This track definitely wasn’t on the map, and it certainly wasn’t on the Google earth print-out I was using to navigate. I was twenty miles north east of Unawatuna in the south of Sri Lanka and it was starting to look like I might be lost. One of the most enjoyable things about exploring Sri Lanka on a mountain bike is the fact that you can easily access the beautiful countryside and quiet backroads that criss-cross the island: simply head off into the countryside and five minutes after leaving the town you will be riding through rice paddies, rainforest or tea plantations.
Left looked like more of the same, maybe right, up the hill, might give me a view of where I was heading to. I rode on up the hill through tall trees hanging with jackfruit, rose apples and mangos. After a while I got to the top where the track levelled off. As I leant resting on the bike drinking some water I noticed a faint track leading off into the bushes to the right. I left the bike by the side of the road and went to have a look. The path led me around the edge of the hill through dense undergrowth for about 50 metres until it opened out into an amazing view of the surrounding countryside. Overlooking this scene was a giant statue of the Buddha, maybe ten metres tall, sat serenely on the hill surveying the fields and jungle below.
Trying to get directions back to Unawatuna wasn’t easy – once you leave the main tourist centres less and less people speak English and my pidgin Sinhala wasn’t making much headway. Eventually I thought I understood where they were sending me but what I really wanted to do was to tell them that I had just seen the most amazing Buddha sat on a hill above a breathtaking view. Sadly my language skills weren’t up to the job. For them it would have been less remarkable –Sri Lanka is a place where these amazing sights are a daily occurrence.
Feeling tired but happy I headed back towards the coast, looking forward to relaxing with a king coconut juice (or maybe a cold Lion Lager) and already planning my next ride out to explore the countryside.
Iain Mackay lives in Sri Lanka. Follow his blog at http://moonstone-expeditions.blogspot.co.uk/