Dalhousie was behind us. The railroad continued at a breathtaking slow speed to the east, while driving through the central province of Hatton to Badulla we talked for several hours with a very bright Sinhalese about literature, Erich Honecker and the tendingly "mafia" acting government family of Sri Lanka, the dubious Rajapaksa -Clan.
Our real goal: the east coast, the sea, but that wouldn't work anymore today.
Behind the window of the train window, a damp, dark evening came up, the stronger the night displaced the day, the more glaring the light in the compartment, the more unhealthy our complexion looked, and the hotel in Badulla was also suitable for this certain artificial anxiety an anonymous modern, yet shabby, purpose-built building, the worst possible combination you could get. Whatever , we thought, the chicken made with a lot of garlic made up for a lot.
We always drove east the next day and knew: at some point there will be the sea, the limit, the end.
Shortly before Arugambay, the less so secret surfer enclave on the east coast, came the all-important moment that made travel possible as a sensible action in the first place: the absolute distance from things, the total local isolation of the individual in the distance is no longer felt as loneliness, but as a pleasant feeling of being lifted up in everything that is and will come. You are completely at yourself, look back and then look ahead, and you have to smile: I had already experienced this in other places in the world on other continents, and here it suddenly came back.
The speechlessness was overcome.
Suddenly I was really excited, I was excited to see what was coming, what was going to happen or not, that would have been fine. I was again in a state of productive palpation that filled me with great joy; you have to create something from the experiences, when that seemed possible again, the trip got a boost. I took notes.
You have to find the right >
In this case it was not a matter of measuring the nature of the environment with razor-sharp accuracy, it was a matter of finding words for the state in one and linking it to what was going on outside.
Of course, in contrast to journalistic texts in the narrower sense, this type of writing is only about yourself, but that also makes perfect sense, in the end you only really express a fraction of all perceptions as text, because there is There are many other things about which this approach is only marginally written: eating and drinking, talking to other people, scenes and places, random events, enjoyment and dull frugality.
What can be said about a place like Arugambay without drawing the same decals of white enclaves in developing countries, where the young, unrestricted, postmodern generation of the West is looking for answers to the pressing question of the meaning of all of their pursuits follow up at home?
It is incredibly difficult, again you have assessments in your head, which, in principle, exist first of all without being checked and must be questioned.
Unfortunately, one is also quickly in this uncomfortable cosmos of backpacking, which really served as a rite of distinction. "I was backpacking in xy for four weeks", this is a sentence that should at most only impress the small-minded provincial circle of acquaintances and is said by people who like to present themselves as particularly individual and cosmopolitan.
Backpacking is over - provided that it has ever worked for an aesthetic-moral principle, because it means nothing at first. As with most things in life, it comes down to the exact view.
When we were there, in the quiet surfers paradise of Arugam Bay for the off-season , there was this sea, there were these palm trees, the birds, the wooden huts, and it was as it was supposed to be, maybe not quite as South Seas : The water was cloudy, you couldn't look to the bottom.
We went to the only resort that was open, which had the advantage of meeting everyone in town, we brought our stuff to a hut, then we went straight to the beach.
Then you sit in the sun, and when the wave flows back, it carries you - slowly and piece by piece - further and further into the sea, you just let it happen, and the wet sand becomes light again as quickly as if crystals were rearranging on.
We had really arrived somewhere for the first time, you could say that now.
I thought of August Engelhardt, because the new Kracht book was just outside about the refugees in his coconut paradise that is passing away, and you briefly share the confused thought that the sun and sea water are all it takes to live.
Four men pushed a colorful boat into the waves, which were not as strong in the evening, and went out to fish now that the sun was setting in an orange-red circle on the horizon. The wind went very light and was still very warm, a hipster surfer had his face licked by one of the beach dogs, elsewhere two strays fought until they got sleepy again; ravens gathered above the surf: black birds against a cloudless sky like blue stracciatella ice cream.
I had always laughed at it as a naive utopia, this coming together in a place somewhere in the distance, in the middle of nowhere, with streamers and dropouts, crude people who can tell stories, old, young, middle-aged, one lights the light on the wooden veranda in the evening , Music is playing, there is talk, laughing, drinking, so far from the next place where it could take place in a similar way, and you feel completely at home for a short period of time until you are drawn somewhere else.
The feeling of distance was enormous, I had never felt it before, although I had been to places that are more exotic and strange than Sri Lanka, where the impressions are relentless, raw and distinctive, which leads to the spirit that the thoughts of this time expand, that the time expands itself and the memory condenses: distorted perception.
There were the Germans, quite a few, of course also the brutal ultra-hippies, the dreamy surfer dudes who hardly talk at first and then a lot, who have been here for two or three months or somewhere else in the south or north of the island, completely no matter; Then there was a long-standing Frenchman who wanted to go up to Nepal with his girlfriend to a Sherpa who had lost all fingers, the existence of which one had only heard about a friend of a friend, no, you did not have a return ticket. So there really was something like that, it was new to me.
At first everyone was welcome in the lodge, the simple fact that they were here together connected the people.
The thought: There is a much more sensible way to withdraw than to keep walking, sticking to it, always putting yourself at the top, which I knew so well from Berlin; the feeling of always having to be one step ahead of the other people, and to use this to legitimize your own exaggeration, this wrong mechanism, which breaks down, and here: to take yourself out, let time pass and stay in one place, to Come calm.
I hoped it would work, you'd see how it was at home.
In any case, the surfers knew intuitively how to do it: floating on the water, letting the waves come, and if there is one that fits, go with them.
Drunken euphoria at night: There was Mike, the super guy from California, who worked as a teacher in Bangkok, there was Max, the grumpy but nice Berlin club owner, the projection of the home into the distance and the logical elimination of this contrast, so to speak. there was Kuna, the Tamile who owned the lodge, and there was my brother and I, and we all ran together into the infinite night black of the Indian Ocean that looked like it was swallowing everything, stars shining brightly above us no one could count and gave the blatant feeling of actually gravitating on a sphere in the room, shimmering green plankton fluorescent in the sea, fireflies under water, the air was warm, the waves knocked us over, and then we fell into a deep tropical sleep. The surf hit the beach violently, you could hear that clearly.
Who knew how long something like that was still possible in Arugam?
The East Coast and the North were pacified between the Sinhalese government and the Tamil separatists after the end of the civil war, but some believed that it could soon start again. Bullet scars were still visible on the houses up in Trincomalee, at least that's what the surfers reported.
As much as the conscious arrival had been noticeable, it was clear after three nights to leave.
It became clear to me that the goal was perhaps to silence the thoughts, and so far after the journey from the west to the east of the island. The writing dilemma: boil everything up again in a story? Does that work or does it break everything again?
That couldn't be said yet.
Arugam grew with the distance, in contrast to what followed: package tourists on the beaches of the south coast, and in Mirissa, it became very clear why it couldn't, why, from the point of view of the traveler who takes his word for himself, to be no longer working in some places: disproportionately expensive prices, unfriendly waiters, the settled but still active families who stretched out on the couches and, seriously, simply sunbathed.
In the books they read when the boredom became unbearable, there was everything unspoken from years that only came to light under the tropical sun and only had to be pushed aside as a result.
It became so clear on this small, demarcated, terribly staged stretch of beach: A paradise doesn't make anything perfect, but it suggests something that doesn't work. What was so unbearable?
The people here talked little and laughed less often, which is always a bad sign. In Arugam everyone had come to one another, people greeted each other and told their story, no one questioned this way of acting, nobody found it intrusive, everyone participated, it was very easy.
It was different in Mirissa, people were isolated in the community, so to speak. "It's about seeing and being seen," said my brother and of course he was right, only seeing and being seen was the opposite of speaking to each other.
There was no idea here, not even the idea of something, just sun, palm, sea: yeah. One hoped for normal life, only much better, it didn't work that way.
In principle, it was necessary to have to prove once again that a certain type of travel was only possible to a limited extent, that a place could not transport anything at all simply because of its distance from home, and that certain parts of the world were simply lost.
One is quick to ask how and for what reasons one can still travel.
A terrifying example is always the people who do not understand anything because they do not look and do not think, who have a blind spot of perception about the world and people and the question of how it might be possible to use it To make peace, which then do not travel, but fly at most to Ibiza or to the Turkish Mediterranean coast or for one of these pseudo-chic short trips to New York, which everyone is now doing: please have a nice apartment, walk around stupidly and look at things that in the travel guide, the main thing is shopping, this is the direction.
Common but serious mistake about such people: They are happy because they do not reflect. Not true, mostly not, seen the opposite too often.
Then there are the people who look closely and differentiate views, opinions and above all the aesthetic positions from which you can judge everything and everyone, but in the end they find five reasons for and against every perspective, which leads to that a certain way of doing things only works temporarily as a gesture and is not, so to speak, immanent in action because you have not thought about it properly, but because it is simply en vogue to do it or see it that way.
The backpacker in Thailand , the drinking holidaymaker in Mallorca, the sophisticated traveler in Stockholm: everything transparent, everything impossible, at most as an adaptation. But travel only succeeds when the value of experience outweighs the value of the pose.
After two nights in Mirissa, we had no choice but to turn away from the coast and take a bus north along narrow streets back to the mountains, the ultimate counterpart to the backdrop that was only maintained for the tourists to where the environment was most hostile to people: the rainforest.
In Deniyaya, the constant rain made the houses look as green as if they were going to crumble before the next monsoon. Up here the air was cooler, more humid, and the downpour softened the floor as we looked out into the cloudy afternoon on the covered terrace of our hostel.
Our host, Bandula Rathnayaka, was also the man who was supposed to take us to the Sinhajara Rain Forest the following day: a very knowledgeable and personable man.
In the national park we tried the strangest fruits and shrubs, Bandula was able to effortlessly name the medicinal potential of almost every plant, we saw lizards and snakes and regularly removed all leeches that - once stuck on the shoe - were constantly looking for their way to the next free skin area. Whirring and beeping pervaded the wild, more than a thousand-year-old forest, it quickly became clear that people were hopelessly inferior to this nature as a person cultivated in an anthropological sense.
We bathed in the natural pool of a gin-ganga inlet, you could swim under a roaring waterfall in front of a rock fall, while variously drawn moths flew through the sunlight. The storm came in the afternoon.
We sat with a friend of Bandula's on plastic chairs in front of the house and chewed areca nuts and betel leaves until our spit was completely red, the drops tore open the dry ground like machine gun salvos, and the rain veil passed over the five vegetation levels of the evergreen forest, until the clouds opened up and the sunlight broke in the water droplets of the rising steam.
One would like to have this conclusion to a coherent narrative, but after the rainforest I didn't write anything down; what could be drawn from this trip, everything essential, had happened, the story came to an end. I closed the book, if you will.
We then drove down to Galle and back up the coast, hanging out in Hikkaduwa for two more days, which I had actually dreamed of after Mirissa, but it was somehow totally pleasant. We enjoyed the freshly caught fish on the plate, the sand under our feet, the salt water in our hair, the sun on our skin, things like that.
Some trips are made to enjoy and others are made to enjoy again, and sometimes the two coincide.