As you might have gathered from the earlier posts, I have been looking for a way to manage a Shore Support Team. Essentially to hire a vehicle with a driver. All our non-essential gear, not required during the day’s paddle, can be transported in the vehicle, while the driver can act as our local liaison, guide, Man Friday, translator and friend. However, I did not get too much joy in finding a vehicle at a cost that we could afford. The budget for hiring a vehicle was coming to more than double that of the entire budget for the expedition. And that was not a road I could even consider going down. But the research continued, more from a point of interest and less from the point of view of actually finding a solution.
I continued to research Sri Lanka, places to visit and things to see. As I continued to do that I found that many of these places required making use of public transport. And that is a wonderful way to see any new place and meet new people. Travelling by public transport ensure that one gets immersed in the local culture, make a whole lot of new friends and really get the pulse of what the people and places are all about, far beyond what is there is a typical tourist brochure. And that is what I plan to do.
We start the expedition Mar 8 from Colombo. However, I reach Colombo Mar 1, a week prior to launch. I want to use this week to tie in loose ends, meet the relevant people in the Sri Lanka Navy who will be monitoring the expedition, buy some stuff required en route, etc. Maybe I will have time left over to visit some places, particularly Colombo, Negombo, Anuradhapura, Mihintale, Dambulla, Nuwara Eliya, Ella, etc.
Timm is going to be travelling back to Germany Apr 22, and I have my tickets booked for Apr 25. Also, we are targeting to complete the expedition Apr 17. In any case, we have to finish latest by Apr 21 to enable Timm to catch his flight. Which leaves me a few more days to travel the island.
Coming back to Shore Support, I found a way many tourists are travelling in Sri Lanka and it seems to be a unique way to do so. People are hiring tuktuks and self driving them around the country.
There is a fixed daily charge and no limit on where you can take it or how many kilometres one clocks on it. This seemed to be a definite possibility where we could hire a tuktuk for the duration of our effort to act as our Shore Support. Obviously we would not be self-driving, so would need to solicit the resources of the tuktuk driver who would them become our person on land.
After fairly extensive research I found that most positive reviews led to an organisation called Tuktuk Rental.
I sent them an email telling them about the expedition and wondering whether they would wish to associate with us. Tuktuk Rental is a socially conscious organisation and they do not own any vehicles. However, they have a network of tuktuk owners who then give out their vehicles for tourists. Lots of things are covered under their insurance scheme, they organise the local driving permits, provide maps and information on suggested itineraries, etc. All in all a wonderful resource.
Given that they are a socially conscious organisation, helping put food on the table of the owner of the tuktuk, I did not want it to be free. I was willing to pay the daily fee for the driver and fill in the petrol. I just did not want to get into hiring of a tuktuk at commercial touristy rates. Frankly I did not expect a reply, but I was pleasantly surprised to get one a couple of days later. From Wietse Sennema who looks after partnerships and promotions expressing his congratulations on our impending effort. He is a Dutchman based out of Colombo and is a kayaker. He wanted to be able to join us on our journey but had to go back to Netherlands in a couple of weeks. He expressed his inability to sponsor our Shore Support, but extending his hand in support in finding a suitable solution. This is way more than I expected. Thank you Wietse for all your help. And it would have been wonderful if you could have joined us paddling around the island, even if for a few days.
If you are planning to tour Sri Lanka, you can reach this wonderful organisation by visiting their website.
The cost of hiring a self-drive tuktuk ranges between US$ 10 to 15. Add to this the daily fees for the driver and his food and stay … another US$ 20. Plus petrol. The budget for hiring a tuktuk as Shore Support for 40 days comes to about US$ 1,600 or about Rs 120,000. This is about what my budget is for the entire expedition! Not a particularly attractive solution from the budget point of view, but a wonderful option to hiring a much more expensive (and comfortable) SUV.
Both Timm and I are perfectly ok, and indeed looking forward to camping out and sleeping in a million-star hotel, falling off to sleep listening to the surf a few metres away.
There is food to be considered which I suspect will be abundantly available on every beach. I am really looking forward to relishing the street food serving authentic Sri Lankan food. Just take a look at this video that showcases the many wonders that will certainly prove to be a delight to the taste buds.
In case we cannot camp out, or have to find a food vendor away from the beach, or if we want to travel around the city we find ourselves in, we will need transport. Maybe we will end up hiring a tuktuk locally where we find ourselves and make do.
Yes, a tuktuk is a wonderful option. If not as Shore Support due to the paucity of funds, but certainly as a way of getting around. This expedition is becoming more and more exciting.