Backroads of Sri Lanka Cycle Trip

It's 2 weeks since I got back from my 'Backroads of Sri Lanka Cycle Trip' and although the tan is beginning the fade I am already missing the sun.  Breaking the winter up with some cycling in southeast Asia has now become a habit.  Sri Lanka was different but just as successful as the trips to southern India in 2014 and Myanmar in 2015.
Cycling in Sri Lanka
The holidays had essentially the same format.  Instead of sitting in a tour bus and travelling from one local cultural highlight to another we made the journey by bike.  It was a 2 week trip and included 9 days cycling and for most days we were on a bike for between 5 to 7 hours.

All three trips were graded 'moderate/challenging' but the cycling was not too hard.   I'm not sure if the weather was typical for January but it felt hot,  significantly hotter than either Myanmar or India. I guess it has something to do with geography, we were nearer the equator!  Day 8 - the climb up to the tea estates near Nuwara Eliya - was tough, particularly so as the really hard climbing came after lunch and in full heat.

Nearly all the cycling was on reasonably well surfaced roads, some of which were totally empty.  Sri Lanka didn't feel as manic as southern India but there was still plenty of hustle and bustle and usual the endless honking of horns.  The locals were very friendly and everywhere we were greeted with shouts of "bye" (strange at first but actually makes more sense than "hello" when you think about it). Exodus provided the bikes (now included in the price of holiday)  - hybrids with front suspension, much lighter than the chunky mountain bikes we had to use in Myanmar,  and fine for the conditions.

Sri Lankans

The countryside was very beautiful - green and lush - and full of wild life, birds in particular.  I'm not an expert when it comes to birds, but even I could appreciate the abundance of kingfishers, bee-eaters and avocets.  A highlight was the safari into the Yala National Park on one of hundreds of open-topped four wheel drive vehicles which competed with each other to provide their clients with the best views of elephants, water buffaloes, deer and wild boar.  The leopards and sloth bears, which are also supposed to live within the park, sensibly made themselves scarce, keeping well clear of a convoy that looked like a cross between the Wacky Races and the Keystone Cops.

Like Myanmar the scale of the religious monuments and ancient abandoned cities in Sri Lanka was a huge surprise. Particularly impressive were the ruins of Polonnaruwa, capital of Sri Lanka for four centuries from the 10th Century but then abandoned.  At Polonnaruwa and almost everywhere are huge artificial lakes built both for decorative purposes and to ensure that every drop of water is used on what is an incredibly fertile island.

Food and accommodation was excellent, so good in fact that, despite the exercise, efforts to return to a pre-Christmas waist line were thwarted.  Particularly interesting was the night in the tea planters country club at Nurawa Eliya. A bizarre throwback to colonial times, the club didn't start to admit the locals (and women) until the 1970s (some 25 years after independence), served English food (splendid G & T followed by a roast dinner) and was decorated with endless somewhat pictures of the royal family.

Nurawa Eliya - 'little England'
So all in all another great cycling trip in South-East Asia.  It's a risk to do something so similar for three years, but somehow the experience felt fresh.  As with the other trips the company was good and again I enjoyed road races and attempts by men with a similar hair colour to demonstrate that we were not completely past it.  All of the Exodus tour leaders (always locals) have been good but Suresh was excellent.  Having done the trip 56 times before Suresh has ironed out every wrinkle and really knows how to keep things moving on what is a really busy schedule.
Suresh - the best Tour Leader
Christine and I stayed on for a few days at the end of the trip in a lovely little hotel in Mirissa on the south coast and in a hideously expensive hotel in the Galle, an old Portugeuse fortress on the west coast.   The only disappointment was the failure of the blue whales to show themselves on the whale watching trip.  I guess that wildlife for you - swings and roundabouts - we did see a tiger in India.
Sun setting on a brilliant trip


  1. lovely country and people. Enjoyed your post. I'm not sure about your cycling trips though - sound a bit competitive. Think I prefer the leisurely walking we did there last Feb. Regards John.

  2. It is nice post with beautiful photos of landscape, animal and people. I enjoyed it. Thanks for posting.

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