The chronicles of an unforgettable journey
Photography by [K]
- Buy small portable BBQ grill from Cargills
- Buy sausages, bread, chili sauce, drinks and charcoal
- Steal a butter knife from the hotel you are staying in
- Get kerosene oil to light the fire
- Park vehicle on a dark hairpin bend in Badulla, preferably with a beer pub nearby
- Get beer
- Go to a corner of the hairpin bend and set up the grill
- Open up the hood of the vehicle and keep sausages on the engine to defrost
- Get the iPod dock and put on some good music
- Start the fire
- Watch it burn and grin to yourself
- Let two of your friends do the dirty work of BBQing and have a chat with the rest while you wait for the food to be ready
- Spread chili sauce on a slice of bread, put sausages and make a sandwich
- Eat it
- Dance on the road while waiting for more food, but make sure to move away when you see an oncoming vehicle
- Stop caring about the slight drizzle that started to fall
- Feel good about life
- Get high on the moment
- Stare back at the people passing you and staring at you as if you came from another world
- Eat all the sausages, including the ones you accidently dropped on the ground
- Forget to get tissue, so use the leaves on trees or a hanky or even your own t-shirt to wipe your hands
- If leaves don’t do the job / you don’t have a hanky / don’t want to mess up your t-shirt, covertly use the back of your friend’s t-shirt to wipe your hands
- Smile at him as if nothing’s wrong
- Talk about what a good investment the portable grill was
- After all is done, clean everything and pack up to leave
- Forget to take the BBQ grill which is a good investment and leave it on the road side
- Remember that you left it behind when you come to Arugam Bay the next day and prepare to have a BBQ
We sat down on the sand and watched the waves crashing in the darkness. It was the last night of our major 5 day holiday. I wanted to make the most of it before I drove back home into the real world, where lay the usual work week, daily responsibilities and the other miscellaneous personal demons.
It was 4am in Arugam Bay, and I was sitting on the sand with a friend waiting for the sunrise. I always wanted to see the sunrise and missed it in Maldives. It was just a short walk across the island to watch it rise, and I overslept. I had to try very hard to forgive myself for not witnessing it when it was so easy. I wasn’t going to miss it after driving across the country to Arugam Bay. My hopes were dashed the previous day when it was raining like a bitch and dastardly black clouds covered the skies. Today was much brighter than yesterday, and although I didn’t have any high hopes to see the sunrise, I had enough optimism to forget about the long drive back in the morning and sit on the beach with a drunken friend for two hours to watch it rise.
So there we were with an iPod dock listening to the soothing sounds of Armin Van Buuren’s Zocalo. I felt the guitar riffs pulsating through my stoned mind. I felt the drowsiness creeping in but struck up random conversations to clear them away. The night was cloudless, and we were bathed in the moonlight. It was a beautiful picture and we were in the middle of it while the world around was asleep. As the sky became clearer my hopes began to rise. While having a conversation which I cannot remember I just happened to look up at the dark sky. Through the clouds I saw a luminous green light streaking across the sky. It was like a shooting star, but there was no tail. I was shocked because it felt so real yet it seemed like a hallucination. I thought I was seeing things until I heard my friend say ‘Woah what was that?’
Then followed a conversation to characterize what we had seen. Was it a shooting star? No, it had no tail, and the greenish colour looked very artificial. Also, it can’t be a plane because planes don’t move like that? So what could it be? Could it be a UFO? No way! We are stoned but that doesn’t mean we should jump to conclusions about seeing things from outer space. Come to think of it we can actually call it a UFO since it’s an unidentified flying object. We couldn’t define what it was and we gave up leaving it as a mystery which intrigued our minds more.
The ocean was dark except for the white slivers of the waves gleaming in the moonlight. I stared at the waves and listened to the sound of it crashing. My mind played wonders on my eyes as I saw things in the sea which I cannot really explain. I still remember what I saw, it was something very natural yet it looked out of this world.
The time was 4.30 am and we decided to smoke up the final J that I rolled especially for this moment, and wait a bit for the buzzing in our heads to settle down, and then hit the water at about 5.15am so that we can chase away the drowsiness and be in the water once the sun came up. So we smoked up while feeling sorry for the other buggers who went to sleep early. It was the last night and we were making full use of it. I had to drive back home but I kicked that thought out of my head so that I could focus on what was at hand. After a while we both leaned back on the sand and stared up at the sky. The stars were contrasting against the black of the sky as they shimmered ostentatiously. Just as I felt myself drifting off, I saw something that made me stare. A star was moving swiftly in the sky. My friend saw it too, so we weren’t imagining it. We followed the journey of this star across the sky until we realized it was a satellite. It circled above us as it made a wide arc across the world we could see. We waved and gave peace signs, happy that we witnessed something like this in that state of mind. This was definitely the best high I ever had. Such a simple moment yet it felt extraordinary.
After the satellite disappeared behind the clouds, we decided to hit the water. It was rough and the waves were high. We didn’t go far and stayed close to the shore. Waves crashed around us and we kept diving into them and riding the waves. One wave spun me underwater and tossed me a fair distance away and I crashed headfast into the water banging my head against the ground. It hurt like a bitch but I wasn’t gonna let that ruin the moment. The sky was getting lighter in the horizon. We could see the beauty of the orange glow as it seeped into the blue black above. Slowly creeping in, pushing the dark side of the sky to the other side of the world so that we could have our share of the sunlight for the day. The horizon was a fusion of yellow, orange, light blue and dark blue. When I looked back to the other side, it was still night. The moon was out and almost full and stars illuminated the sky. I felt like I was trapped somewhere between night and day. I was totally tripping. What an experience.
We didn’t get to see the sun, as there were dark clouds over the horizon to conceal the spectacle. Obviously put there by nature to mock our optimism of seeing the sunrise. I was a little disappointed, yet everything that happened up to that moment was brilliant and this kept me upbeat. I waited a little longer hoping to see the sun, but it had no plan of showing itself. I walked back out of the water, into our little hotel, feeling glorious deep inside for that unforgettable moment I lived in, and for the fact that I tried my best to see the sun. I knew no one would understand when we told them our story after they woke up. They would think we were stupid to be up and wait, especially for me, when I had a long ass drive back home.
I was happy as I hit the sack. I closed my eyes and pictured everything once again. My last night in this real dream was complete. The minor nagging feeling I had before where I thought we didn’t experience Arugam Bay to it’s fullest was no more. This was the best high yet, and I’m glad it ended with such a smooth bang. I knew nothing could bring me down. I went to sleep at 6.30am, trying to get as much shuteye before I woke up again at 8.30 to leave. As I look back on that moment, I know that these words I have written cannot do justice to what I felt at that moment. Everything that happened will forever be etched in my memory, because I know that nothing else would do justice to the visions in my eyes, the thoughts in my head and the sensation in my heart.
The mother of all long weekends came and went, and during the course of the five day holiday, I was engaged in doing all things awesome. A huge trip was planned and executed brilliantly. The travel itinerary was one night in Avissawella on Wednesday right after work, head off to Badulla on Thursday morning and spend two nights there before driving across the island to the much awaited Arugam Bay for yet another two nights before coming back home on Monday in time for Avurudu.
Wednesday was long and fucked up. It was a day filled with many client calls, reports and emails and when I came home, I was tired to the bone. It was five guys that left on the journey and two more were going to join us in Badulla on Friday. The place we were staying in Avissawella was called Famous Guest House, but ironically no one had heard about it. We quickly kept our bags in the room and went into the lounge with a packet of good stuff and a pipe to enjoy while watching the Liverpool – Chelsea match.
I couldn’t pay much attention to the match because my thoughts were going haywire. The good stuff was called ‘Death’ for a reason, and the afterlife was quite amazing. The effects of Death coupled with the fatigue of the long day I had, made it really hard for me to keep myself from falling off my seat. Now I can’t remember much of what happened that night, but I remember feeling really good, and I heard the next morning that Chelsea had won the match, although I was watching it till the end.
The next day we had breakfast in the town and headed off to Badulla, on the long yet scenic route through Nuwara Eliya. The twists and turns were challenging, yet I was up for it, as it was my little personal goal to drive the whole way and back. I was quite stubborn in refusing to give the wheel to the substitute drivers and that aroused some scorn. But I really wanted to be behind the wheel. The drive was long, yet eventful. The scenery was amazing and I realized once again how much beauty Sri Lanka has to offer.
We reached Badulla in the night and went to our hotel. The place was called Riverside Holiday Inn, but guess what, no river in sight! Spent two days there, smoking Death through joints, bongs and cross J’s! Yep, that’s right, we had a cross J like the one in Pineapple Express. Fucked us up quite nicely. Went to the Dunhinda waterfall next morning after getting stoned, and some clever fucker in the group ‘forgot’ to mention that there was a long walk over steep rocks and bridges, and I thought I would die because it is so hard to trek when you are under the influence. The waterfall was nice but totally not worth the climb.
After some time at the waterfall and a very tiring climb back up, we went to the hotel and had a nice Nasi Goreng for lunch. Oh yeah I forgot to mention, on the way to Badulla, we stopped at a Cargills to get some stuff and spotted a small portable BBQ grill for just 800 bucks. We thought it would be a wise investment and bought it to BBQ on the Arugam beach. Our enthusiasm got the better of us and we decided to have a BBQ at Badulla as well. So on a hairpin bend on some dark road, we lit the grill and BBQ’d sausages and ate it with bread and chili sauce.
Afterward, we went back to the hotel and awaited the two buggers who were to join us. After they came, we intoxicated ourselves once more and went to sleep. Early next morning we set off for Arugam Bay, the final destination in our journey. The drive was good, reached there much earlier than we expected. The roads were surprisingly good and the scenery was just out of this world. There was an area, where we emerged through the thicket of the jungle which surrounds the road onto a clearing, where you can see far away. Trees and greenery cover the entire area, and in the distance you can witness what looks like a very modern bridge, and beyond it, the sea.
The first day at Arugam Bay was a letdown because it started to rain like a bitch. We were all a little glum but managed to have fun while the rain raged on outside. We stayed up till about 1.30 and went to sleep hoping to see the sunrise in the morning. But I didn’t hear the alarm, and overslept. When I woke up I realized I hadn’t missed anything because the sky was cloudy. However the rain subsided and the clouds cleared and we witnessed the much talked about beauty of this place. The sea water had an amazing blue and it contrasted magnificently with the shiny sandy shore. The beach was quite dead as we had come just before the season and it was very peaceful. We took a walk to an area where the beach and the jungle almost merge. The water was rough and exciting. I believe the sea has to be rough and I find it quite boring when it’s calm. There is no better feeling than diving head first into a big wave.
That night we had a long session since it was our last night. Everybody decided to go to sleep at about 3am. But I didn’t want to sleep because I was afraid I will miss the sunrise. My friend who was quite drunk at the time also wanted to stay up and enjoy since it was the last night. So we decided to go and hang by the beach with his iPod dock listening to some music. I rolled a joint to have once the sun rose. I didn’t have my hopes quite up but I was optimistic enough to go and wait for it without sleeping. Everyone else went to sleep while the two of us were at the beach. This moment, I believe, was the best stoned moment I have had yet. It deserves another post and it’s gonna get one, so I will divulge into the details of what happened on that post.
The next morning after a lack of sleep I got prepared to drive back home. I was apprehensive about it yet I wasn’t about to let anyone else take the wheel either. I wasn’t being stupid as I was accused of. I was confident of myself and if I wasn’t, there was no way I would risk so many lives to just drive. I’m glad I was extremely stubborn about it because man, did I not enjoy that drive. It was one of the best experiences of my life. My vehicle, Chuck, never gave up on me. It was the first time that it actually fishtailed when I took three turns together at 130kmph and everybody thought that we would almost topple. At that moment I think my brain had an orgasm.
This trip to me was a life changing experience. The drive, the scenery, the whole fucking experience was just totally out of this world. The best part about going on a long trip to several destinations is whenever you pack up from one place to go to another you realize you are not going home and packing up doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the trip as it usually signifies. To me this was a resurrection. This is where I found peace and hope again. I vowed to go back to the beaches of Arugam Bay, to see the sunrise, to experience this beautiful bay in its full glory. This was my near life experience.
A week before Saturday, my best friends and I planned to go to Tangalle for the long weekend. The plan changed to hit the hills and the chills for a different kind of fun, and a move away from the sun, sand and sea. The whole week leading up to Saturday was a mess of finding accommodation in Nuwara Eliya and Bandarawela. The search for proper accommodation went on until late Friday night and the result was fruitless. We were unable to book anything and the long weekend we had been waiting for was about to go by with nothing.
Friday night at around 11 pm I decided that we should not let our weekend be hindered by lack of accommodation and decided to hit Galle and Unawatuna to have the usual fun, since finding a place to stay won’t be a problem there. Eight people were to go on the trip, five guys and three girls. In the end the girls failed to turn up much to our relief, and we decided to wing it and go with the wind. So we started off early Saturday morning with me behind the wheel. We bought a map and headed off to Galle.
There were many things about this spur-of-the–moment trip that is really worth telling. But the fun we had and the feelings of happiness that passed through our minds are very difficult to describe in writing. I wish I had a device to record my thoughts and feelings so that I can share the experience accurately. I will try my best to describe everything that happened as best as I can, but I know nothing can compare to the moving pictures that play inside my head. So here goes.
The drive was amazing as always. The thrill of the drive to Galle is something I can never get enough of. As we sped along the coastal line, we felt the worries and the problems of our everyday life leaving our hearts and minds. It was like we were driving away into bliss. Everything seemed and felt perfect. With the meter lingering around 100, music pumping in our ears, the beach on our side, and the road smooth and long, we were lost in our own little world.
Our tentative plan was to chill out during the day and hit the party at the Unawatuna Diving Center at night, after a drinking session. Around 7.45pm my friends got the bottles and everything needed and started the session in full swing. I’m a non-alcoholic and I have my own way of indulgence. So during this session I got a mad laughing fit and couldn’t stop myself. I was laughing so hard, it hurt and everybody was laughing at me, not with me. I don’t remember why I started laughing. I couldn’t breathe and the pain in my sides was immense. I started tearing and crying. My friends started laughing harder and all I could see through the tears were their white teeth, and that made me laugh even harder. After what seemed like hours of non-stop laughing I was finally able to catch my breath and stop. I gulped the air welcomingly, and it felt so good to breathe again.
At about 11.30pm we headed for the party with everyone buzzing proper and nice. The party was a sausage fest but it improved after some time. I didn’t give two shits about the crowd, because the music was so good and I spent the night dancing in the sand with the waves washing my feet. It took me back to last week when I was at the Offshore party after the GLF dancing alone on the sand. My friends had all left because they were sleepy, but I dint want to leave. I wanted to become one with the sea and watch the stars disappear. So I was dancing away till 6.00 am. Afterwards my legs were killing me, but it was well worth it.
Coming back to this week’s trip, on Sunday we consulted our map and decided to go to Deniyaya, where my friend’s uncle had a bungalow. We had a great lunch in Galle, one that compensated the shitty breakfast of Jaffle toast or something, where we were properly ripped off, and set out again to a different part of the country. The drive was not that long but the roads were winding, so it was tiring, but I enjoyed it, once more. I really love driving, when it’s not in the rush hour traffic of Colombo.
Since nothing was planned we did not have any high expectations. Therefore when the best things happened, the sensation came in three-fold. To cut things short about Sunday night without making things uncomfortable, I would have to say that we all had a great trip in Deniyaya. At that moment, for us what we did that night was the highlight of the whole journey. But we were very wrong, at least until next day.
Come Monday morning, our plan was to wake up early and drive up to the buffer zone of the Sinharaja rainforest, drive around for a bit and head homeward bound at about 2pm. We woke up late though after the adventures of the night before, but still we set off for the forest. We stopped by a beautiful rocky stream and climbed up the precarious rocks with bottles and bites in hand looking for a food, isolated spot to have a drink. We found a nice place where the water was collecting, creating a small pool and dipped the bottles in there to cool the drinks. We sat around the rocks, taking in the view of the jungle and feeling the sensation of being there. Making small talk and feeling pity for the people who missed out on the trip, we enjoyed the environment. It was my first time in the rainforest and I was at awe. The trees loomed majestically around us, and the greenery was so pleasing to the eye and the sounds of the gurgling water complemented the sounds of the trees and the birds beautifully.
We hung out there for some time and decided to move further upstream to find the entrance to the thicket of the forest. The rocks were slippery and dangerous, but we treaded with care, holding hands and helping each other. I don’t think any of us had never ever needed each others hand so much before. I cannot remember how long we walked, but it was a fair amount. We even had to cross several places, balancing ourselves on logs. We even posed on these dangerous logs for photos for memories sake, knowing very well that if we fell we would be having a very bad memory or maybe even no memory at all.
We reached the bunt and saw the jungle lying in front of us. It was quiet. The jungle had an eerie aura to it, tempting us with its mysteriousness. Our hearts were way too gullible for it, and we gave in and decided to jump over the wall and go in. Crossing the wall was very tricky as we had to jump from one rock to another and then jump from that rock on to the wall, while making sure we had a good foot hold and a grip. Scaling the wall we jumped down onto the other side. We were in the jungle. Without a guide or a trekker, without paying any entrance fees, without anyone knowing where we are, we stood inside the Sinharaja.
We walked forward slowly, getting stuck in the deep mud, scratching ourselves on thorns and falling into holes. We didn’t go far because we weren’t ready for proper trekking, we didn’t have time and well, some of us were a little bit afraid. Bata slippers are not the way to go into a forest when you know the amount of Koodallas hanging around waiting for people like us to come across. We walked a bit further and took some more photos, took a piss and then decided to walk back to the vehicle. That’s when we encountered the wrath of the Koodalla. Damn those buggers are fucked up. They hardly let go and we had to pull / smack with slippers to get them out. It hurt but we had no salt water remedies in hand. The bloody leeches stirred a lot of commotion. Whenever we spotted one on ourselves we would stop to get rid of it and end up half falling, losing our balance on rocks and cutting ourselves.
After the leech fiasco, when we were positive there were no more mofos crawling up our legs, we started the journey back on the rocks. I thought climbing up was hard, but damn, going down just took that difficulty to another level. After some time we reached the end (or the beginning). It was sad to see civilization and my vehicle. I wanted to stay in the jungle despite all the dangers that could be lurking inside. We washed ourselves a bit and got ready for the drive home. The time was 5.30pm then and we had forgotten lunch.
The forest was definitely the highlight of the trip. It was a new kind of adventure, one that we had never experienced before. The rocks, the water, the jungle, the leeches everything conspired together to make a truly memorable experience that we would relish forever. The drive home was silent as always, with little bursts of chats popping up here and there. I drove back towards the reality we call daily life, leaving behind our hearts and heads to live out the past few days for a little longer. The closer we got to home, the more the whole trip seemed like a dream. And the more it seemed like a dream, the more we wished we could live it once again. Our approach of taking whatever may come was successful. This was all about the journey and not the destination, because after all our destination was unknown. At least until we got there.
So guys, here’s to the end of the beginning. The end of the legendary first chapter of our Destination Unknown and here’s to the beginnings of many more. Here’s to setting out once again with our bags packed incompletely, rushing to call people at the last moment trying to convince them to come, playing spin the map and deciding where to go, and never being negative about where we head off to. May we live it up in the strangest of places. Here’s to us and our great adventure. Here’s to life. Let’s make it worth watching.