Two Tales of Ella

Ella is a great little town in the middle of Sri Lanka’s inland hill country. I spent two nights there and had a fantastic time hiking and exploring. I also had some… less fortunate experiences there. One magical adventure happened on my first night there as I walked home from a delicious chai at a local tea shop. As I marveled at the beauty of the sun setting behind Ella Rock, I was distracted just long enough to step down into one of those sewage gutters that line the streets in most Sri Lankan cities. As the soft, cold goop oozed between my toes, I thought to myself, “at least my hotel has a nice shower with hot water.” And it was only a block away!

So I limped home, wiping my flip flop off on the grass and trying not to think about all the amazing microbial things that were in the ditch I stepped in. When I got back to my room, I enjoyed the best shower I’d had so far that trip. The water was hot and the pressure was strong – two things that are not super common at Sri Lankan accommodations. I was being cleansed of my day’s troubles as well as the hepatitis-inducing bacteria the shit I stepped in was sure to contain. As I enjoyed the shower, a thought entered my mind: I noticed there were no towels in the bathroom. “Rats!” I thought to myself. But it’s ok. I could just step into my room and grab one that was surely on the bed.

As I shut the water off at the end of my amazing shower, something else shut off. The power to the entire city. So I stood there: wet, naked, cold. In a pitch black bathroom. Wondering if it would do any good to scream for help. It wouldn’t. I fumbled around my room looking for a towel. There were none. At least the data on my phone worked though so I could lay there on my bed, typing this story. Kinda wet. Pretty cold. But still actually having a pretty good day.

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The next day, I decided to get an Ayurvedic massage. They are a traditional Sri Lankan massage that’s meant to fix everything that’s wrong with you. (That’s probably not an accurate description of an Ayurvedic massage.) I ordered the 90 minute one, because what the hell, I’m on vacation. I picked the one that was supposed to magically fix all muscle pain and clear your sinuses.

It started with kind of vague instructions to maybe get naked and maybe put on this little towel thing? So I did that and laid awkwardly on the table waiting for the masseuse to come back. He told me to sit up so he could start with my head and neck, so I had to rearrange the little towel thing and move over to a stool. The guy started by oiling up my hair and massaging my scalp. It felt kind of nice and the acne up there had cleared up a lot after I got that sketchy over-the-counter doxycycline the week before. Except there’s still a rough patch on the very back, and when he got there he stopped and paused for a bit. Maybe not knowing if he should ask what it was, or maybe just not knowing the English words for “what the hell is going on back here??” Either way, he’s more tactful than the guy who cut my hair last.

Next, we moved to my back where the guy just started kind of gently rubbing me with oil. After a while I started thinking, “ok this is nice, but you can be meaner?” Whatever was going on in the room next to mine sounded much more aggressive, and I was having some serious massage FOMO. I also started wondering what kind of certification one might need to be an Ayurvedic masseuse. Because I wasn’t sure how authentic this whole thing was. Also, not sure if you’ve ever had a 90 minute massage, but it was only about 25 minutes in that I started wishing I could check my Instagram.

Then, out of no where, he started pressing some kind of molten hot substance on my legs. It was super jarring and I hated it, but after he moved it around and started doing it on my back I kind of got used to it. Then by the end I just wanted to scream, “HOTTER, YOU PANSY!” I guess it was relaxing, but my sinuses are still shit and I climbed a mountain right after, so I was still sore everywhere. I gave them three stars on Trip Advisor.


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