And so having bought the bike, airline tickets and made a huge raft of arrangements, I am now in the final week of preparations for my trip.
My trip consists of three stages.
Firstly Sri Lanka. Secondly Northern India. Lastly Nepal.
I have wanted to visit Sri Lanka for many years. I had heard that it was very beautiful and worked extensively with Doctors from there. It is only in recent years that Sri Lanka has become fully open for visitors to explore. The cessation of hostilities and the end of the civil war now allows for travel to the Northern reaches of Sri Lanka.
Sadly the war resulted in a huge displacement of people and high death toll particularly in the final months of the war. Added to that the enormous devastation and large number of deaths caused by the tsunami in 2004; the Sri Lankan people have endured incredible suffering.
My planned itinerary is to cycle from Colombo in the West, cross country and then South to the coast and then head to the religious sites at Katargama. Returning back towards the central hill country I will then aim for Aragum Bay on the East coast. This is a popular spot for surfers and a good place to take a break in the journey. From there I will work my way North along the East coast until finally cutting in past Polonnaruwa in a bid to hit the Northern tip of Sri Lanka at Jaffa. It would be remiss to pass the ancient capital of Anuradhapua, Dambulla or the hill capital of Kandy and so will aim to catch those places on my return to Colombo. However my itinerary is not fixed, as with all my cycling tours, and much will depend on decisions made on route. I will have little money for the usual tourist type activities or accommodation and quite expect to endure a fair amount of hardship. However I am taking enough gear to be fairly self supporting in most respects. Providing I am not robbed blind I should be good to go and under my own steam will survive to experience some excellent views.
The second part of my trip will take me to Delhi. From there I hope to explore the hills and mountain areas of the Northern states. In particular there are well travelled routes from Manila to Leh and from there across to Srinagar. These routes are fairly remote and will test my endurance. As a reward for completing this journey I am hoping to rest and spend some time in the area around Rishikkesh which is renowned for its contemplative lifestyle.
The last stage of my journey will take me across Nepal and the Terrai or foothills that run across the Southern border with India. Included in this are visits to Pokhara, Kathmandu and Buddhas birthplace at Lumbini.
I had thought to visit Varanasi and Lucknow on my return to Delhi and which would take me across one of poorest states in India across the Ganges plains.
Much of this is planned but not definite. That is part of the joy of cycle touring and where such decisions are often best left to the road and the lay of the land.
To a certain degree I am ticking a few mental boxes which have been dwelling deep amongst the cobwebs of my mind. I visited India in the late 80’s and did the ‘triangle’ of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. I also visited as far South into Rajasthan as Mount Abu and Pushka. Also as far North as Rishikesh (where the Beatles visited) and Missourie. [apologies for spelling]. But at that time planned to go to Kashmir and was unable on account of ‘insurgent’ bombings in the North. So it is unfinished business in some respects. I feel fortunate to have the time to explore some of my ambitions. In many respects the previous cycle rides in Europe were preparation for this big ride out East.