On Monday the 21st of January at 5:45 in the morning, our W(eek)W(ithout)W(alls) trip began with piling into 2 cramped vans, loaded with our gear. With the water, bags, helmets, and snacks, the 5 and a half hour trip to our destination was certainly not one for the claustrophobic .Our destination was a camp/hostel near the Sigeria region of Sri Lanka. It was from there that we would extensively bike the surrounding area, with a stated goal of completing 100km. While there was some apprehension about this, I personally was not overtly worried. I knew it would be a new series of challenges to undertake, but that didn’t make me any less excited.
The first one of those many challenges came in the form of the Dambulla economic center. The economic center is a place where farmers sell their goods to the supermarkets/larger shops in bulk. Our task was to interview some of the people there, but it was very challenging to find someone who we could easily talk to, and for good reason. The overwhelming majority of the people there are payed based on how much they sell, meaning that talking to some tourists(we essentially were) would impact their profits. Luckily, my group managed to get two very interesting interviews before we ran out of time. Everyone loaded back into the vans, and we continued for another 1 and 1/2 hours to camp.
(our group interviewing at the economic center)
(our camp sign)
When we got to camp, we got our room assignments.
While the room was fantastic, there certainly was concern of animals. From talking to last year’s group, we learned that some of the rooms had rats in them, and there was a large monkey presence in the area. The rooms had an included plastic box to put our snacks in, but those were demonstrated not to work when one of the girl’s rooms was raided by animals and box(with snacks) destroyed. Following that, everyone relocated their snacks to the heavy wooden cupboards and drawers.
(where we had our meals)
Here’s my room(it had the best view)
After a brief lunch, we set out on our first ride of the trip. Because we only had half a day to work with, we only went a 16KM circuit to get used to the terrain and the bikes. I’m glad we had this ride, as we probably would have had far more accidents and problems had we gone straight into our main rides. The ground was rough and bumpy, with unpredictable holes and sand patches that seemed placed to make you wipe out. I came close several times, but we managed to only have 2 minor crashes that day amongst the group.
The second day is worth noting because of how painful it was. After the ride on the first day, we were all tired, but nobody explicitly was in pain or very sore, or so we thought. I think that everyone on the trip can agree that mounting on our bikes for the first time on the second day was the worst part of the trip. My initial dreams of that soreness fading away as we kept biking were quickly shattered though, as every bump sent a wave of pain coursing through my thighs and hips. In addition to that, my muscles were also exhausted and I was struggling to keep going by about 3/4 of the way through the ride. Luckily though, the teachers had some rehydration power which I drank, and that managed to revitalize me enough to finish without having to ride in the truck.
The third day had a great highlight with us climbing to the top of the large rock directly across from the famous Sigeria. It was certainly a nice break from the biking, and allowed us to stretch the part of our legs we weren’t using for biking. It’s a shame we didn’t have our phones on us, as the teachers didn’t take that many pictures of the great view.
On the 5th day, we passed through 150km and had a brief celebration. We biked for a little more, loaded the bikes in the truck and ourselves in the van, and drove home. There wasn’t too much conversation attributed to the fact that we were all exhausted. Over the course of our trip, we biked a little over 166km, smashing our original goal of 100 and then 150, and also beating out last year’s group who did around 85km.
I’m glad I did the bike trip as my last week without walls, and I think that it was the best trip that I could have done this year. It was the right combination of physical activity and the luxuries of staying in a single location, and I’d strongly recommend it to anyone who can do it as a week without walls trip.