Searching for a good place to camp I cycled over a bridge and saw an open thatched roof hut and fire inside. I stopped to speak to a guy standing nearby. It was his ‘gaff’. I said he had a good spot and that I was looking for one too. He invited me to take shelter there. There were two slatted beds built into the sides of the hut. I declined the offer of taking one and demonstrated that I had the kit (bivouac and thermarest) to be very comfortable on the ground. Another guy turned up also in a boiler suit. They both had ‘sugar cane refinery’ emblazoned on their backs. They were employed as quality control workers in a local sugar factory. I insisted on cooking my own noodles despite being offered some of their own curry and rice. I certainly did not want to deprive them of any of their dinner. More men turned up. Several on a tractor and finally another on a motorbike who apparently owned the tractor. With a good fire, Indian pop videos and a bit of Bob Marley it turned into a great evening although my lack of Sinhali was a bit of a barrier.
Very early in the morning both sugar workers went off to work. As I was getting myself organised I watched as various people sneaked under the electric wire behind into Yala Park to plunder its resources.
I set off once again with my sights set on the East Coast and Arugam Bay.
I joined the A4 at Buttala and the road snaked towards Monaragala. I cycled past an officers training centre with a tank proudly displayed close to the entrance.
Quite a bit of hill work up to Monaragala but was rewarded by an amazing ride down as I finally found the road heading East. Once again I was surrounded by dense tropical vegetation and with the light fading I dropped off the road to pitch my tent amongst the bananas.
It was a quiet spot close to a river but within a few metres of the road. The night before I had been badly bitten by flies but now I discovered the terror of Sri Lanka’s large red ants. They sting like hell. I was keen to get in my tent and zip up!