“Riding and rafting.” Day 6 of cycling in Sri Lanka.
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Riding and rafting.
Day 6 Cycling in Sri Lanka: Kandy to Kotagala.
I hardly get any sleep. My rhythm has been jarred by one late night and then a day of no cycling. There’s a natural wellbeing in getting up with the sun and then ending the day not too long after sunset. After an amusing breakfast watching the hotel staff battle with the monkeys to ensure food is left for the guests, we have a twenty kilometre bus ride to the start of our day’s cycling.
With clean gear, it’s a good solid ride to our first water stop. We climb steadily through the tea plantations. The morning heat arrives with the beginning of the steeper hills. The dots of colour in the fields are the women plucking the tea. Other women wander the roads carrying huge bags on their heads full of the plucked leaves. At the top of one ridge, we all stop for a break. The view across the landscape is spectacular and so we gather for a group shot of the full cycling gang.
The tea pluckers have stopped for their tea break. I’m amused by this and it takes my mind off the hills for a while.
I struggle desperately on one incline. Prab, our guide, rides with me. We slow down and he buys me a coconut at a roadside stall and I thirstily drink the milk before I continue and make it to our lunch stop.
Our cycling is over for the day as the itinerary has been changed and we get to go white water rafting.
Fully life-jacketed, we split into two groups and climb into two dinghies for the trip down the Kelani River. Despite worrying about the safety aspects, due to the bare shack we set out from and the many repairs visible on the boats, we are expertly hurtled downstream. Thoroughly battered and soaked by the rapids, our handlers let the dinghies float along in the calmer waters. Every one of us is wet and so the expected water fight between the two boats takes place. Now drenched to the skin, the boatmen allow us to jump into the murky water. I’m shocked how cold the water is as I dive in. The sun must be strong as in the dinghy I hadn’t felt the rawness of the icy water at all. With our life-jackets we remain buoyant and, drifting on the surface, we let the current take us to our disembarkation point.
We dry off as much as we can and then it’s back on the bus to our hotel. The rain starts outside too and it’s a misty and unpleasant late afternoon when we arrive at our tea planters’ estate where we will stay for the night.
It seems a few of us have drawn the short straw as we are staying in the lodge rather than the main house. The lodge caretaker makes us each a cup of sickly sweet tea but it does the job of warming us up a little. Once showered, we take turns to tuk-tuk up to the main building. In the lounge, some kind soul has tuned the television to the football.
In the middle of nowhere and half way around the globe, I pleasantly watch my hometown derby: Everton FC against my team Liverpool FC.
Dinner is delightfully delayed a little to allow me to watch the end of the match. The others, particularly the Aussies and Americans, wonder what on earth I’m doing. The chat around the dinner table is wonderful. Everyone seems to be getting on and the jokes fly around and quizzes take place.
After dinner is finished, the lodge-stayers procure some wine and take it in turns to tuk-tuk back to the lodge. Prab and I open a bottle and pour a glass each whilst we wait for our ride. We then have to hold on to them carefully on our ride down the hill. The bike guide and bike mechanic join us for some Sri Lankan card games and it’s a wonderful evening. When the wine has gone, Prab wakes up the caretaker for some more tea but it tastes so bad that it’s a sign for bed and for sleep.
“I don’t ride a bike to add days to my life.
I ride a bike to add life to my days.”
The Travellanka Magazine Series …
Compliments to Vajirapani Hewabattage, my friend and contact at Travellanka Magazine. Thanks Pani!