tea to sea

Tea shapes Sri Lanka’s fertile high lands. Fishing dominates the costal town of Negombo. Here’s a glimpse of a journey from one to the other along with a quick review of Sri Lanka as a cycle touring destination.

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high in the hills.

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a tea estate covers hundreds of acres

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a derelict tea factory

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a tea picker

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a typical cafe. as elsewhere on the sub-continent people eat curry with their hand

Is Sri Lanka a good destination for a cycling holiday?

My ride through Sri Lanka was short. At nearly every place I visited I spent two nights. I rode for only six days and during that time covered a mere 500KMS. I ascended 8937 metres though, that is 89 metres more than the height of Mount Everest, so the Hill Country is hilly.

My ride simply went from the sea up to the highest town and back down to the sea in a convenient loop. As I drank a beer the other afternoon I perused a map of Sri Lanka hanging on the wall and realised how little of the country I had seen. To the north of my area of exploration is a dry area with splendid archeological sites, and of course where ever you pedal you are never more than two days from a beach. In my experience accommodation is readily available, as is food water and beer. I never carried food and never needed to. I only ever had a litre and a half of water at any one time and that was fine. Packing light is recommended. If you are happy to spend £8 to £10 per night accommodation is easy to find, trying to keep lower is possible but will take a little more searching, if you are happy to go up to twenty ponds per night then I think you would make life very simple for yourself. English is very widely spoken.

What about the cycling? Well, Sri Lanka has alas fallen victim of the blight of the modern age, the motor vehicle. Put simply, in my experience, the main roads within one hundred kilometres of Colombo are busy. Of course the same can be said, with a few exceptions. of any capital city, Flying into Sri Lanka the airport is north of Colombo. Ten kilometres north from there is Negombo, a seaside town that makes a very convenient staging post for starting and finishing your tour. Simply take a taxi from the airport to Negombo, build your bike up and go from there.

The vehicles generally have worn out engines and spew out a lot of pollution. Fortunately this pollution is localised and once away from the busier roads the air is clean and fresh. The driving standard is typical third world, poor, but not aggressive.

On my last day from Ratnapurna back to Negombo the main road was very busy but with a little planning I managed to ride most of the way on quiet back roads, and this is the key, try to get onto the little side roads. Much of the time though the main roads up in the hill country are not too busy, are well surfaced and they often have a shoulder. I asked at one train station if I could take my bike on the train and the station master said that it would be no problem, so it may be possible to take the train to, let’s say Ella, or Kandy, and begin riding from there.

The map I used is published in the UK by Rough Guide (Thanks to Rod). It is a product of World Mapping Project product and in my limited experience with it is accurate. Certainly more accurate than their map of Argentina where they actually managed to get a major city the wrong side of a motorway and forgot to mark the second highest mountain on earth outside of the Himalayas. Quite remarkable considering that they did mark the Buenos Aires fruit market.

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at the coast.

negombo is a fishing town with trawlers and fishing boats of all shapes and sizes

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fish dry in the sun as fishermen empty their nets where the sea meets the sand

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carrying the catch to market

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arranging the fish to sun dry them. he did explain how the process works,

but his english and mine are of a different variety

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in the fish market

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a fish merchant

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a fish monger

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turning a large fish into steaks

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fish

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local fish deliver is done mainly by bicycle. i have noted that the brakes seldom work,

the basket hampers the steering and the rider is rarely in control

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sri lankan brake maintenance

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coconut on the shore

 

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