Saturday, October 01, 2005

To Polonnaruwa

After checking my email/posting to my blog on Friday afternoon, I headed back to my guest-house in Dambulla which had been hanging on to my backpack for me. With the backpack in tow, I headed to the main bus station in town to catch a bus to Polonnaruwa.

One important lesson I've learned thus far, is that with both the train and bus, if you catch it close to the beginning of the line, you're fine - however, if you catch it at any point in between the beginning and the end, there is no way you'll get a seat. This is even more of a problem when you're carrying around a massive packpack - as Sri Lankan busses don't seem to have luggage storage.. you just buy an extra ticket for your bag, and put it next to you on the seat.

Thus, i'm waiting at the Dambulla bus-station (or at least, the spot on the main road where busses pull up ), and fully expecting to find a nice empty bus. After all, the bus to Sigiriya the day before had originated in Dambulla. Why would today's bus not do the same?

10 minutes later, the Polonnaruwa bus shows up, having originated from Kandy (3 hours away), and packed to the rafters with people... this wasn't looking good.

Now, backtracking slightly, the moment I showed up at the bus-stop, a few tuk-tuk drivers started trying to get me to go with them. Normally, a bus is a much better option - it's cheaper, it's safer, and you won't be hassled by someone trying to make a comission on everything you do. One chap had even told me that he lived in Polonnaruwa, and was trying to get back there that day - and that he just needed to charge me enough for petrol... this smelled like bullshit to me, and so I ignored him.

However, once the packed-o-matic bus passed by, I began to talk to the agressive tuk-tuk driver again. In the end, I got him to drive the 1.5 hours to Polonnaruwa for 200 rupes = the price of 2 bus tickets.

To make matters worse, half-way there, he gets flagged down by a police officer for speeding (I'm not really sure how they can prove it.. they don't have any speed sensing equipment), and had to pay an on-the-spot bribe of 150 rupees.

It wasn't till I finally got to my guest-house that I discover that a tuk-tuk would normally charge 2000 rupes (20 dollars) for this journey.. So I actually did luck out!

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