2017 Apr 30
News came our way of a man who attempted something that was an incredible feat. This man covered all coastal roads of Sri Lanka on two wheels, a journey spanning 1396Km. We had the chance to ask him a couple of questions and this is what he had to say. This is the story of Ashfaq Ahamed; a man and his ordinary motorbike on an extraordinary journey.
What inspired you to embark on this Journey?
Ever since I was a child, the idea of travelling always enticed me and my love for bikes developed in 2012. While studying at the Peradeniya campus, my urge to travel intensified when I purchased my first bike. The surrounding areas of Peradeniya were so beautiful that I had to explore them. It was almost like nature was calling and I answered her call. I remember travelling to Nuwara Eliya and visiting mighty dams. So I guess this passion is what fueled my goal to cover all accessible coastal roads in Sri Lanka.
How long did it take to complete this journey and where did you stop for rest?
The trip was initially planned for five days but due to work-related constraints, I had to burn out two days. I could’ve just dropped the plan but perseverance got the better of me and I managed to fit the journey into three days and two nights. Initially, I planned to stay in Delft (Neduntivu) on day one. Getting there required taking a ferry from Jaffna but I reached Jaffna at 4 PM which was two hours after the ferry left. I proceeded onwards to Trincomalee via Mullaitivu and rested overnight. On day two I stayed overnight in Arugam Bay.
What was the planning process like? What factors did you have to take into account?
The planning process started way back in January. It involved studying the behavior of the bike on long drives, learning how to backpack and also a comprehensive study on Sri Lankan roads. Looking up cheap and clean hotels was also considered. What I wanted was value for money without having to compromise my great adventure. You have to be mentally and physically fit for a long continuous ride so to prepare myself I rode to places like Galle, Kandy, and Badulla. These rides helped me measure my level of confidence and fitness.
What were some significant challenges that you had to face along the way?
If even your riding is perfect, things can easily go wrong. This is Sri Lanka we are talking about and drivers just do not keep to their lane. You may have to pay the price due to someone else’s fault. Having said that, my number one challenge was to continuously concentrate on my riding while enjoying the beautiful passing sceneries. The rate at which the scenes, colours, and smells change is absolutely staggering that you may lose your mind and end up hitting a vehicle or post.
Another challenge I had to face was the stretch between Mullaitivu and Trincomalee. As there is no bridge between the two points of land, you have to take an extremely tough road. I was riding at night and there were no signs of civilisation. The occasional sign indicating that an elephant may cross was thrilling, to say the least. This was the most adventurous part of my 1396Km journey.
What have you learned from this experience?
I was born in Mannar but I left in 1990 due to the war. I was one year old at the time. Lately, I have visited Mannar many times and felt that the standard of living was below average. I wanted to understand the living standards of people around Sri Lanka. From what I have seen, I must say that the majority of people living in coastal areas are living poverty stricken lives. That has opened my mind to be empathetic to my fellow human beings; it is important to help the needy whenever we can.
Is there a story or a sentimental value to your motorbike?
Not really, but I must say that my bike has always been reliable and has never failed me, not even on the toughest solo rides. I guess you could say that as a result, there is a sentimental connection.
Do you plan on going on a second ride in Sri Lanka or any other country?
I will continue to do short trips to towns and places of interest. In terms of other countries, I have planned a trip to Ladakh in Himachal Pradesh in India. I plan to ride around the Himalayas; this is every bikers dream. I also have plans to cover the entire European continent on a bike. I do hope and pray that I will be able to accomplish these plans.
If you have any advice for someone who wants to attempt what you have done, what would you have to say to them?
Safety should be your number one priority, of both yourself and as well as other motorists on the roads. You should have clocked many hours riding bikes and you should not attempt this without practice. If you can master the safety factor and if you have a passion for riding and the urge to explore, the world is truly at your doorstep.