On October 24th, a team of six Sri Lankans completed an overland expedition from Berlin to Battaramulla on four wheels and two. The 12,500 km route followed parts of the old hippie trail of the 60s and the historic Silk Road, and it was also the first time Sri Lankans had ever attempted this by motorcycle. The group was flagged off at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on the 15th of September by the Sri Lankan Ambassador H.E. Mr. Karunatilaka Amunugama, as well as representatives of other diplomatic missions and resident Sri Lankans in Germany.
The team travelled through Germany into the Czech Republic and to the Alps mountain range in Austria and Italy. In Venice, they boarded a ferry for 33 hours, which took them to Patras in Greece. From there, they journeyed through the remotest parts of Turkey, crossing into Iran, where they continued without any navigational equipment into Pakistan. There, the expedition explored the most isolated mountain regions of the country, where few foreigners have ever been. Finally, they crossed into India at Wagah.
The members of the expedition were Feroz Omar, Director, Brandix Lanka Limited, Major Nalaka Buddhadasa Rtd. Capt, Kshemendra Weeratunga, Senior Captain & Flight Instructor, Sri Lankan Airlines, Javana Fernando and Kenneth McAlpine, Co-Founders of Kulu Safaris and entrepreneur John Durrant. Feroz Omar was accompanied by his wife Amina who travelled with the team up to Istanbul.
Major Nalaka Buddhadasa said, “We experienced extreme conditions along the way,” adding “Temperature variations from -2 degrees to 48 degrees; snow, hail, rain, sand storms; mountains, forests and deserts; dead animal carcasses on the road; Turkish traffic and Indian lorry drivers.” Capt. Weeratunga said he has flown over these areas for many years and that it was nice to see so many places at ground level.
Yet, the group was clearly taken aback by the amazing hospitality, support and kindness shown to its members on this adventure. Strangers approached them bearing gifts of fruit, chocolates and pistachios; lorry drivers set up small fires along the way and made them tea. In addition to this, they were cheered on by people on the road, with cars honking their horns to acknowledge their efforts. To make the crossing through Pakistan a viable option, they received incredible support from the national army and the Sri Lankan High Commission in Islamabad.
The group said that the trip would not have been possible without the assistance of the Commander of the Army, Lieutenant General Daya Ratnayake, the Deputy Minister of Investment Promotion, Hon. Faiszer Musthapha, the Secretary to the Ministry of External Affairs, Mrs. Kshenuka D. Senewiratne, Major General Chagie Gallage, Brigadier Jayantha Gunaratne, Brigadier Lalantha Gamage, Ralf Karpinski, Sevandhi Fernando and Dilhan Jayawerene, and made special acknowledgement of Wilhelm Hevert in Germany, who helped the team from the beginning to the end.
“This was a journey of a lifetime,” Feroz Omar said, “with memories we will share forever. We travelled as a team, supported, annoyed and motivated each other. Each of us had a crucial role to play, and the camaraderie and laughter along the way helped us to get through the more testing times. We’re already discussing our next adventure. Watch this space!”
(Left to Right) Major Nalaka Buddhadasa, Javana Fernando, Feroz Omar and Kshemendra Weeratunga with their motorcycles