My Longest Motor Cycle Journey in Sri Lanka with Meer Ali from India


Meer Ali and Nanda Wanninayaka at Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

Meer Ali and Nanda Wanninayaka at Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

In August, 2016 I finished a 5-day-long motorcycle journey with Meer Ali, the first volunteer for Horizon Lanka from India. This was the longest sojourn I embarked on a bike so far. It was high fun riding the bike through all those cities, towns and villages with Meer Ali, my friend from India. We took turns while riding and after the long ride with Benjamin Pages from France who was an excellent rider, Meer was the next one to win my admiration for safe riding. It was very comfortable to be at the pillion of the bike when his turn came. I have never been comfortable like with Ben and Meer so far in the pillion of a bike.

We took the following routes.

Tour Map

Tour Map

Day 1 – From Mahawilachchiya to Naula via Dambulla (117.1 km)

Day 2 – From Naula to Nuwara Eliya via Katugasthota bypassing Kandy (129 km)

Day 3 – From Nuwara Eliya to Tissamaharama via Bandarawela, Ella, Wellawaya, Thanamalvila. (143)

Day 4 – From Tissamaharama to Yala National Park and back and to Thissamaharama. Then to Mount Lavinia through Hambanthota, Matara and Galle. (310 Km) – The longest distance I rode by bike within a single day.

Day 5 – From Mount Lavinia to Mahawilachchiya via Colombo, Ja Ela, Minuwangoda, Narammala, Kobeygane, Padeniya, Thambuththegama and Anuradhapura (263 km)

Total is 962 km within 5 days. It cost Meer only 2500 (LKR) worth petrol for the bike for the whole distance. It was close to 20 liters of petrol. Still half of the last 500 LKR remained in the tank after we returned home. This is a good advertisement for my Bajaj Pulsar 150.

Thanks to the Mahinda Rajapaksa government, all the main roads are completely renovated wherever we went. I think almost all roads are like this everywhere in Sri Lanka. Hope the Maithripala government also continue the good work of Mr. Rajapaksa and renovate the remaining by roads.

We never had any life-threatening moments while riding a distance close to 1000 km. Well, except for the scary moment when Meer lost the balance when he went over a pot hole which we traveled in Kobeygane – away from the main road to see a sick child. But Meer took the bike back in control before we fell and I don’t think it was his fault. Meer is an excellent, fast and mindful rider. In fact, if one has ridden a motorbike in a country like India where drivers’ discipline is hardly heard of, one can ride a bike even in Mars too.

I was surprised about the cleanliness of all the cities, towns and villages during this epic ride. I didn’t see much difference in the places of the developed world and in Sri Lanka. Drivers were also fairly disciplined despite the cliché of bad Sri Lankan drivers. Only problem was that some buses and trucks never dimmed the headlights when they saw we were coming from the front.

During all these 5 days my friend Meer had to tolerate my singing of Hindi, Sinhala, Tamil and English songs while riding. According to my son Abhilash, my voice is too deep that it comes close only to Fred Flintstone, supposed to be the world’s second worst voice. (Well, the worst voice is supposed to be Cacofonix. Meer must have been surprised of the huge number of Hindi songs I sang. I remember more than 500 song lyrics since my elder brother Nayanasena bought us a high-quality Akai cassette recorder in 1980s. With my deep voice, the only singer I can come anywhere close to must be Kishore Kumar. But I can never compare myself with the legend.

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.