Friday 15th September 2007 PMTT Day 1 – Flag off!…well kinda.

What an amazing start to an exciting journey ahead. All 50 of us leave Colombo in a convoy of 25 Pimped out Tuk’s. Traffic is at its usual self for a Friday in Colombo and its slow going to get out of town even with the police stopping the traffic for us all to get through. It’s bumpy and noisy the whole time and I begin to get a feeling for how it’s going to be traveling 1,168 km’s in a three-wheeler.

We are not even 1hr out of Colombo (less than 20km’s) when our Tuk breaks down – out of fuel! I guess someone forgot to put fuel in the tank? Of course there is no petrol station in sight, though I do remember passing one about 2km’s back so I decide to start walking back asking people along the way for help when a curious guy on a motorbike comes to our rescue. After a brief discussion I get on the back of his motorbike and we travel to the service station with a bottle to get fuel. I offer to fill up his motorcycle tank but he refuses and is just happy to help us. The service station has a POS terminal and accepts my Visa Card for the payment so after the slight interruption we are back on our way.

Next Stop – lunch. Negombo is a very well-known tourist area close to the international airport with large resorts, hotels, restaurants, and bars that would obviously accept Visa Cards for payment – we drive straight past and continue to a small town north in search of a local Sri Lankan restaurant. We visit 20+ local stores in the town and all of them only accept cash, ‘no card’ is all I kept hearing.

I begin wondering, if we are only 1hr out of Colombo and I’m unable to find somewhere I can get lunch, how am I going to be when we head into more remote areas!? I leave the town feeling a little down from the experience and hungry and continue towards the next stop.

Along the way my emotions are lifted once again watching all the smiling Sri Lankans waving to us in amazement as we all go past. Admittedly, it is quite a spectacle.

We arrive at the hotel and unsatisfied with my last experience and still hungry, I check in and decide to head back to another small town close by in search of now dinner.

We visit another 10+ stores along a main road and none of them accept a card as payment, cash only. I decide to change tactic and I head to a supermarket & pharmacy to speak with the owner and explain my situation. There is a small food stall in front, so I ask him if I can pay him for the food and a drink and he pays the food stall owner. At first, he is very reluctant but after a bit more swaying and purchasing something from his store he agrees. Success, I get dinner and a drink!! I finish dinner and head back to the hotel with a full belly, tired and ready to sleep after an eventful 1st day. We covered approx 80km’s.

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