DesertVenture
Desert Cycle Namibia
DESERT HEART PARTY
Cycle Sri Lanka
Save the Rhino Trust - Namibia
Desert Walks
Sri Lanka Live Blog
Mike Hearn
*

Step off into the sunlight of the verdant island of life and fertility. Cycling is the ONLY way to see Sri Lanka. Travelling in a car, is a misery of bumping and juddering over pot-holed roads, as the car whirls round the endless hairpin bends that the mountainous landscape obliges. On a cycle, it's an adventure of discovery touching the soul of the island.

Gravel tracks through the tea lend an easy, off road, scenic route from which to admire the vista of blue hazed mountains receding into the distance. From rocky tracks, we come to paddy field foot paths. The overall impression is one of a luminescent, vibrant GREEN. Fertility floods life from every nook & cranny of the country side.

Our way is lined with jubilant smiling faces of the colourful people that populate the idyll of the rural backwaters. We are welcomed with wide toothy grins from older folk and excited leaps from the children. School girls dressed in white dresses with green ribbons in their neatly plaited hair, smile shyly. The colourful saris of the tea pickers resemble a fritillary of butterflies across a green lawn of tea.



THE ROUTE




We start in Kandy, at a secluded hilltop bungalow, views to die for. There's a free day to recover from the flight and we cycle down to Kandy's exquisite Botanical garden, which could be one of the 7 wonders of the world. We have lunch, take in the temples and bustling life, before escaping back to an afternoon of tranquillity by the pool.

From Kandy we move towards Nuwara Eliya through some dramatic hill-country tea estates. The immaculately pruned bushes mould the hillside as a vivid carpet of moss. At an altitude of 5,000m there is a freshness to keep us cool. We have 2 long days of tremendous variety. Climbing through extraordinary indigenous vegetation to Hortons Plains National park; then plunging into deep valleys: Wind in the hair euphoria!

Continuing our route: We emerge at the Castlereagh reservoir and then climb to stay at an estate owners hide-away: Log cabins on the edge of the Peak Forest Reserve. Fresh water from a crystal clear mountain stream flows through the cleverly constructed natural pool. We swim, bask on rocks or walk into the forest.



The View from Castlereagh Bungalow out across the reservoir, where we lounge by the pool for a well deserved day of rest.


Onwards through the indigenous forest of the Peak Reserve, our journey continues with a tumultuous, joyous 30 km descent, all the way down, to rural agriculture of the paddy field.



Ness researching the route (looking none too elegant!)

In the pastoral lowlands, a vibrant almost lime green sings out from paddy fields as we sail by. Rural houses are perched on pretty hillocks. After the great descent, we ascend again to Surya Kanda (meaning sun mountain), for 2 nights, where we have a day of respite to hang out by a pool with a
view, or take a trek towards the adjacent Sinharaja Rain Forest (Sinharaja = Lion King!). The free day girds up our strength for the longest day yet. But the trend is downwards, and with acceleration, we are magnetized South & West towards the sea and Galle.

STAYING We stay in old world tea bungalows with strange Scottish names, some faded, some exquisite, but all with spectacular views, and mostly with swimming pools. They have space for our group alone: House party intimacy. At Nuwara Eliya, the Hill Club is reminiscent of baronial Scottish castles, portraits of the Queen smile down at us reassuringly.

In Galle, a villa by the turquoise sea awaits, complete with pool to lounge by. It is our final treat along with a celebration dinner at the Sun House with Hen. 3 nights here are probably not sufficient to unwind, swim, sun & explore the 17th century Dutch fort, so we can extend our stay.

Local Partner Our cycle partner, a Brit called Peter, has 20 years experience cycling every corner of Sri Lanka and is married to a reputed local beauty. There's a mad, passionate streak that loves life, action & above all Sri Lanka. He carries good quality rock hopper off road bikes. He's definitely our man.

It all flowed so smoothly it, was simply meant to be. Namibia is in memory of Mike, and Mike also came to Sri Lanka! I searched and couldn't find half of the places in the guide book




RAINFOREST RESCUE INTERNATIONAL (RRI)

When it came to the rain forest, God dipped his paint brush in the rainbow and went mad with fantasy. The colour & vibrancy of birds, flowers, butterflies; the form & texture of foliage is untold in dreams of childhood. Nature is more artful & imaginative than the human mind can fathom. Coming to this glorious island & just looking is insufficient. Our journey aims to involve us more deeply to contribute something more profound to preserving its beauty.

Sri Lanka's rainforest is critically endangered as over 94% of it has been destroyed, with vital forest habitat now split into around 140 fragmented forest patches. . Small ecosystems are particularly fragile as genetic diversity becomes very limited, such that disease can strike a catastrophe of extinction in one swift blow. Interbreeding weakens the species and food is scarce. To make the remaining pockets of rainforest more viable, RRI are working with communities to create corridors of economically viable forest by planting trees that not only restore vital habitat, but also give a crop that can be used by rural farmers to generate income.

Our contribution to Rainforest Rescue International will work primarily with education on care, appreciation & love of the forest and importantly how to get the most out of the natural environment economically whilst protecting it. These are poor people. Financially enabling and empowering them is important in conservation.

We will support both their conservation corridors and their 'Rainforest Ranger' schools programme, working with schools on our cycle route. The after school clubs for children aged 11-14 provide fun, practical opportunities for students to learn about the environment. It aims to give children a positive connection to their natural heritage, empower them to make conservation actions and become advocates for environmental conservation in their schools and communities. The end product is learning how to earn from the forest whilst protecting it. Teaching and educational materials and are provided.

We are delighted to find this wonderful NGO to work with, who have strong links with our own Eden Project, Cornwall, who seconded expert strategists. Their mission has been well researched and is focused in the most beneficial way for community and environment.

The money raised in UK will go via Rainforest Concern, a UK charity who have pledged to add an additional £5,000 to the money we raise. Sending the money via Rainforest Concern enables us to take advantage of Giftaid, whereby the Government add 28% to all donations from UK tax payers.

Click here to download SriLanka_itinerary 2011.pdf

*


*

*