Last nights sleep was restless, the air in the old musty room was heavy with moisture and hot making it uncomfortable. The rotating fan above our head looked like it was likely to detach from the ceiling imminently and seemed to do little to stir the humid air. Yet somehow we did manage some sleep, but when the alarm went off at 6 it was hard to get ourselves up. We planned to start much earlier today than yesterday, trying to get on the road for 7 at the latest in order to take advantage of the cooler, drier part of the day. Of course that didn’t happen.
With no fuel on our bikes I went to reception to enquire about obtaining any kind of liquid containing caffeine. The ten or so members of staff employed to run this small government rest house were all milling about not doing a huge amount but putting a lot of effort into their malaise. I was eventually given a menu, one reserved specifically for foreigners with suitably elevated prices and ordered two cups of tea complete with frustrating 600% price markup. I was told it would take a while so headed back to the room to pack and check to make sure the bikes were ok, I was disappointed to see I had a puncture on my front wheel (why is it always me? Sheena is yet to have a single one!). After taking the tire off the wheel I realised I must have over enthusiastically inflated the tube and over pressurised it… as a result the inner tube had forced the rim tape into each of the spoke holes and deformed the shape of the inner tube considerably. A fair amount of time was then spent repairing the tube and stuffing the holes in the rim with toilet paper compressed with a chopstick, a bit weird but it seems to have done the job and we had no more problems for the rest of the day. Half way through carrying out our repair job we realised no tea had showed up so once again I popped over to reception to find out what was going on. Bizarrely they acted like I hadn’t been and ordered any and took this second visit as confirmation that I actually wanted a drink, as if the previous conversation had been some kind of practice run. With ‘bed tea’ confirmed and ordered with over 50% of the hotels staff members we were able to continue. This time it turned up, worst pot of tea we have had with an additional 10% service charge on the vastly inflated prices just to start our day nicely.
By the time we set off it was already very hot and humid. The only route we were able to take was the main north-south road on the western side of the island. It was a good quality road, but not especially interesting due to the continuous ribbon development along each side. We passed a few coconut plantations, but otherwise it was almost all semi new small shop fronts each selling or advertising the same things – basic goods and mobile phone credit. The fumes from the traffic and the heat made it hard work and as you can probably tell from my inability to write anything particularly enthusiastic, it wasn’t particularly enjoyable. We have people cycling along side of us, or stopping to talk to us regularly, but it is always the same three questions and it becomes very tiresome. We entertain them in order to be polite, but telling someone where you are going, where you are from and if you like Sri Lanka 50 times in a morning gets a bit monotonous.
Our arrival in our destination town was uneventful. Its not a nice place and has nothing of interest here, the few places to stay all tried ridiculously hard to charge stupid amounts of money which wasn’t the most enjoyable experience after cycling all day. We walked into town and ordered food, vegetable rice and curry but somehow ended up with a plate of fried rice.
At the moment I am not feeling the love… there are a number of reasons why but I am going to bite my tongue and wait to see if things improve. I guess most of all there is still a lingering disappointment about our original route failing leaving a sense of purposelessness in being here now. I would much rather be in the mountains compared to the congestion here. Here we are not a guest we are a ‘foreigner’, and despite the huge assistance the international community has given Sri Lanka over the years we are nothing but a cash cow. It is government policy that hotels and tourist sites have a two tier pricing system and it isn’t pretty. National parks are off limits to us at 150 dollars per day, UNESCOs eight sites are $30 per person per site so that’s not happening either. A recent surge in tourism has led to hotels that try to charge a lot of money compared to quality. None of this matches up with real money here, Walter the guy who worked in our first homestay earns just $2 per day – a pittance compared to what is being charged. I understand that the government wants to use tourism to develop, but the prices and differences in prices cannot be justified and its pissing me off already. Here I feel like an exploited tourist, this isn’t travel and we wish it wasn’t winter so I could go somewhere much more interesting.
I know when we are not feeling the love… we don’t take any photos. Today we only took one.