Join us on this 700 km north to south, coast to coast adventure through this dazzling and lush tropical paradise: it’s like cycling through a lovely mango and tea salad. The landscape varies dramatically, from the flat bird lagoons and plains of the north, to the majestic and demanding climbs into the tea hills before leveling out to pristine beaches. But what makes Sri Lanka even more compelling is the culture and history of both Tamil and Singhalese civilizations and the influence of the ancient religions of Buddhism and Hindusim. We visit the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Sigirya, Anuradapura and Dambulla – all sites are without compare on the planet.
Many of you have cycled across South India … let’s look at how this differs from how we have experienced that - and at the same time what is Sri Lanka like for the cyclist?
Roads are clean, well maintained and smooth, unlittered and often with shoulders. Our roads are 95% paved, with some fun rural traverses through . You might want to celebrate the lack of horns: notice that the overall roadside atmosphere is calmer and more quiet than India. Locals tend to adhere to traffic rules, they wait for lights and they give right of way. True! Most of our roads are near empty, except in the vicinity of urban areas. In cities policemen will be there to orchestrate traffic and to showoff their snappy outfits! In Sri Lanka, you really do notice other cyclists and tuk tuk drivers simply because there are so few. Less traffic means it is easier to travel as a group should you wish to do so.
The population of Sri Lanka is 20 million people, which means far fewer people and consequently less interaction. On the one hand you might miss the spontaneity of India yet you may prefer to enjoy the solitude which for many riders draws them closer in commune with nature. You find your focus moves to your thoughts and surroundings rather than to 'India' distractions, yet both ways of cycling (India, Sri Lanka) are positive however contrasting experiences. Definitely the people are approachable, helpful and responsive to communication. You might have to initiate the grin and contact - but once you do, Sri Lankans open up beautifully. They are used to tourists, especially in the south, but Sri Lankans are not jaded and maintain respectful interest in the visitor. So many people have relations in Canada that you may find this an interesting starting point for conversation.
75 % of the population– most Singhalese people - practice Buddhism, but most Tamils (about 15% of the population) are Hindus with the remaining percentages being Christians and Muslims. This is reflected architecturally with a predominance of exemplary Stupas and Dagobas as ancient Buddhist shrines and temples, Dravidian temples for the Hindus, and finally, Christian churches particularly evident in the tea growing areas of Sri Lanka. Whatever the cultural and religious inheritance, the country as a whole appears to embody a growing, looking-forward time. It has its own identity.
There is a high background level of clarity, trust and fairness. In most interactions, you will have the feeling that you are heading more toward the direction of predictability... You will feel safe if travelling alone on the roads, and the rather noticeable military and police presence is a reassurance and like India, you feel that people notice you in your travels and inform you as to just how far ahead the others in the group are!
Meat eaters will be satisfied with the variety of dishes, particularly fish. Sri Lanka is known for its fabulous rice and curry and to many India travelers the dosas will be a familiarity. Lucky for cyclists there are plenty of light snacks like dosas, egg hoppers, string hoppers (like noodles), For lighter fare that you can take away: select from ginger beer, ginger cakes, samosas, onion, potato and spinach vada, folded vegetable rotis, fried vegetable rolls…all good! On your travels you will definitely come across diminutive musical vans that sell white sweetbreads that harken from colonial days: individual mini loaves, tea cakes – all good carbohydrate food.
We are so far south that much of the light snack food relies heavily on a coconut component: roti or chapati filled with coconut and served warm for breakfast; and available even moreso than in India: ever-present fresh coconut juice vendors. For lunch, a nice mix of vegetable curries similar to a Indian thali but lighter, fruitier, and spicier than the India counterpart: spinach, pumpkin, potato, green and red lentils, beets, jackfruit, eggplant, okra, and always fish (grilled and sometimes chopped) – sometimes hot, sometimes not, and pol sambola, a spicy coconut garnish. Beware the sauces, as they can range from sweet to inferno. Need protein? For early morning and later afternoon, egg fans can delight in the egg hopper, which we can only label as iconic: a savoury coconut and rice based crepe made in a rounded pan that cups the egg. Undoubtably, not too far away, someone will be preparing kotthu, which is fine cycle fare but the chopping entertainment part may challenge the noise level of some ears…. as a base it’s made from roti and vegetable (carrots, ginger, garlic, leek, cabbage, green chilis) - and of course you have the option of adding egg, chicken or fish.
Cool drinks and bottled water are available everywhere and beer is available at the end of the day. Tea and coffee are served up at hotels but outside of that it’s all Nescafe and diabetes-inducing tea that has no real tea in it. (Ask Dave for your personal teabag.)
We’ve adopted a coast-to-coast route, that, as we’ve experienced from our South India route, tends to bring out the best variety of adventures – and also calls upon the best in us!
From the most northerly point in Sri Lanka to the most southerly point, this adventure has a level of difficulty that is not manageable if you have never cycled a major trip before. But if you have a good level of fitness then it is possible! The first days are flat and long but by day 4 you will begin to rally for the hills. There you will be beautifully rewarded with dazzling green nature, clean air and fine people. You will be served with enthusiasm, tea and humour on a daily basis!! By comparison, this ride is just a little more rolling than the south India tour, but with less of a one-time climb than our road to Munnar. Roughly, the first few days are flat, the middle features climbing and fabulous descents, and the last few days are rolling right up to the lighthouse at Dondra.
We always have a backup van for luggage and a few short transfers (mostly into urban areas) but please keep in mind that this is a cycling trip and as such you are required to cycle! :-)
Arriving and Departing
To be set: a departure date for a van transfer from Colombo to Jaffna, options for early arrivals to Colombo and for those who want to stay later, some tourist information on Galle or Mirissa.
Together with your valid passport, you can obtain an electronic visa on arrival at the airport.
Please refer to: https://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/visainfo/center.jsp?locale=en_US for full details.
Pretty favourable when compared with January in Canada.. Sri Lanka is so close to the equator that it’s always warm and sunny – somewhere! – on the island each day. Typically 22-28 degrees is the daily norm during our visit, but tradition can no longer be relied on as a source for weather, with possibility of equatorial rain, so bring a rainjacket or buy a local umbrella. The sun is intense: so keep the umbrella handy for sunny days as well!
$3675 CAD per person, (no HST) based on double occupancy. This 2018 early bird special is on now...add $200 after August 30. A non-refundable deposit of $750 reserves a spot, with full payment due November 6, 2018. E-transfer to Dave is preferred, but please contact Dave before sending.
Cancellation fees after full payment
0-30 days before trip commences: no refund
30 – 60 days before trip commences: 50 % of trip cost is refunded. More than 60 days before trip commences: full refund except non-refundable deposit.
▪ Transfer from Colombo to Jaffna by van on the 6th of January 2019
▪ 12 days of accommodation (double occupancy) and hotel tips
▪ All breakfasts (non-alcoholic drinks included)
▪ All dinners (all beverages extra)
▪ Photography coaching
▪ Support vehicle and local driver
▪ Local guide and entry to heritage sites
▪ Experienced cycle tour assistant and super-helper Milena Schulz
▪ Fabulous reflective yellow vest (mandatory)
▪ Stories and some tea breaks with witty roadside repartee
▪ Malaria-free travel (WHO declared Sri Lanka malaria-free Sept 2016)
▪ A SIM card for your cellphone and local balance
▪ All lunches, snacks, water and alcoholic drinks
▪ Your personal expenses
▪ Mandatory travel insurance and visa costs
▪ Mandatory helmet
▪ Bicycle hire
▪ Small repair kit: inner tube, patches, pump
▪ Travel arrangements after Mirissa
▪ Smartphone (for communication and maps)
▪ Insect repellant with DEET (a program is underway to eradicate dengue)