2) Bicycling: A Meltdown to a Temple on the Moon

So I bought a Surly Long Haul Trucker. And rode it from Wanaka to Hokitika. It was a practice run, a wee test. Could I cope in my own company. Turns out, I talked a lot to my bike, her name is Curly Monkey and we are pretty good mates.

The west coast was one thing – Sri Lanka was another.

Curly Monkey meets my Sri Lankan Grandmother Brenda

Curly Monkey meets my Sri Lankan Grandmother Brenda

I had a woper meltdown on day two. Digging back to the rawness of that day. I was in the safety of a lackluster backpackers, it was hot, so so hot. The beach was ok, but I was uninspired to swim due to my new awareness of being a loan blond in Asia. I was exhausted, alone and didn’t quite know what to do next. Six weeks without a plan, just me and a bike, and it was just too hot. I rang my boyfriend at the time and balled my eyes out “Who’s stupid idea was this? What the hell am I doing in Sri Lanka, by myself with a bike?”. He was settling into an Antarctic winter and the temperature was dropping. Every time it dipped below -42°C the crew would stop and have a Vodka shot of 42 Below. There was no way on or off the icy continent until October. It was April.

Getting to this meltdown, I’d had two nights of very little sleep in transit. I eventually arrived into Colombo airport, frazzled and attempted to find a quiet corner. A head waggling male audience immerged out of nowhere to watch the spectacle. Pretending it was all perfectly normal, I reconstructed my bike. My chain broke. I fixed it. Realizing I had threaded it backwards through my derailer. I rebroke it, rethreaded it and refixed it. Grease everywhere. I asked a few directions to Negombo beach, 15km away and tentatively rolled out the gate. I suppose it was like the comedown from any drug. In my case the drugs of Adrenaline, and Necessity. Once in the safety of the backpackers it all came tumbling down.

View for a meltdown

View for a meltdown

The only way from this point was up, both emotionally and geographically. It was too hot and too stressful to stay “down”. I wound a path through inland paddy fields, and headed up. I cycled off the main roads and meandering through the Ceylon tea plantations, rubbing shoulders with Mr Dilmer and the like. The greens of Sri Lanka are psychedelic.  My eyes couldn’t absorb enough – it was a more vibrant and saturated concoction of green than Id ever seen before.

Greener than green

Greener than green – Tea, Mr Dilmer?

From my Diary: Well, I’m about as far away from Antarctica as you can get. Its hot and humid, and I can just about see the insects multiplying and the jungle spreading!

Eventually after a couple of weeks in the central highlands of Sri Lanka I joined thousands of pilgrims to climb and watch the sunrise from the top of Sri Pada, a 2200m, Matterhorn-esk peak. The experience was an assault on the senses. The air smelt a mix of incense, citronella, sweat, rubbish and sewage. Loud speakers blared, women sang throaty mantras, kids cried and young me yelled their insistent “Hello, where are you going?” at me, of which I replied “To the moon”. Clearly we were all walking up the only mountain track that wound its way steeper and narrower, until a complete human bottleneck brought us almost to the moon, to the temple on the peak. We all elbowed for a sunrise viewpoint and then the Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians began to worship. Sri Pada means sacred footprint, named after a large indentation resembling a footprint near the summit. For Buddhists, this is the footprint of Buddha. Incidentally the Hindus believe this to be the footprint of Shiva, and the Muslims and Christians, Adam. Fascinating that everyone decided that this one indentation is sacred, but regardless it was an impressive display of religions peacefully sharing a sacred site.

Sri Pada, the Temple in the Sky

Sri Pada, the Temple in the Sky

Human bottle neck heading back down at first light

Human bottle neck heading back down at first light