Sunday, August 26, 2012

The basic rule for travel in Sri Lanka

I like travelling around the country and have organised many a journey with my friends. When planning a journey of more than two or three hours, there is one golden rule I think should always be followed: leave the city early.

This is something that I learned first from my grandfather's travel arrangements, he would have departed a long time before we woke up and we would wonder where he went in the middle of the night. When we were older and were taken on trips the time of departure was usually about 4.30am or 5am. As children waking up early added an extra element of excitement and mystery to the trip.

As I grew older and started travelling with friends it seemed only natural that the same rule was followed. When driving one realises the benefits of an early departure: avoiding the traffic and the heat of the day. It is good to get a good part of the journey done by about 8am in the morning, before the tropical sun makes the journey uncomfortable.

In the days before air conditioned cars this was very important and now, even with the benefit of air conditioning, extended travel in the afternoon heat can be very tiring. 

All my friends thought on the same lines and I assumed that this was the way in which everyone travelled. Friends from abroad however are quite aghast at the thought of leaving this early in the morning. For them, 6am is early and 5am, a  very reasonable start by our standards quite alarming.

There is something very pleasant about an early morning drive; the cool morning air, the deserted streets. Watching the soft light of dawn brighten the rural countryside, breakfast by some wayside tea shop, these are all the delights of an early morning start. We would stop for breakfast somewhere between 7.30am and 8.30am, depending on the length of the journey and the availability of some desirable breakfast spot. Post breakfast, we would be driving in normal daytime traffic but by that time we would be well into the rural areas where traffic is light and the driving more sane so there is no strain on the car or the nerves of the driver.

There is another option that is sometimes used: night travel, where the journey starts some time in the evening and one drives into the night. I have tried this once or twice but never liked it. Although it is still cool enough it is not as cool as the early morning. There is a lot more traffic and as most of the roads are either unlit or not properly lit, its a lot more of a strain to drive and more dangerous. There is also the added danger of falling asleep at the wheel which can happen on a long drive.

Does everybody like the early morning start or am I a minority here ?



Anonymous said...

Starting early morning is always better. have you tried travelling in the night?

Azrael said...

Yep, earlier the start, the better.Mainly to avoid the traffic. Plus, you will have more time to enjoy at your destination.

pp said...

most of our travels also involve early morning starts, sometime as early as 2am. i usually fall asleep right away though, and wake up when we get wherever we are going :D

driving in the night is only advisable if you know exactly where you are going. we once spent more than 20 minutes driving up and down the wilpattu road trying to find the turn off to our bungalow. it's only at a time like that you realise how alike all little lanes look in the night.

Jack Point said...

PP, thanks for reminding me of the problem of getting lost. Since there are very few signposts being able to see where one is going is essential.

Azrael, another good plus that I had omitted, thanks for that.

uj40, have tried night travel, did it to Galle once or twice I think (before the highway), did not like it.

Cadence said...

Our entire gang are early morning travellers - unless some logistical/schedule related issue gets in the way... and like you said traffic and the heat are the two key factors. Makes the trip that much more enjoyable and less strenuous on the body.

Jack Point said...

Thanks Cadence. Given the madness that is the A1 (Kandy) Road, I have now even extended this to the return journey, where we have to use that road.

We left Loolawatte at 7.30am this morning and were back in Colombo by noon. We still had some hair raising experiences but it would have been worse had we left mid-morning or after lunch.

Jack Point said...


a friend left to Thulhiriya on Friday morning, some 40km down the Kandy Road. It was bumper-to-bumper traffic and it took them 4 hours!

Anonymous said...