In the jungle, the Kandy jungle

Trip Start Oct 29, 2003
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Tuesday, December 16, 2003

(following on the title) there's Lion beer tonight (a win away)!

Friday December 12th
Sri Lanka vs England, Second Test, Day 3

Much of the same today (ie sitting in the sun, drinking beer and singing). The Asgiriya Cricket Stadium in Kandy is located north of the city, cut out of the side of the mountain and overlooked by a bloody big Buddha. Most of the stands are priced for English people and, because of the recent political unrest here and the upcoming tour of the West Indies,
they unfortunately remain about half full. The Sri Lankans can only afford the 30 rupee standing only section, but hopefully more will be out over the weekend.

Singing with the Barmy Army is great fun at the ground, but sometimes it just goes too far and you want them to shut the hell up. Go to both bars that are open in Kandy at night - all two of them - and all you will see and hear is very drunk English people doing exactly the same thing as they have been doing all day, albeit with a bit less co-ordination. This is probably why there has been a travelling fan splinter group formed called the Wavy Navy, but they are even more drunk and twice as silly.

Surreal moment of the day came when I took a tuk-tuk to the ground from my guest house, and on the way I got a mouthful of Ferrari exhaust fumes. I told the driver that I would give him a 50 rupee tip if he overtook the car and, despite the oncoming bus, it was then that we saw the driver was former Sri Lankan cricket star Aravinda de Silva. Such an ostentatious vehicle would turn heads in any country in the world, but the fact that it's in an extremely poor country with twisty, pot-holed roads lined with beggars and cows makes it even more
remarkable. And I overtook it in a tuk-tuk.

Saturday December 13th and Sunday December 14th
Sri Lanka vs England, Second Test, Days 4 and 5

Now some of you might think that watching 5 straight days of cricket from 10am to 5:30pm (with a break for lunch and tea) as an incredibly dull and boring thing to do. I, however, am sad enough to enjoy it. I soon got into a routine: get up at 9am to survey the mosquito damage to my body and the blood spattered sheets where I had managed to squish them overnight in mid-feed. Then during breakfast I would try and work out whether the amazing Sri Lankan head wobble meant 'yes,' 'no' or 'help my head is about to fall off.' It was a 10 minute tuk-tuk trip to the cricket ground choking on the exhaust of either the Ferrari or bus that I invariably followed. Once inside it was off to the scoreboard to pay the kids to climb up and tie my flag but seeing as I haven't got any emails I guess it didn't make it on the telly. On one occasion I was invited up into the ancient scoreboard to watch an over and to flip the numbers. Needless to say, it was a maiden.

The ground itself is very simple and basic (by the 5th day the port-a-potties were in an
interesting state, with most women preferring a tuk-tuk back to town rather than risk using them). Of course, as well as the 500 or so independent travellers from England, there were just as many rich folks who paid between GBP1,500 and 2,000 to travel in luxury coaches,
staying in 5-star hotels and watching the game from the boring grandstand (these people were called 'Gullibles,' named after the main high-priced tour organiser Gullivers). One lunch time I did manage to sneak in to their fancy food area and was rewarded by seeing former stars Iron Bottom (as Sri Lankans pronounce Ian Botham), and Michaels Atherton and Holding. Maybe being Gullible has its benefits.

The game itself turned out to be quite a tense affair, with England managing to bat out the final day and hold on for a draw. Man-of the-match was England captain Michael Vaughan whose amazing 7.5 hour innings for 105 runs under much pressure saved the day. Now I know what you Americans are thinking (those of you still reading, anyway): how the hell can a game lasting five days not produce a winner? Simple: because nobody won!

Being the weekend there were many more Sri Lankan fans at the game, but some were completely loaded on the local moonshine called arrack. The trumpet playing, drumming and dancing got wilder and wilder as the day wore on, and eventually the police had to throw some people out as fights erupted. While some English were involved, the vast majority of the time the banter and singing was all in good fun.

For the record, here is the scorecard of the match.

Monday December 15th

Last night after the game I went with some guys from Birmingham for a street curry that made my fingernails sweat, followed by watching Arsenal beating Blackburn and learning, unbelievably, that Saddam Hussein had been caught. All in all it was a good night, so good that it made getting up hard.

As well as cricket and head-wobbles (it's even funnier when the shop assistants do it wearing their Santa hats with bells), Sri Lanka is famous for it's Ceylon tea and elephants. Seeing as I don't drink tea - and so have to put up with their awful coffee - today I had arranged to visit the famous Pinnewala elephant orphanage about an hour out of town. Here there were about 60 elephants roaming free in a compound - those not chained to trees anyway - from cute babies (aaah!) to 60 year old giants (gosh!). I watched them feed and bathe in the river, but declined a ride. There was even a three-legged male who shuffled sadly along, the result of stepping on a landmine in the troubled north of the country.

Tomorrow I have more Tourist Stuff lined up, before heading on the train down to Colombo for the third and final Test match.
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