Knuckles mountain range, Sri Lanka


The  52 km ride today was the hardest physical thing I’ve ever done. More than half of it was climbing, first up a mountain pass, then up a proper mountain, then winding our way through tiny villages in a tea plantation.

This was really difficult physically, and I walked a bit, and totally destroyed my cleats, which are really not suited to the mountain bikes and broken and gravel roads. Mountain biking is HARD.

I dreaded today’s ride — the bike is heavy and I don’t feel confident handling it. I had a lot of moments of doubt while riding, and moments where I just stopped pedalling and walked. I did not feel strong and actually thought about packing it in and riding the bus twice. Calm and kind Luba talked me out of it. 

I actually genuinely enjoyed only a fraction of the actual riding — the villages in the tea plantation, the endlessly unfolding mountains shaded around us. It was hard and anxious — hard to hop quickly out of cleats when a climb grade got too much, hard to get going again, hard to control the bike when going down fast on loose gravel and broken pavement. I felt quitty and incompetent, which is unusual. But I pedalled and walked some and kept going.

But.

At the top of the mountain, I drank local tea with ginger and sugar from a little stall and it was the best thing I ever put in my mouth. And I bought a packet of fresh cardamom seeds from the trees right around us.


Climbing that difficult mountain, people cheered us on and countless people stopped to ask if I needed help when I paused for the 20th time. Going through the tea plantation villages, children called out to us and laughed. Puppies raced us. People in doorways smiled and waved. I know we look crazy to them — yesterday someone in a car took our photo with a phone. But they were just enjoying waving to us. 

And at the end — after another 4 km ascent, the most beautiful inn, a former tea estate. An Indian family celebrating a birthday and us. A rare perfect orb sunset over the mountains, chocolate cake shared by the birthday girl, tea from the plantation all around us.

A perfect place. Graceful, spacious, simple. No wifi, no gin and tonics, no tv. Just a good shower, good food, and the undulating mountains and undulating roads and miles of tea growing all around us. 

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