First time multi-day tour guest Naome shares her 7-day journey through Sri Lanka on a bicycle tour and her unexpected experiences in the country.
I’ve been on various cycling tours before, but just Day Tours. I find the challenge quite rewarding, so feeling ready for my next adventure, I booked a bike tour in Sri Lanka which was my first multi-day cycle tour ever, and although I wasn’t prepared for what awaited me it sure was one hell of a ride.
Disclaimer: I’m not really a "cyclist". I only learned how to cycle three years ago, and clearly, I didn’t know I would enjoy it this much.
Stunning scenery alert!
This is the first time I'd been to Sri Lanka, and I loved every part of this island country.
From the scenic tea plantations to the beautiful old town of Ella, lush pine forests and rolling green farmland, complete with grazing cows, thrilling vantage points along mountain roads and the stunning contrast of the dry savannas. Sri Lanka is not beautiful, it is INTOXICATING, and the best thing about cycling through this scenery is that we could stop anytime to bask in the beauty and grab a couple of photos.
The country has such a display of flora & fauna. I have travelled a bit but never seen an ecological system this diverse. You’d also be especially pleased to see they take very good care of it, especially the National parks.
Caution: hills ahead!
While it was mostly downhill, it wasn’t all downhill, because where’s the fun in that? There were some steep uphill rides and undulating ones which were always rewarded with a descent that had me smiling from ear-to-ear :D
I found it challenging yet thrilling riding on the diverse terrain Sri Lanka has to offer. There were flat roads, gravelly roads, sandy, muddy, rocky and of course, bumpy roads. I don’t think I would have appreciated touring around Sri Lanka quite as much if I wasn’t on a bicycle.
Beware of the locals
They’re warm, friendly, and a bubbly bunch. Not speaking the same language doesn't seem to be the issue here, many people speak English and before you know it you’ve already made new friends.
What I admired the most was seeing the people enjoy their country and commit to taking care of their environment. At a train station in Colombo, I saw a kid place his trash on top of a bin, an older vendor sitting nearby called the boy back and asked him to put it IN the bin instead. The boy heeded and proceeded. If that isn’t environmental commitment at its grassroots level, I don’t know what is.
Watch out! Wild animals on the loose
So I’m a city girl and I’ve been to a zoo, but Sri Lanka’s national parks were a different experience. This small island country has thousands of acres of protected & restricted forests so wildlife and communities can coexist in harmony.
We stayed at the Jetwing Hotel in Yala, which rests at the foot of Yala National Park and it was a jaw-dropping experience. Coming back from our dinner I happened to gaze down from the balcony and saw what I thought was an anteater feeding from the ground. Turns out, it was a mother and baby boar. Meanwhile later that night, my partner apparently had a stand-off with a monkey-slash-mongoose creature on our balcony (the true species was never concluded). The next morning, sitting at the breakfast table we watched a pack of wild boars crossing a small clearing, so I guess this is just another day at Yala National Park.
In my homeland of the Philippines, marine life is abundant. I’ve been to islands only locals can access and it was paradise. I didn't anticipate the same for the beaches in Sri Lanka, for some reason I thought it would not be impressive, but I was wrong! I have two words for Sri Lanka’s shorelines: In Love.
We took the Sea Train which runs along the coast from Galle port to Colombo, and this turned out to be a sweet & scenic 3-hour ride that took my breath away. We timed it so the sun was setting out over the water, and the beams of light scattered through the coastal palms as the train rolled by. Locals clearly do a good job in taking care of the beaches as it was clean everywhere and I wished we had a few more days to cycle this area too.
Just as you’re getting pretty comfortable in your shorts and tank tops, the mountain mists at Nuwara Eliya and the central highlands throw in an ice-cold breeze that could bend your will. So, if you’re ever stopping by Nuwara Eliya, make sure you bring extra warm clothes.
But don’t forget your sunscreen up here! The cool temperatures in the central highlands can be deceiving, you think that you’re fine, but the sun will get to you if you don’t take care.
Oh Sri Lanka! You’ve swept me off my feet. I will definitely go back - fitter - for a more challenging experience. I would say this: avoid buses and cars - go for bicycle instead, it was a breath-taking (literally) and rewarding pursuit. Take my advice, you will not regret it.