We are now back in sunny Australia and will attempt to summarise our 3 months motorcycling around Sri Lanka! Having searched the season weather for Sri Lanka, we were mentally prepared for the wet November that is expected each year, but the following two months of predicted sunny weather would make it worth while (or so we thought!!)
Alfons Van Hoof the Horizons Unlimited community member for Sri Lanka met us at the airport and found us great accomodation near the Nagumbo beaches not far from the Airport. He was an incredible host, providing us with local knowledge of where to go and what scenic roads to take as well as GPS software for our Garmin handheld. Alfons was nice enough to rent his second Bajaj cruiser 180cc bike and fitted it with any extras and mods needed for a 3 month overland trip. This Indian built Japanese design bike never gave us a moments grief and disproved our doubts in Indian machinery. An added bonus was the 43.5 kms/litre fuel economy, giving us a 500km range before reserve making it a total of 600kms range.
Alfons also provided us with soft panniers big enough to carry everything needed for three months of blistful touring 2 up.
Our first overnight stop enroute was the elephant sanctuary on the way to Kandy. Most of the Elephants were orphans from the landmines of the Tamil Tiger civil war that had been raging for more than 20 years. One adult had lost the bottom half of one leg and the other front leg was badly disformed from the explosion. Another more fortunate occupant was a 95 year old mammoth tusker. The guide tried to temp Belinda into stroking his enormous donger that nearly had the circumferance of one of his legs and nearly hung to the ground! We heard he died a few weeks after our visit.
The roads are really quite good for motorcycles, providing you stay off the main busy roads, as they are mostly asphalt and wind thier way through rice paddy fields and tea plantations with little traffic.
The main roads take a bit of getting used to if you are from a first world country where "might is right" and buses are at the top of the foodchain. Locals refuse to use their mirrors and use their horns to make their presence known.
If you see a local with his right indicator (turn signal) on it could mean a number of things: They may want you to pass them on the right or they want to turn right themselves or they really want to turn left but forgot thier indicator was on!
All western driving rules are "out the window" with vehicles and obstacles coming onto your path of travel from all directions and various speeds. A driver needs 110% concentration as if in some fast action computer game. Its all about collision avoidance and in our 3 months although we had many close calls, we didn't see one accident, so the system does work.
The city of Kandy was not as nice as its name may indicate with a lot of slow moving taffic congestion and a lot of noise and air pollution, although we really did enjoy the walk around its central lake and a visit to the Tooth Temple.
From Kandy's central highlands we meandered slowly through manicured tea plantations toward the national park of Yala near to the southeast coast to see our first wild Indian Elephant (which is much smaller than its African relations)
Before picking up our daughter Kate at the Columbo Airport we stopped into nearly all of the beaches along the southern coastline and there are many!
Belinda and I felt very fortunate to have Kate accompany us by motorcycle for nearly a month. We rented a DR 250 Suzuki to accomodate her long legs and some rough terrain we had experienced from time to time for around US$15 per day.
With the monsoons persisting, we became good at reading precip forcast maps on the internet and dodging looming thunderstorms on each horizon. As good as we thought we were, we still got a good drenching on a few occasions.
Together we travelled to the north along the west coast which took us past many abandoned beach towns and fishing villages. We spent our first travelling night together on the sandy peninsula town of Kalpitiya.
The next day would take us to the ancient ruined cities located in the central north and closely accessable from the more mdern city on Anuradhapura.
Our favorite ruins were at the Sigiriya Rock and well worth the US$30 each entrance fee. The ancient carvings and views from the top of the rock were a trip highlight.
Trincomalee was our first east coast town which brags of a surf season starting in April when the prevailing winds change direction. Even being Christmas, we had our choice of accomodation with very flexible rates.
With all the rain in the highlands catchment and flooding coastal rivers our trip south was cut short when the Army blockade turned us around because the main road south was "broken". The 2 hour ride back to Trincomalee was made a bit more exciting with the developing thunderstorms threatening to dump on us Christmas Eve!
Our inland detour took us to the mountain town of Ella, a great travellers destination having many mountain trail and fabulous views . Accomodation even in this shoulder season was at a premium. The detour had taken through many roads under construction. Kate enjoyed riding in the mud and slippery undulations and spent most of the ride standing on her pegs. Needless to say, our cruiser posed a bit of a challenge with its short suspension, smooth road tyres and carrying a heavy load. (hey!)
We were determined to explore the remainder of the east coast, south of the "broken road", so we headed east again to Arugam Bay another surfers hangout in the season. Once again we had our choice of accomodation at bargain prices along with long stretches of coastal roads hugging the beach.
Although very friendly the police didn't like you riding on your pegs or with the headlights on. One Sargent offered us sponsorship should we want to attain permanent residency in Sri Lanka!
The only part of the island experiencing constant sun was the entire south coast, so that had to be our next leg of the journey.
The sun did not disappoint as we leapfrogged the many beachtowns and feasted on the magnificent seafood served at beach restaurants everywhere. Midway along was the ruined Dutch Fortress of Galle, built in the 18th century and is now attractivelly restored. A bit west of Galle is the site of the biggest train wreck in the world from the 2004 Christmas day tsunami killing 1700 people.
A modest museum housed hundreds of trajic photos taken on that memorable day.
Our last beach along was perhaps our favorite - Bentota. This beach is very wide and stretches for kilometers only broken by the Bentota River. It was on the banks of this river that we found a magnificent guest house with only 4 available rooms. Our choice room was on the top floor overlooking the two swimming pools and a large wooden deck extending over the river. The view was across the river to a narrow sand peninsula with ocean waves crashing on the far side. The scene allowed for some magnificent sunsets and meals with our great friends from Cairns Mike Mabbutt and Annette Cooper who joined us for a fun filled week in Sri Lanka eating like the locals do with their hand!
A small ferry boat was available to take us to the opposite bank we could walk down the beach to the turtle hatcheries where we were allowed to release a few babies on our own.
River Edge Guesthouse deserves special speacial mention and is a must stay.
Bobby the owner will make you feel at home and was our source of local knowledge.
Kate heard that Adams Peak is a highlight trek on the island and thought it might serve as a test run for her Kakoda Trail trek the end of March in Papua New Guinea.
A direct route to Adams took us on the less travelled roads through lush tea plantations where we encountered teams of Sri Lankan ladies picking tea and earning $4.40 per day provided the can produce 16 kilograms of the finest tea leaves.
Our last day spent with Kate was enroute to the Columbo Airport where she would depart at midnight. As parting gift to Kate from Sri lanka the skies opened up and we spent the last 4 hours in torrential rain! Her luggage was now double its original weight as all her clothes, boots and helmet were utterly soaked.
Our last two weeks were spent beach hopping and in the end we were sad to return our trusty steed back to Alfons. We bid fairwell with the promise to return one day soon.
We can highly recommend an extended visit to Sri Lanks as the locals always greet you with a smile, the scenery is warm and varied, crime is almost unheard of and the cost of travel is a quarter that of travelling first world countries. We enjoyed the culture being midway from Indian and Asian with the food being of this wonderful mixture.
Posted by Patrick Peck at March 04, 2013 03:56 AM GMT
Now, we are returning to hometown Cairns, via a "friend and relations catch up" of the east coast of Australia by car... look out Cyclone Peck might be in your neighbourhood real soon!