SRI LANKAN MEMORIES 05/01/2015

It’s difficult to believe that we left Sri Lanka nearly two weeks ago. All four of us really enjoyed our month there and I know we’ll be back to visit again (I want to climb Adam’s Peak, travel north beyond Anuradhapura, and return to the hill country to sip tea surrounded by actual tea leaves). Until then I will hold close some of my favorite memories and moments:

Family hiking   We hiked often and enthusiastically in New Zealand but just didn’t find the opportunity/inclination in Australia or Japan. It felt great to get back onto the trail in Sri Lanka. My favorite hike was probably through the gorgeous Horton Plains National Park – the earth itself was an amazing rainbow of colors, the views from World’s End were big and bold and green, and Baker’s Falls was an inspiring final stop toward the end of the loop. The whole experience was definitely worth the 4am wakeup call. We also climbed Little Adam’s Peak (with two very whiny children) and Sigiriya/Lion Rock (with two very intrepid children who embraced lots of steps and lots of sweat).

Curry, curry, and more curry   I especially loved beetroot curry; I’d never even heard of using beets in curry and now I know it’s delicious.

Fruit, fruit, and more fruit   (See previous blog entry).

Dambulla Cave Temple in the misty rain   Rain, proximity to the Singhalese New Year, and perhaps just a little luck meant we experienced the cave monastery in near solitude. After a gentle climb, we removed our shoes and entered the five caves covered entirely in Buddhist mural paintings and filled with 157 statues. It was just so quiet and peaceful and somehow didn’t feel like a super touristy experience, even though it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We met a monk who chanted a blessing for a family member’s health and tied white strings around our wrists.

Early mornings   Jetlag and Max meant I was often up fairly early, especially for the first week of our visit. I took the time to walk around the house where we were staying, to look, to listen, and to take a photograph. It was a calming practice and a lovely way to begin the day.

Watching Max master swimming   Max can hold his breath underwater for a surprisingly long time, but finally in the house’s lovely pool overlooking rice paddies he jumped and bobbed and gulped his way to staying afloat and taking breaths without the help of armbands. He was so proud and so were we.

Uncle   After basing ourselves outside of Galle for the first half of our trip, we spent the second half traveling around the country. Uncle was our driver. He kept us safe and informed as we traveled, and his kind spirit shone through in all he said and did. We miss his smile greeting us every morning, calm presence on our walks and tours, interesting stories, and general words of wisdom. He was also more patient with Grace and Max than Carl and myself put together.

Buddhism and Carl   Carl really embraced learning about Buddhism during our travels in Sri Lanka. Sometimes I feel like I’m the driving force when it comes to visiting museums and historic sites, but Carl was a Buddhist temple addict. In Anuradhapura he even went out for a day of temple visiting without us (but with Uncle, of course!), as Max was feeling under the weather and Grace wasn’t up for another day of very hot and sweaty exploring.

Seeing elephants in the wild; also seeing Max see elephants in the wild   Max loves elephants but after not spotting any on our morning safari drive in Yala National Park, we had essentially written off seeing them on our trip, particularly since we felt strongly about avoiding sites that had elephants chained up for visitors to see, ride, and touch. Uncle suggested trying a smaller national park in the Sigiriya area and we took an afternoon ride, trying to keep our expectations in check. After only about 10 minutes of driving we spotted three or four, munching away. After five minutes more we found a group of at least 20, including several babies, just hanging out in their natural environment. Seeing the look of wonder and excitement on Max’s face was almost as inspiring as the gorgeous animals themselves.

Riding the train between Ella and Nuwara Eliya   The train ride through hill country, up into the clouds and surrounded by endless views of tea plantations, felt timeless and romantic and adventurous. It may be a fairly touristy activity, but it sort of tricks you into thinking it’s just you out there taking in the gorgeous Sri Lankan landscape.

Tuk tuks!   I don’t know why, but I just like tuk tuks – the alliteration, the bright colors, the language of their frequent honks. Grace and Max had never seen or ridden in one before so it was a real first for them, and it made me oddly happy to squish in the back and ride all together. We were very lucky to have the safest tuk tuk driver ever when we were at the house near Galle, which made it a lot easier for me to not think too hard about the lack of seatbelts and general national disregard for remaining on one side of the road. We left Sri Lanka with a tuk tuk cushion cover and several mini tuk tuk toys, breaking my fairly strict no-knick-knack-purchasing rules!

Roshan, Suresh, Anura, Uncle, Cecilia   We are so thankful to each of our new friends who helped make our time in Sri Lanka such a fantastic adventure. Until we meet again…

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