile cracking up seeing two white girls in a Tuk Tuk, waving and putting thumbs up, we do an average speed of 40 km/hour.
Soon I learn how to ride like a local using the horn and indicators as much as possible, smile like them and I turn on Bollywood tunes on maximum volume. In front the sky is turning black and before I know it I am doing advanced Tuk Tuk driving in a tropical storm.
After several hours on the busy main road, we head north on a newly paved road. In a lot more peace we pass through stunning countryside, where the rice terraces sweep by until they change into tea plantations. Without realizing we drive into a national park where we hear birds, see big lizards & buffalo and… Suddenly I hit the break to stand still behind 2 other vehicles. An accident maybe? Then a voice from the passenger behind me shouts “THERE IS AN ELEPHANT ON THE ROAD!!!” I pass the van in front of us and there it is; the grey giant of Sri Lanka stands perfectly relaxed right across the small road. Some cars pass the elephant while my jaw is still on the steering bar. We are driving around Sri Lanka in a Tuk Tuk and there is an elephant on the road!!
I ask my friend her South African point of view on the situation; “Shall we pass him?”, the answer is an exciting “Yeah!!” and so I hit the gas, drive in the giants’ direction and at the moment of passing (shouting OMG! OMG! OMG!!) he turns his head to the little Tuk Tuk as his trunk touches the side. With adrenaline floating through my body in maximum speed I stop the vehicle a little further to look back and apparently turn the engine off. Don’t ever ask me why I did such a stupid thing – it must have been the heat of the moment or the climate or the food or… – because now the elephant is moving in our direction! And I cannot get the Tuk Tuk to start anymore! On the edge of crying / screaming / praying / abandoning ship aka Tuk Tuk, the elephant only shows his trunk again as a happy greeting and – thank god! – passes on…
Getting my freaked out self together again, I finally manage to start the Tuk Tuk to pass our giant friend once more and don’t dare to look back anymore.
Written by Inge Bassant (The Netherlands)