India in a "light version"
Actually, the conditions are not bad for the project. Sri Lanka, well developed for tourism, with many worth seeing destinations, lots of nature and friendly hosts. And big enough not to make a twelve-day bike tour boring.
Start with obstacles
After a night of sleep in a completely overcrowded plane on uncomfortable seats, there is an unpleasant surprise. Sri Lankian Airlines actually managed to tear open the extra stable box on my bike. And of course a bag is missing. The following search is unfortunately unsuccessful, so the first step is to go shopping.
And that’s how I get to know Colombo. In the tuktuk it goes through gorges and from shopping mall to shopping mall. And the facelessness of the capital is striking. The few highlights worth seeing are quickly digested and traffic congestion, noise, stench and the anonymity of the big city remain.
On the third day I actually got a train ticket to Anurapdhapura. But since the bike transport is not so easy, the train goes without me. And so I sit on my bike at half past three in the afternoon to flee Colombo. It takes me three hours to walk the forty kilometers to Negombo, but the main thing is to get out of Colombo first.
A December full moon night
Along the coast to the north and then across the Wilpattu National Park it goes into the cultural triangle. On the side routes along the coast, I leave the memory of the unpleasant city life behind. In Wilpattu National Park, nature makes me arrive in Sri Lanka.
The way ahead is lined with temples and holy places. The first stop is Anuradhapura. According to legend, the oldest human-made tree stands here. An offshoot of the Bodhi tree under which Siddharta Gautama attained enlightenment. In the Buddhist belief, the full moon night has a special meaning and this tree is said to have been planted on a December full moon night. In the right place at the right time. Once again.
The cultural triangle
After two days we continue towards Sigiriya. Anuradhapura was still rather calm and characterized by the festivities for the December full moon night. Here the picture changes very quickly. Backpackers and travel groups populate the tranquil village. And so it is no wonder that the otherwise friendly locals are getting rougher in tone. I experience the climax with the cloud girls. Rock paintings at lofty heights, which are subject to a strict photography ban. At half past six in the morning, as one of the first and alone, I have the paintings in front of me.
And before I can look at it in peace, there is a loud noise from behind: “Do not take any photo or I will arrest you …”. I turn around and show my empty hands. But the guardian of the unphotographed beauties yells more warnings in my direction and then turns back to his cell phone. Put under general suspicion, I also lose the feeling for this beauties. It is good that the rock has more to offer than painted girls and an annoyed caretaker.
We continue via Polunarowe to Dambulla. Although Dambulla and its cave temples are only about 25 kilometers from Sigiriya, I decide to take the two-day detour. Wonderful trips through the hinterland with encounters, conversations and several hellos, far off the beaten track.
To the south
After Dambulla I leave the cultural triangle and head south. Once in Kandy, the weather forecast for the highlands deteriorates dramatically. So I switch to a train journey and drive directly to Ella. The procedure for sending bicycles by train is somewhat unusual. I let my bike pull up on the morning train at 3:15 a.m. and only ride after 10 a.m. In fact, this plan works too.
From Ella it goes downhill one morning out of the highlands. The next stage goal is then Udawalawe. This national park is home to a large number of elephants and the game drive is extremely entertaining. The days fly by and it is time to re-orientate towards Colombo. The fastest way, it seems, is the coastal road to Galle and from there to Colombo. But also the most dangerous. Several near-misses and bus attacks later I land in Colombo, glad to be still alive.
Why Sri Lanka is not recommended for cyclists
Back in Colombo I have the opportunity to speak to local cycling enthusiasts and here I can once again confirm my experiences from the previous days. As a cyclist you are fair game in Sri Lanka. The use of the coastal road is extremely dangerous, if at all, it should only be used during the night. Especially the buses should be left alone. Their drivers are criminal and fixated on quick money. They often simply underestimate your speed and the distance at which they rush past you. The assumption is that more people die in traffic every year than during the entire civil war. Perhaps there are still unresolved conflicts here?
On the other hand, it is easy to drive on the side routes, only local knowledge and a good navigation system are an advantage. Also yes, a few stones in your pocket against overly intrusive dogs can’t hurt either. Ultimately, the impression of a lost paradise remains. There is a lack of silence and contentment. Hustle and bustle and a lot of elbow mentality emerge very openly in many places.
Why Sri Lanka is recommended
My pictures and films show a slightly different picture. There is a lot to see in the openness and friendliness of the locals. This was also the case away from the main streets. The nature and landscape are overwhelming. Something like a decelerated, friendly India lies over Sri Lanka. And this is meant positively in the conclusion.