The tribulations of train and tuk-tuk
Updated: Dec 16, 2020
I’m a true Londoner. I know exactly where to stand so that the tube doors will open in front of me and at the next stop I’ll be in just the right spot to make a swift exit.
Therefore, I surmised, it would be a breeze to board a slow-moving Sri Lankan train ahead of the crowds.
The station at Ella was packed and I wanted to be sure of a seat as there’s always a mad fight for somewhere to sit in second class.
The midday train to Haputale chugged into the station and I noticed just one empty door. I moved up the platform and timed it with Londonite perfection.
As the carriage passed by, my outstretched hands easily grasped both rails.
My legs flew off the platform.
One sandal was flung into the air.
My shins slammed against the iron boarding steps.
I hung limply by my arms until the train came to a halt and then finally I managed to pull myself into the wagon.
The Boyfriend - who had sensibly waited for the train to stop - had to jump down onto the tracks to collect the wayward flipflop while I hobbled into the carriage to get us the hard-won seats.
It was empty.
At Haputale, we jumped in a tuk-tuk to Lipton’s seat for 1200r return (£5). The old three-wheeler struggled up the potholed tracks, practically burning out at every corner.
After 50 minutes of sheer determination by the driver, we eventually wheezed up on to the peak.
Unfortunately, the clouds had mostly descended by this time so instead of tea plantations stretching as far as the eye could see, a fluffy whiteness covered the scene.
We had the obligatory cup of Lipton’s tea overlooking the cloudy mountains and then returned to the weary tuk-tuk for the 9km descent.
The driver allowed gravity to do its work and we coasted our way down.
An enormous explosion, like a huge vase being thrown out of window, sounded on my right side. The ancient car had blown a tyre.
Tuk-tuk business plays a central role in village life so when there’s a catastrophe like this, the whole community rallies round – someone procured a bolt loosener, another changed the wheel and a rooster came out to offer moral support.
Soon we were on our way once again and made it back without incident for the 4.22pm train.
All's well that ends well, plus I have a huge shin lump to remind my ego to be more cautious when boarding a train in the future.