It’s Like a Punch in the Gut
Being a tropical country, it was expected that we would be dealing with hot temperatures and we all had tried to do our best to mentally prepare for this. Coming from Vancouver, we don’t have a lot of humidity in the summer so going to really humid countries can take some getting used to.
But nothing prepared us for this.
For the most part, we’re always in air-conditioned hotel rooms and air-conditioned vehicles, remaining relatively comfortable. It’s when you step outside of that temperature-controlled environment that the real outside temperature hits you like a punch in the gut. You’re literally sweating all the time and you have to get used to it because the temperature the next day isn’t getting any better.
When we came from the airport we had planned to stay a few days in the city of Negombo. It wasn’t quite clear what we’d be doing here and when our guide suggested that we visit the fish market I was unsure if this would be of interest to me as these types of places can be really touristy. In hindsight, it could easily be one of the most interesting and photogenic places that we’ll have visited on this trip.
Being a city on the ocean, fishing plays a big part in Negombo and subsequently the fish market was pretty impressive. The market had a combination of people chopping up fresh fish, people bringing in fish from boats and huge areas where fish were drying in the sun.
As you might imagine, the smell of fish was overpowering but the experience of seeing all of this activity was very real and fascinating. Of the thousands of people who worked in this fish market, I saw less than 10 people like us who were there just to observe the goings on in the market, taking photos.
My main observation here was that the people were working in very physically demanding jobs in the blistering heat, often covered from head to toe from what I assumed to protect them from the sun and also working with raw fish all day long.
As part of the organization of this trip, we had decided early on that we would be hiring a driver and a guide so we would not need to worry about doing any driving in Sri Lanka. They’re both with us for the entire trip and so far they’ve both done a great job.
We had all agreed to an itinerary for the time that we’re in Sri Lanka but several times we’ve gone “off script” and have made changes on the fly.
Several of the places that we planned to visit were major temples within the country. We tried to keep the number of temples on the itinerary to a reasonable amount as this kind of thing could easily become excessive. But there was a completely unexpected impact that we discovered after our first visit to the temple at Anuradhapura.
It’s the custom to remove your shoes when entering many types of temples so we weren’t surprised that we needed to do so at this first location. What we immediately discovered was that walking around in bare feet on stone walkways that had been baking in the sun was excruciating. With the exception of our driver and guide who seemed to be immune to the boiling hot stones, we all tried to find areas in the shade to cool our burnt feet. This visit has to go into the record books as the fastest decision that we wanted to leave a site due to burning feet.
We left Negombo and the coast of Sri Lanka a few days ago and we’ve now moved inland and are currently staying at a hotel in the city of Dambulla which is almost in the centre of the country. We had a long drive out of Negombo, almost 4 hours, and will be here in the interior for several more days. The vehicle that we have is comfortable enough and we have enough space for the seven of us but being on the road for hours at a time takes its toll and can be exhausting. Often we feel like skipping all of the places on the itinerary for that day and just get to our next hotel and go for a swim in the pool.
I’ve had inconsistent Internet access in our hotels but nonetheless, it’s generally been working. As usual, I have my laptop with me so even without Internet access I can write some thoughts on my blog, little by little, every day or so.
I’ll post another blog update in a few days. I’ve also uploaded a bunch more photos to my photo website: