Did you hear the one about the Englishman, the Welshman and the seven foot giant in a filing cabinet? No? Well read on.
It could have been the pièce de résisistance of some freakish social experiment. Put three old friends together in a car the size of an upturned washing machine for a week-long, 1000km shindig through a tropical island. Add in scorching heat, bumpy roads, few toilets, less toilet paper and even less common sense, and brace yourself.
The tone for the trip was set on the very first day. The Giant, of Portuguese descent, believed his fair skin to be immune to Colombo’s burning sunshine. Result: much ointment, blisters, incessant moaning, and a quite superb lobster tan.
Here follow the censored highlights from The Arrack Diary.
Day two. The journey up to Anuradhapura passed pleasantly enough. After stops to quench The Giant’s burns and heat rash with dodgy sunblock and lollipops we reached Yapahuwa rock temple. This is a slightly smaller yet infinitely less developed alternative to the famous rock climb at Sigiriya. Monkeys, rock geckos, and a party of German girls took cover as three white boys passed. (Dr Moz: to German girls everywhere – das ist gut, ja? Fantashtic!!)
***This video has been confiscated. WordPress Management***
The Giant, to avoid further sun exposure, had decided on a thick hoodie and a rucksack consisting of a mountain survival kit (water purification and torch included) and a 4-litre bottle of mineral water. I was concerned he may not make it. Point to research later – how much sweat is there in a 20 stone man?
Three thambili were consumed just south of the ancient city of Anuradhapura. There were no straws, so we gunned them native-style. The Giant’s pink T-shirt, and subsequently the backseats of The Beast, sport an interesting mix of ‘curious’ sunblock, aloe-vera infused moisturiser, and king coconut juice.
Chill out at the guest house, run by a pleasant old Buddhist man whose hairy ears obscure his hearing. The Giant insists on chain-smoking in the living room. Delicious Sri Lankan feast, followed by beers and cards.
Day three. The night before turned into some hellish game of toilet-tag, as both The Giant and I felt the full effects, I presume, of the straw-less thambilis. In a moment of madness we sucked on unpeeled fruit from a man in a palm frond-lined shack. A mighty crack brings me back to the present – The Giant has accidentally broken the toilet seat, mid squeeze. Quick goodbyes and a hasty departure.
The journey to Batticaloa passed pleasantly enough. Except for the fact I felt like I was dying. The Giant and Dr Moz decided to snooze in The Beast’s warmth and left me to drive, solo, the very long, straight and empty road to the east coast. I hallucinated that I saw elephants in the distance. Or perhaps they were just elephants in the distance.
Batticaloa is a beautiful and friendly little town, with the air of a final frontier about it. What gives it its charm? After much consideration (having lots of time to think in the car) I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s aware of its own identity. (Dr Moz: WTF???). We stayed with our good friend Michael, and many beers were consumed. This included a couple at a small fishermen’s bar under the stars.
Day four. Dr Moz felt the full effects of bottom inferno, hellfire and damnation during the night. Sadly, I was sharing a small double bed with him. Today we saw some of the sights of Batti, including a Hindu temple that had been broken in two by the force of the 2004 Tsunami.
In the afternoon we rocked up at a paradise beach and challenged half a dozen local boys to a game of beach cricket. Dr Moz, First XI captain, got bowled for a duck. Perhaps not fully on his game. I got stumped after peppering the boundaries. Point to research later – do the rules of beach cricket stretch to stumping, when there is no crease and a makeshift wicket? FFS.
Day five. I can report there were no toilet incidents during the night. The journey to Haputale in the Hill Country passed pleasantly enough. I am impressed at the range of detritus now littering the back seats of The Beast.
We reach the ridge-top town in evening cloud. On the 3 Km walk back from the guest house it starts to rain and visibility drops to a few metres but, luckily, we get picked up by a local tuk-tuk. We are treated to a hair-raising, fragile-gut wrenching journey into town as the tuk-tuk crawls blind past steep drops to plantation workers’ huts on our left below. The potholes at the side of the road mark the moment to ‘edge a little right perhaps, friend?’
Haputale’s Heathcliff bar is a drinking hole of sinister skulduggery. Leary, noisy and smoky, it suited us three reprobates perfectly. It was dark and they only had warm beers, but that was OK. Our dinner consisted of a dried, deep fried fish and pieces of rubber cheese on cocktail sticks.
Day six. Dr Moz and I were rudely awakened, twice, by The Giant’s alarm clock that may well have surpassed the decibels of a full scale nuclear attack. He went to watch the sunrise, apparently. The photos confirmed this, showing The Giant, fag in hand, sitting next to the guest house’s friendly dog, Mutley (The Beast’s alternate namesake).
The journey to Colombo passed pleasantly enough. Except for the hellish A4 from Ratnapura onwards that makes the M25 seem like a countryside jaunt. I took a short cut and got us lost. We were riding on petrol fumes and fighting our way through a market of local vegetables, as a tropical deluge hit the area. The Giant and Dr Moz were both remarkably quiet at this stage.
Our final fling was a night at Bellagio Casino. The Giant started chucking chips around on the Black Jack table like a naughty toddler in McDonalds. Perhaps it was unfair to unleash a recovering gambling addict on the fair people of Sri Lanka and Chinese prostitutes who made up the clientele. Alas. Any thoughts of my boys leaving the casino with some rupees were dashed at the Roulette table when they bet all their remaining chips on black…and lost.
Final thoughts: The Beast is a machine of balanced perfection. German girls rule. The Giant should have gone with lobster red.