Sri Lanka is almost the perfect introduction to cycling on the Asian continent and in January 2014, 14 CTC members traversed 500 miles taking in the delights of a country equivalent in size to Wales. The tour is one of the oldest we offer, where our first visit was 25 years ago and since then a well pedalled path has been established. International flights arrive at the capital Colombo and from there a transfer and short cycle took us to the ancient city of Anuradhapura. Given up to the jungle this World Heritage Site has now been reclaimed (literally) from the vegetation to reveal enormous Stupas that were only bettered in size by the pyramids and within which are tiny fragments associated with the Buddha. Over the next 3 days we experienced further fantastic sites including the original capital at Pollonaruwa and the truly stunning Sigiriya fortress where an ancient king lived protected for 14 years atop an enormous rock before making the rather silly mistake of riding out to meet his brother and getting killed because his elephant got stuck in the mud.
Heading south we took in the lively city of Kandy before taking a train journey into the hills and the extensive tea plantations that have contributed to the country’s wealth. Mostly established by the British they have been nationalised and the hills are smothered in the green low lying bushes tended by the pickers who chat merrily as we cycled past.
One thing that surprised us was the sheer quantity and quality of the wildlife. Birds, fruit bats and the occasional Mongoose crossed our path, but nothing had prepared us for the 1 metre long moniters that littered the roadsides. Of course though it is the Indian Elephant that is the crown jewel of wildlife and at Uda Walawa we were able to see these at close quarters from a jeep at sunset, after which we visited the Elephant orphanage where 90 orphan babies were fed bottled milk and stripped branches within a few metres of our gaze.
After 2 weeks we made it to the coast and the beach side Cabanas at Tangalla. It’s a holiday so you could either surf, cycle or relax to the pounding of the Indian Ocean the choice was yours and was a perfect end to this remarkable country.