My Journey from a Regular Bicycle to a Motorcycle


My existing bike, the Bajaj Pulsar 150

My existing bike, the Bajaj Pulsar 150

I am an avid bike hiker. Astride my bike, I have been to all the cities in all districts in Sri Lanka except Jaffna. The planned Jaffna trip had to be postponed after the freak bike accident I met with last September. But that accident won’t dampen my spirits and I will go on the much-awaited trip to Jaffna as soon as I get my bike repaired. At the moment it lies in a motorcycle workshop awaiting to devour 30,000 – 40,000 LKR (195 – 260 USD) for the repairs which I can ill-afford at the moment under the circumstances that prevail.

In fact, if you knew about my childhood, nobody would have imagined that I would end up as a biker at all. The reason being that I could not ride a push cycle till I was almost 16. Kids in my village (both boys and girls) start riding regular bicycles even before they start going to school. But, poor me, had to tolerate the humiliation of not being able to ride a bicycle till I was 16!!! Kids rode bicycles and my younger brother rode bicycles and I was dead angry with the innovator who created this nonsensical device called the bicycle so much so that if I could get hold of him, I would have sent him to hell to be with his honorable ancestors. There was an old Raleigh bicycle at our home and it was a very prestigious brand those days and it still is. Anyway, I was so angry and frustrated that I could not ride a bicycle while everyone else could. The big question I had was how someone balances himself/herself on two wheels, against the universal truth the natural position of a two-wheeler is not vertical but horizontal or rather fallen down on the ground.

We had an old Raleigh bicycle like this.

We had an old Raleigh bicycle like this.

Anyway, Udara Mama (Uncle Udara) a close relative of ours came to the rescue when I was around 16. He taught me the art of cycling with a lot of patience. I kept total faith in him that he wouldn’t let me fall on two wheels and while I was riding I was under the impression that he was holding the bicycle from the back of the luggage not letting it fall. But Alas! It was much later I knew that he had already let me go on my own and was not holding the bicycle nor following me at all. This was the trick he used to teach me. I thank him even today for giving me this totally new experience at a later stage of my teenage years. Thank You Udara Mama.

Let’s come back to motorbike riding. My eldest brother bought a Honda C70 secondhand motorbike for our family. That was a hit bike those days as it was a versatile piece of machinery for all the work one needs to do at home or farm. Now that I was good at riding the regular bicycle, I wanted to learn riding the motorbike too. So, my eldest brother (Nayanasena Wanninayake) asked me to take the bike out to teach me and I pushed it to the road. And he asked me to get onto the seat and I thought he would be sitting behind me in the pillion till I was able to learn the basics. But, what he told was shocking to me. He told, “Look brother, there is no point in both you and I getting injured if something happens and now you are on your own! Luckily, I did not have a single fall and I mastered the game in no time. Besides, Honda C70 was a model that made riding easy as it did not have the clutch (C70 has the same clutch assembly inside the motor as its clutched counterpart CD70. In the former the clutch is semi-automatic. Besides, the ‘Postal or Mail model is a domestic production model and better-built than the export models. C70 is better than C/CD50 and C/CD90) to break the gear into different ones. It was all about smooth sailing.

A Honda C70 bike

A Honda C70 bike

My first experience with a bike with a clutch also was equally enthralling. I was living at my friend Pubudu’s house in Anuradhapura those days and a young couple (Ravi Ayya and his wife) lived in their annex. One day, Ravi Ayya came in a hurry and asked me to get a helmet and sit in the back of his bike. I complied. And then he rode fast to his office and told me that he was going to Kandy in an office vehicle and asked me to take the bike back home. Oops! I had never ridden a bike with a clutch. Besides, this was a pretty bigger bike. I was having butterflies in my stomach but Ravi Ayya had already vanished into thin air. So, I started the bike with a few hiccups and took the bike to the road slowly. And yard by yard the bike was on its way home. I changed the gears as I had seen other guys do it and the bike had terrible jerks every time I changed a gear. On top of that, Anuradhapura is a city where you get a large number of roundabouts in Sri Lanka. My bike stopped stubbornly in every roundabout I passed and other vehicle drivers were annoyed and they kept sounding their horns (a deplorable motoring trait in unruly countries) till I managed to get the machine started and leave peacefully. Anyway, by the time I reached Pubudu’s home, I had mastered the bike with a clutch too. And here I am still in one piece after riding motorbike for 30 long years!!!

Nanda Wanninayaka on Bajaj Pulsar 200

Nanda Wanninayaka on Bajaj Pulsar 200

 

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Motorcycle Journeys – Trip to Mahawilachchiya from Koradekumbura via Nuwara Eliya and Kandy with Aleksandar Isailović from Serbia


Route to Nuwara Eliya from Koradekumbura

Route to Nuwara Eliya from Koradekumbura

Aleksandar Isailović from Serbia and I were woken up by Jayaweera Jayasundara in the morning of May 17, 2017 as we had asked him to do so to see how his “students” practiced physical exercises early hours of the day in the village playground.  Jayaweera arranged a three wheeler for us and I felt bad as to why we can’t walk while others in the village just walk or jog to the playground. But he wanted us to be comfortable I guess.

Jayaweera Jayasundara at the playground while his followers are doing physical exercises.

Jayaweera Jayasundara at the playground while his followers are doing physical exercises.

Jayaweera Jayasundara at the playground while his followers are doing physical exercises.

I was ashamed of traveling to the playground by a vehicle as there were 50 odd people – young, middle aged and very old – were already there and they all had walked to the place before 5.00 am. How many things do we take for granted when there is an initiative like this? (I will write a lengthier blog post on this later to do the right justice to Jayaweera and his followers.)

Jayaweera's family with Aleks

Jayaweera’s family with Aleks

Jayaweera’s wife took the pain of cooking us Kiribath and Katta Sambola for breakfast.  She was very caring for us and arranged two lunch packets also for us to have on the way. We said goodbye to the family and Koradekumbura.

On the way to Nuwara Eliya we stopped at Seetha Amman Temple to take few pictures. This is a temple which the Indians value and respect more than the Sri Lankans. The temple is situated in Sita Eliya and is believed to be the place where the King Ravana, the all-powerful ancient Sri Lankan king kept the Indian princess Sita imprisoned to take revenge from her husband Rama who insulted Ravana’s sister Shurpanakha . Read Ramayana to learn more details. This is just a legend than history.

Seetha Amman Temple, Nuwara Eliya

Seetha Amman Temple, Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya City from a distance

Nuwara Eliya City from a distance

Road to Nuwara Eliya City

Road to Nuwara Eliya City

We went to Nuwara Eliya and spent some time at the Lake Gregory which was a very picturesque site. Water level was low as Nuwara Eliya does not get sufficient rain in the summer. I wanted to ride a horse here but we did not have enough time for it as we had a long way to go back to Mahawilachchiya.

Lake Gregory, Nuwara Eliya

Lake Gregory, Nuwara Eliya

In Lake Gregory in Nuwara Eliya

At Lake Gregory in Nuwara Eliya

Aleksandar Isailović at Lake Gregory in Nuwara Eliya

Aleksandar Isailović at Lake Gregory in Nuwara Eliya

A vegetable stall by the roadside

A vegetable stall by the roadside

We spent some time to take pictures of spectacular extensive tea estates. The greenery and the intermittent fog with the mist made the place very romantic. I was lucky to spend the whole year 2006 surrounded by this type of stunning environment. I want to return to the hills for good. In fact, I was planning this since I was a kid and saw the beauty of Nuwara Eliya in Sarath Madhu’s comic ඉතිං ඊට පස්සේ (Ithin Eeta Passe) in the comic weekly සිත්තර (Siththara) where the story was wound around the hills in Sri Lanka. The only thing which prevented me settling down in here was my commitments to Horizon Lanka at Mahawilachchiya. But now I am planning to transfer the project to the safe hands of the youths in Mahawilachchiya who are being given responsibilities to run the place on their own. It will take time, but I am confident about them.

Route to Mahawilachchiya from Nuwara Eliya

Route to Mahawilachchiya from Nuwara Eliya

 

A tea estate in Nuwara Eliya

A tea estate in Nuwara Eliya

In Nuwara Eliya

in Nuwara Eliya

Aleksandar Isailović in Nuwara Eliya

1 Aleksandar Isailović in Nuwara Eliya

We had some tea at a small tea shop in Pussellawa and it was not hot enough. I complained the shop keeper and he apologized and waved off the price of the two tea cups. We paid for bananas we had there though.

A fruit stall in Pussellawa

A fruit stall cum tea shop in Pussellawa

We did not want to go via Kandy City as Aleksandar had already visited Kandy the previous week. Kandy is a congested city with a lot of traffic and I didn’t like to get stuck in there. The only time I loved Kandy was when I was in love, a long time ago. I loved to walk along the Lake Nuwara Wewa holding hands with my sweet ex-girlfriend. Those were the days….. Aah….

A jackfruit stall in Matale - Dambulla road

A jackfruit stall in Matale – Dambulla road

We bypassed Kandy and directly reached Katugastota via Gannoruwa. Had our lunch by the roadside and proceeded to Anuradhapura. We had some delicious jackfruits in a small village between Matale and Dambulla. Aleks loved jackfruits. He had earlier eaten cooked raw jackfruit as a curry and it was here he ate the ripe ones first.

Mahawilachchiya Reservoir

Mahawilachchiya Reservoir

We reached Anuradhapura by the evening and had tea at my sister’s house. Then we proceeded to Mahawilachchiya around 6.30 pm. The whole journey was a fascinating ride for me. But my friend was exhausted as he had to be on the pillion of the bike throughout the whole bike hike as he was not comfortable riding my bike model (Bajaj Pulsar 150) despite having an international driving license.  Thus we ended 630 km – 3 day- bike hike. The whole ride was a “chanceless” one. There was not a single බුදු අම්මෝ! (Oh My God!) moment throughout the ride. At least not for me. I don’t know about Aleks though.

Motorcycle Journeys – Trip to Koradekumbura from Bandarawela with Aleksandar Isailović from Serbia


Route to Bandarawela from Mirahawatta

Route to Bandarawela from Mirahawatta

In the morning of May 16, 2017, Aleksandar Isailović from Serbia and I went to Devananda Public School (Sri Devananda Madya Maha Vidyalaya) in Mirahawatta with Nimal Gunarathna, the ICT teacher of the school and did a presentation on how the school can be benefitted with foreign volunteers as teachers.

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Presentation at Mirahawatta Devananda Public School (Sri Devananda Madya Maha Vidyalaya)

In the afternoon we had a similar presentation at a private tuition class at Bandarawela town to the students and the parents that had gathered there. The problem with the students there is that, despite attending to some of the best public schools in the town, still their English knowledge is not satisfactory. I don’t know why the big monies spent by the Ministry of Education on teacher training do not reflect in the students’ English knowledge.

The busy Bandarawela town

The busy Bandarawela town

Route to Koradekumbura from Bandarawela

Route to Koradekumbura from Bandarawela

In the evening, we went to Koradekumbura to meet a retired Physical Health Inspector (PHI) who was introduced to me by a friend of mine called Daya Wijesinghe from Kandana. The PHI’s name is Jayaweera Jayasundara and he runs this wonderful program where he teaches martial arts (mainly karate) to the villagers. You will be surprised to hear that men and women who are even over 80 years of age practice karate with him. (I will write a comprehensive story about him in the coming days.)

The road to Koradekumbura is not carpeted still it is decent and travelable. (Now that most of the roads are nicely carpeted by the former government, we expect them everywhere we go.) We reached the village around 7.00 pm and had a good shower at the bathroom of Jayaweera’s massive house. His wife is a sweet lady and she cooked a huge feast with a lot of delicious dishes. We were treated like princes there. I can never forget the kind of hospitality they extended to Aleks and me.

Motorcycle Journeys – Trip to Bandarawela from Mahawilachchiya with Aleksandar Isailović from Serbia


Our route from Mahawilachchiya to Dambana

Our route from Mahawilachchiya to Dambana

I started the trip to Bandarawela from Mahawilachchiya around 7.00 am on May 15, 2017 with Aleksandar Isailović from Serbia and reached Mirahawatta (off Bandarawela) via Mahiyanganaya the first day. Despite having an international license, Aleksander could not ride the bike as my Bajaj Pulsar 150 is not a model he had any experience with. In fact, it was my fault that I did not give him enough time to get accustomed to my bike during his stay in Mahawilachchiya.

On the bund of Mahawilachchiya Reservoir

On the bund of Mahawilachchiya Reservoir

Aleksandar Isailović on the bund of Basawakkulama Reservoir

Aleksandar Isailović on the bund of Basawakkulama Reservoir

Scene from the bund of Basawakkulama Reservoir Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

Scene from the bund of Basawakkulama Reservoir Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

We had breakfast at my sister’s house in Anuradhapura and proceeded to Dambulla first. From Dambulla, we took the road via Kandalama – Bakamuna – Laggala up to Mahiyanganaya. The road from Dambulla to Bakamuna was not carpeted as yet but it was still a pretty good road and we never had any problems with the road condition. We had lunch at a small place at Girandurukotte. It was a delicious lunch with fresh vegetables and freshwater fish.

Bridge of Yodha Ela in Bakamuna

Bridge of Yodha Ela in Bakamuna

Ricefields in Girandurukotte

Ricefields in Girandurukotte

At Girandurukotte

At Girandurukotte

After lunch, we proceeded to Mahiyanganaya then to Dambana where the Vedda (a Sri Lankan aboriginal ingenious tribe) people live. I have been to this place several times and hence I personally know Vedda tribal chief, Mr. Uruwarige Waniyaleththo. The houses in Dambana are very eco-friendly. They are made with mud walls and hay stacks roof. You don’t feel the heat that thrust upon the village by the hot sun. We had a chat with the chief and then came back to Mahiyanganaya and then proceeded to Bandarawela. Roads are very well done, thanks to the previous government.

Mr. Uruwarige Wanniya, the Chief of Vedda tribe in Dambana, Mahiyanganaya

Mr. Uruwarige Wanniya, the Chief of Vedda tribe in Dambana, Mahiyanganaya

The roof of the hut of Mr. Uruwarige Wanniya, the Chief of Vedda tribe in Dambana, Mahiyanganaya

The roof of the hut of Mr. Uruwarige Wanniya, the Chief of Vedda tribe in Dambana, Mahiyanganaya

With Mr. Uruwarige Wanniya, the Chief of Vedda tribe in Dambana, Mahiyanganaya

We took some pictures at beautiful Loggaloya Lake. This place is so beautiful and even if you spend hours here you won’t feel enough.

The route we took from Dambana to Mirahawatta.

The route we took from Dambana to Mirahawatta.

Aleksandar Isailović at Loggal Oya

Aleksandar Isailović at Loggal Oya

Mahiyanganaya - Badulla Road

Mahiyanganaya – Badulla Road

The little tea shop we had tea on Mahiyanganaya - Badulla road

The little tea shop we had tea on Mahiyanganaya – Badulla road

We resumed the journey to Badulla and spent some time in Badulla, the small town where I spent honeymoon for year!!! Badulla is a very peaceful and beautiful small town. I love this place.

We left for Bandarawela and met my friend Nimal Gunarathna there. He is a computer teacher in Devananda School, Mirahawatta. He also conducts some private tuition classes in Bandarawela town. We spent night at his house and had a delicious dinner cooked by Nimal’s wife. We had a wonderful tight sleep as the weather was cool and there was not a single mosquito to disturb with their buzz.

Trip to Mahawilachchiya from Trincomalee with Benjamin Pages on My Motorbike


mapRiding was extremely fun as the road was so straight that you can virtually see Anuradhapura from Trincomalee J. Such straight roads usually bring the death to the bikers as we tend to forget our speed limits.  This was the road I rode my fastest ever speed. Don’t ask the speed as I don’t want to be fined for my confession.

Bay of Trincomalee

Bay of Trincomalee

A restaurant alone Trinco - Anuradhapura road

A restaurant alone Trinco – Anuradhapura road

The last leg of the journey. We left Trincomalee around 11. 00 a.m. on April 22, 2016. We spent some time taking photographs of Bay of Trincomalee. We took some pictures of Kantale Reservoir.

Kantale Reservoir

Kantale Reservoir

“The Kanntale reservoir dam breached on April 20, 1986, killing more than 120 people (exactly 30 years ago.) It has since been reconstructed. The dam impounds the Per Aru, a small river discharging into the Koddiyar Bay, at Trincomalee Harbour.

According to Mahavamsa, the tank was built by king Aggabodhi II of Anuradhapura and further developed by King Parakramabahu the Great. It was also known as Gangathala Vapi at the time. The reservoir has a catchment area of 216 km2 (83 sq mi) and a capacity of 135 million cubic metres (4.8×109 cu ft).

On April 20, 1986 at 03:00AM, the dam breached, sending a wall of water over the villages downstream. The floods killed approximately 120-180 people, destroyed over 1,600 houses and 2,000 acres of paddy, affecting over 8,000 families. One of the main causes of the breach was said to be due to extra-heavy vehicles being driven over the dam.” Wikipedia.’

Horowpathana Town

Horowpathana Town

Kahatagasdigiliya Town

Kahatagasdigiliya Town

We passed Horowpathana and then Kahatagasdigiliya on the way. My heart almost stopped when I passed Seeppukulama Junction as it is the place where road to Seeppukulama starts. It is my ex-girlfriend’s village and I get very emotional when I pass this area.

Seeppukulama Junction

Seeppukulama Junction

Mihintale Junction

Mihintale Junction

Pemaduwa Junction, Mahawilachchiya

Pemaduwa Junction, Mahawilachchiya

Riding with Benjamin was fun as we both enjoyed riding the bike. I wish I had a bigger bike than my Bajaj Pulsar 150. I was a damn fool to sell my Bajaj Pulsar 200 for a song. The company discontinued assembling this model and it has become a rare model since then.

Mahawilachchiya Reservoir

Mahawilachchiya Reservoir

Back to Mahawilachchiya - Benjamin Pages and I

Back to Mahawilachchiya – Benjamin Pages and I

Ben and I reached Mahawilachchiya around 5.30 pm (after ending almost 900 km/4 day trip) and had what they call “a well-earned rest.”

 

 

 

 

Trip to Trincomalee from Batticaloa with Benjamin Pages on My Motorbike


We said goodbye to our friend from Batticaloa, Mr. Roshan Pratheepan and started our ride to Trincomalee in the afternoon on April 21, 2016.  Benjamin Pages (the first French volunteer at Horizon Lanka) and I took turns in riding the bike as it was comfortable for both of us.

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After leaving Batticaloa, we passed an area where the landmines set up during the civil war were yet to be removed. These are the remnants of the futile war that dragged Sri Lanka backward for almost three decades. Hope these landmines will be demined when I next take this road.

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We passed several rivers and I do not remember their names. If you can identify them, please help me so that I could add the captions to the photos I publish here. Despite the presence of a number of blue rivers, there were large areas like below that did not have easy access to water for drinking or cultivating.

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The presence of 3G and 4G mobile coverage in the areas along the road was inspiring. The billboards along the road tell you the importance of communication as a large number of Tamil people in these villages had migrated to other parts of the world due to the prolonged civil war. At least one member of most of the families is abroad according to the people I talked to. So, they need decent mobile coverage and the telcos exploit the conditions. Can’t blame them. For them, it is a business and for the people, it is a luxury.

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Trincomalee City

I met Ruwan Deepal Sooriyarachchi, a former colleague of mine at Trincomalee. He is a member of the Sri Lanka Air Force. He worked for Horizon Lanka Foundation a long time ago. He works hard, reads a lot and speaks good English. We had a delicious dinner at a Saiva Kade and said goodbye to each other.

Ben and I spent some time in the beach which was lit by the moon. Then we spent the night at a rest house in Dyke Street (:-)) in Trincomalee beach side.

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With Ruwan Deepal’s  friend and Ruwan Deepal

Trip to Batticaloa from Mahaoya with Benjamin Pages on My Motorbike


We woke up early and started our ride to Trincomalee on April 21, 2016, Benjamin Pages (the first French volunteer at Horizon Lanka) and I started our bike ride to Trincomalee from Mahaoya.

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Our breakfast, boiled corn cobs

Due to our folly in selecting an unrepaired route to Batticaloa from Bibila, we were still paying for that decision as we had to continue the same route up to Batticaloa. But it was still adventure. Thanks to the former president Mahinda Rajapaksa government, it is hard to find an unrepaired main road in Sri Lanka anymore. If you accuse me of being a Rajapaksa loyalist, go ahead and do it. I admire the man for having the courage to end the war and develop the infrastructure in rural areas. Too bad he messed up his political future by trying to entertain his relatives too much. It is not your relatives that are count in an election. It is the people’s votes that decide your future chances. Being such an experienced and cunning leader, he messed up big time.

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Road to Batticaloa from Bibila via Maha Oya

I don’t understand this. When you enter the North and the East of Sri Lanka, the lush greenery suddenly vanishes and you enter a semiarid climate. You feel this as soon as you pass Anuradhapura district boundary and enter Vavuniya from the North. It is the same when you enter the East from Ampara or Batticaloa. Is it due to natural reasons or due to the civil war that hampered any chance of enhancing of irrigation projects to the war ravaged North and East? I don’t know. I must ask my friend Mr. Weralupitiya, a retired civil servant who knows better.

From Chenkaladi, a small town in Batticaloa, the road was superbly carpeted. So, the ride became fun again. We were dog-tired and ate some bananas and gulped down several glasses of fruit juices here. Despite me not being able to speak in Tamil, the people were very amiable and helpful. This is a Muslim dominated area and there are a lot of Tamils too. But I did not see any of them being hostile to Sinhala people here. The psychological wounds of the long-drawn civil war are healing it seemed. What I believe is that the three main communities in Sri Lanka had more common things to unite than to divide. It is the dirty politics of our Big Brother, India that botched up the peaceful coexistence of the island. Local politicians rubbed salt into the wound.

We next went to see the much talked about Batticaloa Fort. According to Wikipedia, the Batticaloa Fort was built by the Portuguese in 1628 and was captured by the Dutch on 18 May 1638. Later, the fort was used by British from 1745. There is not much to see here except some remnants of the colonial times but if you are into colonial architecture, this is a good place I guess. Definitely not my cup of tea.

Next we entered Batticaloa city. I was surprised to see green trees in the middle of the city. Batticaloa does get a lot of rain but the temperature too is very hot. These green trees were a treat to the eye. In fact Batticaloa is an estuarine lagoon. The city is spread in the land masses in the lagoon. It is a very beautiful place with the azure Indian Ocean and the brackish lagoon. My only complaint is its extreme heat. You cannot expect everything to go with your tastes, can you?

There is no point in going to Batticaloa if you don’t spend some time in amazing Kallady Beach. Beach is cleaner when considering the number of people who visit it. But not to the standard you would like to. You could see kids flying kites here. The view of the blue sea is mesmerizing. I am not a much of a beach fan. Surely not after the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004 that devastated the coastal belt of Sri Lanka. I prefer the hills more. But here in Kallady, you sure will love the place.

As previously designed, we met Roshan Pratheepan, a young entrepreneurial English teacher, from Batticaloa. He runs some English classes in and around Batticaloa. Even though I wished to see him in action in one of his classes, we did not have time for it.

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With Roshan Pratheepan from Batticaloa

 

Trip to Mahaoya from Badulla with Benjamin Pages on My Motorbike


On April 20, 2016, Benjamin Pages (the first French volunteer at Horizon Lanka) and I started our journey to Batticaloa from Badulla. In fact, Badulla is a special place in my life. I spent my honeymoon in Badulla for a whole year exactly ten years ago!!!! Badulla was a nice little city in Sri Lanka with constant drizzles I love to see. The city was clean and beautiful. Now it is even cleaner and bigger with a lot of new shops and buildings coming up. I loved riding the motorbike with my beautiful wife from here to Bandarawela, Haputale, Nuwara Eliya, Passara, Ella and Spring Valley. In fact, leaving this cool city and going to Colombo in 2007 was the silliest mistake I did as it disturbed a lot of things in my life. I wish I could turn back time.

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Meeting Sahira Akka’s family after 10 years.

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Meeting Sahira Akka’s family after 10 years.

Before doing anything else, I wanted to see Sahira Akka’s family in Pahalagama, Badulla. This is where my wife and I stayed for a year just after our marriage. Sahira akka’s family was so warm they let us stay at their upstairs even though we had no money to pay the rent. In fact, they did not even mention it till we paid them after a few months. Such nice people!!! It was so good to meet them after 10 years of meeting them first in Badulla in 2006. It was also nostalgic to see the upstairs where we spent our honeymoon. It was so difficult to say goodbye to the family and the house.

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Upstairs of Sahira Akka’s house where we lived for a year

Next we went to see the orphanage my friend Krishanasamy Khandeeban runs in Badulla city. Some destitute female students lived there. Khandeeban funds this school with the little money he makes by running a computer center in the heart of the Badulla city.  His orphanage is a place worth helping if you can.

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Girls at Khandeeban’s orphanage

After visiting the orphanage we went to Khandeeban’s house where we were treated with a lavish lunch with an array of delicious dishes. His family was so warm and I felt guilty that they spent so much on a meal. I didn’t want them to spend money and time for such a feast.

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With Khandeeban’s family. Ladies in the family were too shy to pose for camera.

We said goodbye to Khandeeban and left for Batticaloa. Both Ben and I took turns with riding as usual. We passed the small town of Meegahakiwula. The roads were very nicely laid and riding the bike was full of fun through the green backgrounds of trees and bluish mountain ranges.

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At Loggaloya Lake

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Two girls at a king coconut stall

We took a wrong turn and happened to ride through Mahaoya to Batticaloa passing Bibila. From Bibila to Batticaloa road was not so good but it was still drivable.  Ben had searched the right road through Google maps but we did something silly and ended up riding through the bad road. Even though I am a tech enthusiast, still I prefer to get the information on roads from the people in the area by stopping for road directions from the people.

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Bibila town at dusk

The road we took was also dangerous as people said wild elephants also cross the road. I don’t mind the elephants as long as the road was good. But it was not to be. We reached Mahaoya and stayed in a small guest house for the night. We both were exhausted and fell asleep faster.

The next day’s plan was to go to Trincomalee via Batticaloa.

Trip to Badulla from Mahawilachchiya with Benjamin Pages on My Motorbike


Benjamin Pages (Ben) was the first French volunteer at Horizon Lanka. I went on a road trip with him to Badulla via Polonnaruwa. It was a great ride as both Ben and I could take turns in the ride. To be honest, I did not think I would be comfortable when he rode the bike as I doubted his riding in a country like ours where other drivers do not drive that safe. But Ben faded my doubts away as he convinced me he was the best foreign rider I had rode with. He was very careful despite being a fast rider like me.

We started the trip after 6.00 am on April 16, 2016. As usual, we posed for a few photos on the bund of the huge Mahawilachchiya reservoir as a memory. We rode to Anuradhapura, the first kingdom (377 BC–1017 AD) of Sri Lanka. Ride was very smooth as we started early and it was fun to ride through morning rays of the sun. We stopped at Basawakkulama wewa, aka Abhayawewa reservoir, to capture the glimpse of the great stupas (pagodas) Mirisawetiya, Ruwanweli Seya, Jethawanaramaya and Abhayagiriya over the tree canopies in our camera phones. It was such a beautiful sight to capture in your cameras in the morning (and in the evening too.) Since visiting the great Buddhist heritage of Anuradhapura was not in our plan, we continued the ride without listening to our hearts (to visit the kingdom.)

Next we proceeded to Polonnaruwa, the second kingdom (from the 11th century until 1310 CE) of Sri Lanka via Habarana, the small touristic town. We visited my good old friend, Jayantha in Unagala Wehera on the way to Polonnaruwa and he offered us a very good meal. (I had jokingly told him that we will bring a Tiara cake for 200 LKR and will eat a 2,000 LKR worth meal at his place. This is a nuisance Sri Lankan families welcome during Sri Lankan New Year. We too happened to visit him during the same period.)

Jayantha was a very good computer hardware technician and used to repair our computers at Horizon Lanka for a long time. In addition to that, he is a great tabla (a South Asian membranophone percussion instrument) player and a singer in village parties. I wish we could stay at his place for the night but our plans to proceed to Badulla could not be compromised. So, we said goodbye to Jayantha and his family and next proceeded to Mahaiyanganaya passing Polonnaruwa. Mahiyanganaya is a fabulous plateau surrounded by beautiful blue mountains.

With Jayantha's family

With Jayantha’s family

Polonnaruwa

Polonnaruwa

Beautifully laid straight roads between Polonnaruwa and Mahiyanganaya. You can't help speeding in this type of roads

Beautifully laid straight roads between Polonnaruwa and Mahiyanganaya. You can’t help speeding in this type of roads

Our next destination was Dambana, the village where aboriginal Vedda people , an indigenous tribe in Sri Lanka live. First we went to Vedda Museum and saw a lot of interesting items on display. Whoever took the decision to build this museum should be praised. If you go to Dambana, please ensure you spend at least an hour in the museum.

Mr. Uruwarige Wanniya, the Chief of Vedda tribe is a good friend of mine since 2005 and he recognized me instantly. I had visited him several times in the past and was instrumental in taking the students of the Gurukumbura Primary School in the Veddah village on an aeroplane from Colombo to Dambana and back. But my contribution here was very minute as it was my friend Gamini Akmeemana and Duncan Jayawardane, a friend of his who were actively involved in that. So, I do not want to get an undue credit here. (Read more at http://www.horizonlanka.org/en/blog/2003/12/20/mountains-flew-daily-mirror-december-20-2003/)

Ben was fascinated by Dambana and its indigenous people and wanted to communicate with the Chief of the tribe. I became the interpreter and what followed was a very interesting discussion. I was mesmerized with the way the Vedda Chief answered Ben’s queries. In fact, we recorded the discussion but lost the sound file later. Vedda chief is the most intelligent and the most diplomatic leader I have met in Sri Lanka. It is a shame that we do not have someone like him to rule Sri Lanka but confined to a chief of a few hundreds of people.

He had some indigenous medicine to sell at his hut. We asked if he has medicine for various illnesses and he answered in the affirmative. But when I asked him if he has anything for diabetes, his answer was negative. “We don’t have medicine for diabetes because we don’t get diabetes in this village life with the kind of lifestyle we live.” was his proud answer.

We proceeded to Badulla from Dambana and the more we rode to the mountains, the more beautiful the environment became and the cooler the weather. It was a very nice experience to stop wherever there was some scenic beauty and take pictures. Ben was a kind of annoyed when I stopped the bike to capture some minute things in my mobile phone camera as it disturbed the ride. But now I feel I should have annoyed him more.

By the time we reached the hills it was too dark hence we missed the Dunhinda waterfall, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Sri Lanka. Our yet-to-meet friend, Mr. Krishanasamy Khandeeban had prepared us a nice dinner and a motel room to stay at. We met him at night and after the dinner we went to the motel room by briefly discussing the next day’s work with Khandeeban.

Trip to Mullaitivu on my Motorbike


Nanda Wanninayaka (15)

I stopped enjoying the ‘Sri Lankan New Year’, which falls in the mid-April each year, since I was a teenager. Endless sweetmeats, innumerable friends who visit you and the obligatory return visits you have to make and so forth. At times silly fights by stupid intoxicated people, much the worst from liquor, having to acknowledge and pay homage to every Tom, Dick and Harry in the village who are elders, takes a toll on oneself.  Therefore I have given the New Year celebrations a miss each year.  Last year, I went to Kilinochchi and spent time there with Miss Dekala’s family which was an amazing experience.

On the Mahawilachchiya Resovoir bund

On the Mahawilachchiya Reservoir bund

This year I was invited by Prasanna Balachandran, a person who lives in Vattapalai, Mullaitivu to spend the New Year celebrations with his family. I readily accepted the invitation and left Mahawilachchiya around 8.00 am on April 15, 2017 on my motorbike. It was a comfortable ride as there was hardly any vehicular traffic on the roads. I took the shortcut via the Sacred City of Anuradhapura, bypassing the commercial part of the city. Had a drink of tender coconut water at Thuparamaya, but I was not happy the way the old woman talked to her customers. I felt like refusing the coconut water, but later changed my mind as I thought she was annoyed with herself for the fact that she had to work even on the New Year’s Day to make a living.

Nanda Wanninayaka (7)

I rode to Medawachchiya and bought a new backpack as I had to take my laptop during this trip. You may wonder why I take my laptop everywhere, the reason being, I am not that comfortable with my smartphone, typing on such a small device takes its toll on me. I wanted to take a few photographs at Medawachchiya and since taking selfies is not my forte, I requested the young man who sold me the backpack to take some pictures. He took a few pictures which I found to be excellent, I never expected him to be so creative.

In Medawachchiya

In Medawachchiya

I had a small snack for breakfast at Medawachchiya and rode up to Vavuniya – which was a very dangerous place during the war waged by the Tamil Tigers between since 1975 to 2009, till they were defeated by the Sri Lankan armed forces under the former president Mahinda Rajapaksa. I visited Vavuniya during war time with some retired Indian army personnel who had set up their base camp off Vavuniya to remove landmines. I would not have been there without my friends as this city was famous for the LTTE pistol gangs, who would appear out of nowhere and shoot at soldiers and policemen. Vavuniya was a city where Tamils, Muslims and Sinhala people lived but it was not a safe place for anyone during that time. But now the city is very peaceful and the three communities live in harmony.

in Vavuniya

in Vavuniya

I got the help of a passerby to take few pictures of me, but he was not unto the job. Cannot blame him as it was the first time he had used a smartphone. I thanked him and proceeded further. For some reason I don’t like Vavuniya city, it has some very badly cooked food outlets and I try my best to pass this city faster every time I pass it.

I was stopped by a two traffic police officers along A9 road, I did not understand as to which traffic offense I committed. But when I removed my helmet, they asked me to continue riding. I am not sure why though.

I wanted to go faster on my bike on the straight A9 road, but my bike mechanic advised me not to speed as he needed to do a full engine check after this trip. So I did not go faster than 70, the legal speed limit on the roads in the island.

At Puliyankulam the road branches, with one going to Jaffna and the other to Mullaitivu. Mullaitivu city was the only city that I had not visited in Sri Lanka. So it was an exciting experience to me. I would not have remembered any of the small towns I passed, if not for the big battles that took place in those towns that cost many lives and property damage to both the terrorists and the government forces during war.

in Nedunkerny

in Nedunkerny

Around Nedunkerny I took another picture again with the help of an amateur.  From Puliyankulam to Mullaitivu the road is very straight and surrounded by a thick jungle. Hence I did not feel the effects of strong sun upon me. By now, I was getting hungry and luckily there was a woman who sold papaya and orange juice on the road side. I had a glassful of papaya juice and it was refreshing.

In Mullaitivu

In Mullaitivu

My friend Prasanna wanted me to come directly to his village Vattapalai without going to Mullaitivu town. But I went to Mullaitivu as I wanted to pay my mobile phone bills. Luckily there was a Cargills Food City supermarket and I could pay the bills and go to Vattapalai as instructed by Prasanna. Once I reached Vattapalai around 2.00 pm, Prasanna came to the road and welcomed me. He took me to his in-laws’ house and they offered me a simple, yet tasty lunch. Then I visited Prasanna’s house which was within walking distance. His two kids were very cute and playful.

I wanted to rest a while and had a nap for an hour or two. Then we both visited the nursery run by Prasanna free of charge for the village kids. Prasanna had spent most part of his life in Germany and did not go back to Germany as he had fallen in love with a village beauty. He runs the nursery with the ad-hoc donations he gets from donors in Germany.

We then visited Mulliyawalai to meet Father Dixon who is a pastor whom I had spoken over the phone a few days back after being introduced to each other by a mutual friend. Father Dixon can fluent in Sinhala, Tamil and English. We had a chat after which we returned to Vattapalai.

Mulliyawalai town

I spent the night in Prasanna’s in-law’s home and left Mullaitivu after taking a few selfies with them.

With Prasanna's in-laws

With Prasanna’s in-laws

With Prasanna and his in-laws

With Prasanna and his in-laws

It was surprising to see the green ricefields in Vattapalai during this drought. This is the only green ricefield. I saw during my whole trip.

As soon as you pass Vavuniya and take the Vavuniya – Anuradhapura road, after passing the Air force camp you will see this wonderful oasis. It is clear blue water surrounded by beautiful foliage and aquatic plants. I spent around half an hour here as it was so refreshing.

An oasis in Vavuniya

An oasis in Vavuniya

I reluctantly left this cool oasis and then came to Medawachchiya and then TanTantirimalee through Medawachchiya – Cheddikulam road. Passed Bogoda Bridge. This was the farthest point we could go from Tantirimale during war. But now anyone can go anywhere in the country.

Roads from Vavuniya to North are very nicely paved. I doubt roads in Colombo, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka are as good as the ones in the North (and East for that matter.)

Language never became any issue during all my visits to the North and the East in Sri Lanka both during and after the war. I never tried to talk in unknown Tamil or English here. I talked only in Sinhala. To my surprise, the people here helped me very enthusiastically when I asked for road directions or anything else. I did not see any hatred in their eyes towards me. People were nice to me since my first visit to Tamil Tiger controlled area before 2005. I think the hatred was just created by the terrorists and by the politicians from both sides of the fence.

I never thought I would be able to see a peaceful Sri Lanka before old age. I never imagined my son would be able to live in a peaceful Sri Lanka with the way the war was dragging on. But lasting peace came before his first birthday!!!

Now I have been to all districts in Sri Lanka. Feel happy. Thanks Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa for making this possible by ending the three-decade-long war. Without you two, this would have been just a dream. (Thanks Basil Rajapaksa for wonderful infrastructure here in the North. I know my friends won’t be comfortable with me thanking BR due to obvious reasons but he has done a lot here. His way of doing things was the problem here.) If not for MR’s “three idiots” (and obviously Basil R too,) MR would still be the President of Sri Lanka. But it was not to be.

Bertolt Brecht says in the Caucasian Chalk Circle “War is over, peace is coming. Beware of the peace.” With all his experiences as a politician, MR messed up big time by not being able to manage the peace which came much faster than they expected. They tried to manage the peace with the same drastic ways they managed war, without being able to understand the difference between the two phenomena.