Sri Lanka – day 114 – 121

Sri Lanka
Day 114
27th July
cycled 30 miles

North of the airport (guest house) to Columbo

We had a lovely western style breakfast, fried eggs, toast, sausage (spicy chicken) and jams

Gary spent the morning putting the bikes together whilst I researched Sri Lanka

There is a festival planned in Kataragama on the 31st July which we would like to attend, this is about 150 miles away, with this in mind we decided to move further down the coast.

Observations from the day, Sri Lanka is much cleaner and quieter than India. The locals predominantly dress in Western style clothes, although there are a number of men walking around in long sarongs (some with bare feet). It is very hot, similar to India but no rain (at least not today). People are generally darker in skin colour than Indian people we saw in most of India. Road users by and large follow the high way code although are not as willing to stop at pedestrian crossings as we are in the UK. The locals seem very happy, we’ve seen a lot of smiley faces, some just saying hello and a number cheering us on, no requests for photos which is a relief but this is probably because there are more westerners in Sri Lanka than we saw in India. There are less cows roaming around but they still seem to be treated like gods and there are still a lot of stray dogs.

Arrived at our hotel at about 5.00pm it was perfect, lovely room, private bathroom and right next to the sea. After showering we took a walk along the clean beach and walked into town for dinner. I’ve had a bit of an iffy tummy for a few days which meant no Indian food for me. After 2 false starts (first restaurant too expensive and didn’t serve any fizzy drinks, 2nd restaurant took too long to serve us) we found a lovely pizza restaurant and shared a pizza and a beer.

Day 115
28th July
52 miles
Columbo to Ambalangoda

We both stayed up later than planned, I was reading my book, Gary was arranging for bike parts to be sent out from the Uk (thank you Bob)

Woke early as the sun was shining in the room and went down for a healthy breakfast.

It was a hot sunny day, a good day for a coastal ride. The buses were a bit of a pain but other than that it was a pleasant ride. I still have an iffy tummy so we had to make a couple of stops and eventually I gave in and went to the pharmacy for some local drugs.

During the day we passed a number of statues and places of worship mainly christian and buddhists. We also cycled passed a number of fruit and fish vendors at the side of road. We did spot a couple of slum areas but they didn’t look as run down as the ones we had seen in India. People are really friendly and whenever we stop they’re very keen to talk to us.

We arrived at our accommodation a little earlier than expected, at £13 I wasn’t expecting much but it turned out to be a lovely room, with a balcony and views of a river. The sea was within walking distance the only downside was we were close to a railway line, it ran on the hour until ….

When we first arrived at our accommodation no-one was around so we went back into town for refreshments and so that Gary could buy a new sim card for his phone. Whilst locking our bikes a man came to talk to us, he explained he was also a cyclist and invited us to dinner. As I had an iffy belly and was tired, I declined but encouraged Gary to meet him later in the evening.
Day 116
29th July
Ambalangoda to Mirissa
40 miles

The villa we stayed in was called the ‘Nature Villa’ and boy did it live up to its name, I went to the bathroom in the middle of the night and it was full of bugs, several large cockroaches, a small lizard, lots of ants and little flies.

I didn’t sleep well, the drugs I’ve taken for my iffy um have given me bad tummy cramps.

Gary didn’t get to meet the cycling man last night, although he called him there seemed to be some communication issue, the man turned up in the morning as Gary was walking stark bollock naked to the bathroom. The man and the manager had a full view of his morning glory, so pleased Gary got up before me.

As we sat having breakfast we were surrounded by bird calls (we could pick out the green billed cougal from a poster on the wall) we also saw a mongoose walking through the grounds, must admit I didn’t recognise what it was so had to ask.

The cycle ride was easy today, flat coastal roads, through lots of seaside towns. More observations from my bike, the majority of women wear skirts (either straight denim, pleated or floaty but mainly knee length and tops) some of the younger girls are wearing ra ra skirts (all very 80’s). We’ve seen a number of school children over the past couple of days and it is interesting to note that most of them are dressed in white with a coloured tie, the colour of the tie seems to depict which school they attend. Lots of women use umbrellas to keep the sun off them. We have seen a lot of big/obese people in Sri Lanka especially compared to people we saw in India.

Half way through the morning Gary stopped to take a picture, I had my head down listening to a podcast and if he hadn’t stopped I would have missed a giant buddha that had been erected to mark the tsunami in 2005.

We stopped in Galle for some lunch and to look at the fort and the light house as we pulled into Galle a kind man offered us somewhere to store our bikes whilst we looked around the area. As we approached the fort we bumped into a dutch family who had passed us in the morning they were riding tandems (father and daughter on one and mother and son on the other). We stopped to talk to them and they explained this was their 2nd trip to Sri Lanka and shared with us places they’d been previously. They were a really nice family, we have met a lot of adventurous dutch people on our travels.

Galle is tourist town and is known for its dutch architecture and churches, it was very quaint, we didn’t get time to see the churches but did take a walk along the fort.

As we walked along the fort wall we saw a lizard attacking a birds nest, needless to say the birds were not happy and kept trying to dive bomb him. As we left the wall Gary got sidetracked by a man playing a flute, the man had two monkeys tied up, a cobra in a basket and a huge snake in a bag. Gary stopped to take a photo and was then hassled for money, when he offered him a token amount the man got stroppy and demanded more. Needless to say Gary wasn’t playing that game and walked away.

We had lunch in the restaurant where we’d left our bikes, we only wanted a sandwich but this took the best part of half an hour as the owner had to send out for some bread.

The afternoon ride was pretty uneventful, we did stop to take photos of boats including outriggers and of sitting fisher men, we had seen pictures of men sitting on posts fishing and were pleased we’d spotted them on our ride although a little disappointed that again we were asked to make a donation for taking a photo.

We arrived at our destination fairly early and took advantage of a free ride to the beach. Neither of us felt like swimming as we’d only just showered so enjoyed a beer in the shade and people watched.

Gary; so today we assed a restaurant called Ska, so my mind started to wander resulting in the following that men of a certain age mage understand.

Welcome to the house of fun, the door is locked now it just Net and me, Buster our waiter took us too a glass table so we could watch ourselves eating, Buster was rushing us on he had a beat to sell, he told us we had better start to move our feet.
I asked for the specials menu, it was madness and I couldn’t make a selector. I opted for a heart attack steak but it was off the menu so I sulked, Buster told me lip up fatty, bloody cheek, I nearly bust a blood vessel.
We settled for cherry o cherry o baby and some red red wine. there some commotion it turned out these was a rat in the kitchen. some lady called Lorraine was acting really common something about Luton airport – she had really bad manners.
when we left it was a grey day and the place was like a ghost town. it didn’t look like we would make it to Orange street as it was just one step beyond, we opted for the ferry, turns out to be the night boat to Cairo.

Day 117

Definitely need a room with air conditioning, it was really hard to sleep last night, it was so hot and although we had a mosquito net I have managed to notch up at least 5 more mosquito bites.

Woke early to go whale and dolphin watching, good trip and managed to see lots of dolphins, a few whales and a turtle. As an added bonus we met two hung over girls from Holland and a couple from London, there were a number of chinese people on board who suffered with sea sickness yuk.

Managed to cycle 30 miles in the afternoon, it was a little more lumpy than in previous days but manageable, the ride reminded me of the cycle ride we did in the Cook Islands with Tsunami break out points along the route, palm trees and glimpses of the sea.

We stopped about midway as Gary had spotted some large elephants in a field, we went for a closer look and it looked like a village fete. There were three elephants at least two of them were chained up, I didn’t like that aspect.

Arrived in Tangalle, have a nice hotel on the beach with AC for £13 a night.

After showering we decided on an early dinner (4.40pm) however when we ordered a pizza we were informed they did not have any as we were out of season. We didn’t really fancy anything else on the menu in our price range so decided to walk to one of the other restaurants. As we were finishing our drinks the manager informed us they’d be barbecuing some fresh fish, we had seen the price on the menu for fresh fish so declined, the manager understood our predicament and rather than lose custom he went to consult with the chef and came back and offered us fish, rice, salad and a free cocktail for £8, bargain and it was beautiful only slightly spoilt by the fact that we had to wait 3 hours for dinner, we really had to drink our cocktail very slowly but the setting made the wait a little easier, right on the sea front with waves crashing in the full moon light.

Day 118
Tangalle to Katagarama
59 miles

No breakfast booked with our hotel so once up and dressed we went in search of food. Our first stop only offered rice and curry, although my belly was feeling better I didn’t want to risk curry for breakfast. Our next stop was perfect egg rotti for breakfast with good coffee. I only managed one, so Gary felt obliged to eat all three. He regretted this as the day went on, in celebration of the full moon we were offered free food all the way to Katagarama. The first time this happened we were flagged down and offered free vegetable soup (green) Gary couldn’t resist, to be polite I pretended to drink some. By lunch time Gary was feeling queazy whilst I was ravenous, fortunately the feeling passed and he was back to normal by dinner time. In the meantime we had gone passed free offerings of a vegetable curry and a free honey based dish

The day was electric, lots of chanting and music from the different religious buildings we passed we were grateful for all the supportive calls from cars, buses, tractors, tuk tuks that passed us on their way to Katagarama for the festival. It was a great feeling and the day passed quickly even though it was really hot 45c when standing still.

We were amused to see two men cycling on the opposite side of the road carrying wooden double bed frames, it would appear anything can be transported by bike in India and Sri Lanka.

Throughout the day we saw a number of vendors selling bags of salt, fruit and straw hats and bags.

It took us a while to find our hotel because the signage was wrong! When we did finally make contact the owner was very apologetic as she had overbooked and had no room at the inn. The town was heaving, we quickly looked on line and couldn’t see anything in our price range. Fortunately the owner was keen to make amends and insisted on driving us to local hotels to negotiate a room in our price range after a couple of attempts she succeeded and the room was far better than the one we had booked with her. We were really grateful but she was a bit of a pain she then insisted on driving us to get some food and drink, we ended up in the festival traffic which probably added a further hour to our day and we only needed a cold drink.

We walked to the festival only 2km away, there were stalls and people everywhere. We hadn’t a clue what was going on and stopped the first westerners we saw, they explained the main festivities would start at 9.00pm next to the temple. We had plenty of time so went and had dinner (total bill £3)in one of the stalls and soaked up the atmosphere. The festivities had been going on for 15 days and this was the climax of the events, people were washing in the river, walking to and from the temples, walking round the stalls and chilling on the grass (some looked like they’d been there for several days).

The festival itself was interesting a bit like one of our carnivals but without the floats and with elephants dressed in elaborate costumes and lights. What was amazing was everyone sat down for hours before the event and stayed sitting throughout the procession. The procession probably took about 3/4 hour, the costumes and cheograpier were amazing, but my poor feet were really sore and I wished I’d found a place to sit rather standing in one of the aisles.

This festival is also known for fire walkers and men piercing their nipples and other parts of their anatomy but we think this was done in the temples as we didn’t see any of this.

On our way out of the festival I spotted an empty tuk tuk and asked if he could take us to our hotel he was keen to take the fare but unfortunately he hadn’t got a clue where he was going and we did not negotiate a fee before leaving the festival. 10km later (he got lost) we arrived at our hotel and he demanded 20,000 rupees (£10) there was no way we were going to pay that for a 2km ride. Gary generously offered him 10,000 (£5) but he clearly wasn’t happy. The owner of our hotel came out and spoke to him, he even tried to get us to pay a little more but we wouldn’t budge so the taxi driver left unhappy and we were left feeling a little uncomfortable, but it wasn’t our fault he got lost at one point he had to drive to a restaurant out of town to speak to a friend for directions. We had provided him with the address and name of the hotel written in English and Sri Lankan. Which was a real shame as we had, had a lovely evening but we both agreed the journey to Katargarma was better than the event itself.

Day 119
Katagarama

A day of chilling and planning

We stopped at the market for our breakfast and to book another accommodation in the local area. We were unsure whether to go to the Yalla National Park and before deciding wanted to do some further research. If we wanted to go it would mean a 5.30am start and a minimum cost of £30 each. After much research during the day we decided against going as we were likely to see elephants on our trek through Sri Lanka and neither of us had any great desire to see the other wild life in the park.

In the market we managed to buy Gary a teeshirt, me some new earrings (I’d left a pair at the previous guest house) and some sun tan lotion. But we couldn’t find a nail file (emery board) anywhere, I seem to have a knack of wanting something that is not available.

We booked into a lovely hotel which had a really tranquil feel to it and spent most of the day trying to load pictures and research the next stage of our trip. Progress was really slow as the internet connection was poor.

It was good to have a day out of the sun and to give our bodies time to recover before setting off on the next leg of our trip.
Day 120
Katagarama to Buttala
30miles

We both had an uncomfortable nights sleep, I was too cold due to the air conditioner and then too hot because I’d turned it off added to this a religious service woke us at 6.00am.

We had a lovely breakfast of fresh fruit, followed by an omelette and bread and jam. The hotel was a lovely place, other than the religious services it was really peaceful so we were disappointed when we got the bill and realised there had been a misunderstanding with our booking. We had booked a room for £13 when we arrived at the hotel the manager asked us if we wanted air conditioning, we confirmed that was what we had booked and were shown to our room. However the manager was showing us an upgraded room with air conditioning as the room we booked did not have this. The upgraded room cost a further £13 not a lot by english standards but with food and drink this took us over our allocated amount for the day.

It was a hot days cycling 44c and for the best part of it we had no access to cold drinks and were reliant on the water in our bottles, which was very warm. The ride was through Yalla National Park which was a little unsettling as there were signs situated along the road warning vehicles of elephants, leopards and bears. Fortunately or unfortunately we didn’t see anything more interesting than some elephants being transported by truck, a few kingfishers, some monkeys in the trees and a large lizard (approx 2 foot long) crossing the road.

We stopped at the first hotel in Buttala because it was offering air conditioned rooms and wifi, it later transpired there was no wifi access grrrrrr.

Buttala was bigger than I thought it would be but it still only consisted of two roads of shops, cafes and hotels.

We stopped for some lunch in Buttala and like many other areas we’ve eaten in Sri Lanka the food was served on a plate with a plastic covering (like clingfilm), I suppose this saves on the washing up. The food was very spicy again this seems to be the norm in Sri Lanka. the total bill with fizzy drinks was £2.15.

The rest of the day was spent chilling whilst Gary fixed the gears on my bike. We went for a ride early evening to see a monastery but due to the monks praying were unable to see it. I wasn’t that disappointed as the ride meant cycling through the jungle with the elephants and leopards.

Gary; Along the side of the road occasionally there are electric fences with the cables set high to stop the Elephants encroaching on the locals. to get to the monastry we passed through a gap in the fence hence Ginette’s trepidation.

Day 121
Buttala to Ella

It is really hard to sleep in Sri Lanka, there are religious rantings until late, dogs barking and due to the climate everyone is up and about really early. In Buttala we even received a 6.25am knock on the door to see if we wanted tea!

On a positive note it meant we hit the road early so the temperature was a mere 25c. Gentle undulating roads up to our breakfast stop at the 10 mile mark (Wellawaga). We had some bread coated egg rolls and sugary bread with tea and coffee.

Gary; This morning a Mongoose ran right in front of us crossing the road. In Wellawaga I spotted a couple of guys in handcuffs being walked to the magistrates court down the high street.

After breakfast the road changed and became more of a continuous climb unto Ella, I didn’t have my hill climbing legs on and found the first half of the ride hard, I even got Gary to ride my bike for a bit to see if there was a problem with the bike. The ride was not helped by the fact my iPod had claimed it was too hot to play! (the temp had climbed to 37 degrees).

About 10km outside of Ella we came across a beautiful waterfall (Rawana watefall), Gary couldn’t resist going for a little paddle, whilst I watched on from the shade, my cleats on my shoes made it really difficult to on the rocks

Gary; really refreshing swim, plus I had a dragonfly perch and rest on my hand. After this we spotted another troop of Monkeys, it seems to me we only see them when close to a tourist resort, the wilder Monkeys remain well hidden.

Arrived in Ella at about 1.00pm starving so headed for the first restaurant and had curry and rice yum yum. We had booked a hotel on route but on arrival we were informed that they were fully booked (twice in one week that has got to be a record). Again the owner was keen to help us out and we soon found another hotel slightly up the road not quite as nice as the one we’d originally booked and the internet was much poorer. To add to this inconvenience as we sat down to enjoy a quiet evening the local monks started their rantings and the owner of the property informed us that right underneath our room there would be a local band playing Sri Lankan music until 10.00pm.

Ella the town we stayed in had a huge write up on the internet but it does not seem that different to other towns we’ve been through we can only imagine the reviews have been written by people who take day trips from their beach resorts and do not get to experience more rural areas of Sri Lanka.
We hope to walk up to Ellla Rock tomorrow the views are supposed to be spectacular and we are looking forward to seeing these, it will be good to do some walking rather than cycling.

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