In the days before the expressway, everybody used Galle Road to travel down south. Nowadays, people talk about going to Galle for a quick lunch or dinner, so spending 3 hours on the road is just impractical and almost unheard of. For one, road construction between Mount and Moratuwa puts you in traffic that wears you out before your journey even really begins. So is it really worth it?
Yes – the traffic is temporary. Whatever said and done, the E01 can’t match the experience of driving along the coastline. Windows down with the smell of the sea in the car, the wind in your hair and the music playing out loud. It’s one of those roads meant for a convertible.
The entire experience is almost a routine. Only after you pass the bridge at Panadura does it start to feel like you’re leaving Colombo. Enter Wadduwa, everyone’s favorite quick getaway destination with Blue Waters being the hotel of choice. Further on, a giant stupa rises out from the trees ahead and you pull over to drop a coin at the Kalutara temple. Stomachs begin to grumble as you approach Beruwala – that’s where the famous New Monis Bakery comes in. Be it for the shorteats or for the bathroom or just out of tradition, there’s always a reason to stop at Monis. Once you cross the river at Bentota, it finally starts to feel like you’re down south. You pass the turtle conservation projects in Kosgoda, what used to be the Triton Hotel (now Heritance) at Ahungalla and when you start seeing the masks in Ambalangoda, you know you’re on the final leg of your journey. The stretch between Ambalangoda and Hikka is a great place to stop the car and be overwhelmed by the blue. Under sunlight, the blue hues of the ocean make for a stunning picture-perfect postcard during season. Even more stunning if you’ve got a convertible. Hit the 100km post as you enter Hikka and remember how this backpacker town was once the life of the southern coast. Many would either end their journey here or take on the final 20km to Galle and beyond.
No matter how many times you drove down, you would always forget which town came next. Then there were the fights with the buses – something you could never forget. The crazy overtaking just to stop in front of you, the selfish manoeuvres, the shouting, the screaming, the popcorn eating. If you’ve experienced it, you know it always was and always will be one of the best local thrillers on show.
But then there are also times when everyone gets along. Especially when lights flash from oncoming traffic, warning you to watch your speed because of the cops ahead. The coastal railway line also runs alongside the road for a significant distance, so you often find yourself exchanging smiles with the passengers as you race the train.
Galle Road is noisy. The bustling life down the coastline makes driving on the E01 rather monotonous. But even though you lose out on the coastal drive, there’s nothing more satisfying than coming home to your bed (faster) after a trip. In that respect, the expressway is brilliant. That being said, if you’ve got 3 hours to kill on your next trip down south, perhaps consider taking a nostalgic drive down Galle Road. You might not realise how much you’ve missed it until you get back on it.