Dougie Lampkin was in Sri Lanka to
endure the fabled Ramayana Trail
Douglas Martin Lampkin, more affectionately (and professionally) known as Dougie, is a renowned trial bike athlete. Born in Silsden, West Yorkshire, Dougie is the son of the world’s first trial bike champion – Martin Lampkin. Born to a family that was firmly entrenched in motorbike history, Dougie literally rode into the limelight in the late 1980s, on a bike that he admits was far too big for him.
Winning his first major competition in Europe in 1993, at the ripe young age of 17, Lampkin has gone from strength to strength, winning 12 world trial bike championships to date. So it’s no wonder that he is held in such high regard, and has been bestowed an MBE for his services to the sport.
Trial bike riding is an extreme sport which, in modern times, has become more distinctive – in that the bikes have evolved to be lighter, lack seating and have a short suspension travel.
The objective of the sport is to ride through an obstacle course – be it natural or man-made – without touching the ground with your body. It is a sport that requires fine throttle control, expert balance and absolute machine control. You need only watch a biker in action, to realise that this isn’t something for the faint of heart.
Being rather popular in the United Kingdom and Spain, it is beginning to make its way around the world – in part, thanks to Red Bull’s support. It is with this in mind that Red Bull brought Dougie Lampkin to Sri Lanka, and set him on the Ramayana Trail.
The Ramayana Trail is the route that’s believed to have been followed by the mythical Vanara Prince Hanuman, in an attempt to rescue Prince Rama’s beloved Sita, who was kidnapped and spirited away to the island of Lanka by the demon king Ravana – as narrated in the ancient Sanskrit poem the Ramayana.
Dougie’s trail began in Rumassala, which is thought to be a part of the Himalayan Mountains from which Prince Hanuman was to have brought back a medicinal herb to heal Prince Rama’s brother. Forgetting what the herb was, Hanuman is said to have brought back a large piece of the mountain itself – which, while in transit, slipped from his fingers and split into five smaller pieces, with one landing in Rumassala.
From here, Lampkin followed the trail to Ussangoda, in the Hambantota District. Ussangoda has many legends, too – from being the place where Prince Hanuman provoked the Rakshasas King, to Hindu Puranas, saying that it was the landing strip of King Ravana’s flying chariot. This is a designated archaeological site as well as a nature reserve, as it’s located in the southern turtle breeding zone.
The weather was a major factor for Lampkin throughout the trail, as it tended to change at the drop of a hat, bringing rain and cloudy conditions that are unsuitable for riding, as well as for the film and photography crews that followed him to document his travels.
Lampkin’s next stop was the famous Ravana Cave and Falls. The cave – where Sita is said to have been hidden – is a popular tourist destination where excavations have revealed evidence of human habitation dating as far back as 25,000 years. The falls are among the widest in the country; and which, during the wet season, apparently turn into the shape of an areca flower with withering petals. Legend has it that Sita bathed in one of the pools at the bottom of these falls.
The most challenging location, according to Lampkin, was on the last leg of the trail – the Hakgala Rock and Sita Pokuna (Sita’s pond). The inclement weather meant that the terrain was slippery and dangerous, but he and his team persevered.
Dougie says the most humbling experience for him was riding up the waterfalls in Hakgala, and seeing people lining up above to take photos and film his exertions – even though this was the first time any of them would have seen a trial bike athlete at work. Lampkin loved the fact that he was able to show them something new.
Following the fabled trail across the island was a challenge, as much as it was a treat, as Dougie was able to ride across an ever-changing terrain in a short period of time. This allowed him to steep himself in Sri Lanka’s rich culture and legendary lore.
Lampkin is ever grateful to Red Bull, for providing him with an opportunity to learn a small piece of history while doing what he loves to do.
And so, in Sri Lanka, along the Ramayana Trail, Dougie Lampkin rode his way – nay, he ‘trialed’ his way – through history, rewriting an age-old story. The bike was his pen; and the history-rich terrain of the Pearl of the Indian Ocean was his paper.
Documented by: Anushan Selvarajah