Driving Miss Dudek

Hi, my name is Melissa. I like to plan the hell out of everything. Lists, calendars, spreadsheets…that’s my jam.

So as I was plannig the hell out of this trip to Sri Lanka, I hit a frustrating roadblock. With an extremely limited train line, a bus service far too rickety, slow and bathroomless to prevail upon a four year old and the prospect of renting a car and self-driving fitting someplace between a panic attack and a death wish, how would we get from one exotic locale to the next?

Guidebooks, blogs, experts all insisted that there was nothing simpler than hiring a local driver. No need to research or book in advance. You just walk down the street with the casual air of needing to be someplace else and an eager driver with a quality, climate-controlled vehicle will materialize, ready to drive you anywhere in the country, for seven hours, one-way and at a price you can afford.

As this sounded absurd, visions of being stranded and unable to reach our destination swirled in my head. For the first time since Kalina was born, I had no concrete method of travel from point A to B. This was totally fine and absolutely essential as a spontaneous backpacker; but quite nerveracking with a small child and non-refundable prepaid hotel reservations.

However, I am here to tell you: believe the hype. You can find a driver in Sri Lanka. You can find so many drivers that you will be sick of finding drivers. You will find drivers that you can’t unfind. They will find you. You will walk down the street trying to look like you are perfectly happy where you are because you don’t need any more drivers. You will lie and tell drivers that you already have a driver because you are so sick of being accosted by would-be drivers.

Because it was so easy to find a driver that would go anywere at the drop of a hat, we were even able to add a bonus destination to our trip from Galle to Ella. Because it was just sitting there looking like it was more or less along the way, we stopped for a quick safari at Udawalawe National Park.

We saw a family of elephants surrounding a (relatively) tiny three month baby. We learned that peacocks meow. We confused our guide with our hysterical cheers when we finally saw a Dudek bird in the wild.

It was absolutely fantastic and something we never would have experienced had I been able to give into my compulsion to plan everything in advance. Lesson (somewhat) learned.


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