After the team meeting for dinner at Wijaya the test day takes us to Galle Fort then to Samakhanda for a vegetarian Sri Lankan feast – fuel for the ride out the next day.
Leaving the beaches of the south coast we head for the hills, skirting around the rainforest of Sinharaja. We need to get used to riding in a group, especially as we then lost one of the group for a bit as he sped ahead of us! We arrive at the tea plantation of Aigburth where lunch is set out in grand planters style. Dropping down from the hills we drive over the tank at Udawalawe National Park where we have our first elephant sighting. After a long first day we ride into Banyan Camp.
We wake to the sounds of the jungle a little rough around the edges after a few drinks the night before. Beautiful roads start the day as we leave the elephant zone for the hills again. A tea stop at Bambarakanda Falls tucked away in an alpine valley before a lunch of Kottu (traditional Sri Lankan dish). We pull out the wet weather gear as the route to Lipton’s Seat looks to be in dark clouds, but after pushing through the clouds we enter the sunshine weaving our way through sculpted pruned tea bushes as far as the eye can see. We reach Lipton’s Seat for the tea break of all tea breaks. Down the other side of the mountain we drop quickly in to the valleys on remote roads arriving at Ella Jungle Resort where we ride a cable car to the hotel, or as it has become known a ‘Tuk Tuk in the Sky’.
After some of the team wake early to swim in a waterfall nearby, we hit the road, criss-crossing the railway that runs through the mountains. Passing through forests of pine and eucalyptus onto Horton Plains – a cloud forest with sambar deer and unique flora. Towards the end of the afternoon we ride into Nuwara Eliya or ‘Little England’ and soak up the atmosphere of the NEGC a golf club that hasn’t changed for generations.
Bound for Kandy the next day, we experience some amazing riding with sweeping corners and breathtaking views. An attempt to cut a tambili (coconut) could have cost some fingers! We get to Kandy for a well-earned rest day and a chance to wash the road off our clothes.
We had a rest from the road in Kandy where people chose how to spend their day and then head into the Knuckles Mountain Range with some off road riding that tests the bikes and people getting through with no serious incidents. Lunch was a completely incredible setting. The rain somehow avoids us and the wilderness is all around while we swim in natural pools. Finally we pull into Madulkelle Eco Lodge and settle into some of the best hospitality on the tour.
We ride through Riverstone for the last day in the Knuckles. The trees seem to be so unique in this area, fanning huge areas. We travel down and down to the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, and out of the hills.
In the morning, some opt for bird watching on the lake in Habarana and some climb Sigiriya Rock from which the views are phenomenal. We hit the road mid-morning on fast roads to the beautiful park of Maduru Oya. This stretch of road always exceeds expectations. Wild elephants are invariably around and a different side of the country unseen on the tour so far. We take a shortcut from the end of the park road which takes us through rural Sri Lanka with lakes and rock formations all around. A short burn up the last road of the day leads into Gal Oya Lodge, a beautiful lodge in the jungle with stunning views. A dip in the pool revives us before a delicious dinner, Akila bringing out his guitar for some Bob Marley tunes to end the night.
The night brings rain – something we have almost entirely avoided until now by some miracle! Sri Lanka is in the middle of a drought and needs rain which is very unusual for this time of year, but never great on a ride. The intrepid go on a safari on a lake in Gal Oya National Park in the morning, seeing elephants that have swum onto islands among other things. They arrive back very late to the camp, which combined with a bill fiasco, leaves us little time to get to the south coast. We set off again in grey skies narrowly avoiding any downpours, lunching at Galapita Rocks – a beautiful river gorge and swiftly drive on. We reach the hotel but only after half an hour driving through the dark to Lagoon Paradise Hotel. Dinner is eaten to the sound of the sea.
The final short day of the tour and the rain catches up with us. We ride to Galle as quickly as we can with a short break for tea and to rein in some who have taken a wrong turning. All arrive safely back to Wijaya for some afternoon beers before a big farewell dinner at Why House. The dinner is a great laugh and reflects the spirit of the tour.
As we know, what goes on tour stays on tour…