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We went to the airport to meet the rest of the tour group who were flying in the day the tour started. We found out very quickly there were 16 people on the tour – the two of us and 14 Brits. I wondered what we were in for! My first email to Kaz mentioned this and she came back with some advice in the reply “just don't mention the cricket!”. Fortunately for us outnumbered Aussies, we couldn't have picked a better group of people to spend the fortnight with.

Before I went on this trip, I asked my brother-in-law (who is a keen cyclist) how best to physically prepare for the tour. Paul's response was “Just ride. It is not your fitness that will be a problem – it is sitting in the saddle for hours on end.” He was right. And this, combined with the 6am/6.30am starts most days made it a real physical challenge!

We arrived in Sigiriya the first night in the dark. Here is the scene that greeted us the next morning for breakfast.

After breakfast we rode out and visited Dambulla's cave temples

In the afternoon, it was time to climb the rock fortress.

Yep – I'd like to see soneone doing that during a wasp attack!

Some of the cave art

 

Almost to the top… You can see the wasp nests in the top left hand corner – the black ones are the live ones!

View from the top

The next day, after the morning ride to our next destination, we visited the ruined city of Polonnaruwa.

The following day we made our way to Matalie Region.

At the morning tea stop, James tried to trade in his bike!

Some shots from the market around the corner from the tea stop.

Kandy was the next destination.

Some of the countryside along the way.

My attempt at some group shots at the catchup point.

Arriving at the hotel in Kandy, we were a little worried about this sign in the room.

The lake in Kandy

The Temple of the Tooth is said to contain the left upper incisor of Buddha. Here are some photos from our time there (no photos of the tooth though, which James attempted to take and had his arm forced down by one of the temple minders to stop him taking the photo!)

That night, Caroline, one of the ladies on the tour, had her birthday. We celebrated at the hotel where there was a four piece band walking around. After they sang happy birthday, we requested another song for one of the guys on our tour (Neil) because he couldn't stand the band and the way they were butchering some of the songs!

It was looking like a dry night because the government had banned the sale of alcohol due to the fact it was full moon and that had religious significance. Fortunately, James found a dodgy Tuktuk driver and his bootlegging friend who were all too happy to help out. I went with James downstairs to do the exchange. The guy asked us to get into the Tuktuk and told us to move over as the bootlegger got in next to us, trapping us in the back. Four kilometres of “I'm not sure this was such a good idea” feelings later, we arrived and handed the money over to the bootlegger who promptly disappeared. I got out and kept a look out – what if this was a police sting? Back came the bootlegger with a box twenty minutes later. We checked the goods as they went into the back pack, got dropped back at the hotel and a good night was had by all (in our room).

(Thanks Doug for the photo)

The next day kicked off with a walk around Kandy.

It was off to the barber for a hair cut, shave and head massage (of course no hair cut for me!)

Next door to the barber, James spotted gorilla masks, which gave him the idea for the next challenge!

After walking around for the afternoon dressed up, what better way to turn up to happy hour to meet the rest of the guys on the tour (flowers added for extra effect)

(Thanks Doug for the photo)

That concluded our time in Kandy and the first half of the tour. Next blog will be on the second half where there was a reversal of roles in the traditional wedding photo and when James and I decided to try out some of the traditional pole fishing…

 

After catching up with James on the Gold Coast when we were up north earlier this year and hearing that he was going on holidays by himself, I did the thing that any friend would do in my situation – I offered to go with him. So, last month, leaving Kaz in Melbourne, James and I set off for Sri Lanka to do a cycling tour with a couple of days either side of it to relax and generally run a muck!

With two days to go before the start of the cycling tour, we had a chance to get out see some of Negombo. We started by taking a Tuktuk ride around.

Locals untangling fishing nets…

Part of the 120km canal system – a legacy of the Dutch.

Interesting sounding job. I wonder how many ways you can cook a head…

Goldfish at the market…

Lunch on the first day – the first of many meals of chilli crab for James.

I'm not sure how effective this fan would be…

No adventure is complete without a hat. James with his Panama hat doing his Michael Jackson impression!

Due to either the small hat sizes or the huge size of my head, I had two choices for a hat. With one being a Bob Marley inspired Rasta hat, I decided on the second option. Cheers!

That night, we'd arrange to meet Mahesh, one of my friends who lives in Colombo. We wondered what we were going to do and on our way back to the hotel, the Tuktuk driver gave us an idea. He told us that there was a corporate beach party for an airline at the hotel next door. So, we thought we'd drop by. We walked straight through reception and onto the beach to join the party and proceeded to follow Beck's Law: If you look like you belong, they won't question you.

Mahesh and I catching up.

First to order a drink was James and he was asked “are you part of the party?” to which James had no trouble answering “of course”. From then on, the waiters served us drinks and plates of tempura prawns all night!

James was hard at it networking. These guys were representatives of tour companies interested in doing business with their newly established Australian travel contact, James. (Nice cover story Jimmy!)

The game was nearly up a couple of times. The first was when James starting talking to the CEO! The second was when I was talking to a group of people and asked whether they worked for the company or an affiliate, to which the head of Corporate Marketing replied “Didn't you see my presentation?”. Oops!

Some of the entertainment they put on just for us…

Waking up the next morning with a pocketful of businesses cards, it was time to relax in the pool.

That night, we walked along the beach where we saw these little food vans.

Stay tuned for the next blog when the cycling pleasure began!

 

With our time in New York running out we ventured upstate to catch up with our dear friends Britt, Sandra and their gorgeous girls Miska, Tamia and Meli who we did a work exchange for last year in Chiloe.
We stayed in Britt's dad's home right on the edge of the lake near Cooperstown and enjoyed amazing hospitality.
Who needs swimmers when you can wear a singlet and your pyjama pants?
Nick and Tamia doing a spot of fishing.
It was a tough afternoon out on the water.
Reunited with the gorgeous Meli.
The next morning before heading back to New York we went for a quick visit to Cooperstown.

Thanks for a wonderful weekend guys. It was SO great to catch up with you again.

The time had come to say goodbye to New York. It was an amazing month and we loved every minute of it.

We definitely were not ready to leave but knew that all good things must come to an end!

As the song says….

'These streets will make you feel brand new

Big lights will inspire you, let's hear it for New York

New York, New York'

 

Special thanks to Sofie, Aron, Ella and Zac for generously giving us their apartment and for Milla (Sofie's sister and my gorgeous friend) for arranging it for us. It was an adventure we will never forget.

 

Mum and dad left New York on the morning of July 24th and Dann and Mark (Nick's sister and her partner) arrived the same evening. We managed to fit in quite a few things in between.
We headed downtown and popped into the beautiful Trinity church.
Wall street was the next stop and we could not resist a stop outside the New York Stock Exchange.
Ncik thought he might try to ride the Wall Street bull.
We were not the only ones there!
This guy had some balls!
That evening before Dann and Mark arrived we met the lovely Lisa uptown and enjoyed a walk down by the river.

We decided to join Dann and Mark on their first walking tour with Max and rack up our fourth tour with City Rovers. We did the CITY OF DREAMS TOUR – DISCOVER EAST VILLAGE, LITTLE ITALY, AND SOHO

Before the tour started we went to McSorleys for a pre-tour drink.

We enjoyed this park!
Danielle and Mark enjoyed the treat at a local bakery.
The street art was really cool!
 

We couldn't resist taking Dann and Mark to our favourite Mexican place on 7th Avenue for dinner while they were with us. It was our favourite combination of great food with a cheap and cheerful price tag!

Another day Dann and Mark treat us to a food walking tour with Foods of New York.
Before the tour started we grabbed a coffee and enjoyed how seriously the milk delivery man took his job.
We also had fun in one of the local shops. Chicken hat anyone?

The tour of Greenwich village started with pizza.

And went on to include many different tastings…..
Heather, our guide was great! Arinchini balls anyone?
 
We celebrated Dann and Mark's upcoming wedding early with a dinner at Palma (featured on our walking tour) as their wedding present.
And ended with a last trip to the roof terrace.

 

Thanks Dann and Mark for allowing us to share in your honeymoon and for the amazing foodie walking tour you took us on. We had a wonderful time with you and we never forget our shared New York adventure!