A great trip offering good cyling, great people. lovely food and wonderful culture.
- What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
I have done a few cycling trips now and in Asia I am always amazed by the friendliness of the people and the children who all come out to see you and call out "Bye!!"
I was also impressed by how clean Sri Lanka is.
I loved the temples - we certainly saw a lot of them! Also thoroughly enjoyed the visit to the Elephant Orphanage. We just sat and watched them for a couple of hours playing in the river.
Getting to the top of that Hill!! Think of it in stages. We had a stop every 20k so all I thought about was doing the next 20k and it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. If you have any hesitation just do it! You can always get on the bus for a stage.
At the end of the trip I went on an optional Whale watching trip. This was excellent - we saw lots of whales and dolphins.
- What did you think of your group leader?
We had Suresh. Initially I was disappointed as I was expecting to have Peter lead our trip. However Suresh could not do enough for us. Suresh's love for his country (and temples) was very evident. I believe this enriched our whole trip. There is a lot to be said for having a guide who is a native of the country you are touring. Suresh's laugh just put everyone in a good mood. He also loved a good bargain and was always negotiating for us to get the best price.
Upali was our driver - lovely man who could talk for Sri Lanka! AJ was our front man - catch him if you can. Then we had the gorgeous Chamara as our back man and mechanic. Great team but AJ please slow down at the front .......
- Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Take an umbrella! No country is ever this green and verdant without plentiful rain! Also a torch is useful.
If you go to the elephant orphanage try and buy some bananas on your way. You can get them there but you will want a lot.
Remember this is not a race. Every trip will have people on it who wish to get to the destination as fast as they can but that doesn't mean we all have to. We were always at our destination well ahead of schedule and I now wish I had stopped more, taken more photos and generally not rushed through everything. This does tend to happen a lot on cycling holidays so stand your ground. Tell the leader you would like more "regrouping" so that you can stop and take photos and generally enjoy the scenery.
When you get the opportunity use the local transport - it really is an experience! We got a bus back from Galle and a series of vendors trooped on and off the bus selling nuts, oranges and other wares. The amount of people they manage to get on a bus! Was pleased we were on it first and got seats.
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
I loved the food. The buffet food in the hotels gets a little repetitive although very good. Encourage your group leader to take you out for "street food" - it was excellent.
There are not too many shopping opportunities on this trip. Don't leave it until the airport as everything is so much more expensive there. The best place to buy tea is Mlesna - you stop there for one of the breaks on the trip - it is right by a cricket pitch - you will reach this on the descent day from the hill station. Don't get put off that it looks "upmarket" - the tea is really cheap here and you can buy it all in nice tins for gifts. The same products were selling at the airport for two to three times the price you can buy it here for.
Exodus - please change the hotel that we stay in on the 2nd day. It really was quite grim. Also the Beach Hotel at the end was not particularly nice - how about changing this to a hotel in Galle? Such a much nicer place and still access to the beach.
The one thing that made me sad is seeing all the dogs in bad health. We saw a lot more on the first half of the trip. It is heartbreaking. The Dogstar Foundation is a Sri Lankan charity that helps with the health of the street dogs by giving vaccinations and also medical baths for mange. They have a Facebook page if anyone wants to support them.