And so all good things come to an end. We set off for our final day of cycling and it was a lovely day, unspoilt by rain.
We took some roads around the back of the Sirigiya rock so saw it from the other side.
It was a Buddhist festival and public holiday so a few places were busy with people visiting temples and celebrating.
Eventually we unceremoniously came to our finish line in a car park. It was a bit of an anti-climax really but I could hear my friends and family back at home cheering me virtually and my own voice silently saying “well done girl, you did it after all”.
It was sad saying goodbye to our cycle guide Eke and the drivers of the support vehicle Donal and Garmini. Eke had kept me sane when I felt I couldn’t go on and he was always looking out for me at the back.
Donal and Garmini spoke little English but on stopping for breaks they would rush forward with water and bananas and both of them were always smiling. I will miss these guys.
It was on to our next stop, a cookery demonstration by a well-known chef in a beautiful outdoors restaurant.
He made curries with prawns and beetroot. I’d had beetroot curry in India previously and it was a bit “so what?” but this was just something else, absolutely lovely and possibly my favourite food of the holiday. Our driver-guide Shan brought his family to meet us for lunch and it was lovely to hear their plans. They are currently building a house but they hope to relocate to Australia where Shan’s brother-in-law is a singer.
On to our last stop, at Negombo beach just north of Colombo and I fell ill on the bus. Initially I thought I would die of abdominal pain. Either that or give birth to a very surprise baby… I know I can be taken to a touch of the old melodramas but I am not joking. My fellow travellers were so lovely to me but I just wanted to reach our destination and lie down. This was not straightforward as our hotel, badged as a resot (yes, without the second ‘r’), was fully booked out for a wedding.
We ended up in a nice new small hotel across the road which was fortuitous as we were able to drink out secretly-acquired alcoholic beverages on the rooftop terrace. As it was a public holiday, nowhere was able to sell alcohol but a quick trip to a bottle shop en route to the dodgy restaurant the evening prior had sorted us out. I managed to feel a lot better after my lie down and we met with representatives from Variety Sri Lanka who made an enormously generous donation to our cycling endeavour. Dinner was a seafood dinner out on by the resot and eaten beside the beach to the tune of a three-piece band. Service was interminably slow unfortunately but at least we had one final meal together before we parted ways.
The following day, I moved in to the resot which was not as simple as it sounds as this required high level, and quite frankly, exhausting negotiation but eventually they gave me a really nice room. Some of us took a tuk tuk to go to the town to look at the shops and after a quick lunch, we went out on a boat along the canals and lagoon in Negombo.
It is a predominantly Christian town due to previous European settlers and so there are churches aplenty and canals built by the Dutch.
It was beautiful out on the lagoon and we were able to sit on low stools in the shallow waters, drinking from coconuts and eating fresh fruit.
After a last dinner together and the rest of our drinks on the rooftop bar, it was time to say our goodbyes as the rest of the group was leaving and I had one final day before moving on to a few days in Bangkok.
After living so closely together for almost two weeks, it seemed strange. Each of us had some reason to be on this trip, everyone motivated by something special, unusual, unique, bizarre or tragic that had made them undertake this adventure. We came together as strangers but parted as friends. I am grateful to each and every one of these very special people for looking after me, looking out for me, comforting me on day 2 when I felt like I would not be able to carry on and inspiring me to continue with cycling. I have been on group holidays before, had a wonderful time but inevitably we have not kept in touch, despite all our best intentions and promises to the contrary. But I really get the feeling that things are different with this group. I really hope so anyway. And will we re-group for a cycle trip in the future? Who knows?