Ceylon - an island of wonders

Date:
16 September – 8 October 2006

Participants:
Lucyna and Igor Czajkowscy

Distance covered by bicycle:
600km

All in all, we should thank God for saving us. We were planning our journey to Sri Lanka (Ceylon) for December 2004. It was on the second day of Christmas that the tsunami waves struck Sri Lanka's beaches, wreaking havoc up to dozens of kilometres inland. We dreamt about celebrating Christmas Eve on the beach – quite unlike the Polish ritual repeated year after year. Luckily, we lacked money to organise this expedition.

After coming back from Mexico, we focused on India. Unfortunately, Igor had only 3 weeks' holidays at his disposal, and decided that it was too short a time to travel to India. Since in Igor's opinion Sri Lanka was like "civilised India", and he expected the roads destroyed by the tsunami to be passable again, we went to Sri Lanka.

Ceylon is a unique island. What will we remember about it?

1.The flora – extremely varied and rapidly changing. Palm plantations, the jungle, plantations of tea, rubber, rice and banana plants, neighbouring quite unexpectedly with fields full of leek, parsley and carrots.
2.Elephants – we visited an elephant orphanage; watching those animals take a bath was an unforgettable experience.
3.Turtles – waiting at the beach, in the middle of the night, for a female to come and lay eggs. Watching this miracle of nature – unchanged for millions of years – is a mystical experience.
4.Sigiriya – we should not refer to it as an architectural monument. The mountain is ca. 300 m high. Situated on a flat upland, it is clearly visible from more than a dozen kilometres away. There used to be a fortress on its top. Surprisingly, the entire piping system with valves and fountains has been working properly from the 5th century AD to this day!
5.Adam's Peak – with a bit of luck, this climbing trip may be concluded with a beautiful sunrise watched from the top. Four thousand steps (some of them very steep) can turn your legs into jelly as you walk down.
6.Nuwara Eliya – never-ending tea plantations with Victorian houses scattered in their midst. Visit to a tea factory is a must.
7.Ayurweda – relaxing massage, much appreciated especially after a few days of pedalling uphill.
8."The road" – left-sided traffic, smoking trucks, lizards casually strolling across the road, cows, omnipresent auto rickshaws, and the rule of "absolutely no trust".
9.Cockroaches – even with my inborn dislike of spiders and worms, I spent two nights in one room with 5-cm cockroaches. These are the small battles that you can win while challenging yourself and your weaknesses. Now our tiny Polish cockroaches no longer make an impression on me ;-)
10.Buddhism – it was my first encounter with Buddhism. Spirituality and calmness – this is primarily what I will keep in my memory. Exquisite temples, always full of people (!), caves in Dambula, and orange-clad monks rushing somewhere through the streets.
11.The people – Sri Lankans' cordiality and unpushy curiosity made us feel better in that country than in any other place we had visited before.