It was 11.55 pm and Arith Cooray (24) was cycling across a calm, yet lonely stretch of Australian dessert. It was five minutes till his 25th birthday and all he had was a speaker and the beautiful night sky to keep him company. Yet he was happy, because at 25 he was doing what he [...]


For the love of adventure

Joshua Surendraraj speaks to Sri Lankan Arith Cooray, who having set off from Sydney is currently travelling on push bike around Australia

Crossing Western Australia: Arith Cooray on a one man mission to be the first Sri Lankan to cycle around Australia

It was 11.55 pm and Arith Cooray (24) was cycling across a calm, yet lonely stretch of Australian dessert. It was five minutes till his 25th birthday and all he had was a speaker and the beautiful night sky to keep him company. Yet he was happy, because at 25 he was doing what he loved and that was cycling around Australia.

Arith’s first experience cycling around the country was a 375 kilometre journey from Townsville to Cairns. He didn’t stop there though. Sooner he decided to cycle 1700 kilometres along the coastal belt from Sydney to Melbourne. The journey took him 26 days to complete. But at the end of it, he had found a new passion.

Since he was a teen, Arith always had a longing for adventure. During his time living in Sri Lanka, he’d go camping with his friends and they’d hitchhike along the way, “this was a great way to meet new people,” he says.

Having studied in Malaysia for his degree he spent alot of time backpacking and hitchhiking to the mountains by himself. Thereafter he moved to Australia.

Whilst in Australia, he met a Frenchman who inspired him about his own journey on push bike travelling to Cairns from Melbourne.

Enticed by the idea, Arith decided to try it out. He borrowed a bicycle from one of his Sri Lankan friends living in Australia and set off on an adventure. Initially, Arith had thought he’d cycle for about 100 km everyday, but he had forgotten about the intense Australian weather.

Arith’s route

Eventually though, he got to Cairns and lived in a boat for five days. Along the way he bumped into a lot of people oand when he got back to Townsville, he was a different person.

Having completed his trip to Melbourne, Arith got serious with his research and planned his next big trip, which was to travel around Australia. “It’s not like taking a bike to the park,” he tells us adding that you need to know how the wind works, monitor your water intake and output. Aside from this, you also have to know about the food that makes you consume more water.

He spent two years planning and got himself a new bike, which is good for long distance touring. “Buying the bike was the hardest thing, because I knew that I had to start my journey,” he tells us.

In April, this year Arith peddled off from Sydney and has been on the road since. He has done up to 8,900 kilometres thus far and looks to keep pushing on.

“When you’re out in the wild, there is no fence to hide behind, or if you’re in the desert and there is a sand storm there is no building to tuck into,” Arith explains. “You just have to deal with it and do what you have to do.”

As he cycled towards Perth from Sydney, winter was fast approaching. However, he tells us that he had to be careful for snakes. Australia is known for its venomous kind and Arith would always have to be extra careful whilst camping in his tent.

Cycling across salt flats in SA. Pix by Arith Cooray

He also describes a situation where a snake would sometimes lie by the side of the road and wrap itself around the bike wheel as he cycled by. Arith would swiftly jump off the bike and wait patiently till it moved away.

“In these moments there’s no one to tell you what to do, so you’d learn about yourself,” he says. “If you’re bike breaks down there’s no point in getting angry because there’s no one to help. You really learn how to control your mind.” But Arith enjoys travelling alone, because “ you have your own freedom.”

In another instance, he had to encounter a severe storm along The great ocean road. Arith had gotten news about the storm and hoped to make his way to town before it hit.

But as fate had it he had to deal with five tire punctures that day. As the storm hit, he was completely soaked. The winds were so strong that he barely managed to get to a forest and set up his tent.

The next morning, Arith pushed his bike for nearly 15 kilometers into town and managed to seek shelter in a public washroom.

This wasn’t his only challenge though. Arith describes that moment where he had to cross the Nullarbor plain, as one of his hardest tasks. At this point, the 40 degree heat had got to him and Arith had started hallucinating. He would’ve blacked out, had he not got to shelter in time.

Despite how hard it is though, Arith pushes on. “When you come out from the other side you think, ok I have done it, I can deal with it. Then you start thinking , “ok I can do more now, something a little bit tougher and continue going. And when you finally look back, you realize that you just cycled half way across a continent.”

Through his journey, Arith wants to inspire everyone to follow their dreams. He tells us, nothing happens in one go, you just have to take one day at a time. And if you keep pushing all the challenges and breaking the boundaries you can achieve some incredible things in life. “This is what excites me to keep going.”

Camping in the open

Crossing the Nullarbor

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