Heading west

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First day fully away from support. 2.12.15. 62km, 316m climb.

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A new skill. Pack everything onto the bike.

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Veg, all new to us.

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Great light house

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Real fishing, for real fish.

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Kids just want to have fun

Missing our regular snack stops with the team, now being self-sufficient and all that (didn’t manage to find lunch – made do with a bag of cashew nuts).  Proudly purchased our first king coconuts to drink – Linda ended up with severe indigestion.  Maybe there is some skill to be had in selecting the ripe ones.  Map reading proving a little tricky as page doesn’t match road – oh well.  Found ourselves up a very dirty track with lots of construction traffic trying to mow us down.  Decided probably safer to stay on main road tackling the buses.

After a bit of hit and miss, found a clean little hotel on beachfront.  We’re not too fussy, trying to keep to a budget, hot water and air con a treat, beer a must. It’s all good.

AroundTangalle

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Wedding breakfast, for ‘the home coming’. We feel under dressed.

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Coconuts and ladders

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No footprints here.

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If I jump it might fall over.

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Tues 1.12.15 route. 42km

A lovely stay at Lagoon Paradise Beach Resort, a welcome breather for a morning checking out the pristine beach.  Finished off with a warm up cycle around the area, first time unsupported.  Mapping worked and found a great mix of dirt track and back roads.  A small incident with a runaway calf – Linda’s Van Nich has great brakes.  Last 10 km on main road, crazy buses in big hurry.  Currently this part of the coastline is undeveloped, great to be able to enjoy it before the crowds arrive.  18 hole golf course planned to open April, 2016.  Can’t wait, groan.

Sri Lanka wildlife

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5.30 am, en-route to Yala National Park.

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Tusker, not happy with us in his way.

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I’m not sharing my breakfast with anyone, says the Crested Hawk Eagle.

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Living handbag, belts and shoes.

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4 bee eaters, we think. Unusual to see 4 together. Maybe lots of bees.

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One big lizard, a water monitor, munching on a dead dog. Maybe 6 feet long.

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We spooked a few Buffalo. Glad they are running away, not at us.

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Wild Boar, well, a bit miffed, anyway.

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White necked stork, on take off.

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Not the best weather for wedding photos. Great beach, though.

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Yala Safari. In a Jeep so doesn’t count for mileage.

Two safaris in two days and lots of driving almost more knackering than cycling.  Disappointed not to see a leopard but very happy to be supporting a local economy that  recognises the importance of conserving their wildlife.  Very lucky to see a tusker – only a few males are born to be tuskers, the rest live a solitary life.

First hotel not completely sorted for us, only opened a week and offering great value for money.  Thunderstorms and lightning the backdrop for fish supper on the beach (for the first time in Sri Lanka, enjoyed a bottle of chilled wine).

A day of elephants and travel

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Last drink with the group.

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Elephant on the road

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Sooo close

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Elephant orphanage, but plan to get back into the wild.

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Buffalo in the water, hence their name

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Showing off their ability to fly.

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Looking at us, are we food? Crested Hawk-eagle.

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Blue tailed bee eater.

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About a 1 month old baby with sister and mum. Unbelievably cute.

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We woz here.

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Sunset at Udawalawa National Park.

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Working beach, working boat.

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Do I have to, Mummy?

07:30 am start, to drop Bill and Janice at airport for their return home to a freezing Glasgow.  Hope it went well.  Dropped our bike bags and surplus kit at a hotel closer to the airport,  discovering how little we really need to carry in our panniers, managing to shed a fair bit of weight.  Marcus, very kindly, drove us down to Udawalawa National Park for a jeep safari.  Best place to see elephants, particularly this time of year as there is plenty of fresh grass.  We weren’t disappointed.  To see a one-month old feeding from his mum, right in front of us was extraordinary.  We dropped in to the elephant orphanage where they currently are taking care of some 35 youngsters with regular top ups of milk.  Hopefully, they will be re-introduced into the park when they are more mature and can feed themselves.

An onward drive down to Yala National Park, much bigger at some 66,000 hectares for a 5:00 am start tomorrow. Then back onto the bikes. We are missing them.

Around Trinco

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Our view before cycling, a monsoon.

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Hope it doesn’t happen again, they are not ready.

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Protected species, wandering around the fish markets.

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Different jubilee. Different Queen. Faded now.

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Evening stroll

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Too much for one person? No.

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Our group. L to R, Ganesh, Bill, Janice, Paul, Suranga, Linda, Paul, Marcus. 27/11/2015.

Still hot but wetter.  Beaches beautiful with light touch tourism.  Trinco harbour escaped the Tsunami due to its deep waters, not so the surrounding areas where 35,000 people lost their lives.  So much history here with invasions by the Dutch, Portuguese, Indians, British and a few skirmishes with Burma and yet the Sri Lankans remain friendly.

Last day with the group.  Back to Colombo tomorrow and the start of our 2 week unguided adventure.  A little disconcerting.

To Trincomalee, Thanksgiving.

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Leaving our great hotel,Giman Free Resort. Rural, lovely food and great rooms. Huge bathroom. Friendly folk.

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Fuel for the cookers. No diesel needed

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Maybe the reason we were the only ones in the hotel? Not passable by anything other than 4×4. Or feet.

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Girls and boys wear very smart uniforms, and take their education seriously. Happy the country is at peace. At last.

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Most of the ladies are very elegant and shade themselves as much as possible. Hindu, Muslim, Christians and Buddhists live side by side.

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Lunch. Tasty and better than it looks.

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Its customary to use any loo when passing. Just knock on the door and ask (Linda would feel happier using a bush. Except for the snakes.) The picture does not include the smell.

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Drying fish. Again, the smell…

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Fish retail outlet. Again, the smell.

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Cows add something on the beach

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End of day beer. 100k!

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Our 100k route. East coast Sri Lanka.

Later than anticipated start to our 100km cycle after a full curry meal served together with omlettes and fresh fruit.  Already high 20’s getting on the bikes.  We have been so well looked after by Marcus, Suranga and Ganesh, who anticipate our every need with refreshment stops.  How will we cope next week on our own?

Head wind all the way up the coast but wonderful views of the lagoons and the plains (still trying to spot a rogue elephant).  The thought of a chilled beer at the end keeps us going.  Now for that beer.

 

 

 

 

 

To Pasikuda Bay, Wed 25th Nov

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Hotel, Polonnaruwa.

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Rs is 200/£. ie red rice 30p/kg. Great shop.

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Our transport to bird island. 8 am.

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Egret flying peacefully. In fact may be jolly hungry.

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Cormorant and crow. On the nest, and the crow wants his breakfast egg.

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Ibis, landing. Noisy birds.

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Hard to believe this reservoir will drain completely in the dry season, every year.

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King coconut, natural electrolytes. Marcus chops the tops off with his machete.

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And we think we’re carrying a full load.

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Lunch in Pasikuda, a muslim town. Lucky to get any food as full moon bank holiday. Cling film on plates saves washing.

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Chefs preparations.

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Overlooking Bay of Bengal. Just recovering from the Tsunami.

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Spot the pro cycling tan lines.

Marcus arranged a trip to bird island on the reservoir.  Huge numbers of nesting birds, including egrets, ibis, various herons, cormorants and storks.  Felt guilty stepping onto the island as it disturbed the birds.  However, they quickly settled.

Then to the bikes and a flat ride heading east into a head wind, average 30c temp.  The area is getting drier with lots of cacti and skinny cows and goats.

Needed a lift in a truck down to the hotel as the road was too rutted for Marcus’ van.  USA Paul was nearly sent flying out the back.

Hotel seems best so far, on the beach with no-one else around.

King Country

Scary. Climbing up Sigiriya rock.

Scary. Climbing up Sigiriya rock.

UNESCO world heritage site – an enormous granite outcrop first used by prehistoric man in the natural caves. Then used by Buddhist monks. How they received their food is mind boggling.  An ancient king had the vision after killing his father to build a fortress kingdom on top of the rock, surrounded by a moat filled with crocodiles and spikes. Mainly to try and appease the guilt, maybe. Or maybe a crazed power hungry psychopath. Either way the engineering is phenomenal – a system of water collection in vast tanks on the arid dry plains, fed the people and kept him in power. Just.

 

 

 

1500 year old art.

1500 year old art.

Some very erotic art painted in the 3rd to 5th century AD, high up on the walls of the rock rediscovered in the 1800’s. They has feelings, and urges.

Mirror wall, Sigiriya

Mirror wall, Sigiriya

Knuckles range

Knuckles range

A tough climb of 200m basically straight up to the top of the citadel. Worth the reward for the most amazing views across the plains; currently green at the start of the wet season.

Sri Lankan health and safety

Sri Lankan health and safety. Thanks for the tip.

Pre historic home. No bike shed.

Pre historic home. No bike shed.

Macaque monkeys

Macaque monkeys

Lunch, yummy

Lunch, yummy

We could get used to this. Suranga and Ganash (Mr T) hard at work. Thanks chaps

We could get used to this. Suranga and Ganash (Mr T) hard at work. Thanks chaps

Running water

Running water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Curry lunch, always delicious. Thunder, lightning and such heavy rain made such a noise. Decided on a long lunch before heading back to Dambulla. And it stopped raining, yea.  A lovely back road through the villages and paddy fields.  Big fights between the locals and elephants during the dry season.  As usual, not enough funding to maintain electric fences and elephants poisoned or shot if they encroach into the hard worked fields.

 

Egrets, not seagulls. Still hard work.

Egrets, not seagulls. Still hard work.

Great rice fields

Great rice fields

Fishmonger - only Tilapia today. And every day.

Fishmonger – only Tilapia today. And every day.

Tamarind Gardens to Dambulla. Sun 22nd November

LInda and our hostess Ayesha saying goodbye.

Linda and our hostess Ayesha saying goodbye.

 

Breakfast at 6:30am to get an early start on the bikes before the heat and the traffic.  Bright sunshine and already 26c.  Cycled past young Hindu girls heading for the temple, dressed so smarty in bright yellow saffron sari’s.  Sad that we  ran out of time and didn’t get to explore more of the village, the dolomite quarry and the craft workers. We hope to come back, great place.

 

The team: Paul from Silicon Valley, Suranga our cycling guide, Linda, Paul, Janice and Bill from Glasgow.

The team: Paul from Silicon Valley, Suranga our cycling guide, Linda, Paul, Janice and Bill from Glasgow.

 

Crazy driving, crazy roads

Crazy driving, crazy road

Workers in rice fields

Workers in rice fields

Paul experiencing some Ayurveda treatment at the spice and herb garden.

Paul experiencing some Ayurveda treatment at the spice and herb garden.

Great tree

Great tree

 

Our group, plus Marcus, our main guide and Dinesh, Tata driver and Mr T lookalike.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cycling on the roads is fun, exhilarating  and a challenge. You have to keep listening and watching, both in front and behind you. Blue private buses are crazy, fast and on a mission: to get to wherever they need to by… a few minutes ago. Roads mainly tarmac, but quite a lot of mud at times. Sadly a dog met his end by the side of a road today.

 

Cycling through busy villages, and workers in paddy fields. They don’t know it’s Sunday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Actually rather relaxing. Saw loads of spices growing, cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, ginger, nutmeg, cocoa, coffee and an interesting plant called cocaine.

Neck and shoulder massage - spot the cyclist.

Neck and shoulder massage – spot the cyclist.

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Entrance to Golden Temple

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home of the highest Buddha in Sri Lanka.

And great caves with loads of Buddas, dating back over 500 years. Some of the caves are over 2,000 years old, each one filled with various Buddahs, created by kings to show their spirituality. Not so sure. Buddha isn’t a God, but seems to be treated like one by some.

The incumbent Buddha carved into the granite cave

The recumbent Buddha carved into the granite cave

The feet of Buddha

The feet of Buddha

Buddha statues carved out of brick and clay.

Buddha statues carved out of brick and clay.

 

Sundown over Matale plains - centre of Sri Lanka.

Sundown over Matale plains – centre of Sri Lanka.

This recumbent Buddha is carved out of the rock itself. Still some of the gold leaf can be seen. Impressive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lovely end to the day.

Now to food.