ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Vol. 41 - No 27

A 70-year-old Pole’s passion for cycling

By Natasha Gunaratne

Janusz River’s proudest accomplishment in life is that he has not slept on a bed for the past six years and that he has never punctured a tyre on his bicycle.

The 70-year old Polish national who has come to Sri Lanka for a 40-day bicycle tour, will be visiting remote areas and surviving on a daily stipend of Rs. 500 and the goodwill and hospitality of Lankans. So far, River has toured 34 countries and travelled 31,000 kilometres on his bicycle. So what would possess this former football manager to do something of this nature? “There is only one crazy man who will do this,” he told a news conference at the Sri Lanka Tourist Board.

River says he has no sponsors but gets assistance from government officials and the Ministry of Tourism. He will cycle a total of 1,500 km in Sri Lanka, about 25 to 40 km a day. On his arrival in Sri Lanka on Monday, he rode his bike from the airport to Colombo with a stop in Ja-Ela where he spent the night as a guest of the Mayor. On his experience of riding his bicycle from the airport, he says he is surprised he isn’t dead with all the traffic.

River speaks about his desire to travel to the north if permission is given by the Ministry of Defence. “I am coming here for peace. No Tamil will kill me,” he says, adding that he takes full responsibility if anything unfortunate were to happen. So why did River give up his sports career and his beach front home in Rome, Italy to ride around the world on a bicycle? He says he wanted to do something that would make an impression. So on December 31, 1999, he decided to buy a bicycle, fly to Barcelona, Spain and begin his tour. “It was a sensation for the papers.”
His tour will end at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. But he leaves open the possibility of continuing even after.

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Copyright 2006 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.