Bugs versus suffocation

It’s 7:00AM. The sky is still completely dark. I’m up before the sun today because we are supposed to go surfing at another beach, farther away. With the way I’m feeling—run down and achey on the inside—I don’t think I will be going anywhere. Going back to bed is not an option either, so I start my day.

For breakfast, it’s granola and yogurt. I make a cappuccino with the Italian stovetop moka and a handheld milk-frother. Now I am ready to work. I have a lot of research to do for my upcoming surf trip to Sri Lanka. When is the best time to go? Where should I go? What kind of waves can I expect?

Sri Lanka has two surf seasons: one on the southwest coast from November to April and another from May to September on the east coast. The latter is when bigger waves arrive, mostly breaking over reef. From the airport in Colombo to Arugam Bay it looks like 8 to 12 hours by car.  The best way to deal with this kind of journey is to either (a) break it up into smaller chunks, staying in towns along the way or (b) do one overnight haul and hope to get some sleep.  This would not be my first time traveling in an overnight taxi. I distance myself from the computer and start making lunch. My mind wanders back to another nighttime journey, that one in Costa Rica.

We had opted to travel by taxi at night from San Jose to Nosara due to our surfboards and gear. It was already dark by the time our driver Pablo, who looked even younger than we did, picked us up. The first part of the drive was spent chatting; we learned about Pablo’s family and his fiancé. We hugged the mountains as we continued our trip into the night, ascending and descending in and out of valleys. Spanish music played in the background and eventually the steady motion of the van rocked us to sleep.

The pasta nearly boils over, but I manage to catch it just in time. On the menu today is fettucine with fresh pesto. I dine on the patio and even though I am sitting in the shade, it still feels really warm.  My basil plant, after this meal, looks rather scant.  As I walk back inside to make coffee, I wonder how long it will take before there are enough leaves to make another pesto sauce.  While waiting for the coffee to gurgle, I return to my research with renewed energy. Still, I can’t seem to shake Costa Rica from my mind.

It was dark. I could hear the sound of water and I realized we were no longer moving.  Once my eyes adjusted, I could make out that we were in a riverbed. “Pablo, que pasa?”  He explained that we had gotten stuck in the mud, but not to fear because he would get us unstuck.  The three of us piled out of the van and into the night.  Pablo fished out his flashlight and the “gato” and started jacking up the van.  Within five seconds he was covered in mud, yet he didn’t seem to mind. We tried to wedge a series of flat rocks under the tires, in hopes of pushing the van free from the gripping mud, but to no avail. Pablo set off on foot in search of help, but where would he go at this nighttime hour?

I’m finding a lot of information on the Internet about Sri Lanka. This tropical island has distinct wet and dry seasons, and not one but two monsoons seasons.  September looks like a good month for the east coast. I send out a few emails with some remaining questions I still have. I can’t believe it but by the time I finish, the sun is starting to set. Costa Rica is still lingering in my thoughts.

Later that night we spotted Pablo trudging back to the van, his black slacks and white dress shirt caked with dried mud. He relayed the news; one of the nearby farmers would come with his tractor and pull us out at daybreak! Bugs descended upon us, infiltrating the van through the open windows.  We chose bugs over suffocation. We were in for a rough night. Luckily, it was only a few more hours until dawn.

I close my laptop for the day. Before leaving my house, I put on some bug spray. I follow the direction of the setting sun and  I head towards the rocky point on the southern end of my beach. As the sun starts to make its final descent and melt into the ocean, I bring my steps to a stand still. The sky turns from blue to orange then to fuchsia. The last tinge of fire in the sky fades away as I make my way home. I wonder what the sunset will be like on the East Coast of Sri Lanka and if we will get stuck in any riverbeds.

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