02 October 2010

The Invasion of Downtown Nuku'alofa

New Pictures 485
The Cavalcade through Downtown
Today we woke up early and joined one of the occasional bike rides put on by an organisation called Pasikala Nuku'alofa. It is an organisation promoting bike-riding here in Tonga as a way to combat climate change and to develop a healthy lifestyle, and today the focus was to raise awareness about fitness being a method to combat breast cancer (which is quite prevalent in Tonga). 

Both Elena and I love bike-riding, and in ‘Eua we were not able to ride together because Elena didn’t have a bike there. However, since we moved to Nuku’alofa,
we both found bikes and regularly get out to explore different parts of the island. This does make us somewhat of an oddity though when we ride through the villages because so few people here in Tonga bike long distances, particularly when everyone and their brother has a car. Tonga can also be a rather dangerous place to ride a bicycle because it’s relatively uncommon for people to use bikes as a form of transportation, and so drivers don’t look out for them. Which brings me to the story at hand:

We met up with a bunch of expatriates and Tongans down by the waterfront where we signed up for the ride, and milled about while the police got ready to escort us along our 9km route. Once everyone was ready, we all took over the road as the police diverted traffic away from us. With a lead vehicle, a chase vehicle, and three policemen on bicycles, we were prepared to go anywhere. Now we know what the royalty feels like to have an escort to clear the streets for them as they zip through town, and zip we did. On a side note, Tongatapu is quite flat, and so it is a fantastic place to ride bikes when the wind isn’t in your face.

Normally you have to be quite careful about cars, but with our escort, we did not have to stop and had right of way as the police forced people onto the verge of the road and onto side streets. From downtown out to a small town outside of the city, and then back again along the ocean to the centre of town, we had uncontested reign of the road, allowing us to take a pleasant, leisurely ride. Without the fear of vehicles, we could chat with other riders and take in the scenery, only watching out for the occasional little kid careening in and out of the packs of adults.
Our escorted ride
Our Escorted Ride

This event was a fun way to kick off the weekend, and we’re looking forward to upcoming events with them.

Check out the post about this event on the Tonga Breast Cancer Society webpage

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