Three wheels of Tuk Tuk Magic
No need to open the door. I jump into the driver’s seat, twist the key and press the little red button… A short cough and my 4 stroke engine begins to pur. Oh the glorious purrrrr of my little 4-stroke, she is such a fuel efficient mistress! I twist my left hand to find first gear and slowly release the clutch, engaging the throttle. My Bajaj takes flight. This is my daily ritual. I’ve spent the last 19 days travelling in this three-wheeled glorified lawnmower across the Sri Lankan continent. It’s been the best travel experience of my life. This goodbye is coming too soon, it will be heartfelt.
It all started when we hired a tuktuk from Mt Lavinia based startup ‘tuktukrental.com’. The company matches tourists wanting to rent self-drive tuktuks with local tuktuk owners. We were matched with Sanath, an amazing man with an equally amazing tuktuk (which we soon named ‘Sweet Pea’). We took comfort in the knowledge that the rental fees paid to Sanath would help boost his income. Tuktuk drivers are some of the lowest paid workers in the Sri Lanka, and spend most of their days breathing in carbon monoxide in the sprawling Colombo metropolis.
On the Road
After getting our driving license, driving lesson, and a quick run down on trishaw maintenance we were on the road to Kandy! To our delight, Sanath was actually heading back to Kandy that day, so we shared the ride with him and got a few more tips on how to handle the tuktuk on the way – what a legend! As we pounded the pavement, the wind (literally) in our hair we revel in the absolute freedom we have. This prosperous land was our oyster. Oh the miles we could cover in this sanctuary! Where every seed becomes a monstrous tree of the purest photosynthetic aesthetic.
Our journey took us from Colombo to Kandy, up to Sigiriya, back down through Newara Eliya, Ella and then onto the coast at Tissamahara to continue the coastal loop back to Colombo. We saw amazing things! From incredible vistas, to never ending tea plantations, to wildlife that rivals the African savanah, and beaches better than anywhere in the world. We really saw the best of Sri Lanka, but the real story here is our journey.
This journey our prayer, the pavement our church, and this vehicle our god. Sweet Pea you will live on forever. In her incredible spirit and wisdom she continues to magnify every aspect of our journey, as the great Genesis before her, she creates our experience. Even chitty chitty bang bang shall look upon her in awe.
Unlocking the magic of being a local
Truly Sweet Pea unlocked something special, some unknown limitless potential. It wasn’t just skipping the train and bus transfers, not just carrying backpacks, not just secure storage and never haggling for transport. It opened the greatest travel door – the potential of being a local. I felt like we were treated differently because we were in Sweet Pea, we were driving at the street level – not caught up in some airconditioned bus or taxi unable to interact with the real, true and beautiful culture around us. As we drove past locals in the cities and in the country, if they saw us they would smile and wave, sometimes even head wobble. I felt so much more connected to these people driving in the same vehicle as those of the lower incomes in the country. It really is magic.
I know without the tuktuk we wouldn’t have driven through a street dance wedding party. We wouldn’t have soaked up some of the amazing views while enjoying over 100 roadside cuppas. We wouldn’t have eaten ALLLL of the truly scrumptious fruits, drank ALLLL of the fresh tea. We wouldn’t have started as many conversations and engaged with so many locals on a deeper level. We wouldn’t have blasted incredible christmas tunes singing at the top of our lungs to passersby. We wouldn’t have as we inhaled fresh mountain air as the oxygen brought from the greenest leaf. And we wouldn’t have been able to chase the sun and the surf to our hearts content!
A final goodbye
The goodbye will be heartfelt. I say farewell to Sweet Pea, the vehicle that unlocked the true potential of Sri Lanka. I say farewell to the old man with naught but a lunghi and toothless grin as we enjoyed a chai on the roadside of the highway between Newara Eliya and Ella. I say goodbye to the savvy children dancing through the colour lined village streets of Telulla to the beat of wedding drums and my heart. I say goodbye to the gaudy sarees, the roadside fruit stalls and the endless green ocean of trees. I say goodbye to the animals, the thoughtful elephant, the agile leopard and the pesky mosquito. I say goodby to the clean surf, the endless coastline and the uninterrupted breaks. I say goodbye to the culture, the love and the warmth. Sri Lanka you have been so kind to us, thank you for kindling our hearts and our souls with your unconditional love. We have only unconditional love to offer you in return – we know we will see you again one day and we look forward to our next embrace.
With love from Charlie, and the incredible Lisa (and Sweet Pea).
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