Archive for the ‘Sri Lanka’ Category

Plan A gives way to Plan B

9 September 2015

We didn’t end up taking the bus as it looked like a risky option that might imperil the new mudguards that Ian laboured over yesterday afternoon. We would have been obliged to remove the wheels, be ready at the roadside to toss the bikes into a small luggage compartment (actual size unknown), board the bus with the 4 wheels and our panniers, then negotiate extra costs with the conductor. It seemed dodgy and destined to go wrong, so we had second breakfast and decided to cycle instead. This was a good decision.

We took the coast road to Chilaw, at first along a major road that carried reasonably heavy but not fast moving traffic so we felt safe enough. There was a lot of interesting roadside commerce including wood fired tile factories, a butchery, knife and chopping blade stalls and lots of fruit and vegetables. After we had crossed a major river we were able to leave the highway and take the minor coast road all the way to Chilaw. This road goes beside the sea through many kilometres of small scale fishing communities. The morning’s catch is on sale by the roadside with vendors every few metres with their individual pile of sardines, other small fish, prawns, manta rays, shark, tuna, with no ice or refrigeration and often in full sun. There’s a fair bit of buying going on, but we are not sure what happens to the unsold fish. It is also hard to imagine how the supply keeps up with the daily demand. Low food miles though! This appears to be a strongly Catholic area with many shrines to various saints and the Virgin Mary.

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Fish market on the coast road to Chilaw

In Chilaw we stopped for tea and a visit to the local market which had a impressive display of produce. Ian bought some savoury fried dumplings that were provided in a paper bag made from a recycled primary school worksheet on New Zealand volcanoes. We crossed the river, checked out the large church, then set out to cover more ground. The next 40km along the A3 then the B45 were pleasant with low traffic volumes and easy terrain. It was pretty hot though and we had several longish rests. We have discovered EGB – Elephant Ginger Beer – excellent if you can get it icy cold! We saw our first Buddhist shrines and stupas, thousands of coconut trees, dairy cows, rural schools, roadside metal workers working on the ground in bare feet. Ian said he saw the remains of a funeral pyre.

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Clock tower, Anamaduwa

We arrived in Anamaduwa late in the afternoon to find that this is not a common tourist destination and is therefore not well served with accommodation. We came close to accepting a low standard ‘gest house’ before finding a better option, the Gem Light Hotel. Thank you internet! So we are now fed and clean and will continue to Anuradhapura tomorrow.

Our route:

Getting to Negombo

8 September 2015

Our departure from cold Adelaide yesterday morning was marred by the realisation that Australian Immigration is now the unpleasantly re-named Australian Border Force. Everything has been rebranded from the queue tapes to the uniforms. They didn’t hesitate in getting that done!

Bikes in the newly acquired bike bags were easier to manage than the boxes we have previously used. So off to Singapore with air quality deteriorating noticeably over Java and becoming worse as we arrived. I can report that Changi airport shops are quite adequately meeting the needs of anyone who requires a new handbag. If you are sky training from Terminal 3 to 2, look out for the topiary plane – it’s a nice touch!

We arrived at Bandaranaike International Airport at midnight, collected our luggage and found our friendly pre-booked driver who brought us to the Windmill Beach Hotel at Negombo, a beachy touristy town about 30km north of Colombo, but quite close to the airport. Driving through the dark streets we saw many illuminated roadside shrines to Christian saints, each announced by an elevated red neon cross.

Already our priorities for today had been determined by our failure to pack a bike pump or sun screen. Our early morning perambulation in the cool took us to the beach, only one block away, where fishing boats were out in large number. We were warmly greeted by a fisherman who had not yet gone out on his boat.

Negombo Beach

Searching for breakfast we were obvious game for tuk tuk drivers who wanted to meet all our touristic needs. However, we fended them off until string hoppers with dhal and fish curry had been consumed, accompanied by Liptons tea and Nescafe – very nice. Sitting on the breakfast terrace allowed observation of the passing traffic – many people cycling on clapped out classic bikes with varied loads including crates of fish with scales (the weighing kind) hanging off the back, kids being dinked to school by parents and siblings, school buses, scooters, tuk tuks, busy but not manic.

We have now explored Negombo town, a place with interesting sights everywhere. Sri Lankan business owners are completely customer focussed and will help you with anything in the hope of establishing your continued loyalty. They assisted us to change money, buy sim cards, visit the beach side fish market (lots of sardines, squid, fat tuna, a huge marlin and acres of fish drying on coir mats on the sand) and buy a $2 Chinese bike pump that turned out to be useless. Our hotel proprietors are also keen to be sole providers of all services and have warned us off anyone from outside who approaches!

Negombo Fish Market

Bicycle assembly on the hotel terrace had some frustrations and a return trip with the bike wheels to Cycle Bazaar was needed to enable us to get the tyres pumped and to purchase a pump that works. Transport to Anuradhapura tomorrow proved more difficult to organise than anticipated and unfortunately the train appears not to be a viable option. We are taking a bus instead to cover this longish leg to the Cultural Triangle.

Bikelele 2015 – Sri Lanka

4 September 2015

We and our bikes are off to Sri Lanka 7-28 September 2015! This will give us a chance to escape from the last weeks of the cold Adelaide winter and indulge in some wonderful culture, food and landscape.