Sunday, 11 July 2010

An Unpleasant Journey

Yesterday was yet another trip to the dentist in Galle.  To remind you, if you care, it's for replacing an old filling with a crown. This must be my fifth or sixth visit - I've lost count now - and there are at least two more visits to go.  The day was hellish! I don't mind the dental work so much as the getting there.  Two and a half hours minimum in a hot, crowded bus, hurtling along bumpy, twisty roads, being thrown about and feeling sick.

I use the express bus - the number 32 - which goes from Tangalle, via Galle and on up to Colombo.  There's one every 30 minutes or so, and each slot has a different operator but the buses are more or less laid out identically.  I've finally found a row of seats near the back where I can get my legs to fit without sitting sideways and having my knees stick either into the people in the aisle or into the person next to me.  Trouble is, as it's at the back, I can't see out the front and so I get travel-sick. 

Sometimes it's not so bad.  The thing about these express buses is that they have big engines, and I presume they also have better brakes, but otherwise they're pretty-much the same as the regular buses. They also stop just as frequently, at every little stand with a passenger waiting.  The difference is that they can out-accelerate nearly everything else on the road - that is, apart from all the other express buses. But I was lucky, yesterday, to have a driver who realised that the accelerator pedal had positions other than fully on or fully off.  I got to Galle feeling not too bad, needing only five minutes to sit and recover under a tree near the sea.

The coming home was far worse.  Unfortunately the dental work had taken a lot longer than it should have. The appointment was at 2pm but I needed to get an x-ray and that took around an hour and a half - first queuing to get an invoice from the x-ray machine operator, then paying the invoice at the front desk, then queuing again for the x-ray itself. Crazy!  Unfortunately the x-ray showed that the dentist's previous work had left a void and so had to be redone, then I had to wait while she saw another patient, and finally she did some more work on me.  I'm not sure why she feels the need to question me "pain?" every time I jump when she hits a nerve but otherwise she seems to be doing everything carefully and methodically and I have faith that it'll be a good job in the end. 

Anyway, it took longer, I had to grab a bite and a drink before catching the bus home, and by then it was starting to get dark and rush hour.  On the way in I at least have the luxury of choosing a seat, since Tangalle is the start of the journey, but here, in Galle, the bus was already packed.  Barely enough standing room, hot, dark and impossible to get any visual bearings. I felt immediately sick and the feeling grew so strong that I had to hurriedly get off before I threw up over someone. When I eventually found another bus the very same thing happened. I was feeling hot, dirty, ragged and dreadful. On the final bus I grabbed a space right at the very front, standing, of course, and pressed by many bodies, but at least I could see where I was going if I twisted myself round and down. I was amazed to see how the bus managed to stay on the road even though it was grossly overloaded and the driver was viscously throwing it around. The poor old bus seemed to be straining every last sinew to stay put and protested with loud groans on every bend.

There was little for me to hold onto.  Sometimes I'd have a hand against the windscreen, other times the door or the roof. Several times I found myself clutching the CD player box, and I was very grateful it didn't come off in my hands. Other people were hanging onto me too, and I felt their full weight every time the driver hit the brakes.  So, you can imagine, I was absolutely relieved when we finally made it home to Tangalle.  It had been four and a half hours of hell.  I virtually fell from the bus when we got there and had to sit on the side for quite a while just to recover enough to walk the last mile or so to the house.


  1. Clive! By all means, you shouldn't travel on that bus next time! There is something called shared taxi. It's not as dirt-cheap as the bus, but still affordable and so much more convenient. Please, for the sake of your health & sanity.

  2. Thanks for the suggestion, Nora. Even if it takes longer getting there, it does, as you say, sound better for my health and sanity! I'll check it out.