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Dateline Sri Lanka: Mid-Point Of The Global Scavenger Hunt

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Ayubowan: A big warm wet (tropical rainstorm) welcome from Colombo, Sri Lanka all!

Between the horn honking and the call to prayer, dawn came early here in Colombo.

We have entered the second half (already?) of our around the world travel adventure competition and chase to win the 2012 crown as The World's Greatest Travelers.

The Global Scavenger Hunt's Leader Board looks like this today from Sri Lanka after four legs are behind us: The defending champions Zoe and Rainey of the USA (Team Lawyers without Borders) have a slim lead over Fiona and Katrina (Team Sydney Sisters) in second place after Thailand's rather mischievous Six Hour Layover Challenge.

In third place, and still well within sight of a first-place finish, are the Kiwi team of Saskia and Andrew (Team You're not in Guatemala now Dr. Ropata), with our mix 'n' match team of Geoff (from New Zealand) and James (from USA) (aka Team 2 Steps Ahead), close behind in fourth place. It is still any team's event with six legs to go!

So here we are in Sri Lanka. Hard to believe that in 2008 this nation was on one of those, "most dangerous places in the world" lists. Not anymore, as things are a hustle and bustle here, with one of the fastest-growing economies in the world today. The long 25 year civil war between Government and Tamil Tigers ended here in 2009 and -- although some karmic debris remains -- a reconciliation has taken place between the mostly Buddhist Sinhalese and Hindu Tamil peoples. Onward and upward points their collective arrow of history.

But what a past ... and that is one of the main reasons The Global Scavenger Hunt has come to Sri Lanka. It is a treasure chest of Buddhist and Hindu jewels and unrivaled natural beauty. Teams were tasked with searching for panthers (the Prince of the Jungle) in Yala National Park, climbing Adam's Peak, visiting the ancient Buddha caves in Polonnaruwa, sail boarding in Bentota Beach and exploring Little England's terraced-hills of tea, along with visiting an orphanage here in the inner city of Colombo.

Naturally, I have not received any, "We're lost how do we get back home?" calls from our well-traveled competitors. So, no news being good news that allows me to take a break in the action and head out of town...

On the way to Galle (120 km south of Colombo) via coastal train, I thought a lot about music as I watched one stunning sight after another pass me by ... audiolicious vibrations! I know that many of our competitors have their own vibes they are listening to on The Global Scavenger Hunt when they need some much needed my space alone time. (Remember those bulky Walkmans?) Not that anyone asked, but here is my Great Escape 2012 Playlist:
  • One Day Like This (Elbow): Wonderfully textured, saw them at The Greek in LA last Autumn -- stunning!
  • How it Ends (DeVotchKa): A fun and very musical Russian-influenced Denver-based band that is sublime -- check them out.
  • Colours (Grouplove): Exciting energy.
  • Truth (Alexander): Haunting and can't get it out of my mind.
  • I've Got Friends (Manchester Orchestra): An indie band from Atlanta that can just flat out rock n' roll ... and it's been a long time!
  • Two Lovers (Ali Akbar Khan): Can never get enough of this master playing his sitar as so few can ... this one of his best!
  • Kandi (OneeskimO): Creative London band; sad but catchy song.
  • Lucky (Ryan Adams): The latest and greatest by this amazing singer songwriter. I feel lucky everyday!
  • Tell me a Tale (Michael Kiwanuka): Blues song like Otis in the 60's ... smashing and intoxicating. I want more!
  • Skip the Charades (Cold War Kids): Just love the energy from this band ... and the name too!
  • Mondo Bongo (Joe Strummer): We miss you buddy ... and no adventure can escape these sounds.
  • Sutphin Boulevard (Blood Orange): Not usually into techno, but I like this.
  • Mexican Standoff (Elbow): I am addicted, what can I say, one song is not enough!
  • Cucurruccuc├║ Paloma (Caetano Velosa): A beautiful song that reminds me of dancing with my wife in the kitchen when I am traveling alone.

Funny line of the Day: I was watching a dig of some sort taking place in Galle, obviously something was in the process of being built. I asked the man who looked like he was in charge when the project would be completed? Without a beat, he smiled and said, "Sometime in our next reincarnation I am afraid!"

Coming home from Galle, I unwisely decided to take a taxi instead of the train. Soyso was my driver back to Colombo, and he, it must be said, like most Sri Lankans, has a horn fetish. A bad one. No lie, Soyso must have honked his horn no less than 3,000 times during our drive north along the coast.

Soyso I asked, "Does your horn ever break?"

"Oh no Mr. Bill," he replies smiling with betel-nut stained teeth, "It always works." Oh no, Mr. Bill, is right.

And yes, I figured it out so as not too exaggerate my point. I was so alarmed by Soyso's horn honking that on no less than two occasions did I count his horn honks for a minute (a new stat HH/pm?). The first time there were 18, the second 15. I would say they were about average for Soyso. He honked at everything on the road during our 100 kilometer madcap wild toad ride adventure, moving and not moving. He honked at cars and trucks, birds and beasts of burden, rice paddy workers and school kids walking home, coconut hawkers, tuk-tuks and political signs. Soyso was an equal opportunity horn honker.

So, back to the math, I will take the low 15 honks per minute multiplied by the 3 hours and 45 minutes drive (225 minutes). Yup, I was right, that makes 3,375 horn honks! Maybe a world record -- probably not -- that is one honk every 4 seconds. I don't know, but if I could have reached under the dash to disconnect it, trust me I would have. But then Soyso would not be Soyso would he!?

Three Things to Watch for when the Sri Lanka leg ends tomorrow:
  1. How do the third-, fourth- and fifth-place teams respond after the grueling Myanmar leg? Will they remain contenders or become pretenders? They all must do well here, win or place at least in Sri Lanka, to remain in contention and put pressure on the top two teams. Will they is the question. Teams You're not in Guatemala now Dr. Ropata and 2 Steps Ahead showed some promise early -- we know what the Silver Surfers are capable of as we saw in 2011 -- but will they continue?
  2. We have reached the half-way point in the competition, turned the corner and are starting on the back nine as it were. (I know, already, so soon!) No team has blown themselves out yet. No inter-team dramas (although a lot of the usual Big Talk in pubs around the world, the usual coulda, shoulda, woulda's) has occurred yet, thankfully. So, the question is will all the teams play hard to the bitter (or sweet) end and finish well -- or not?
  3. The next leg will be unique: We will be matching teams up and they have to work with each other the whole leg (a Par 3): The seeding will have the last place team paired with the first place team, the second with next to last, etc. Now that will be interesting!

Please don't miss our early dispatch that allowed us to get caught up on all our great Myanmar photos and videos that we could not upload due to connectivity issues in Myanmar at the event's official daily blog PostCards (especially Day 11, part one).

Feeling playful today, I leave you with a travel riddle to unwind:
A traveler starts a journey.
For the first week he goes east.
The second he goes in all directions.
The third he flies up into the sky.
In the fourth he comes back down.
Who is the traveler?

Over and out from the Ringmaster reporting from Sri Lanka. Onward to the Middle East next! Stay tuned.