Trip to Sri Lanka 03-6 – my account

Sunday – day 8

Jaffna has many islands, and many of these are connected by causeway;  otherwise ferries connect them.  Today’s plan was to start early, before 8AM,  cycle for a maximum of four hours, with appropriate stops, and cycle back.  That would get me back around 4 or 5PM – way before it gets dark – around 6.30PM. The bike had no lights or reflectors, and unlike locals, I really did not want to ride in the dark with no lights.
off the main road of Mandaitivu Island, heading for the beach

off the main road of Mandaitivu Island, heading for the beach

The road across the first causeway was smooth, except where they are doing road works, and despite the bicycle having the uncomfortable and partly broken seat too low (which I couldn’t raise further), it was still cool and the going was easy.  A couple of people asked me to stop for a chat, which I did, and I easily found my first goal, being Chetty Beach, after a very bumpy ride from the turn-off.

yes, it's got white sand - and lots of sea weed - Chetty Beach

yes, it’s got white sand – and lots of sea weed – Chetty Beach

I arrived about 90 minutes after setting off.  Disappointingly the beach was covered in huge amounts of seaweed, but the water looked clear, and people were swimming, so why not?

There were concrete cabanas, one of which was a police cabana, so I asked him to watch my bike etc. and I waded in a little. I was like a people magnet.  They all bunched around me, kids and adults, and we all took photos and laughed.  That was fun.
we had fun messing around in the water and taking photos

we had fun messing around in the water and taking photos – they look a bit serious here – but they weren’t

Continuing on, I kept on seeing big masts, meaning Google Maps should work. (And Skype.) But the road was mostly quite bumpy.  There were churches and temples on the way to briefly look at, and about 10am I had to decide which route to take. Taking the route which led to more islands connected with causeways I also came across a town someone had mentioned to me earlier.  I was hoping for a restaurant as I hadn’t yet eaten, but there were lots of bakeries with unappetising looking bread, but nothing much for me.  I had emergency water and biscuits, so I bought bananas, resolving to stop and eat when I found a nice place. About half an hour later, on another causeway, I stopped to eat.

another causeway - to Punkudutivu Island

another causeway – to Punkudutivu Island

An hour later I was flagged down by a guy selling Palmrya (RS50) – a sweet jelly like stuff.

palmrya nuts

palmrya nuts

eating a palmrya nut - the part you can eat tastes like sweet jelly

eating a palmrya nut – the part you can eat tastes like sweet jelly

He pointed out a (Palmrya) toddy bar just down a dirt track, so I joined a bunch of men seemingly spending their day drinking.  (Well, it was Sunday.)  It was drinkable, but not particularly tasty, or strong (perhaps 1%).  It cost Rs80 for a big cup.

a palmrya toddy drinking joint

a palmrya toddy drinking joint

The bumpy road continued, and 45 minutes later another cyclist asked me to stop at his friend’s shop, so I met Albert. Later there was another causeway to cross – the road surfaces seem to be even worse over the causeways.

another causeway - to Kurikadduwan Island

another causeway – to Kurikadduwan Island

A bit before 1PM, when by rights I should have already started back, I was one ferry ride from a huge Hindu temple.  Ferries run every 20 minutes or so, fairly haphazardly, so if I had a brief look, and the ferry took say 20 minutes, then I should be back around 2PM and still have  over four hours riding time – which should be plenty seeing as I had stopped so many times on the way.

catching a ferry to the Nagadeepa Hindu temple on Nainativu Island

catching a ferry to the Nagadeepa Hindu temple on Nainativu Island

Nagadeepa Hindu temple

Nagadeepa Hindu temple

Nagadeepa Hindu temple

Nagadeepa Hindu temple

Nagadeepa Hindu temple

Nagadeepa Hindu temple

Buddist temple

Buddhist temple

It didn’t work that way. Passenger loading is very slow, and not all ferries would take my bike, so it took about 40 minutes by the time my bike was off the ferry. Although I was back at the loading point at 2PM – even later than I intended – it wasn’t until a little after 3PM that I was back on the road back on Kurikadduwan Island – giving me only three hours of light.

returning to Kurikadduwan Island by ferry

returning to Kurikadduwan Island by ferry

Now, they have mileposts – kilometreposts(?) – so I could judge the speed, and I calculated that if I hurried, had a short break every hour or so, but didn’t stop to chat, that I might make it back before dark. So I figured I was doing about 15 KPH over bumpy roads.  Looking positive.  I had done about a kilometre from the ferry, thinking all might be OK when – bam – my bike chain came off.  Unfortunately the chain was enclosed in a casing, making the back sprocket inaccessible, and although I could get the chain back on the front one it was immediately obvious it was off the back sprocket. And now my hands were covered in grease. I had no tools – I needed a screwdriver.  Some tuk tuks have roof racks and could probably carry it – or maybe one of the many passing vans would have either space or  screwdriver.  I started pushing, and the first van that saw me stopped and enquired as to the problem.  He had neither space nor a screwdriver, but offered to help.  Somehow he managed to undo the screw using a twig he found nearby.  Then I could put the chain back on the rear sprocket and manoeuvre it onto the front. No photos of any of this as my hands were covered in grease.

Albert, who helped me clean up after my bicycle incident

Albert, who helped me clean up after my bicycle incident

Back on the road I kept up my bumpy but blistering (I think I got blisters) pace, but I needed water as it was so hot now. Passing Albert’s  shop I noticed  he was still there and I could buy some water.  Also I could wash my hands so that the only remaining grime was under my fingernails.  He offered tea and a seat, but I didn’t have time to chat and pushed on.

approaching Jaffna on the causeway

approaching Jaffna on the causeway

In fact I made it back to Jaffna city centre, about 10 minutes ride from the hotel, just after 5.30. It looked like it was going to be a nice sunset so I stayed on the waterfront to watch it.  I wasn’t the only one – but I nabbed a bench as a family just vacated one. A big family came an occupied some of my bench and another nearby one, and we got chatting and had fun.

sunset from near the fort

sunset from near the fort

sunset from near the fort

sunset from near the fort

one of the many icecream vans

one of the many icecream vans

I spent sunset talking with this family

I spent sunset talking with this family

Once I arrived back at the guest house I was too tired to go out.

dinner at the guest house

dinner at the guest house

I am sore in all sorts of places, but it was a great day. According to Google Maps, and also my rough calculation, I’d covered 70 KM.  On flat but bumpy roads, on an old bike with no gears and a broken seat.

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