Things were going smoothly, mostly, on my stop in Sri Lanka. No major drama, no injuries, so it was time for just a small wrinkle in the day… and it was actually pretty funny.

I spoke about our visit to the Rock Temple in Dambulla in my last post. When we left, it was about midday. For those of you who know me, I can get – well, a bit grumpy, if I don’t eat regularly. I don’t know who coined the phrase “hangry” but it is quite appropriate for my mood when I am not fed in a timely manner.

After climbing many steps and looking around the temple, I was feeling a bit peckish. It was around the time when I start to think about finding something to eat, so I was anticipating trying a good, local restaurant. Our driver started the car and put it into drive and… nothing happened.

The car started but we didn’t move, the transmission didn’t engage, there was no forward momentum.

It took me a few seconds to understand what the problem was. Basically, the cable from the stick shift wasn’t engaging the transmission to move it from park to drive. Hmmm. So after a few tries, our driver got out and enlisted the services of another nearby driver. After a bit of trial and error, we were able (and I am definitely using the “royal we” here) to get the car into drive. But that is all. In order to do anything else – like put it into park or turn it off, or God Forbid – REVERSE – we would have to stop the car, raise the hood and physically move the cable to whatever gear was needed.

So, you can see my dilemma. I was hungry. It was at least two hours to our next destination (our hotel). We couldn’t turn off the car. And I was hungry…

So, I took one for the team. Thankfully for everyone involved, I ate a protein bar (looking a bit worse for wear after being transported across several continents), which managed to avoid my complete mental shutdown. It would get me to our hotel, our driver could drop us off and then take the car to wherever he needed to fix the cable. All would be right with the world.

Until we got pulled over by the police. It was a hot, muggy Sunday and perhaps they were bored. If you are familiar with countries where police pull you over for no other reason than to “acquire” a few extra rupees for a coffee or a cold Coke, you know that this delicate dance usually does NOT involve the driver of the offending vehicle leaning out his window and calling them over because he can’t take his foot off the brake, nor can he take it out of gear!

What normally happens is you get out with your paperwork (and your wallet), have a short discussion, pay whatever is decided upon to make the situation go away, you get back into your car and drive away.

“Oh great,” I thought. “Not only are we going to get knicked for “a missing headlamp” or something similar, but also for being a danger to ourselves and everyone else on the road!” I had visions of being left on the roadside with our bags, as our car was loaded onto a tow truck and hauled away.

But after several minutes, our driver managed to put the emergency brake on to stop the car from moving and got out to begin the negotiations. I was in the backseat, highly tuned in to any possible forward momentum, ready to leap over the driver’s seat (broken ribs be damned!) to slam on the brake if needed.

My concern was misplaced. Clearly things like broken transmissions are of little consequence in places such as this. As long as you’re able to pay what they need you to in order for the problem to go away, they will also overlook possible hazards to public safety. Soon we were on our way again, only being 500 rupees (a deal at $5) lighter.

We managed the rest of the trip without incident, until we reached the city of Kandy, where we were staying. Unfortunately, our driver took a wrong turn and we wound our way up and up the side of the hill towards our hotel, but we missed the driveway. How to turn around without reversing? We just continued forward (of course!) until we found a road that led down, and down, and kept following it until it met the main road again. Thankfully our driver was one of those rare men who actually ask for directions. So, armed with the proper information from a local tuk tuk driver, we began the ascent to our hotel again.

Success! Second time was the charm.

However, as he pulled on the emergency brake in front of the plate-glass windows of the hotel, the scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off kept running through my head. Remember the scene? They were trying to take the kilometres (or miles) off the Ferrari, so they set it up on blocks and put it into reverse? Only to have it sail out the window into the trees below…

So I checked in and quickly beetled up to my room to avoid witnessing the potential disaster. I wasn’t tempting fate or risking anything else which might again delay my lunch!

A girl has to have priorities.

Moving forward

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