June 2, 2012

Pakistan in Sri Lanka 2012

A ride through the 'Gateway to Miracle'

Kanishkaa Balachandran
The Southern Expressway connecting Colombo to Galle, November 16, 2011
The Southern Expressway connecting Colombo and Galle  © AFP


A foundation stone calls it a "Gateway to Miracle". Quite often, the quality of roads and highways is seen as an indicator of a nation's development. If that yardstick is applied to Sri Lanka as well, then the Southern Expressway has given everyone a good reason to brag. And why not? The swanky highway makes it possible to zoom from Colombo to Galle in just one hour, perhaps even sooner, if you've got the right wheels. It siphons off at least two and a half hours off the regular journey via the old Galle Road, which is very much in use and remains toll-free.

Inaugurated on November 23, 2011 by the president Mahinda Rajapakse, the expressway begins at Kottawa, a Colombo suburb, and ends at Pinnaduwa, after bypassing Galle town centre. For a country that survives largely on road transport, this project would come as a blessing for the time-conscious traveler. Work is underway to stretch it to Matara and the upcoming international airport in Mattala, near Hambantota.

Having made several trips to Galle, the charming drive by the old road made the trip all the more worthwhile. The old Galle Road begins at Galle Face in Colombo, cuts through the bustling business district of the city, passes the sea-facing suburbs of Dehiwala and Mt Lavinia before hitting the outskirts. A good chunk of the journey runs parallel to the sea, with the waves kissing the tar. The railway line too adds to the allure. The journey is dotted with beachside resorts with varying degrees of luxury, beachhouses, souvenier shops on the roadside, fishing villages, commercial towns, railway intersections etc. The temptation to stop at every vantage point and take pictures could add another half an hour to your journey.

The expressway, though, doesn't run by the coast, as I had imagined. The sea surfaces only at the end of the journey. I decided to shell out the Rs 400 toll charge to see what the fuss was about. Having been used to the traditional, narrower inter-city highways, including a backbreaking pot-holed journey from Habarana to Trincomalee (in 2002), this expressway was unlike anything I'd experienced here. The six-month old highway still had the freshness of a brand new car. What was bizarre, though, was the lack of life on the surrounds. The road cuts through trees and rock faces on either side, there are no villages, no vehicles parked on the side with tired travelers having a stretch to get the blood pumping, no roadside motels or restaurants. The lack of traffic was also puzzling, even in the wee hours of the morning. No surprises though that I reached Galle in an hour. It was surreal.

Would I zip down this road again? Certainly, if I had a license to drive here. But for old time's sake, if I had time to kill, it's the old Galle Road for me.

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by Alu on (September 17, 2012, 14:16 GMT)

My first trip on the Galle expressway was last December. Wow! This is the type of roads we need. An essential feature of infrastructure development is a good network of roads. This road is special for me as I was involved in the survey of the trace at the preliminary stages. I hope all the proposed expressways will be completed soon.

Posted by vimu1937 on (September 6, 2012, 4:05 GMT)

Well Said !!!

Posted by Lankawey Kella on (August 6, 2012, 18:18 GMT)

Good for SL! Finally some transportation infrastructure we desperately need! In spite of the current govt's nepotism and corruption which unfortunately has been inherent in ALL govts that got elected in SL, they have been able to accomplish this great project in addition to getting rid of the LTTE (hopefully!) that allows people to live again without so much fear.

Good for the daily commuter who needs to get to work as an alternative to the trusty trains; it probably is safer too as most private bus drivers risk everyone's lives to make a buck.

I completely agree with Mr. Meegahawatta- ribbon development would impede the goal of this expressway. And, the surroundings are beautiful! What's not to like about greenery, clean air and vast un-"developed" lands? Less time on the road, less pollution.. I will continue to use both the expressway and the Galu Para.

Posted by Amal Meegahawattage on (July 3, 2012, 3:57 GMT)

"What was bizarre, though, was the lack of life on the surrounds. The road cuts through trees and rock faces on either side, there are no villages, no vehicles parked on the side with tired travelers having a stretch to get the blood pumping, no roadside motels or restaurants."

Is it bizarre? That's why it is called an expressway. It is bizarre if you expect any ribbon development on expressways!

Posted by Mela on (June 4, 2012, 4:32 GMT)

It's a express way! Of course there are no roadside restaurants or shop ... Wouldn't be a expressway if everyone stoprd now would it.

And deepal .... It will not be a expressway if it goes through towns ..... Doh!

Posted by rangula on (June 3, 2012, 12:50 GMT)

The old Galle road is as you say, full of character and ethos, but the new highway is a beauty to behold with it's pristine surroundings and unexpressed charm, not to mention the one hour quickie to Galle. I generally use one on the way in and the other on the way out.

Posted by Ali Tabba on (June 3, 2012, 12:00 GMT)

Ive been to Sri Lanka twice only for the sake of enjoying the natural beauty present in the country. This new project by the government is good but for the locals only, not the tourists. Old Galle Road was the Gateway to Pleasure. Travelled in countries as hot as Saudia Arabia and I know what it feels like travelling for 3 4 hours in such conditions, while travelling in galle road, i barely felt i have been travelling for this long.

Posted by Poorna on (June 3, 2012, 10:14 GMT)

Damn truth.I'm a Galle boy.if i'm not in a hurry and plenty of time to kill, i use to choose the Old Galle road.Having your window wide open,enjoying sea breeze,thrilled by the speed of the private bus driver, it's always a joyful journey from Colombo to Galle or viz a viz.but at the same time express way experience is also fantastic that those areas are non-industrial areas.So you can feel the beauty of village areas to the max.

Posted by shahrez on (June 3, 2012, 8:53 GMT)

it will be a very tough match because both teams has very good bowling but in batting pakistan are a little bit weak

Posted by musafir on (June 3, 2012, 7:42 GMT)

old galle road or not, it certaily was a tale of my town. Time is to be spent on the expense of the dispensary that you may earn or take it as granted, but the narration was appropriate if the comments wouldve been more forthcomig....

Posted by Eugene LaBrooy on (June 3, 2012, 4:45 GMT)

Big Deal !

Posted by Travis Fambeck on (June 3, 2012, 3:55 GMT)

Great work to see the competion pf all these infra structure developments of Sri Lanka. Now that a part the T20 and onen day series will both be taken by Sri Lanka . Many more youngesters in the SL team other than the three seniors to win the matches for Sri Lanka

Posted by Shamal Jayakody on (June 3, 2012, 2:05 GMT)

The expressway will reduce the time taken to travel from Colombo to Matara (161 km) to one and a half hours from the current four hours, and currently reduces the time taken to travel from Colombo to Galle (116 km) to one hour from the three hours taken by the regular Colombo-Matara highway. This is a good article.

Posted by Kesara Patuwathavithane on (June 2, 2012, 20:16 GMT)

Hey Kanishkaa

Thank you...A ride through the 'Gateway to Miracle' brought back pleasant memories.

Sipping a beer (4th one :) ) reading your article this Saturday night .. Home away from home in sunny England.. The article did bring back lot of memories.. The old galle road...wow still reminiscing my childhood back home after reading the article.... This beer feels more refreshing than normal... I totally agree it is old galle road for me any day!!! oh but ... wait , I am a busy guy, time is of the essence will I be tempted to put my foot down the "Southern Expressway" ... GUILTY!! I opt for Motorways here...

Hats off to Honourable Mahinda and Gotabaya Rajapakse nation’s development is in safe hands... The walk from Bamba to Gall Face Green recently the beautification along the galle road say no more... Sir's I will have the 5 th beer for you.. I know it will be more refreshing than the 4th...

Mother Lanka I will brag about Mother Lanka any day...

Posted by saj janz on (June 2, 2012, 19:27 GMT)

I love this article. You had said very clearly the awful experience I had travelling on the expressway. One you have missed though is the amount of animals killed including stray dogs on the road. Thanks for expressing your opinion so clearly on this & its important as you provide a different perspective as a tourer.

Posted by ramesh on (June 2, 2012, 19:05 GMT)

Sri Lanka is the most beautiful country in the world..oh I miss it so much !!!

Posted by CricketPissek on (June 2, 2012, 18:57 GMT)

Spot on. I loved using that road which meant I had lunch in Galle and Tea at Galle face, but the journey feels hollow. The drive along the coast of southern Sri Lanka is something locals perhaps take for granted, but all us Lankans know it's probably something special compared to long drives in other countries. The expressway is a good step forward. Hopefully this means all the massive containers and lorries will take that route as businessmen don't particularly care about waves kissing tarmac :) but sometimes the journey is as important as the destination, for those times, we'll use the Galle Road.

Posted by Deepal Karunaratne on (June 2, 2012, 18:50 GMT)

Road was just built and opened to public six months ago. It will take some time for neighborhoods to be formed and new towns will be there in time to come. Since road goes through inland, both sides of the high way will be developed.

Posted by tush on (June 2, 2012, 17:41 GMT)

nice one..natural article which is refreshing, which has no cricket politics involved. Good work -Balachandran .

Posted by Ranil Herath on (June 2, 2012, 17:34 GMT)

The highway is fantastic but enjoy both routes for different reasons. 'Gaalu Para' as known by the Sinhalese,brings on so much scenary and beauty to the traveller. Ranil Herath -Kent

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