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Nothing much has changed
It is now nine months since I arrived in Trincomalee and,
apart from Viv’s arrival one month after mine, I can’t say
that our lifestyle has changed significantly in that time.
Our daily routine is pretty much the same as it was
except that our evening walk has moved to the driveway
of the only ‘hotel on a hill with a proper driveway’ in the
area and our Sunday trips to Dambulla are now much less
frequent.
There hasn’t been the influx of expats that we had
expected with the area being opened up to the outside
again, though apparently a lot of work is planned in the not
too distant future.  We do see what look like young
volunteers from time to time though they don't stay still
long enough to talk to.
Sight-seeing trips
We have had a few trips to Colombo to replenish our
stocks of Australian food items (including a lightning drive
down to Galle and back) and we’ve visited a few more
locations within a day’s driving distance, including the
famous old towns of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa in
North Central Province and one of the other main towns in
Eastern Province, Batticaloa.  But we haven’t really spent
any time exploring ancient ruins because the ones we have
visited appear all very much the same, unless you have a
particular interest in that sort of thing, and none of the
ones we have visited has been anywhere near as
impressive as Sigiriya which we've already visited.
Also, most of Sri Lanka’s tourist sites seem to cater for
pre-arranged tour groups and it is a bit of a hassle trying
to find out the correct procedure when you turn up on
your own without someone who speaks the language.
Good food
We haven’t visited the two tourist hotels in the area very
often either recently because their buffet prices have
increased and the quality has decreased as more tourist
have been visiting the area. But to counter that, Viv has
found sources of good fruit and veg and good seafood at
very low prices in Trinco so we are certainly not
suffering in the food area.
Sri Lankan driving!
Another reason why we haven’t done as much driving
recently is because the stress of competing with the
other road users is taking its toll. Mind you I certainly
wouldn’t like to go back to the early days when we had a
local driver provided. I feel much more comfortable and
safe when I drive myself.
I’ve managed, with great difficulty, to dig up a copy of
the Sri Lankan Road Code and it surprises me that the
road rules are supposed to be basically the same as in
most developed countries. You certainly wouldn’t expect
that by observing the behavior of road users anywhere in
the country.
There is a definite hierarchy regarding right of way and
it goes from the biggest and heaviest (trucks and buses)
down to the smallest (pedestrians).  Consequently the
road casualty numbers go in the opposite direction.
However, I never cease to be amazed that there are still
so many old people, without a clue about proper road use,
who are walking and cycling along the busy roads and
streets. All I can suppose is that there were an awful lot
more not so long ago!
The only road code that I have observed after several
thousand kilometers of driving here is that of avoiding
collisions at all costs.  Overtaking at high speed on blind
corners or brows of hills is carried out in the knowledge
that if anyone is coming the other way they will drive off
the side of the road  (frequently witnessed) rather than
risk a head on collision, particularly if they have a smaller
vehicle.
While it is true to say that Sri Lankan drivers don't
exhibit outward aggression in their driving, it also seems
that road courtesy has passed them by. The culture,
whether you are walking, riding or driving, is to get in
front of anyone crossing your path at all costs. People look
in amazement when I give them way and I rarely hear a
‘thank you’ when I have held open a door for someone or
let them pass in front of me. You very frequently see a
vehicle overtake another and then turn left immediately.
Although I am now relatively acclimatized to the driving
behavior here (doing most of my early driving in Jamaica
has helped tremendously in that respect though they
were very disciplined by comparison with Sri Lanka) one
thing still puzzles me. That is the use of turn indicators.
The left turn indicator is rarely used by any vehicle,
almost never by motor-cyclists, but the right turn
indicator is used frequently - but not for what I consider
the normal purpose.
Probably about one percent of the vehicles displaying
their right turn indicators subsequently turn right. Some
keep it on all the time but never turn or change lanes. The
rest turn it on and off at odd intervals and for reasons
known only to themselves.
I have a suspicion that those who keep their indicator on
all the time have either forgotten that they turned it on
in the first place or they have a vague intention of turning
or overtaking at some time in the distant future but they’
re not sure when.
Those who turn them on and off at intervals may be
signalling something to someone but I haven’t been able to
work out any consistent pattern in the usage to be able to
determine their intention with certainty.
Of course, their use of signals could be for the same
reason they use of the horn so frequently. They’ve seen
and heard other people do it so they feel they should do it
as well but they’re not sure why and now it has become
such a habit that they are not even aware they are doing
it anymore.
This is painfully obvious on our evening walks when we
hear a vehicle coming up behind us and we clearly and
deliberately step off the road onto the shoulder but the
driver still gives a loud blast on his horn as he goes by.
And it is definitely not his way of saying ‘Hello, we love
tourists!’.
I am convinced that if the use of the horn were banned
in Sri Lanka the number of  accidents would fall
drastically, immediately.
Good things
But … the people are still friendly and helpful and, a very
pleasant surprise, hardly anyone smokes! Most of the
smokers we have encountered have been tourists and we
have never been troubled by smoke when eating out
anywhere in the country. They are certainly ahead of
most countries in that regard.
Also it is very relaxing after PNG for Viv to be able to
go walking and shopping on her own without an armed
guard or to walk around after dark without any problem.
The little three wheeler taxis (tuk-tuks) are so
plentiful and cheap that she frequently takes them to
get out of the sun or the rain, even though they are a
real pain when you are trying to negotiate a car through
them!
We also have very good (and cheap) TV and internet
connections most of the time (notably this is not so
during heavy rains) and though the power cuts have been
very annoying they have been bearable compared to some
other places we've lived.
Also the mobile telephone charges are so reasonable
that we often call mobile to mobile to Australia rather
than use Skype on the computer, just because of the
convenience!
Weather
The weather is much cooler now as we are in the middle
of the rainy season. (approximately Nov to Jan) So far
the showers have mostly been short and sharp so it has
not been a problem apart from interrupting a few of our
evening walks.
Christmas & holidays
We don’t expect any great interruption to our schedule
during Christmas as this is predominantly a Hindu and
Moslem area so there is unlikely to be any special
celebrations though we may have a weekend in Colombo
sometime over the Christmas/New Year period. The only
official holiday is 25 December which is a Saturday
anyway!
We will probably have a break back in Australia in
January or February or alternatively somewhere in the
region, perhaps India or Malaysia, if relatives’ plans fit
into that time frame!
Speed limit 70 kph!!!
... and it's also 70 kph on roads about half as wide!
Dinner with friends in Colombo
A hotel near Galle. A rare weekend away from Trinco.
A visit to the rose quartz hill
near Dambulla
Viv's favourite part was
the track to the hill!
Report 14 - 15 December 2010 – Further impressions of Sri Lanka