Frakkin' Ceylon - Day Eight

Our final day in old Ceylon starts with a manic dash to the Pinnewalla Elephant Orphanage, and with our guide trying to rip us off, obviously. We insist that he takes us to the famous, legitimate sanctuary instead of the ramshackle joint he is doubtless on commission for, and make it just in time for the baby feeding.

In fairness to the fat bastard, once he realises that we’re at the end of our holiday, finances and tether, he gives up with trying to scam us and actually goes as far as to explain some of the tricks of the trade. The upshot is that nowhere in Kandy (or Colombo) can you really relax or trust anyone. Over the course of our week, our split has been some about 60/40 in the good guys/wanks ratio and it’s impossible to deny that it’s affected my overall feelings about Sri Lanka. But don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of stuff here that is genuinely amazing. Like the elephants, including this big blind basturt:

I mean, even when some wanker comes up, tries to read my palm and asks for £20, I don’t let it distract me from the prehistoric scene ahead:

Hell, even Jaws' Quint makes a return from the Davie Jones' locker. Turns out he's a elephant handler these days.

Glorious hours pass before we find ourselves back on a train, heading towards the dreaded Colombo. Mercifully, we’re not actually going to the city centre, but to a boutique hotel not for from the airport (which of course we aren’t paying for).

I wonder if the trains have been changed since the British handed the place back in 1948. The fact that it has seats individually designated for various afflictions (disabled, pregnant, clergy) suggests not. At every stop, someone gets on, trying to earn a little money. The majority of them are selling greasy pastries, or ripe fruit but once in a while an out-right beggar will have a go too. A woman singing a wistful lament while holding a picture of a (presumably dead) child is particularly heart-rending; half a man dragging himself across the floor is beyond pitiful. My compassion has hardened into an obstinate ball, though, and my hand stays in its pocket.

In years to come, I hope I look back on my time in Sri Lanka with fonder memories, but by the time the plane takes off the next morning, there’s a part of me glad to be rid of it. One thing the whole sweaty, occasionally fraught, week has done however is wake me up to the realities of travelling through a desperately poor country. The remedy to much of it will be to dump about 30% of my polite bumbling and replace it with anger, Glesga style. We'll see how that pans out.