Thursday, July 24, 2014

Wadi, Wadi, Wadi

[After having written a post it always pays to post it, so after a large delay the wrap-up for this Sri Lankan trip]

Having spent a good amount of time on trains travelling to our two destinations we became very familiar with the wadi vendors walking up and down the carriages calling wadi wadi wadi wadi waa-diiiiiiiii (even typing it brings the call back).  Vendors usually had large baskets with home-made paper bags made from recycled office paper or newspaper.  The wadi, little fried chick pea or lentil snacks, smelled a bit like wet woolen socks, but at the same time smelled quite appetizing.    We never had any, the timing was never quite right. We did have some outstanding freshly cooked (spicy) samosas wrapped in newspaper, while we waited between trains when returning to Colombo. Vendors walked the carriages almost constantly and apart from the Wadi on offer there were mangoes, oranges, books, water, milo milk, hot tea & coffee and a number of unfamiliar items.  Most vendors were men, but there were a few women, often with homemade ice blocks, they wandered the carriage calling ‘cool ice’, ‘cool ice’, ‘cool iiiiiiice’.  At stations there were only a few track-side vendors and at some stations there were prepared pots of lunch, waiting to the edge of the platform.  We were unsure if it had been pre-ordered, if it was for train staff or something else.


The journey between Colombo and the coast was only 8 hours travelling time.  But in that time we moved from monsoonal conditions on the west and southern coasts, through to peak beach weather on the east coast.  As we traveled there was a gradual, but noticeable, change from the lush green fields of the east, where paddy rice was growing, through to browned off fields on the eastern side.


The return journey from the beach near Trinco was easy, if long.  Our 1st leg was comfort plus sitting in the seats reserved for the senior citizens.  It was the normal set-up with all the doors and windows fully open and people hanging in and out of these portals as they wished.  At each station the platform announcement was in such a sing-song intonation that it always sounded like a call to prayer.  Even though we often knew some of the stops that were being recited, excluding "Colombo Fort' we seldom managed to pick up those other names in the recitations that were being performed.

senior citizens

Along the way it was common to see snippets of another era of train travel and technology. Families waved at the train, standing in front of houses which were painted in vibrant colour combinations such as violet and peach or mint and chocolate. It was also not uncommon to see water being drawn from wells and women hand washing clothing.  The numerous road crossings had the barrier arms manually lowered and raised by a veritable army of railway workers, while long lines of vehicles and children on old bicycles patiently waited.


There was even a manual system of physically handing over a ring to ensure that only one train was using the single track at any time.


Back in Colombo we tracked down the air conditioned bus back to the airport to retrieve our suitcases which had been sitting in left luggage.  When we first arrived in the country we paid $20 to get a taxi to the city, we hardened up over the time we were in Sri Lanka and managed to return to the airport for $2 each squashed into a mini-bus.

Colombo back to Bangkok, a few hours in Bangkok Airport before the long leg through to Sydney and ultimately Wellington.  Sri Lanka remains a favourite destination.

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