Monday, September 21, 2015

RATNAPURA - 21.9.15

Day 12 cycling: ELLA to RATNAPURA:

Ride details (from Garmin):
Distance: 109.1km; ODOMETER: 736.7km; Moving Time: 6:36; Elapsed Time: 9:28 (includes 90mins waiting for rain to lessen); Avg Speed: 11.5km/hr; Avg Moving Speed: 16.5km/hr; Max Speed:; Total Ascent: 1,081m; Total Descent: 2,021m; Max Elevation: 1,420m; Calories: 4,292 C; Avg Temperature: 27.3 °C; Max Temperature:  36.0 °C

Yesterday was a rest day in Ella for me and the bike. The town is geared up for tourists, in terms of all the accommodation options and the numerous caf├ęs and restaurants in the main street. The Rawana Holiday Resort where I was staying had its own restaurant which was quite good and I used it for breakfast and lunch and an evening meal. I also ate twice at the Down Town Rotti Hut with Kerry and Chris and was introduced to the delicious kotthu roti which is now my favourite Sri Lankan meal.

There's not all that much to do in Ella other than hiking - up to Little Adam's Peak or Ella Rock (along the train tracks), or the easier walk to Rawana Falls which I did with the Kerry and Chris (also along the train tracks).

I decided that I would aim to cycle all the way back to Negombo, about 220km,  which I figured was quite achievable over 3 days, arriving back in Negombo on Wednesday as planned.

I felt cheered by the knowledge that Ella is at an altitude of around 1040m and that Negombo is at 2m. Downhill all the way, surely?! Unfortunately no...

The road I took out of Ella was downhill for a bit of the way but was then mostly a grind uphill for the first 20km (to Haputale). The first 11km - to Bandarawela - took about 90 minutes! The so-called 3 Mile Road was too steep for me to cycle - I reckon several of its uphill sections were about 18%.  The road went up and up, rising up to at least 1400m in elevation. I could feel the sense of defeat rise as the road rose up ahead of me. 3% sections began to look flat ('false flat' in cycling parlance) in contrast to the rest of the road which was typically between 6 & 8%.

Around 12:30, at the 35km mark, the ever-darkening sky erupted,  with thunder,  lightning and heavy rain. Luckily there was a concrete bunker-like bus shelter nearby so I holed up there for the next 90 minutes until the thunderstorm abated sufficiently for me to head off (it was still raining but only lightly by this time). While waiting in the bus shelter, classes at the nearby school obviously finished and soon I was surrounded by scores of students, and a couple of teachers, waiting for their bus. They all seemed very shy and giggly,  and I was surprised that no-one really took the opportunity to practise their English on me.
After a time,  the road finally began to plunge down, and the arduous uphill grinding was replaced with some wonderful downhill sections. The scenery was also quite spectacular. Overall though it was a tough day's cycling.

I eventually made it to Ratnapura and after asking a policeman came to the Ratnapura Rest House on top of a hill overlooking the city.  It was probably once a grand old colonial-style building; from the outside it looks quite posh and I feared it would be far too expensive.  I resigned myself to paying whatever, within reason, as the prospect of heading off to find somewhere else didn't enthuse me. They wanted 4500 Rs for a room but agreed to 4000Rs. The room is huge, with fan and A/C but is tired looking and very musty - quite overpriced for what's provided and the service is very lackadaisical. Finding somewhere to put the bike seemed just too difficult for them to figure out, and there was no soap or toilet paper in the room. Most places make an effort to help me carry my panniers and handlebar bag to the room, but not here.

Luckily the place has a restaurant and the fried rice & chicken was tasty. The enormous dining room was also hosting a function;  it was amusing to see that all the men sat together at one huge set of tables, the women at another and all the children at a third table. The table I selected to sit at elsewhere in the dining room had a filthy tablecloth on it. When I complained,  the waiter looked at me with a mixture of scorn and incredulity saying "well sit somewhere else then...". I was asked while eating my evening meal to pay in advance for the room, and separately for the meal, and told that checkout time was a surprisingly early 9am.

All I want to do now is take rest so that I'll be able to jump on the bike in the morning and continue pedalling toward Negombo. It's about 106km away; I don't think I'll try and do that all tomorrow - perhaps I'll leave about 30km to do so that I'll arrive there mid-morning on  Wednesday, ready to fly out on Thursday evening.

Ratnapura Rest House

Ella to Ratnapura profile


Anonymous said...

Hi David, hope your clothes have dried off!

david w said...

Yes they have thanks Susan...

Anonymous said...

Hi David!! It's Kerry and Chris. We've been wondering how you went.hoped you'd make it to ratnapura. It was all that food you ate at Ella I think giving you energy. But had a laugh re the guesthouse and the filthy table cloth! Can't believe you had to go back up to 1400 before descending. So did you get to negombo?

david w said...

I'm 30km south of there. I wasn't planning to do it all in the one go as no need to get there any earlier than Wednesday (it's not as if the food etc there is worth rushing back for). Hope the rest of your trip goes well, cheers, David