Sun 16th August
Anuradkupura – rest day
The thunder storms last night reminded us that its not a pleasant experience cycling wet, so after some research this morning we have opted to wait another month before we head to Vietnam, and we have booked flights to go to Jakarta in Indonesia as it is their dry season.
The city of Anuradkupura has an ancient city as its main attraction, however you have to pay a fee (25 dollars each) and we just didn’t fancy the outlay as you may recall we had the same issues even in Athens where we didn’t want to pay to see these piles of ancient stones.
Ginette – in fairness we have paid and seen a lot of cultural things whilst in Sri Lanka we’ve just over done the tourist bit for now and need a change of scenery
Gary – We cycled into town and visited a market, this was surprisingly interesting. The hustle bustle from the locals. (I think I need to point out how tall we both feel walking around here, we are lofty giants at 5ft 7”) there is such a variety of strange looking fruit and vegetables, huge piles of fish and the usual cheap clothes. We bought new sunglasses for 75p each.
We did cycle around the ancient city or at least some of it, up to the fenced off areas where the entrance fees were charged, lots of pilgrims visit this site, but any westerners are charged through the nose for it. Although we didn’t enter I did get more of a feel for the area maybe because I had read up on the area his time.
We had lunch at Pizza hut although nothing like the Pizza huts at home, not what we would normally choose to do when abroad but we fancied something different. It was overpriced and although a pleasant change to eat different food I think the curry and rice meals are better value for money.
Ginette – I would agree, the pizzas tasted like frozen pizzas, there was no salad bar it was all a bit disappointing
whilst on the topic of food (again) breakfast was interesting, we had a mountain of stir fried noodles at 8.00am, I kid you not… nothing else just stir fried noodles.
There were thunder clouds gathering again so we headed back to chill out at the hotel “Peacock residence” a really nice clean and friendly place to stay.
Mon 17th August
Anuradkupura – Nikawaralitya 48 miles.
up early and off by 6.30, our kind hosts had made us tea and a packed lunch even though we had not asked or paid for breakfast and I had already paid the bill last night. It may have been due to me helping them bump start their SUV last night, but I prefer to think it just an act of kindness on their part.
I really enjoyed the cycling today, it was 23 degrees when we set off and 40 degrees when we finished, there was nothing really different from yesterdays ride other than my good mood and the lower milage so lots of singing today.
Ginette – cycling behind Gary is quite funny I have my iPod on so I can’t hear him I can just see him and it often looks like he is trying to practice is Indian head nodding, his head wobbling from side to side.
Sri Lanka general election was today so lots of people were out and about, we passed a few voting stations, some with armed police at the gates.
We did have one blot on the landscape so to speak. We were waved down at about the 30 mile point by a man that wanted to invite us to see his home. It was right next to us so we thought why not (told you I was in a good mood) he introduced his older sister, another sister, Mother, Wife and Niece. his Niece was a shy 10 year old with pretty good English but not conversational.
After being dragged around the three houses this family live next to each over in, the last house was his and it was empty and bare so no way was anyone living in there. His Sisters fed us plain crackers and a glass of (very sweet) lemon juice. We had family photo shoot and Ginette and I joked that we had been kidnapped by this man. Anyway what may have been a fun experience became tainted as when we finally dragged ourselves away, which we had to do as I think they wanted us as house guests, the man then asked for money, I had already purchased lottery tickets for them from a man on a cycle that our host had waved down as he tried to cycle by, I was pissed off with him for asking for money, I did give him 500 rupees (£2.50) but it left a bad taste in our mouths as this guy is not the norm in Sri Lanka.
GInette – I wouldn’t have minded so much but we only went with him because he insisted and we didn’t want to offend him. I can only imagine he’s tried this tactic before and it’s worked because he seemed to know what he was doing and didn’t seem to have any shame in asking for more money when Gary gave him 500 rupees.
We arrived at our hotel at lunchtime and quickly showered and went down to the pool to finish our book (we’d both been reading the same book by Nick Spalding). The sun made an occasional appearance which made it a pleasant afternoon.
Our hotel was very nice but expensive at £33 a night, the most we’ve paid for a while but there was nothing else in the area. Our room was like a suite very luxurious and the food was reasonably priced.
Another thunder storm entertained us whilst we had dinner along with one or two cockroaches which were trying to escape the rain.
Day 136 Nikawaralitya to Colombo
Hotel breakfast, yuk it was included in the price of the hotel but it was a real disappointment. It consisted of two fried eggs, chicken sausages and some other unidentified meat, the plates had sat on the side long enough for the food to be cold when it was served, what’s more I had seen flies having first dibs at it, needless to say I didn’t eat this. We also had bread which had been shown a frying pan which smelt horrible and a plate of fruit, I made do with the fruit whilst Gary ate both our main breakfasts, he definitely has hollow legs. I find it so much easier to eat breakfast once we’ve cycled 10 – 20 miles, at this stage i will eat anything even cold eggs or cold curry.
Last day cycling in Sri Lanka, quite uneventful, the roads were undulating, lots of smiley faces to cheer us on as we passed through villages and towns. At least most were smiley I did get accosted by a young teenage boy who cycled along side me and insisted I give him some money, I didn’t look poor and definitely didn’t look underfed, I asked why? but he kept demanding money. He even had the cheek to touch my bum, well you can imagine the mouthful he got for that, that stopped him in his tracks. I can’t imagine cycling up to anyone regardless of nationality and demanding money has ever been a successful tactic, so I didn’t feel bad about not giving him any money or shouting at him.
During the day the election results were released and a number of paper bombs exploded as we cycled by, these were really loud and full of paper messages.
We arrived at our guest house just in time to miss another storm, neither of the owners were at home but their children were (all teenagers) and their grandmother but their english skills were limited. I had a bad belly so spent the first hour in and out of the toilet, it must have been something I ate at lunchtime because it didn’t last long and i was able to enjoy the evening meal.
Gary spent the best part of the afternoon taking the bikes apart ready for the flight. He struggled taking his pedals off as his spanner was broken, but after several attempts with various tools supplied by friends of the owner he was able to take them off.
On a positive note the new inner tubes and tape to wrap the bikes had arrived safely at the guest house, but what a palaver getting them, Bob our good friend in the UK ordered them for us and sent them out which cost £80 postage and then we were charged a further £55 custom duty! although this was expensive at least we wont have to worry about getting any more punctures, if we struggled to find the right size inner tubes in India, I’m sure Vietnam and Cambodia would have been a nightmare.
The evening meal was served in the main room, we were the only ones eating the rest of the family sat on a settee placed at the back of the room and tried to watch the very loud TV which was placed in front of the table we were sat at. It was most disconcerting, it felt like we were being watched eating our dinner. Watching TV whilst eating is not unique to this family we have been to several restaurants and guest houses where the TV is placed in a prominent place and left to blare out whilst people are trying to eat. The quality of the programmes is really poor, the acting is really stilted and the set changes clumsy and cheap, but it is hard to ignore when it is on in front of you.
Went to bed early, as we had an early start the next day.
Woke really early, read and waited for the house to wake up. We had breakfast and was on our way to the airport at 8.00am our flight was not scheduled until 11.55am. Just as well we pitched up early as checking in was a nightmare. I won’t bore you with the details but after 2 hours of moving luggage from one bag to another and queuing we were informed our excess luggage cost would be £600!!!! out of principle alone we refused to pay this and cancelled our flights. The most we had been charged from other airlines was £120, however this did mean we needed to book into another hotel in Sri Lanka. Fortunately we found one close to the airport and after some searches on line were able to find a direct flight, therefore reducing our costs (our previous flight had a stop which meant we got two lots of excess luggage charges) although the excess luggage cost was still £200! it was still cheaper than our original flight. We have been advised to claim a full refund for our flights but we don’t hold out much hope but should get the airport tax back.
If this was not enough to test your patience on exiting the airport we were approached by a guy offering us a taxi, he offered us a price and said he was going to get his van. He turned up 10 minutes later with a small car, much to our amusement he then proceeded with the help of the driver to load our luggage into the car. Much to his credit he managed to squeeze it all in but this left very little room for Gary and me and the big spider that was on the roof of the car. We quickly renegotiated the terms of the fee an off we went, but on arriving at our destination the driver claimed he still wanted the full fee. After several conversations with his boss on the phone we reluctantly agreed to pay half the difference which only equated to £2.50 but it’s the principle.
On a slightly better note the hotel was lovely and we had a relaxing afternoon. Early flight tomorrow 7.00am, so it will be an early night.
Colombo to Jakarta
Very early start we were at the airport for 5.15am. We got off to a rocky start we queued at the check in desk unloaded all of our bags including bikes to be told we were at the wrong desk although we were booked on a Sri Lanka airline we were told we were actually flying with their budget airline,.Mahin Lanka. So off we trotted and queued again but we needn’t have despaired the lady behind the check out was a breathe of fresh air compared to Air Asia. She weighed all of our bags and simply explained we had excess weight, she made a concession for us and the final bill came to £120 a big difference to the £600 excess charge we were asked to pay the previous day.
Whilst waiting to check in we checked our Facebook account to see how our GB colleagues had got on in their 2000 meters and we were really excited to see that a number of the teams had won medals including the Grand Dragons, Senior Ladies, Senior Men and Juniors. We also wanted to check whether the hotel in Indonesia had received our email notifying them of our change of plans but unfortunately there was nothing there and as a result we had no transport when we landed at the airport. On a positive note we did hear back from a local dragon boat club and it looks like we may have a paddle on Saturday morning, that is if we can remember how to paddle.
We managed to source a taxi and negotiate a cheaper price, although this was easier said than done as we were still getting to grips with the currency apparently £50 equals 1,000,000 Indonesia Rupees! We ended up paying the equivalent of £6 for a 15 minute journey.
Our hotel was lovely and the reception staff were really understanding and changed our booking without any hassle.
Indonesia is 2 hours ahead of Sri Lanka and we felt tired all day but made an effort to keep going we had lunch in the hotel restaurant the food was really cheap we both had a sandwich and chips for xxxx . and then went on got a sim card for Gary’s phone and exchanged our Sri Lankan money. At a bit of a loss we asked the reception staff what we could do in the local area but I don’t think they understood as we needed a few items from the shops we asked where the nearest mall was and was informed this was 15-20km away but that we could get a taxi bike which would only take 10mins. I hadn’t been on the back of a motorbike with a stranger since riding on a Harley with Hayley for her 21st and I’d forgotten how enjoyable it was. The roads in Jakarta are a little different to London (where Hayley and went on the Harleys) for a start there’s no kerbs and the bikes simply go off road when they run out of road and there’s no lanes so bikes go where they want to get the fastest line they can. Although vehicles do use their horns it is only to let the vehicle in front know that their over taking so the noise levels were tolerable. We both looked a picture when we got off the bikes our hair was stuck up we looked like we’d been electrocuted – what a pity there was no camera to capture the moment
We managed to find everything we needed in the mall and managed to flag two more bikes to take us back to the hotel. In the evening we had dinner in the hotel restaurant before having an early night.
Boring day, Gary put the bikes together and I packed the bags and had some girly time. We had hoped in the afternoon to go and do some sight seeing but as it was Friday we were advised against this as the traffic would be horrendous and it would take up to an hour to drive to any of the things we wanted to see. Instead we used the afternoon to do some research and to read.
In the evening we escaped to a local restaurant, I do not use the word escape lightly our hotel was on a busy road and there was nothing around not even a pavement. It was great to get out, we were both going a little stir crazy and the restaurant was a good experience. We first had to work out the currency we could see meals we liked but they were priced in the region of .55 rupees, it was quite a posh restaurant so we didn’t know if this was 55,000 rupees or 550,000 we checked with the waitress and was relieved to see it was as we expected 55,000 which equated to £2.50 for a main meal. The food was lovely I ordered a prawn and green bean dish in a sweet honey sauce, Gary opted for a king prawn dish with chillies as a side dish we also ordered satay chicken on sticks (I think we will be eating a lot of these as there sold at the side of the road in a similar way corn on the cob was sold in India and Sri Lanka). The meal came to less than a £10 with beer.
We had an early night as we would be up early to cycle to the dragon boat club for 8.00am
Early start, we had coffee and toast and was on the road for 5.30am, some of the staff stopped us to have their photo’s taken before we left and waved us goodbye. It was still dark outside but the road was already fairly busy. The road to the dragon boat club was challenging, big sections of the road were in a poor condition at one point the road was under several inches of water due to flooding from the water system that runs around Jakarta which is very smelly and dirty. We cycled through a number of small towns where we it seemed the norm to go to the shop in your nightie or pyjamas, there were lots of food stalls tempting us along the way but we only had 2 hours to cover the 18 miles and only google maps to assist us. Google maps work most of the time however they don’t point out one way systems and at one point we came across a no entry sign, it was clear to see this was a one way main road so we had to take a diversion. The diversion meant we (I mean Gary) had to lift our bikes over a small style and walk them over a rickety bridge. Navigating the roads was not easy and at one stage we nearly found ourselves cycling onto the motorway, we had to do a quick u-turn to get back onto the road and look for another route. We fortunately made it to the club in time, unlike some of the other paddlers who were working to ‘flexible time’ apparently a term used in Indonesia to describe the laid back attitude to time keeping.
The dragon boat club was fairly new and had 6 new paddlers and several other novice paddlers in the boat so it was a hard session. Gary and I were put on stroke which suited Gary as this meant he could not see the other paddlers. It was quite a long session especially with newbies in the boat, we were on the water for about an hour and a half. We didn’t have our paddles so we used the club paddles which were much heavier than our carbon fibre paddles back at home which ensured we got a good work out. The boat was really heavy and not comfy to paddle, I could feel from the start that I would get gunnel rash down my left hip, but it felt good to be back in a boat and to see Jakarta from the harbour. After training Wijaya (the founder and helm of the club) treated us to lunch.
After lunch we cycled into the city to find our hotel and to do some sight seeing. If you’re interested in architecture Jakarta has some interesting buildings we were happy wandering around and went to see the National monument, a Istiqlal Mosque (biggest mosque in South East Asia, freedom statute and Jakarta Church. We were really lucky and stumbled on a festival taking place in the middle of Jakarta, we’re not sure if you were supposed to pay an entrance fee, we crept in through a side wall. In the festival there were lots of bands all playing at once in different areas of a large field. They were all sectioned off but they were too close to each other to really appreciate what they were playing. As with most festivals there were lots of stands selling food, clothes and jewellery. We spent about an hour wandering around and was invited to go on stage and sing with a rock band and to dance with two ladies we were starting to feel the effects from the early start, the bike ride and the dragon boating so refused and watched amused from the side.
Once back at the hotel, knackered we ordered dinner and went to bed early, Indonesia is two hours ahead of Sri Lanka and our bodies are struggling to adjust to the early starts and time difference.