That urgent need to put down the miniature chocolates, re locate your trainers and shed that cushy ring you’ve developed round your middle. Despite any trace that it is in fact January, (apart from a banana pancake induced gut) this urge has not escaped me, and after languishing on numerous beaches in Goa and Sri Lanka since the start of December I need to get moving again.
It is in this shadow of post Christmas guilt that Operation Cycle Lanka is born.
The decision to get here though was not an easy one. To start, I met some great friends on the south coast whom I was reluctant to leave, least to carry out a half hatched plan to cycle the island alone, without a bike, any gear or Google map in sight. But I had had the idea of doing it way back in April last year when I was toying with going away. Some may say it was a dream, and we should always follow our dreams…
It’s all in the planning. Kind of.
Aware that great adventures require great planning I set to work somewhere between Christmas and New Year thinking up a route, enquiring about bikes and even advertising (with a fantastic poster by an newly made artist friend) for people to join me. The bike was the easy part, for a mere £80 I could get a bike du jour, a Lumala original made right here in Sri Lanka. Considering that cycle tours charge upwards of £1,000 just for a week and about £100 for bike hire, this was a steal for my planned two week trip. Problem is when I went to the showroom I ended up falling in love with the old style ones with vintage looking brakes that I’ve seen all over India. So I bought that one too for when I get to Melbourne. Oops.
Anyone want to join me?
Next came many long afternoons shunning the beach holed up in an Internet cafe researching and planning a route. Despite thinking that I was crazy and telling me so several times I got friendly with the owner, who even shared her rice and curry lunch with me one day which was the best food I’d had for ages.
My first route was quite optimistic, covering about 600km going up the west coast then inland through more rural areas before reaching the first main stop of cultural capital Anuradhapura then working down past Polonnaruwa, Sigirya and onwards to Kandy and the hill country. But I re thought this, especially as I will be going alone and if the attitude of some of the local men I’ve encountered follows up north, going rural may not be the wisest idea. So I will be taking the train to my starting point of Anduradhapura and going from there.
It’s a bag. A bag for a bike. No no on the side, like…..oh I give up!
Returning to Colombo and having a minor meltdown which almost led me to sprint back to the bus stand to meet my friends who were off to climb Adams peak, I went to buy my bike. Settling on the Lumala hybrid after much debate, panniers were next on my list, only to find that nowhere sells them or even knows what they are. This led to much improvisation on my part (it’s goes on the side…like this ) playing charades with numerous bag shop owners who looked at me perplexed. I quickly resolved that I wasn’t going to get the real deal and would just have to get creative. So I settled on two pink Disney princess bags. Way cooler than normal panniers if you ask me..
More comical shopping ensued with the purchase of boys cycling shorts, neon plastic flowers and two Sri Lankan flags from a man who sells wholesale robes to monks. Still, I was almost there and with a whole day set aside for pimping my bike I headed for a drink with some newly made friends from my hostel whom I gave the auspicious honour of naming my bike.
Meet Bianca (the bike who cycled Sri Lanka)
Ok so the rhyming was my idea, but Bianca was christened (we hadn’t even had that many drinks) by two young Australians.
Ready and raring to go it was time to get Bianca on the train ready for me to collect her in Anduradhapura on Monday morning. She needed her own ticket and everything and was the subject of much amusement in the train station cloakroom circa 1935.
The adventure begins tomorrow when we start our new life together for two whole weeks. Stay tuned to see if I and the Disney panniers make it…