Friday, September 25, 2015

Melbourne - 26.9.15

There wasn't much to do after arriving back in Negombo other than washing the bike down - you invariably get asked at customs in Australia if you've done this - and packing it in the box. I was helped by the guest house owner and his son, but struggled to quite fit it in this time. It wasn't until I got to the airport in Colombo and was asked by the chap at check-in if I'd let the air out of the tyres before boxing the bike that I realised why it hadn't quite fitted. The airlines insist that you deflate bike tyres so that they don't explode at high altitude. This is a longstanding myth - my understanding is that the cargo hold is pressurized to the same level as the passenger compartment, and that even if the plane managed to fly into outer space the pressure differential would still be unlikely to cause the tyres to explode. And, even if the tyres were to somehow explode, it's unlikely any damage would be done to the plane. So I lied and said I had (because there was no way I was going to cut through all the tape and then rebox the bike again).

The final leg of the journey from KL to Melbourne was around 8 hours, and I was 2 rows of seats away from 3 sets of screaming infants who kept it up for most of the journey. I felt like joining in. Luckily, there were some action movies available for viewing and so I managed to block out some of the screams and sobs with the sound of explosions, punchups and gunshots. The noise-cancelling headphones are good against the sound of the plane engines but unfortunately don't cancel out the noise of children. 

I arrived back home in a maxi-taxi after a monumental wait at the oversized baggage area at Tullamarine airport, shortly before midnight, and can happily confirm that the tyres are still intact.

So, overall I was in Sri Lanka for around 23 days, and travelled 868km over 14 days of cycling - a daily average of 62km. I lost 5kg in weight, partly due to all the exercise and partly I think due to the change in diet. It was an interesting trip and I got to see a fair bit of Sri Lanka. It was hard to not compare it with India - Sri Lanka seemed a lot more ordered than India, and I saw much less poverty, slum areas and beggars. The roads were much better on average, the traffic more ordered, and vehicles actually slowed and even stopped at pedestrian crossings. English was more common. I found the food less interesting and varied compared with what is available in India. The religious breakdown differs: in Sri Lanka, around 70% of the population is Buddhist, 13% Hindu, 10% Muslim and 7% Christian (mostly Roman Catholic), whereas in India, around 80% of the population is Hindu, 14% Muslim, 2.3% Christian, 1.7% Sikh, 0.7% Buddhist and 0.4% Jain. 

As I mentioned in an earlier entry, it always amused me to see police travelling two up on their motorcycle, with one sitting imperiously at the rear, as if on a throne, and I was struck by how stern an image they endeavoured to project. I was struck by the scarecrows you could see on most building and construction sites and presumed it was about warding off 'the evil eye' or similar, although I did read one view that their intention is to distract people's attention and envy away from the expensive new building. 

It always takes a few days or longer from a trip like this to reorient back to life here. The cycling presents a tremendous focus, and thinking becomes very 'here and now', with little time spent reflecting on work, life back home and other matters. Routines become very different - I spent no time watching TV (although did watch some downloaded episodes of 'Gotham' on my tablet) and spent a lot of time reading during down time e.g. in my room or in cafes and restaurants if eating alone. I read about 12 books, mostly crime novels, while in Sri Lanka!

overall route

overall elevation


Ellaty said...

Hi David
I'm glad to hear you have made it safely back to Melbourne. Due to intermittent Internet ( yes in America!!) I haven't managed to follow your blog as closely as I would have liked, but have just finished reading the last week of your journey and it sounds amazing. Enjoy a few days of rest before you go back to work and I look forward to catching up with you in a couple of weeks when we arrive back in Melbourne.

david w said...

cheers Marree; I'm back at work on Wed... ready & raring to get back into it! (and Contacts!!). Have a good holiday for the rest of it and I'll look forward to comparing notes when you get back... David

Bill Weir said...

Negombo, Sri Lanka

Hi David,
It was good to meet you in Negombo! Surprisingly, you were the only touring cyclist I met, though there must be others out there.

I completed my loop of Sri Lanka this morning, and I've updated the journal at

Weather turned rainy most of the past week, but I had sunshine in Galle Fort, then got to see two large peraheras--one by day and one by night--at Ambalangoda in the southwest.

On 30 Sept. I fly north to New Delhi, then on by train to the northeast for cycling in Sikkhim and Arunachal Pradesh.


david w said...

Ah good... I've been waiting for your next blog update. I saw 4 other touring cyclists - 2 going uphill as I was going downhill (can't exactly remember where that was), and then 2 going downhill as I was grinding uphill to Nuwara Eliya. I was going too fast to stop for the first 2, but managed to stop & chat to the latter 2 who were, needless to say, German. Again, good to have met you in person Bill & I wish you all the best for the rest of your travels,
David (... and now I'll go & read the next part of your journal)

Padhma said...
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