Painful wakeup call@Lighthouse, Galle

The pain was sharp, excruciating, just below the elbow.  This must be the pain that precedes a heart attack  says my sleepy mind and  if so might as well die in the comfy bed – why get up?  Coming out of deep layers of slumber I wait for the heart attack that shows no sign of coming.

Well, my brain is more awake than my body — plodding me get out of the bed.  “Switch on a light have a look at your arm you idiot says my inner voice. ” OK, OK but why me? And why at this time? The time on the digital clock is 5:16 am – the light shows there is  a pinprick of pink just below the elbow but no blood – no flying insects.   Body says get back to the cosy bed, so I do  holding the arm but with the light on, trying to think of  a rational cause for the pain that was now spreading to my fingers….I snuggle in on the soft soft mountain of four pillows and then . … out comes the villain – a 7 or 8 inch reddish orange centipede.  He wriggles across the snowy white sheets,  I jump out of bed and grab a shoe to whack him – but he is too fast and disappears into the bedhead.


Mr. or Ms. Centipede is so named because of the 100 legs she/he has  but apparently the real number can be any in the region of 15 to 191 says the Wikipaedia.  Their first pair of legs are modified to form poison claws which are found underneath the head while the last pair of legs, which turn backward, are used for holding prey and fighting off predators. In Sri Lanka we have the small varieties, and these big ones called “gas paththeya” or tree centipedes that like to live on coconut trees.

Apparently, there are many moist, warm, and dark cavities where phobia-inspiring organisms quietly lurk in our world.

One such example is the Amazonian giant centipedes  — Scolopendra gigantea, a venomous, red-maroon centipede with forty-six yellow-tinted legs. Read more

For these  vicious varieties devouring prey  watch ( not recommended for the  faint hearted)



I didn’t know all this at that time except the searing pain.  My brain searches for possible antidotes, and I  call room service to get me bicarbonate of soda/baking powder hoping I could neutralize what I was guessing to be an acid sting.  The stretch PJ top doubles as a tourniquet and I count the minutes, pace the floor waiting for room service.  Time is 5:45 am and I feel it’s OK to wake  my sister-in-law Padmini an ayurvedhic doctor.  She tells me to rub a red onion on the bite point — the traditional treatment on the fast swelling arm. 

So its back to room service for onions but  no one picks up and as I hang up I hear the door bell. Three guys from the hotel are outside — one in a chef’s hat holding 3 or 4 unpeeled red onions.  These are peeled and I send one guy down to get a stick of cinnamon.  I remember something I heard from my  yoga teacher in Brunei — that a cinnamon infusion removes toxins.

The bed is stripped but we can’t find the villain.  I change rooms, drink my cinnamon tree and try not to scratch my skin out.

At  breakfast I growl at the manager that I didn’t come to a posh hotel to be bitten by a centipede.  I hear nothing more from the hotel till my loud complaints reach the manager and a doctor is summoned in the afternoon. He can give me only pain killers and an antihistamine ( these have  already been taken).   The doc tells me that I will be OK in 24 hours and that nothing ever happens to us Sri Lankans.  Well, nothing really except the pain and suffering. 

I stayed recently at the Cinnamon lodge in Habarana famed for its natural environment   Monkeys loped around in the gardens and on the roof;  the mongoose came for breakfast running around the dining tables.  


 Fine,  nature at its best  and I loved it there


  …. but are these hotels ready with their first aid, if anyone is bitten?  Lighthouse wasn’t.

12 thoughts on “Painful wakeup call@Lighthouse, Galle

  1. Chuli forgive me,I read only the begining and thought you really had an attack,its only now I read the whole thing .May I share it with Hotel Management

  2. Nimmi

    Yes, please do. It would be good to get responses from hotels on emergency measures in instances like this — how fast and how good the responses that hotels have at the moment — if not how will they improve the situation. Thanks

  3. I would have been running to reception in my nightdress screaming for help. I’d send it to all hotels in Sri Lanka as a “heads up” on what to do should it happen in their hotel. I stayed at the Lighthouse when it first opened; truly a lovely place with a most memorable entrance.

  4. This is nothing. In my wife’s family house in Galle, these were common and even the kids knew how to handle them! But in Trincomalee we were in constant touch with
    snakes: snakes in the toilet, in your shoes, in the garden – god knows how many I have killed. But – this is the biodiversity we keep harping about – so try to live as ordinary people do, in houses, not hotels!!! That’s a joke, Chuli!

  5. I’ve been bitten by one of them in my upstair apartment in Colombo. They come up the drain pretty often. I used to push them out with an ekel broom, but since I was bitten and the poison crept up my arm in 8 hours, before I could get proper ayurvedic treatment, i spray some mortein on them before they sting my elderly mum or my little fellas. The cente’s very quickly recede the same way they came up.

  6. Ive been searching for a picture of these beasts. I’m totally paranoid about which of the SL centipedes is the one which creates such a bite. We have a lot of coconut trees here and I see lots of the smaller black & yellow or brown ones in my house which I sweep out and project into the neighbouring rubber forrest but perhaps I’m being too hard on the innocent ones.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s