Falls ihr es noch nicht wissen sollted -

For those who don't know yet: We both finished our studies. Mascha got a ingeneering degree and Matteo his PhD in chemistry. But, as we will have work enough in the next years, we decided to postpone (as long as our savings last) this beginning. The FIAT Uno project was not practicable. We will try by bicycle.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Finally: Sri Lanka

some of the wonderful trees
Dear Readers, friends and family,

our post on Sri Lanka is rather delayed and we apologies for that. But this country is simply too fantastic and there is so much to see, that we hardly manage to sit in the internet cafes. One month is far too short to visit this island, although it is rather small by Indian standards. When we decided to continue our journey to Sri Lanka, we though it would be quite similar to India. Bus as we arrived, we were fairly surprised by the fact that although the island lies quite close to the Indian subcontinent, it is rather different.

But one thing is sure: Sri Lanka is our favorite country on this trip. There are five main factors four our decision.
Indrani's family
The first one is: People are great. It started when we first arrived in Colombo and were picked up from the airport by Indrani (a woman Mascha met during the Off-grid power conference in Munich last year) and her husband Lakshman. Although we hardly new each other, they came to the airport to welcome us and to drive us to their home. Fortunately our bikes were well packed and could be stored on the roof of the car. After on night at the airport (see last post) nobody of us fancied a 60km cycle ride in the midday heat and we were happy to enjoy a bit of luxury in the car. But that was not the end of our first pleasant impressions: finally we stayed 5 days with Indrani's nice family during which we could also taste real homemade Singhales food - the second factor for our love to Sri Lanka. 
our daily rice and curry
Most of the meals are Rice and Curry, what might sound boring at first sight. But be sure: it's not! There are varieties of rice and a huge variety of different curries. Each meal is accompanied by at least 3 different curries, dhal or vegetable and of cause papadham. Singhales cuisine is highly spicy (much hotter than the Indian) but they also use a lot of coconut, which softens the taste. Pollos (jackfruit curry) tastes almost like meat-Gulasch and is one of our favorites together with hoppos (a kind of rice pancake prepared in a bowl).

The third factor is a culture dating back almost 2500 years. Some of the old capitals survived over time. They where forgotten and covered in the jungle until the 1880th where first excarvations by the British began. We've visited the second capital Pollonaruwa, the third Sigiriya, as well as the old Hindu influenced temple in Nalanda and the most impressive monastery of Aluvihara built in and between huge boulders, the place where the first buddhist texts were written down.

a bay on the most southern point of Sri Lanka
tropical rain
The fourth factor is nature. Sri Lanka is quite small, only 432km from north to south and even narrower from east to west. But despite of that is has got two different monsoons and at least 4 different "climate zones". We arrived in the tropical and rather wet west and southwest, where Matteo had the pleasure to experience his first tropical rain showers. Air was quite humid and nature seemed to be exploded. There are simply plants everywhere, and a lot of them have impressively huge leaves. It was like cycling through one big tropical hous in the botanic garden. While cycling along the south coast we suddenly seemed to pass a kind of boarder and arrived in the much dryer savanna of the southeast and east. Here we found immense areas covered with rice paddies or just very dry and very hot savanna with little trees. As we were cycling north along the east coast and the land inwards approaching the cultural triangle, the air became even dryer and hotter. And then, in the middle of the island a bit to the south, there is the hill country with altitudes over 2000m with a much fresher climate and completely different vegetation. The county's famous Ceylon tea plantations can be found here as well as incredible scenery rough cliffs and impressive waterfalls. It is incredible that all these different landscapes are found within a distance of a couple of hundred kilometers.
rain - a completely new factor on our journey
curious elefants  
one of the many crocodiles
But the fifth and maybe best factor are all the wild animals that you can see here. The island is densely populated with all kind of mammals reptiles and birds, hosting  a lot of really rare species. Especially birds can be found in huge amounts: cormoran, painted stork, pelicans, eagles, peacocks, ibis, green bee eaters, kingfishers and many more we did not know. A lot live permanently on Sri Lanka, but the are also a lot of them coming during the winter in the northern part of the earth or during the cold season in the southern part of the world. We've seen some nice mammals as well. Most spectacular: three leopards in Yala National Park. We also passed some elephants while cycling though National Parks on our way around the island. First we were a bit scared, but the giants where more concerned with their food than with us. What else did we see? Water buffaloes,  spotted deers, sambar deers, flying foxes, wild pigs, different monkeys,  mangoes, 
One the reptile side, there were some snakes (sparkling green or brown) passed the streets or crossed the roads just in front of us, as did various kinds of lizards, and even some very impressive land monitors and water monitors (they can be huge! Almost 2 meters) as well as crocodiles. We also crawled through the sand on a beach at night to see an enormous green sea turtle (over 1m) dig a hole in the sand and lay her eggs.

some areas are still affected after 30 years of civil war
Altogether we did not manage to see enough, although we moved on almost every day. We will see only very little of the hill country, but maybe this part of the Island is better to visit without bikes.... Also the eastern and especially the northern regions are well worth a visit in the closer future. These regions were not accessible for tourists until the end of the civil war two years ago and are still very underdeveloped and unspoiled by tourists.   

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