We were in Sri Lanka, in Habarana, over Poson Poya.
Poyas are Buddist full moon day festivals and Poson Poya is a big event celebrating the introduction of Buddism into Sri Lanka, and is especially celebrated in the Ancient Cities triangle of which Habarana is right bang in the centre.
One fun feature of Poson Poya was the Dansalas, organised by the local temples, where you see guys standing at the side of the road furiously waving yellow flags and giving out free snacks as a way of sharing and celebrating.
We started out being a bit diffident about this as it felt a bit like intruding on someone’s New Year party, but people were so happy and generous we ended up with bags of hot spiced chickpeas, strange fritter like things and more.
By chance, at the end of Poya we had to get from Habarana to Colombo to catch our flight back to Australia (actually, because it went at two in the morning and the onward flight from Singapore to Australia went mid evening we treated ourselves to a couple of nights in Singapore).
We hired a car and driver (no one with any sanity would drive themselves in Sri Lanka, especially in Colombo – there are rules, but they’re not the ones in the highway code – think Greece or Thailand and cube the experience) to take us to our hotel in Colombo.
Until we hit the Colombo traffic we had a fairly quick run due to it being Poya, but on the way we kept on passing these guys who were clearly part of a group cycling event riding to Colombo.
Some of them had helmets, all of them had bike shorts acquired somehow (some clearly well washed and faded as a consequence) and Heinz variety roadbikes all rebuilt out of parts sourced from wherever. Nothing wrong with that, I’ve done it myself, but the thing that was really striking was that instead of skinny road tyres they were using chunkier touring bike tyres, despite road surfaces being (generally) pretty good.
The whole thing was kind of intriguing as we’d only seen half a dozen locals riding for fun in our three weeks, no foreigners riding, although we did meet someone in Galle who’d ridden to Jaffna the week before with a group of friends.
Apart from peasants riding ancient sit up and beg bicycles to their plots, Sri Lanka seemed to be bike free, despite the roads being fine for cycling once you are out of Colombo and probably no worse than Morocco in terms of traffic and mad pedestrians, dogs and goats.
However the guys riding the rebuilds were having a pretty good time riding along and stopping at Dansalas to refuel. Made me feel envious.
The other thing that was kind of intriguing is that in seems to imply a cycling scene in Sri Lanka, despite the complete lack of evidence of bike shops and the like, which makes me wonder just how practicable a few days bike riding would be as part of another trip?