This was the fourth day of our tour. Got some good sleep at the quiet village in Mulativu. We started our journey at 5.30 in the morning and headed towards the lagoon. We got some advice the previous night from our host that we will have to cross the lagoon via boat, otherwise the route would be much longer than that. And as for people who are cycling, we certainly don’t want to take long cuts. The best thing about cycling in the Eastern province is you get to see a beautiful sunrise every day. The sun today was rising over the lagoon and coconut trees bordering it. However, the sun rising this early has its downside. Things get heated up really fast. This means we had to cycle a lot to cover distance before it got too hot.
We were going through a forest reserve that also had army camps nearby. On a Sunday morning like this and especially closer to the Sinhala and Hindu New Year, the only people you would find are army officers. Since there were Army camps nearby, one can say there must be cafeterias nearby as well – that are maintained by the army. We were right, but to our dismay they were still not open. What do you expect? – it was a Sunday morning. I had a bad feeling the nearest shop will be far away, because there wasn’t a single house in this forest reserve. When we asked for directions they said the village is nearby and yes, there was a shop that served breakfast. It was a small place made of aluminium sheets but the meals served were delicious. I was amazed by the taste of food these small shops had to offer.
The goal was to cycle towards Kokilai lagoon. Along the way we came across some school boys who were in their uniforms, cycling to school. I got to hand it to you – when you’re wearing helmets and cycling on road bikes, it looks pretty damn cool for Sri Lankans. And in Sri Lankan villages, you immediately get a fan club of cyclists following you and trying to race you to the end. We loved this feeling. These kids were riding old Lumala bikes and almost beating us to it. When I was about to climb a hill, I felt that my rear wheel was dragging me down.
I knew this day would one day come to haunt me, and it happened today. This is every cyclists nightmare – getting a flat tyre. I immediately pulled over near the school these kids were attending and began my repairing mission. Got some help from these kids and it took some time for me get back on the road. Saroj being the saint even bought these kids chocolates from the nearby shop.
We came to the dockyard – where the boats were kept. This is a fishing village, and mind you don’t expect five star service here. We spoke to one of the fishermen there and loaded our bikes onto the motor boat. We negotiated for a price – 200 rupees per person (inclusive of bike). Saroj wasn’t happy with this amount. We had no option anyway since we couldn’t turn back and cycle 60 km more to avoid paying a few hundred rupees extra. This was holiday season and most of these fishermen had gone home. When I say home – none of these fishermen are from this area. They are all from Negombo (in Colombo). They have set up their fishing operations here in order to expand their business. This is a Sinhala community is living in a Tamil dominated area. Therefore, they don’t get along well all the time.
How did I manage to know all of this? Well by talking with the guy who was driving our boat. He also told us about the pollution that is happening by the companies that have set up operation to dig out sand from the lagoon – causing massive erosion. These operations are always politically backed, that’s how most of these contracts get approval. You would be surprised by the things you can learn from the conversations you have with the people around you.