My wife and I were returning home along the Kandy Road in our Toyota Townace Van. Only two of us were there that day because our two kids had preferred to play with their cousins as they rarely get that chance. And we had left for Dambulla around 5.00 am and it was 155 km trip one way. So on our way back on that November afternoon I was driving just under the speed limit behind a metallic green Nissan Vanette. We were passing the famous Wewaldeniya (Actually Nelundeniya) where wickerwork products were on on sale on both sides of the highway.
As we were driving towards Colombo, the road was downhill on this mountainous Kandy Colombo Highway. An unbroken stream of vehicles were coming on the opposite lane heading for Kandy. As this stretch of roads had a lot of bends I was checking my rear-view mirror at regular intervals and following the other safety procedures like having both hands on the wheel and eyes glued to the road.
We were negotiating a slight smooth curve to the right when a huge concrete mixer truck suddenly swung out of the oncoming opposite lane, on to our lane and started overtaking the whole row of vehicles. What made him to do so beats me, even now. Somehow he was totally and squarely on the wrong side of the white double lines and speeding towards us, honking at us to get out of the way.
The driver of the green Vanette and I acted on the same impulse. Both of us swung left off the road, on to the narrow front yards of some wickerwork shops, which also suddenly ended up into an abyss. Luckily the strip was empty of shoppers or parked vehicles. Green Vanette braked to a halt sparing about one meter from the edge. and I managed the stunt by stopping about the same distance from his rear bumper. The cement truck roared by and and disappeared round the bend.
|This is the same place on another day but we are going on the opposite direction now. See how narrow the strip is.|
People had come out of the shops to see the miraculous escape. I got out of the vehicle and walked over to the Vanette. The driver was as shocked as I was. Both of us had escaped a very fatal head on collision and that had formed a sudden bond between us. We shared what we thought about the stupid truck driver.
That day and several times after that, I scanned the area and learned that the place we ran off the road was one of the very few places where such escape bays existed. A few meters before of after would have left us with no option other than driving into a shop or abyss that is if we preferred not to hit the truck head on. See in the picture where the bus is passing. There is no front yard.
Every time we pass that areas after that day, we never failed to look out for the spot and remark, "This is that place where that moronic cement truck driver nearly killed us!"