The HBS Outdoors Club made its first ever trek to Sri Lanka this J-term, and 22 lucky members enjoyed the stunning landscape and friendly people over eleven days of adventure. From testing their TOM skills with a nerdy visit to the Pedro Estate Tea Factory, to viewing Avatar-esque countryside in Dickoya and spectacular cliffs from the top of Adam’s Peak, to hanging ‘two-and-a-half’ while surfing Mirissa’s beaches, it was a trip they’ll never forget.
Despite an amazing journey, the phrase “with the good, comes the bad” seems to be especially true in Sri Lanka. So true, in fact, that trip members coined a new expression: “Getting ‘Lanked.”
As readers will see from these highlights, getting ‘Lanked comes in many shapes and sizes…
The Beloved Swamp Bus:
A white 1970s diesel bus with lace-covered headrests miraculously piloted the crew through Colombo’s honking traffic, near head-on collisions, and mountain landslides. With a dying (and groaning) AC unit, most trips were clammy and lasted four hours longer than expected. A highlight was watching Jon “Fly Catcher” Enberg (NA) and Ben “Has Many A Sordid” Story (NB) get ‘Lanked as their seat ripped off the wall and they crashed to the floor . The faithful steed was unceremoniously retired on day 8, but the group would not have survived without its twenty point turns and stealthy maneuvering of Sri Lanka’s mountain cliffs. RIP Swamp Thing.
Fried Rice, but No Diarrhea:
Sri Lankans love rice. Fried rice, boiled rice, basmati rice, rice with fruit, rice with rice… it doesn’t matter. Guess what a Sri Lankan on Death Row would request for a last meal? RICE. And the group ate it by the pound at every meal. Some would say that this consistent menu helped them transcend to nirvana… others would say it just got old. Despite the never-ending rice (and curry… oh the curry), the group demonstrated an iron constitution and avoided the travesty of “travelers’ bowel” until the final feast at Sri Lankan McDonald’s. The 17-hour flight home shall simply be referred to as Revenge of the McSpicy. We all got ‘Lanked.
Dangerously Engaging in Local Customs:
The group embraced the local culture as often as possible. Guys and gals alike bartered for sarongs at a local market and wore those dresses like nobody’s business. By trip’s end, they’d learned two things: 1. Sri Lanka is not like Scotland… you ARE expected to wear underwear beneath your skirt; 2. Sarongs do not keep bugs away… see (1)… ‘LANKED.
Freddy “Flaxmo” Flaxman (NE) and Dan “Hambone” Rummenick (NE) also drooled over Tuk Tuks, the three-wheeled form of local taxi transportation. Despite no knowledge of how to operate the vehicles, the boys bribed their way into the driver’s seat at Galle Fort, with Flaxmo pushing the gas, the Tuk Tuk owner shifting gears, and Hambone gripping for dear life.
Trip guides also introduced the group to Cricket, Sri Lanka’s national sport. Flaxmo cemented his cultural commitment by taking to the game and launching tennis balls all over the beach game site. Unfortunately, he went a bit too far when he hurled the bat through the air and nearly decapitated Anne “Hide Your Chips” Waters (NB), who was innocently enjoying the sun close by. Almost ‘Lanked.
Three quarters of the way through a stunning 30 km group bike ride down mountainous roads on Day 2, Greg “George-anonymous” Geronemus (NB) was faced with a tough decision when his bike’s brakes failed: leap off onto the gravel or face-plant into an upcoming stone wall. Greg wisely bit the dust, resulting in a sore, swollen, ‘Lanked wrist. Fortunately, Sri Lankan healthcare is affordable, and Greg received an x-ray and clean bill of health from a local physician for $4. Unfortunately, the physician didn’t know how to read x-rays, and upon returning stateside, Greg had a shiny new screw inserted in his wrist. DOUBLE ‘LANK!
Into the Rabbit Hole:
Hell is a town called Nuwara Eliya (pronounced Nur-ayyyyy-lia). It was here that the group met the worst of Sri Lanka.
Although the rainy season typically ends in November, this did not to stop Mother Nature from producing a steady drizzle/monsoon throughout their mid-trip stay. And after the planned hotel proved uninhabitable (“The Shining” +”Arachnophobia” +”House of 1,000 Corpses”), the group secured lodging at the overwhelmingly unwelcoming Collingwood Hotel.
Wet, cold and tired, they then faced the worst meal of the trip. Dinner offered a reprieve from fried rice, but the Alpo-esque fare did little to improve the mood. On the upside, Lion Lager was on the house and a roaring fire warmed their weary souls. Sleep came early for most, but a range of disruptions, from wild animals in the kitchen to doves getting it on outside Laura “Curly #2” Hines’s (ND) window, made it impossible to rest that night.
The group rejoiced upon leaving two days later, and looked forward to the next stop: a luxury campsite in Ella. Unfortunately, the HBSers were ‘Lanked yet again when the lodgings proved more lousy than luxury. “Hotel mattresses” were really camping pads, “hot showers” were scalding buckets of boiling water and “relaxing massages” were salaciously inappropriate. Group ‘Lank.
Party Like It’s 1995 – The Return of Middle School Fun
Childhood games punctuated the group’s social life in Sri Lanka. The crew rediscovered their inner middle-school’ers by busting out Uno at breakfast tables, in taxicabs and on beds. Night 6 was headlined by a passionate game of Celebrity, after which NB President Jon “I got that effing clue before the buzzer” Dick repeatedly apologized for unsportsmanlike conduct. Several dinners were kicked up a notch with mojito-infused Fourteen and every bus trip seemed to divide the group between Mafia lovers (Emily “Best Game Ever” Ross (OJ), Philbert “Murderer” Fan (NH) and Rob “Non-Stop Smiles” Fraser (NF)) and haters (Dave “I Can’t Trust Anyone” Patterson (NI)).
Unfortunately, Seven Minutes in Heaven did not make it into the repertoire given the trip’s oft-scorned male:female ratio, but experts predict with a few more nights and potentially malarial bug bites, anything could have happened. Group ‘Lank averted.
The last group activity was a river cruise to see local wildlife and tour a Buddhist Temple. After loading at least 16 rice-plumped HBS’ers into a large dug-out canoe, the staff swapped out the usual tiny front rower for a young, strapping, 130 pound Sri Lankan. Twenty minutes later, the boat had moved 100 yards from the dock and was drifting backwards in the white-capped water. Two former rowers, Adam “ABS” Bryant (NB) and Ryan “I hike in my sleep” Kuhn (Partner, NG), quickly took the reins to propel our over-laden boat through the wind. In the end, the crew traveled about 1000 yards, saw zero animals, destroyed one young Sri Lankan’s rowing confidence, and got ‘Lanked one last time.