I decided I’d test my map reading, memory and place-finding skills today (I know it’s quite a feat for someone as easily distracted as me). I looked at my dinky map of Colombo and saw an expanse of green called Viharamahadevi Park. It didn’t look too far and I wanted to fill my day rather than getting there quicker than a squirrel fart via tuk-tuk.
WORST IDEA EVER!!
Being as pale as an Eskimo’s arse I’m an obvious-enough tourist without staring at a map and looking confused therefore, I had to memorise my route. Luckily my map reading skills were on point, but unfortunately my distance estimation skills were as broken as they’ve always been. When I say it was further than it looked on the map I don’t mean a couple of 100 yards, I’m talking taking-the-hobbits-to- Isengard far! The further I got the more tuk-tuk drivers slowed asking if I wanted a lift. It was 30 degrees with high humidity and I was melting. I must’ve looked like a dollop of ice cream dribbling down a gangly cone. It didn’t help that I hadn’t had time to break in the shoes I was wearing and they’d starting eating away at 20 different parts of my feet. Luckily, all those years not being a scout had made me as prepared as any normal person –I had plasters! Not any plasters, oh no, fancy blister plasters or ‘cushions of love’ if you will. It was like having a unicorn cry magical healing tears on my feet, and after I was done I was ready to continue. Then, finally, I saw trees and lots of green. I knew it wasn’t a mirage because I’d been regularly sucking on the tube from my water container to ensure I didn’t desiccate into a dried prune. I was so close, just 2 giant roads of speeding cars, tuk-tuks and buses stood in my way. Were there any crossings near by? Ha! Don’t be daft! This is Sri Lanka –you just walk slowly and hope for the best!
Two Evel Knievel death-defying strolls later and I was at the entrance to the park. Despite there not being a welcoming committee with banners, horns and a trophy to celebrate my epic journey it was still a fantastic sight. There was green as far as the eye could see and it was spotless. A small army of groundsmen, with what I’d class as typical witches brooms, made their way across the park tidying as they went. There were lots of paths, a large pond, a corral with horses in, a kids’ play area (with no kids :D) and lots of benches to sit on as –ironically– you weren’t allowed on the grass. The only problem was every bench in the shade was taken. I’d baked in the sun getting here so I wasn’t planning on oozing into a sweaty puddle in full-day sun, so I decided to join a slightly confused looking couple on their bench.
I could hear the sound of many different bird species all around and the first seven birds I saw were my old friends, the crows. The next few I saw were…. yep you guessed it, damn crows! I could hear other bird calls but could only see the bloody crows. The large tree next to me began to fill up with the little black arseholes, I felt like I was in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Suspicious that I was being followed by them, I left the bench and took a wander towards the pond. I saw movement in a small berry tree just next to the path a little further along, and to my utter delight I wasn’t looking at a crow, or a pigeon, it was a parakeet. The whole tree was full of the greedy gits and they were having a feast. Spurred on by my non-crow discovery I continued towards the pond. Immediately, I spotted a large white heron or egret, then some muscovy ducks, two small egrets and a group of small cormorants. The cormorants seemed to dive and swim round the pond as a group. Their behaviour reminded me of a pod of dolphins, and every minute or so I saw a fish tossed out of the water and quickly gobbled down.
After watching and photographing the birds for about 30 minutes I decided to visit the National Museum which was just across the road from the park.
Trying to find the correct entrance to the building was like navigating a labyrinth. I followed multiple signs around multiple corners and building works. Suddenly I spotted another sign mentioning a Natural History Museum and my inner geek nearly peed. I eagerly followed these new signs and took what seemed like the only path. I bounded up some promising-looking steps and skipped into a large dark atrium. It took a few moments for my eyes to adjust from the brightness of the outside. It looked bare, I didn’t see any cabinets of stuffed animals or weird pickled specimens. I turned around and stopped dead. Some 30+ people in lecture style seating were all staring at me, I spun and fled. Alas, I’d have to forego an animal theme this time
Defeated, I went back to following the National Museum signs and after more twists and turns eventually found the entrance. I’d read up on some Sri Lankan history before I arrived so I understood the gist of some changes to their trade and coinage. To be honest, I was too hot to give more than a quick look at most things, unless they were next to that divine creation, the fan. The daggers were pretty and some of the stone carving was interesting but the old tapestries were like ancient Playboys. The women had massively exaggerated breasts, both in size and shape, and wore slightly confused looks.
I did consider taking a tuk-tuk back to the hostel but foolishly told myself that the journey back always seems to take less time. What an idiot! I’m sure the perfectly-temperature’d old men sitting by the side of the road were taking bets as to whether I’d make it or not.