Two Days in Trinco

Caroline Fynn

© Copyright 2022 by Caroline Fynn

Photo by the author.
Photo by the author.
Shortly after I returned to my home country, life seemed to be over-regulated and dull. Following some years of living and working in South Asia, it was difficult to adapt to British life. I gave it my best shot but six months along the line I still missed the jewel of a country that is Sri Lanka and revisited for a vacation.

I stayed with a friend, Roshan, at her home in the capital city of Colombo. We decided to take a break at her beach villa near the Northeastern coastal town of Trincomalee, known to the locals as Trinco.
We boarded the night bus and as Roshan had founded an animal rescue charity, we loaded the storage space with dog food and a variety of medications. We knew it would be much needed in Trinco as there is little support for the stray dogs and cats in that part of the country. We settled into the seats located behind the driver, I kicked off my flip-flops and our weekend of adventure had begun.
We hadnít been travelling for long when I felt something happening to my foot. At first, I didnít register the source of this strange sensation but came to realize that the driver was playing with my toes. It was creepy and alarming considering he was maneuvering a bus full of passengers on less than desirable roads in the dark. I didnít say anything in case he had in error taken hold of my foot instead of Roshanís. Considering her partner, a friend, and Roshanís seven-year-old niece, Nisha, would be joining us when the bus stopped at the town of Dambulla, I thought it best not to mention it.  
Following a six-hour journey, spent mostly with my feet on the seat, we arrived in Trinco. We travelled by tuk-tuk to Roshanís villa situated on the Blue Lagoon at Irrakandy, close to the better-known Nilaveli beach. We arrived as the sun was rising and relished in the bruised shades of saffron, russet, and indigo that draped the cerulean sky. We had walked straight into paradise and in a heavenly daze, we strolled along the soft pale sand beside the turquoise water. In the distance, a group of fishermen were huddled near their boats as they prepared for the day. Otherwise, the beach was deserted, with not a footprint to be seen.
Once we had settled into the villa, Roshan said we would take a short boat ride to Pigeon Island, popular for its coral reef, a plethora of fish - approximately 300 species - turtles, octopuses, and the rock pigeons that give the island its name. It then dawned on me that I had a problem. Back in the UK, I had packed a silly little bikini. No way did I want to wear this alongside the two men. And Pigeon Island might think another strange species had shown up. I imagined that they would either laugh or feel sick at the sight of me, after all, I resembled an anemic blancmange. I told Roshan I didnít want to go and that I would sit on the beach and read until they returned. She wasnít having any of it

ďYou have to come you canít miss out. Anyway, whatís the matter?Ē 

I could have said I felt unwell or suffered sea sickness. Damn, I could have faked a phobia of turtles. But I told the truth and said I could not wear the bikini because the men were present. Unfortunately, Roshan misunderstood for she said, 

ďNow look, Ajith is my boyfriend, and Sunil is married, so you donít need to be concerned. Besides, you could always throw a t-shirt over your beach wear.Ē 

So, she thought I had expected to attract these men! I was so taken aback I couldnít speak. I didnít put it right, and to this day we have never again mentioned it. In any case, Roshanís t-shirt idea solved the problem and we boarded the boat.
We arrived at Pigeon Island and I could not have imagined such a place to exist. Roshan was right, I wouldnít have wanted to miss it. I grabbed some goggles and swam out. Sri Lankans often speak of nirvana and I guessed it couldnít be better than this. I spent quite some time mooching around among the coral, marveling at the blazoned fingers of life. I merged into a kaleidoscope of color and swam among a mosaic of fish of fluorescent greens and golds, scarlet and mazarine. They bore a montage of patterns, stripes and zig zags galore, all sculpted to perfection. I was completely present in that moment, entranced in the magic, and absorbed in the wonderland of life. Should a genie have appeared and transformed me into a sea creature to live forevermore within those waters, I would have had no regrets. That is until a shark swam past. It was about the size of an average man and I experienced a volcanic shake back to reality. My primary thought was that the thundering of my heart would alert the shark to my presence. I resolved to stay calm, and unbelievably, I slowly and carefully swam to the shore.
Roshan and the guys, along with a couple of local fishermen found my fear hilarious, even little Nisha giggled. I hadnít known that Pigeon Island is home to the Blacktip Reef Shark, and therefore harmless. Although I have since discovered that they have, on occasion, mistakenly bitten human legs as folk have meandered through shallow waters. 
During the evening we chilled on the beach beside the villa. Given that it was as hot as hades, we chose to sleep outside. We moved our beds out onto the terrace and secured the mosquito nets. As we turned in Roshan said,
ďDonít worry if you hear strange noises, it will only be wild boar.Ē 

I didnít comment but thought that unlike the harmless sharks of Pigeon Island, wild boar would pose a risk wherever they might live. Still, I slipped into bed and listened to the whisper of the ocean alongside the night sounds of the wilderness and became enveloped in a sense of serenity. 
Following a delicious Sri Lankan breakfast of curd and honey, freshly baked bread, banana, papaya, and melon, Roshan and I took to the beach. Armed with sacks of food, boxes and bags of medicine, we set out to feed and administer treatment to the stray dogs and cats. Many homeless souls live at the beach area, some sick or injured, others with skin conditions, and we encountered a skinny and bedraggled mum with a litter of pups.

The south of Sri Lanka is popular with foreigners and tourists and significant rescue organizations exist in that area, mostly along the coast. Little help is available for the animals living inland, or on the northern shores. For this reason, Roshan set up her charity ĎRural Rescuesí to take care of stray dogs and cats living on rural land.
For two years I worked with a rescue center in the south. We dealt with appalling diseases and injuries, starvation, abuse, and neglect. It is soul-destroying and mentally and physically exhausting to constantly wade through the eternal quagmire of suffering. No matter how many animals we may treat, for each one, there are more waiting in line. The only long-term glimmer of hope to shine out from this torturous pit is to spay and neuter. Roshan has since set up a second charity, ĎSpay it Forward.í She has undertaken a spay and neutering program in Dambulla and has traveled to Trinco to neuter and treat animals in need.
Across the world problems arise when folk with good hearts and little knowledge of animals set up rescue organizations. Roshan studied and worked with wild and domestic animals in the USA, and New Zealand. She is qualified and often works at the Pet Vet Clinic in Colombo. Therefore, I have faith in her charities and will always support her.

The south is mostly populated with Sinhalese communities. The north is home to Sri Lankan Tamils who bore the brunt of the thirty-year civil war. They have received no compensation, not even an apology for the heinous war crimes they endured. And yet, they are the friendliest nation. We did not experience a hint of suspicion towards us. As we worked on the beach, feeding, administering worm pills, and spot-on drops, some of the locals assisted. They also told us where to locate needy animals. Roshan detected a pack of dogs across the lagoon, and a kind fisherman transported us and then left. We had not been walking for long when suddenly our legs were drawn knee-deep into the sand. We looked wide-eyed at each other and in unison we said,
We struggled to keep going, especially as we didnít know how bad it might become, or when we might walk out of it.
"Make sure you don't fall over," Roshan said

Oh my, the thought of it. Thank goodness Nisha wasnít with us. Still, we made it through and attended to the dogs. By the way, donít worry about those animals, they know their terrain and wonít get pulled in.
We returned to the villa and sipped well-deserved wine while resting on the back terrace among the palm trees. Just as I had reached that gorgeous place between awareness and sleep, I was shaken into fight or flight by a cacophony of screeches and screams. A bunch of around ten monkeys charged past in panic, they ran for their lives. I jolted upright and saw a figure creeping through the trees, a local carrying a rifle. Damn, a monkey poacher. Without thinking I bolted towards him. As angry as a tiger caught in a leg trap, I yelled for him to stop. He gaped at me with bemusement and before I could accomplish anything, Roshan and the guys appeared along with a gang of locals. Folk miraculously show up at the scene of an incident in Sri Lanka, no matter where it might occur; be it deep in the jungle or on a remote beach, people materialize. Following some confusion due to the mix of Tamil, Sinhalese, and English languages, Roshan made it clear that nobody was permitted to poach on her land. The guy with the gun gave up and the monkeys were free to live another day.  

As I rested that evening and gazed at the shimmering stars that perforated the opaque sky, I reflected upon the weekend. What an adventure. No wonder I had found life in the UK to be tedious. I pondered whether English life had given rise to my self-consciousness. In any case, it didnít last long, I had ditched the t-shirt out on Pigeon Island, and with so much sun, our skins had become six shades darker. I was more than happy about that, but Sri Lankans most certainly do not want this. Skin whitening creams sell faster that toilet rolls in a pandemic. It didnít bother Roshan, but boy was she in trouble when Nisha arrived home.
We boarded the night bus back to Colombo only to meet the same driver. I had forgotten to mention the antics of the outbound journey, although I have since discovered that in no way would he have messed with Roshanís toes. As she ushered me into the same place behind this crazy guy, I prepared for the next six hours spent with my feet on the seat.  


Caroline Fynn has worked in animal rescue in Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam. She is an ardent supporter of animal welfare and rights. Writing as a hobby for many years, Caroline took a course in creative writing with the Open University. She is the author of one novel which she hopes to soon publish. Caroline lives in the UK.   

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