Fuelling Around

What colour is petrol?

A question I never really thought about before

I always assumed it was thick, slimy and jet-black

Unbeknownst to me, it actually turns out that

Petrol is in fact a transparent almost strawy colour



The reason I know this?

Well dear friends

It is because of the:

Great Sri Lankan Petrol Crisis of 2017


Come Sunday

I had one bar of petrol left

But I knew Dan (my car pictured below)

And I knew his capabilities.

Dan my left hand man. Packed with 800cc of sheer unadulterated personality.

I had Dan for some time now and we had become an inseparable unit

The things we have had seen

The landscapes that we traversed

The trials and tribulations we had overcome

If Vimalasena was my right hand man

Dan was sure to be my left hand

And what a left hand he was:

Soft, supple and sensual in nature

Yet strong, stable and reliable

What more could I ask for?


He was thirsty for fuel

But I knew he could wait

We still had some time


Come Monday

Dan ‘s petrol metre started flashing

The tropical humidity had caught up to him

It was time to quench his parched state

Yet, traversing through the sub-continental traffic seemed like such an effort.

An effort I was willing to go through for my left hand man Dan

Negotiating through the dust and fumes

Criss-crossing past the tuk tuks, the close to moribund un-roadworthy trucks and half a century old burgundy buses

But to my surprise there was a huge line waiting for petrol


I didn’t think too much of it at the time

It didn’t really click

But I was not prepared to wait for more than an hour for petrol

And in any case, I knew Dan

I knew he had some juice left him in

He could last till tomorrow.


Come Tuesday

Dan was chugging along

But I could feel the pressure I was exerting on him

He was a trusty stead

He wouldn’t let me down

But I started to feel a slight sense of guilt

My trusty friend Dan has been with me through thick and thin

I decided it was about high time that I’d fill him up


The sun had set over the temperate Peradeniya hills

Only a slight amount of stickiness hanging in the air

I decided to get a haircut in town and then fill up on the way home

At the barber, the Sinhala news was running in the background

A picture of a bowser came up on the television and angry mobs shouting

My barber Jayasinghe curses in frustration

I try and put the pieces of the puzzle together

“Petrol prices too high”

He responds “Petrol nay”

I look back at him quizzically

“Petrol high?”

“Aiyo. Sri Lanka. Petrol nay,” as he smacks his palm on his forehead.

It still didn’t register.

Something was wrong

I wasn’t exactly sure what.

But something definitely was not right.


After my haircut, shave, beard trim and head massage for 500LKR (<$5AUD)

Feeling relaxed, rejuvenated and recharged

I decided that filling up Dan was now a necessity

I get to the first petrol shed

It was closed

‘Pretty early to be closed at 7pm’ I contemplate.

I go to the next petrol station

It was also closed

I go to the next petrol station

Lo and behold,



Now Kandy despite being a bustling town

Doesn’t have many petrol sheds

And it was at this point that the panic had started to kick in

The petrol light on Dan was no longer flashing but was now permanently

I was hitting dire states.


I finally got to another petrol station

There was a huge line extending as far as the eye could see

Mainly of angry  punters

I park my car in amongst the chaos

I walk over to the station and ask the attendant

“Petrol Thienawadha?” (Sinhala: Do you have petrol?”)

“Petrol Ivarai. Ivarai.” (Sinhala: No petrol)

Cars were pulling out of the line realising there was no juice left.


I had another 20-30min commute back home

All uphill

My petrol light permanently on

The needle clearly well below zero

I was pushing my boy Dan to the limit


‘Maybe it’s a good time to stop my AC ‘


I put the windows down

It was only at this moment that I realise

There was a strong possibility I wouldn’t even get home.

What if I got stuck going up a mountain and roll off a cliff?

Who do I call if I get stuck in the middle of nowhere?

What if I don’t even have reception?

Why did I choose to live so far from town in the middle of nowhere?

How did I not put the pieces of the puzzle together?


I looked over to the dashboard

And gently caress my noble stead.


“Dan we’ve been through a lot

Just get me home and I promise

Ill never do this to you again

Ill never take for you granted.”


I was chanting the Gayathri mantra as Dan ascended through the mountainous jungles

Beads of perspiration trickling down my face (possibly due to the lack AC and/or stress)


With these thoughts racing through my mind on repeat

The distant lights of my house perched on the side of an isolated cliff came into focus.

I let out a massive sigh of relief

Resting my head on the steering wheel

“Dan, The gift that keeps on giving. “


Come Wednesday morning

Vimalasena my right hand man bumbles in,

“Vimalasena, neengal theriyama enge petrol irikadha? Ennnaka petrol illai. Nan vellai poha vernam” (Tamil: Vimalasena, do you know where there is petrol? I am completely out. I need to go to work)

“Ok Durai, Vimalasena find petrol,” he smiles chuffed at himself for his expanding repertoire of English.

Vimalasena my right hand man

I take the time to read the news online about the petrol shortage

I learn this whole debacle was essentially for base political reasons

Prior to all of this, the concept of a country having no petrol whatsoever did not register as a possibility

I mean when you need petrol

You just go to the shed

It had always been the case

But if you wanted to bring a country to its knees, I guess this clearly was the most effective way

There was an eerie sense that I would have this same problem again sometime in the distant future


I call a few people to find if there was any juice around

I come back with the same answer

Zilch, Nada, Bagels

“Anyone? Anyone?”

Taking a leaf out of Ferris Buelers Day Off

I put on a crisp white bathrobe successfully retrieved from a 5 star resort and settle down with some Netflix,


By 3pm a leak filters through to me

The army had taken over petrol distribution and was only able to provide one area on the other side of the Kandy region.

I call Vimalasena to see where he was,

Panting on the other end he replies,

“Durai nan Gampola, Gelioya, Peradeniya ellam ponatha, ahna petrol illai.” (Tamil: Boss, I went to the moon and back and found no petrol” )


I told Vimalasena to get in a tuk tuk, pick me up and get us to where the army was distributing petrol.

In a tuk tuk with hardly any vehicles on the road

The 1hr journey to the other side of Kandy was like a scene out of Armageddon

Tuk tuks, cars, trucks and buses all parked on the side of the road

Presumably all out of petrol

And there was no traffic whatsoever on the streets

There were hardly any souls lurking about

The city was in shutdown.


It was actually serene

Almost blissful

Without the incessant toots, smoke and pollution.


We get to the only place serving petrol

And there is a line of people patiently waiting

You got juice?

We bring large bottles and patiently wait

Hoping that the juice wouldn’t run out

Watching the line behind us getting larger

After 90mins in line we get our liquid gold

The sustenance

The provider

The juice that powers the world

Liquid Gold

We make our way home

Almost feeling slightly primal

Feeling as if we had just been on a successful hunt.


I look over to Vimalasena and speak to him in Tamil

“It was a funny day wasn’t it?”

He looks back at me slightly indignant

“For you it was funny but I went all over trying to find petrol”

I laugh and grab his shoulder with appreciation

But he then replies, “But for Durai, I will go to Jaffna and back if you need me to. ”


We cut a hosepipe and pour the yellow liquid in through a funnel

I pat Dan, all juiced up and whisper to him

“You still thirsty?”



Aeration rating: In retrospect was definitely an experience. At the time though it’d be hard to give it a FRESH rating

*I’ve learnt the importance of planning ahead especially in the developing world. You never know what might happen tomorrow.

**I’ve made an effort to watch local news instead of relying on BBC for everything

***I will never let Dan The Man down ever again

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