Sumathipala’s Pilgrimage

This story is about a cool senior citizen who cycles as part of his pilgrimage.

I felt an uneasiness in my tyres so I decided to take a small detour from my usual route to work so that I can go the nearest winkle. While my bike was in the “ICU”, I was looking at the other bikes around the place and one particular bike caught my attention.

The classic logo of the Raleigh Bike

This was a classic – certain parts may have been replaced but it has stood the test of time and it goes by the name “Raleigh”. Think of it as the Rolls-Royce of bicycles. The owner of the bike was none other than the mechanic attending to my bike. So there began our conversation.


Mr. Sumathipala

The past and the present! This is Sumathipala in his younger days.

Mr. Sumathipala is 59 years old and he still cycles! He showed me his collection of photographs of him cycling in the good old days with another friend of his. What strikes me more is that he still goes on these tours.

There’s a picture of him in Kataragama – all the way Down South. To visit temples or religious places, he goes by bike. What he believes is that, the Gods are aware that he is taking this sacred journey, a journey with zero carbon emission to thank and praise them for the bounties that are provided.

When his family insisted on going to temples in Anuradhapura for Poson by van – Mr. Sumathipala would always take the bicycle.


For him, the entire journey was part of the pilgrimage.


I can’t imagine the things he is capable of doing – all while being 59 years of age. And one thing he would tell me is that, the reason why he’s alive to this day is because of the bike. I have come across many cyclists who are over 50 and still cycle to work on a daily basis. Why pay for a gym membership you will never use when you can get a free workout?

Sumathipala and his team at Kataragama.


Sri Padaya (Adam’s Peak)

Mr. Sumathipala does an annual pilgrimage to Sri Padaya (Adam’s Peak) during the season. And as you may have guessed it, he does the trip on bike. The trip takes place on a Saturday morning (3.30 AM) and along with his group, he cycles all the way up to Nallathanniya in Hatton. It’s all uphill on this route. Later, they take a bath in the Seetha Gangula (it’s a small stream that pilgrims make use of before attempting the climb) and begin their ascend. Mind you, they don’t sleep anywhere! After reaching the Uda Maluwa, they attend to their prayers, witness the beautiful sunrise and begin their descent. From there on, they need to hold onto their brakes because it’s all downhill and you don’t have to pedal at all for 15 km. They return to Colombo on Sunday evening.

It was a different time back then! Sumathipala is on the right.

I still can’t get my mind off the fact that a person who is 59 years old is still capable of doing these things. This is the lifestyle of some of the most simple people in Sri Lanka and there was a time where many people used to do it. Fortunately there are people who still do it, and living life to the fullest.

PS: I’ve included the location of his workshop and his contact number (+9471-955-1978) here, in case you want to get your bikes repaired or if you want to join him on his next trip.

Sumathipala’s Winkle / Cycle Repair Shop
Sigiriya Trip (Day 1)
Tandem Vision - Riding with the Visually Impaired