This was the instructions for our friendly rickshaw driver, Chimanda, as myself along with two friends, Vladimir and Pamela descended on a 300 km road trip in his three wheeled motorised rickshaw.
Previous impressions of these drivers had been poor; in India I found you could not trust them. They are like pirates with their toothless grins, who end every sentence with ‘AHH’ and steal from vulnerable foreigners with extortionate prices.
On meeting Chimanda and discovering his profession I had my usual raised defences, but they were soon lowered when he guided us to find an alternative, spectacular venture point to overlook Sri Lanka’s version of Ayres Rock (Lions Rock) in a vast unspoilt jungle. A stunning sunset allowed us to sink whiskey and dwell in this unblemished landscape. On venturing back I was given the reins, but perhaps It was best that Chimanda was driving on route to a bar later that evening, as we mistakenly invented the sport of ‘Rickshaw Safari,’ by inadvertently coming across a dangerous wild elephant. Our flimsy rickshaw would be like flicking a matchstick for this great beast so we stood our ground. Relieved to have rickshaw and passengers in once piece we ordered 8.8% Extra Strong Buffalo beers. The Buffalo flowed fuelling the thought of travelling by rickshaw to Galle, a seaside town in the south of the country. Buffalos were sunk and it soon became a serious proposition. Normal such uncalculated decisions revert in big lazy hangovers, wondering ‘what was I thinking?’ On this occasion our chauffeur arrived as planned and we could set out on our very mini adventure.
We would meander through small towns, villages and jungle as heavy rain was relieved by bright sunshine. I could really smell and feel Sri Lanka with our open sided cart and it was distinctively more peaceful than the roads I was used to India. On route we came across what looked like a very lively village fete, but there was no tombola, cake stand or putting competition. Instead we witnessed two men sitting on a raised 10ft high tree log, participating in a Gladiator like duel beating one another with filled sacks. Inevitably Vladimir and I were invited to perform and we clambered onto the platform where our nerves tightening. We were reluctant to make the big hits we had witnessed realising a miss could see us flying, a draw seemed a fair result. We were paraded as z-list celebrities onto the stage waving like confused Royals, before making a heroes exit to continue our journey. By sunset we touched the West coast road, and this would guide us through the evening to Galle. We opted to sleep in our new rickshaw-motor home, far from luxury, far from what Pamela expected.
As we stumbled out of bed we smelt like a rickshaw driver, a man approached us offering a night in his guesthouse unsurprisingly he didn’t trust us, and we were made to pay up front.