“You are brave. I haven’t even used the train in Sri Lanka” said my Sri Lankan friend. Hmmm?! With a railway system that covers most of the country, most Sri Lankans rely on trains for public transport. Yes, it can be noisy, hot and gritty – a scramble for seats and for breathing space. But for a tourist, it is a cheap and fascinating way to experience the country. This trip is one tiny example.
The Galle-bound train chugs out of Colombo station, seats and aisles and platforms between cars all packed. This train will stop at almost every village along the way – almost 3 hours to Galle when a car would get you there in about an hour. And I am standing because the car was full when I squeezed into it. But I don’t mind because I am fascinated by the people – watching families interact, dodging the food vendors, trying to understand the language workbook seller.
Standing means I could not see out the window without bending down, but I saw what I missed on the return trip – the sea crashing on one side and the jungle on the other.
Much of the train trip is along the sea, almost on the beach. I’m told that the train in the mountains of Sri Lanka is among the most beautiful in the world, but this is too! (I’ll take the mountain train another time soon.)
Our destination, Galle, is a deeply historic town at the southern tip of Sri Lanka. It was easy to stroll and enjoy the fort area.
And then we take the glass observation car back to Colombo. The aged engines for these trains all seem to have Canadian names – with a dedication to Canada’s contribution to the Colombo Plan a long, long time ago. I confess to feeling momentary pride.
Sitting in the observation car, it was easier to see the details of the ride home – temples and statues, resorts and shanty towns, people living by and in the sea.
Beyond the captivating train ride, this day trip included:
- a short tuk-tuk ride to the bus station in Negombo,
- a commuter bus ride to Colombo bus station,
- another tuk-tuk to the Colombo train station,
- a tuk-tuk in Galle that tuk-tuk us to the most expensive restaurant,
- a 35 km tuk-tuk ride home to Negombo from Colombo as we’d missed the last bus.
Imagine this for 35 km in the dark and not completely sure where we were. But our driver wasn’t afraid of speed or big trucks or asking for directions. It was amazing.
It amazes me how the combination of trains and tuk-tuks can get you around in Sri Lanka. There is a company from which you can rent your own tuk-tuk. I think I will try it next time.
Of all the pictures from that day, these are the ones that stay in my heart. Sri Lankans are kind and friendly and helpful – never pushy or noisy or rude. It is lovely to be a guest in their country.