A ride in the dark

“I know a good place for you. White Elephant really good. Green house, not good. I can arrange room for you, ok?”

We exchanged a quick look. It was enough. “No, we go to Green House. You agreed to drive us there. We booked at Green house.” -we didn’t. And we were just hoping that this guesthouse, mentioned in our Lonely Planet will still have a bed for us at this late time of the night.

Were we having trust issues with the guy? The thought would seem ridiculous. We accepted that the guy to drive us from Hatton to Dalhousie, after realising that we probably missed the last bus to Dalhousie, where we wanted to start our pilgrimage a few hours later. The road was long, bumpy and sinuous, 30km at the heart of the hill country, at least 2/3 of them after sunset.

Sunset in the hill country

Sunset in the hill country, over Castlereigh reservoir, Hatton. The moment I realised we will never make it to destination before darkness. A few minutes later, everything just became pitch black and silent.

After the last ray of lights disappeared, we just stopped talking. Who would find us if we would have an accident now? On this narrow mountain road, with the 2 too weak lights of our small tuk-tuk, we couldn’t do anything but hope for the best. I frowned to try to distinguish the way, without any success. Tight curves, narrow road, buses and pick-ups coming from the other side, our changes of survival seemed relatively small. I squeezed my boyfriend’s hand under the sarong that we were using to cover us in the chilly night, and tried to relax.

“I have been driving on that road 20 years!” Indeed, our tuk-tuk driver seemed to know all the curves by heart, anticipated them perfectly and adapting his speed as needed. I thought about our visit at Kandy’s temple the previous day, at our offerings and felt slightly better. Somehow, I was trusting this guy that we just met. He had a family too, and probably didn’t want to end up his life here either.

“But I can tell you, people not happy at Green House, I know a better place.” After almost a week of travel in Sri Lanka we have learnt, at our expense, not to listen to the too wise advice of tuk-tuk drivers. We got tired of their so called “recommended places” ” own by a friend of mine” or “with a really good price” usually being a synonym of a really good price for them (-understand: backhander).

Trust I thought, as we continued on the road feeling every pothole, can take many different forms. You will put your own destiny in somebody’s hands by choosing a cab at the airport, a driver at a bus station, or following somebody home ; but you might not follow their words. Most of the times, the safest option is just to follow your guts feeling.

“Here, look: this is White Elephant, really nice. You can go and cheek, I wait for you”. “No, you drive us to Green House, we want to do the pilgrimage tomorrow”. “But they will drive you at the path, no problem”. “No. Green House, we booked”.

After insisting, we actually made it to Green House. The first feeling of relief I got when the driver parked the tuk-tuk, the second, when the owner confirmed that she still had a room for us. And the third, when our tuk-tuk driver -not without saying for what seemed to be the 1000th times “You sure? Room not really nice. White Elephant hotel better”-, finally disappeared, nodding his head.

(Note: I am sure the stay at White Elephant would have been good, it actually gets good ratings. But our bed at Green House was just fine to start our pilgrimage, and perfect to recover from our night ride).

If you liked this post, read the next, retracing Adam’s Peak pilgrimage.

Share your thoughts!