Travelling long distances on two wheels is no easy task. Driven by the impulsive adventurous spirit that makes us think we can do anything, we set off to Negombo down the Old Negombo Road, simply because you don’t have to bet your life against the speeding traffic on the A03. We started early (around 5 AM, if I remember correctly) and headed down Galle Face, around the edge of Pettah and towards Mattakkuliya. The terrain is extremely hilly here – most climbs require you get off your bike and walk it up the hill. Speeding down on the other hand, is loads of fun, but not when you’re racing container trucks on those narrow roads.
We crossed the bridge over the Kelani Ganga by sunrise, out of Colombo’s city limits and towards the Hamilton Canal. This Dutch-era waterway extends right up to the Negombo Lagoon and acts as a source of income for the people in the area who use it to transport goods up and down every day. The canal was once a polluted and foul-smelling attraction, but with the beautification projects underway, the area has been done up nicely with paved walkways and benches for people to come and spend their time.
There was a bit of traffic to manoeuvre through at a junction packed with local buses and screaming fishmongers. But once we crossed over to the beach road, it was smooth sailing from there. The heat was ridiculous though. Despite the smell of the ocean and a nice sea breeze right throughout, you could see the heat waves along the smooth open road go on for miles. And because there were no inclines, there was no gravity to keep the bikes moving. We had to pedal and pedal and pedal. We took turns being the pacemaker so that we would travel at a constant pace, but after a while the whole thing starts to feel like a meditation of sorts. You’re just staring at an open road and your hands start to cramp around the handlebars, almost as if you’re morphing with the bike. Thankfully, there was a thambili kadé for some healthy refuelling along the way.
After a break on the Uswetakeiyawa Beach, we headed towards Pamunugama and then onwards past Jetwing Lagoon – the landmark that tells you that you’re entering Negombo. More cars start showing up on the road, so you exit that trance-like state and start being more alert. If that doesn’t wake you up, the smell of fresh fish when you enter Negombo sure will.
Getting to Negombo on two wheels is an achievement in itself. Going back to Colombo the same way is something else altogether. Recharged with a hearty portion of hot butter cuttlefish, we headed back to the city, burning off whatever we ate long before we got home. We stopped for another thambili, but once we hit the first Cargills on the road, we picked up a can of Red Bull for that final push home.
All in all, it’s a great new way to experience the Old Negombo Road. Not to mention a super workout for your thighs and hamstrings if you’re up for it. Make sure you stretch well before you get on the bike to prevent muscle pain and that every part of your bike is in good running condition (even though you’ll be running on the same gear most of the time). The journey amounts to around 80km altogether and takes about 3-4 hours each way, depending on how fast you ride, so start early if you want to get back to Colombo by sunset. Just try not to think about the fact that on the other side of a lagoon is a fantastic new expressway that gets you to the same destination is less than half the time.