Customer Story: Discovering Sri Lanka

Located in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is a diverse destination with an amazing range of experiences for such a small island. Whilst we could chat for hours about the beauty of this part of the world, we thought on this occasion we will let our customers do the talking! Here’s a story from Sam Crooks, who recently headed here with us, to give you a flavour of the trip…

‘It was the turn of the New Year in 2017 and as many of us do, I was googling holidays as a way of escaping the January blues. Looking for something a bit different I’d been searching ‘active adventures’ and was surprised to see that The Guardian recommended a company, Skedaddle, that was right under my nose on Newcastle Quayside – how had I not come across this before? It was a sign!

I was soon lost in the trip notes of the cycling adventures, longing after the scenery they describe with my mouth watering at the thought of Asian cuisine but I couldn’t shake some niggling worries – I’m not a cyclist (at least not your typical Sunday ride kind), will I fit in, will I keep up? How many consecutive days in the saddle? I’d also never travelled on my own in this way before.

Running along the quayside one day a friend kindly reminded me of a saying, “it’ll be a good experience or a great story”… The next day I found myself sat with the dashing Mr Andrew Straw in Skedaddle HQ talking sunsets and Sri Lankan cuisine over a free coffee! Andrew set my worries at ease. Despite what people may believe it’s not all about the bike! The bike has a key role but it’s as much about travel – experiencing a country, meeting new people and making great memories (at least that’s what I took away from our chat). Within a few days I was signed up.

Sri Lanka is a country of beauty! The tagline, ‘beaches and backroads’ was exactly what we got – and everything in between. We cycled our way from Chillaw through rice fields, wound our way up some cheeky climbs to the tea plantations, and back downhill through National Parks, sugarcane fields and cinnamon plantations, finishing on the coast in Mirissa.

There are so many highlights from the trip but some of my favourite moments included taking in the views from Sigiriya Rock, having to abandon a day of cycling 10km earlier than planned due to a wild elephant being in the road, randomly meeting a local cycling champ and stopping off for a cup of tea and a savoury do-nut as the weather was building to a cyclone!

Off the bike we saw wild elephants, crocodiles, monkeys and an array of birds during safari, learned about Buddhist philosophy through visiting temples and enjoyed the contrast of city stays and beach huts. Don’t get me started on the plentiful, delicious food; I’ll be here all day!

So Sri Lanka gave a lot but the cherry on the cake was the group members and the guides. Our local guides were just brilliant. Whether on foot, on the bike, playing paparazzi or driving the bus they had our every need catered for. Full of fun, energy and keen to help us learn about and enjoy Sri Lanka we couldn’t have asked for more. The group itself were a font of travelling knowledge and experience, I enjoyed learning of people’s lives and their travelling tales and who knew how creative we would become at getting our cycling kit washed and dried for the next day!

So, if you’re reading this as a first time ‘Skedaddler’ and you have some of the niggles I had, just go for it! You could have an amazing experience too. And if you need any more recommendation or persuasion, I’m now signed up for Swaziland in September!’

Feeling inspired? Lush beaches, awesome scenery and amazing wildlife await you as we check out the ancient temples, tea plantations and lush forests during or cycling adventure in Sri Lanka.

China: 5 Fast Facts

Chopsticks at the ready! With Chinese New Year celebrations about to kick off for another year, we thought we’d take a closer look at this enthralling country and its fascinating customs.

Most of you at some point will have gorged on a lip-smacking Chinese takeaway and been left baffled by the trademark fortune cookie saying at the end of your meal. Some of our favourite ‘wise words’ over the years include, ‘a very attractive person has a message for you’ (oo-aa) as well as ‘a good way to keep healthy, is to eat more Chinese food’ (oh fortune cookie, why can’t you be true?!) Little did we all know that this novel end to our Asian feast was but a cheap rip-off, conjured up on shores far from China (America to be precise) and never to be actually seen or served in a traditional Chinese restaurant. Well, we knew it was wishful thinking to believe that good-looking individual existed anyway!

Casting aside your newfound doubts as to the foundations of one of your favourite take-out options, it’s safe to say China has so much more to offer us than their endless buffet dishes. Oh yes, alongside Babylon, India and Egypt, China is considered one of the four ancient civilisations of the world, according to the scholar Liang Qichao. Whilst we can’t back up this claim outright, this is certainly a land where ancient history still radiates in everyday life. So, for those interested in learning more about the home of chopstick dining, here’s our fast facts to get you up-to-speed with all things Chinese…

New Year Celebrations last for 15 days…
If you thought one night of celebrations was enough, the Chinese put us to shame by spending over two weeks rejoicing this special time of year. For westerners the classic Chinese New Year see’s the streets bursting with noise and colour, and legend has it that this way of celebration was to keep the monster Nian, who would return at this time of year, at bay. With close ties to ancient tradition, many still like to honour their ancestors during this time too.


Red is the national colour of China
Their flag may give this away a little, but red is also considered the countries luckiest colour! From lovely lanterns hanging in the streets to the top colour of choice for Chinese brides (there’s no white frocks here!), you’ll be greeted with a splash of red wherever you go in China. Believed to represent happiness, beauty, success and good fortune, we can see why the streets are literally bursting with this shade.

China has 52 national heritage landscapes…
The UNESCO World Heritage Site has awarded the country many worldwide treasures and comes second only to Italy. Sites of note include the impressive Great Wall of China, Protected Panda sanctuaries and the ethereal peaks and caves of the Bajiaozhai National Park (also explored during our cycling adventure to Guilin and Guangxi). With so many stunning gems to explore, this really is a photographers dream destination.

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For the love of tea…
China is one of the biggest tea producers in the world and is considered one of the first countries to start drinking this now classic beverage. Chinese legend has it that Emperor Shennong (said to have lived 5,000 years ago) discovered this pick-me-up when leaves from a tea bush fell into the water his servants had been brewing for him. At first considered a purifying tonic, used for medicinal purposes only, it has since grown into one of the world’s most favoured thirst quenchers.

The Great Firewall of China…
Don’t panic, the iconic Great Wall of China hasn’t gone up in flames! This fantastic pun plays on China’s internet ban on the wests popular digital feeds. Blocked by the government since 2009, travellers here will have to manage without their daily newsfeed updates. Oh well, sounds like a fab reason to really disconnect from your everyday lives and get connected with the people and places that matter on your adventure.

Want to find out more fascinating Chinese facts? What better way to put your new found knowledge to the test than by heading to China for yourself. Our cycling adventure here takes place in Guilin and Guangxi and explores some of the countries most beautiful natural landscapes, including the stunning Li river and the rural communities that call this part of the world their home.

8 things that people say before their first cycling trip

More and more people are choosing a holiday on two wheels! After all, if you ask us, it is the best way to explore a destination. But if you’ve never done a guided cycling holiday before, you might have a lot of questions right now. How will I keep up? What about a group? What if there’s a climb? Today, we are here to tell you that there’s nothing to worry about! We asked Hannah Reynolds, a cycling journalist and our guide, for answers…

– Will I be too slow?
Worrying about whether you will be fast enough is a standard fear amongst all bike riders of all levels. There are two things to remember in every instance; firstly, it doesn’t really matter if you are the slowest and secondly everyone has good days and bad days. I bet even Mark Cavendish isn’t always the fastest rider on the team training camp.

On a Skedaddle holiday the guides work really hard to make sure that everyone gets the experience they want and when you book your trip we’ll help you choose one that is the right level for you. Once on a trip we have loads of little tricks up our sleeves to make sure everyone is comfortable with the pace so if you are the slowest, or the fastest, you can still ride the way you want to. Remember you won’t be the only one worrying about this, a classic day one scenario is everyone trying to claim they are too slow!

– How often will we stop?
There is often a concern that once you get on your bike in the morning you won’t be allowed out of the saddle again till the day’s distance is covered! Some people imagine the guides are evil task masters forcing you to keep pedaling, or old school PE teachers with a whistle to keep you on your toes. However, a simple answer to how often will we stop is ‘as often as we need to’!

It very much depends on the mood of the group and the length of the day’s ride, sometimes we need to keep it rocking to cover the distance where as other days we may take our time and relax with a second espresso. On most group Skedaddle holidays we will stop for a morning coffee break, the infamous Skedaddle picnic lunch and may be an afternoon break if we need it. And who doesn’t need a gelato or cold Coke on a hot, sunny afternoon?

– How will I know where to go?
Fear of getting lost is closely related to worrying about being too slow. If you aren’t sure of the route you feel more pressure to keep up with other riders. This isn’t a very enjoyable way to ride and wouldn’t make for a very good holiday experience! Whilst guides do a lot more on a trip than simply point the way keeping people on track is obviously a very big part of our job! How we do it depends on the group and the terrain but you can rest assured we will make sure you know exactly where you are going and where to stop and re-group.

– Will my bum hurt?
We’d love to say no one’s bum has ever hurt on a cycling holiday but sadly that isn’t true. Sitting on a saddle for several hours a day can lead to a bit of rubbing, chafing and tenderness. Even if you don’t normally get a problem hotter temperatures, rain or long days can leave you sore, but the good news is it is mainly preventable. If you have your own saddle make sure you bring that with you and make a note of your saddle height. Use lashings of cream on your bum and your shorts to prevent anything rubbing. To spare any blushes this is also a good time to remind everyone not to wear pants with their cycling shorts!

– I don’t normally holiday in a group.
Cycling holidays often attract people who ‘don’t really do group holidays’ so you are unlikely to be the only one in this position. The majority of people find out they really enjoy it because, well cyclists are normally fun people! We ride together during the day and have some of our evening meals together but there is also free time with no rigid itinerary or compulsory museum visits. On a bike, you can choose to chat, or not, as you prefer and often you will find yourself riding with different people at different points of the day.

With so many shared experiences from our day cycling there is always plenty to chat about over a post-ride drink. Some groups end up getting on so well they even book their next holiday together and meet up for rides once they are home.

– I can’t climb!
As with “I’m too slow” this is something that a lot of people think when they go on a cycling trip. It’s a completely false statement, everyone can climb, you may be slower than others but if you pace yourself and have positive attitude you will get to the top. The more you climb the better you get and the less intimidating hills become. The great thing about riding in a group is that you will get the support of other riders, many of whom will also say they can’t climb and help from the guides. You will be surprised at just how well you can climb with a few helpful tips and the right mindset. After a week in the saddle an impossible hill becomes just another ‘cheeky’ climb.

– I haven’t done as much training as I wanted to.
Very rarely does anyone do as much training as they want. Work, family life, illnesses or injury often conspire to keep us off our bikes and our carefully laid plans for getting out more quickly disappear. Cycling is generally more fun the fitter you are but you don’t need to approach a cycling holiday as if you are training for the Tour de France. Getting out regularly, even if your rides are short, will make sure you are ready and prepared. On a cycling holiday you have plenty of time to complete the day’s distance. Coffee stops and picnics will help you to refuel for the next part of the ride and with plenty of time to relax in the evenings you will most likely find you feel stronger and can ride further than you normally do at home.

– I thought I was going to lose weight on this holiday!
We hear this on nearly every trip but with the legendary Skedaddle picnics to enjoy it’s the one holiday goal you will be pleased not to achieve! Skedaddle guides are always rattling a box of Haribo, dishing out bananas or trying to tempt you with some local delicacy. Even if you are doing more exercise than normal, after a day in the saddle you don’t need to feel guilty about a calorie laden dish, you need the fuel to recover and prepare for the next day’s ride.

A big part of cycling holidays is the food; snacks, café stops, the picnic and sociable evening meals all contribute to a cultural experience of the country you are cycling in. One of the joys of cycling is that it builds up an appetite to help you really appreciate delicious local cuisine. Bon appetit!

The official blog of Saddle Skedaddle cycling holidays. Featuring everything from destination highlights to top picks from the team….