Author Archive for Nick

Three days in Colombo (SL pt 4 – final)

After saying goodbye to everyone from the tour, it was time to hit the street and take a look around Colombo.

Is that penguin going to eat Jimmy?

First things first – we found ourselves some accommodation that was more central.

Is that a personal disco, time machine or shower? Complete with 4 different shower heads at different angles, radio, disco lights and even a phone – I want one of these showers at home!

What are they selling?

Of course – ice cream! What did you think they were selling?

We decided that we were in a new city and therefore it was time for some new clothes…

No Jimmy – the red is not your colour!

We finally settled on our clothes and prepared to go out for the evening (complete with our travel hats!)

At the sky bar again… Cheers!

That night, I was awoken by James screaming something at someone outside and telling him he couldn’t sleep (insert expletives as required!) We then realised why the tv was so loud when we were shown the room – there was a building site behind the room going 24 hours a day. For some reason I had not heard it until James pointed it out. We changed rooms for the second night.

The view out the window.


The next day, we hit the museum, where Jimmy decided to display his cultural sensitivity and try out some ancient sanitation devices!

That night, it was chilli crab dinner for the last night.

Someone is excited about getting crabs!

For our last day, we decided to check out the market (before flying out that night).

On the way, the tuktuk broke down in the middle of one of the busiest roundabouts in Colombo. The guy told us he was out of fuel, grabbed a small one litre oil container and jumped out. Something told me with the almost automatic way he did this that it was not an unusual occurrence!

Hey presto – no driver!

It turned out the market was really busy.


Jimmy making friends at the market. You want avocados? Ai ai captain!

Disco lights shop.

Full of natural goodness. Really?

For our final challenge, we decided to help some of the vendors out at the market. The challenge was to get someone to come up and buy. (My favourite is the second guy – he gets right into it!)


Endless beaches, timeless ruins, welcoming people, oodles of elephants, killer surf, cheap prices, fun trains, famous tea, flavourful food – need I go on? – describe Sri Lanka.

– Lonely Planet Sri Lanka.

I couldn’t agree more…


My Trusty Pleasure Machine Awaits! (SL pt. 3)

No that isn’t some dodgy line I’ve picked up from somewhere, that was the first thing James said every morning before getting on his bike. And today, leaving Kandy, riding the bike was definitely not going to be a pleasure! For him at least. Today was what had been termed up until now ‘the hill climb day’ – about 80km in distance but climbing 1600m to the highest point on the island. I’d dipped out because I was worried about doing further damage to my already dodgy neck and opted for the scenic train journey (along with eight others from our tour). Part of me was disappointed not to be trying it but I loved train journeys and couldn’t wait.

Here is something that was written on the top of the stem of my bike. Something to remember – especially for James on the hill climb!

James with the other hill climbers from our tour.

(Photo courtesy of Doug Thorpe)


Ah the look of accomplishment: James at the top. Well done Jimmy!

(Photo courtesy of Doug Thorpe)

Meanwhile, back on the train…

(photo courtesy of Gillian Pastuch)



It was a stand up affair at the start and progressively most of us got seats. Mo found a seat next to someone who was catching flies!

The view from the train was just stunning

(photo courtesy of Gillian Pastuch)


Arriving at the station, we had a three way tuktuk race to the hotel (no photos due to the fact I was holding on!)

At the hotel, they were stating the obvious…

We took a photo of the ladies…

Then someone suggested a wedding type photo with the roles reversed. I had no idea what they were talking about until…

The scenery was lovely the next day…

Ice cream anyone?

Jimmy finally got his wish to play cricket with the locals, not even stopping to take off his helmet!

One thing I love doing is to get out and look around the town where we are staying

These guys were waiting for the bus. After taking their photo, one of the young guys asked me to sit with them. It turns out the three of them were collecting donations to challenge a ruling by their university to suspend 67 students for protesting against a proposed change to free education.

Coming back, I found two monks walking along the road.

The next day, after a late night, we took photos at the lookout point before setting off.

The scenery on the way down…

Buddha Statues at Buduruvagala

In the afternoon, we went to Udawalawe National Park and were lucky enough to see a wild elephant giving itself a bath.

Breakfast the next morning was happy to see me!

One of the many tea stops along the way…

A chameleon in a bush at the hotel

I wondered how good the chameleon was with camouflage. So, always one to set a challenge, I decided to get him out of his tree and give him a test… As you can see, he didn’t turn blue though!

That evening, we went to a temple for a ceremony. This was the fruit basket that was made as the offering.

While we were at the temple, James went on an adventure of his own. I’ll let him tell it in his own words:

“I sure was templed out, so decided to go shopping for kids tshirts, my 3rd attempt at trying to find tshirts mind you.

Started walking, the wrong way to town, only to be approached by a student on a motorbike, he offered ride to town, but as I didn’t have a helmet he was worried re police pulling us over so took the back roads, needless to say I got disorientated.

He was keen to practice his English & offered a tour of surrounds next day, so gave me his number, my saving grace!

Having lost track of time it was dark, I had started walking back along the wrong road, when I decided to catch a tuk tuk.

It was about this time I realised I didn’t know the name of the hotel, well the tuk tuk driver didn’t speak a word of English so started driving around to find someone that did.

We stopped at a bottle shop, I started draw a map of the area on the back of a coaster, which didn’t seem to ring any bells with anyone, but got a few laughs.

I found the bike riders number in my pocket & asked the shop keeper to ring.

At this point I should have got on the phone, however they seemed to reach an understanding.

We headed off, big sigh of relief, as the english speaking shop owner came along.

Only to find the bike rider just guessed where I was staying & gave a hotel name on the other side of the lake.

So it was at this stage, I thought I better ring the bike rider myself & ask him to tell them to take me where he picked me up & bingo, home at last, 1 hr tuk tuk ride later

Another tea stop…
On the last day of riding, it was time for party hats as per the tradition of the tour!
Scenes from the last ride…
And another crazy photo to finish up!
Pole fishing is a tradition in some parts of Sri Lanka… And one we had to try albeit without the fishing rods!
There was dancing on the second last night…
And a visit to Galle the next day on the way back to Colombo.
On the last night, a few of us went out for drinks on a rooftop bar in Colombo.

And that concluded the tour part of the trip. Thank you to Intrepid Travel / Exodus and our 14 new friends for the great times we had. I would definitely recommend this 14 day cycling tour of the backroads of Sri Lanka.


Welcome to boot camp (Sri Lanka part 2)

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…


Sri Lanka part 1:  If you look like you belong…

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!