Batticaloa by bike
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Welcome to Batticaloa, the former capital of Sri Lanka’s Eastern region and the largest commercial city on the East Coast. Undoubtedly one of the most culturally interesting and authentically off-the-beaten track places you are likely to see on your trip, the beach town of Batticaloa wraps around a picturesque lagoon and has several iconic landmarks including the Dutch period Fort which juts out dramatically over the lagoon. Made up of a mostly Tamil and Muslim population, Batticaloa suffered considerably during Sri Lanka’s 30 year civil war and was heavily affected by the 2004 tsunami. Now completely safe to visit, modern-day Batticaloa bears tangible scars as a result of recent trauma, but the optimism and warmth of the local community is unerring and utterly endearing. Cycling is the preferred form of transport in this region and for good reason. The flat terrain, small village pathways and windswept esplanade are ideal places to cycle. Open yourself up to the adventures of exploring this secret and special city and it will quickly steal your heart. This is a unique opportunity to meet the people of Batticaloa, hear their stories, and get a feel for day-to-day life in this region.
EXPERIENCE DESCRIPTION: Starting early to avoid the heat, you’ll get a quick briefing of the area before setting off by bike. Accompanied by a local guide who can narrate and translate for you as you go, you will cycle through narrow village lanes to get a glimpse of local life, letting the colors, sounds and smells of Batticaloa wash over you as you go. You’ll start off by visiting a kaleidoscope-colored Shiva Temple, a popular place of worship for the local Hindu community. From there you will make your way over to an organic farm to see the wide range of fruits and vegetables being grown in these fertile coastal lands. Heading then towards the ocean, you’ll cycle for several kilometers with the sea’s salty breeze in your hair. Stop along the way to speak with the fisherman who will be more than happy to proudly show you their catch of the day, be it shark or gigantic tuna. Have a small bite to eat and a break to enjoy some juice whilst you sit on the sand before continuing on to meet the various handloom experts of the area. Batticaloa is famous for its handloom and many of the city’s denizens have handloom machines in their own homes. Visit a handloom factory to see this ancient craft in action. Watching the colourful spools of thread move here and there as they are spun into distinctive sarongs and saris is eerily mesmerizing. Finish up the morning by visiting a the home of a local muslim family who will prepare a sumptuous feast of rice and curry served straight onto mats laid out on the sand underneath the shade of the palm fronds in their beautiful garden.
Includes: a guide, water, bikes, snacks and refreshments, and lunch.
duration: Approx. 6-7 hours
difficulty: Moderate. We rank it as moderate because of the heat and also the distance cycled (around 15km)
suitable for children: Yes, children’s bikes can be provided, but a basic understanding of road safety and how to cycle is neccessary.
times: 8am – 2.30pm.
what to wear or bring along: Light but conservative clothing, sun cream, a hat and tissues for any toilet breaks. You will be travelling through villages who have had little exposure to western culture and covering the knees and shoulders is essential to respect the local culture and also avoid unwanted attention. This goes for both men and women, to some extent. The local dress preference for women is a shalwar kamiz which is the most comfortable way to dress conservatively. These can be bough very cheaply in the main town.
important to know: This is a really authentic experience in an area which has not yet received much tourism. Therefore you will find that toilets are not westernized and some of the experience can also be unpredictable. Your guide will aim to find you adequate places to stop along the way should you need the toilet but it is best to come prepared with an open mind and keep some tissues on you for emergencies.
private or not? The visit is private. That said, there may be other people around at the sites.