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From Palms to Pines

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

On April 4th, I set out for a journey up North, a 4 day train journey which would take me up to Himalayas (with a brief stop in Kolatta).  And now writing this I can’t say I regret a minute of the 45 hour train ride.  Thankfully I had the time to do it, now if I were only here for a few weeks that may be a different story.  Many fellow travelers and yoga students tried to persuade me into just hopping on a plane and getting up north in a few hours.  But why skip out on such an adventure?  By taking a plane I knew I would pass over so much!  So I spent my time next to the train window witnessing the everyday rural life from South India, to North India, from Palm Trees to Pine Trees.  What my friends had seen as boring, is completely and utterly inspiring to me.      


Various colored sarees were washed and spread out on the land to dry, lined up like an earthly rainbow.

Buddhist temples sticking out atop forests, children carrying buckets of water on their heads, families bathing in ponds, herds of sheep waiting at the railroad crossing, games of cricket at 5 am, a sole farmer eating his lunch under the shade of a palm tree, Hindu temples under construction, woman riding motorbikes on the country roadside with their sarees blowing in the wind, umbrellas perched atop tea plants shading plantation workers for an afternoon nap, teenage boys carrying a load of hay 5 times the size of themselves on their bicycle and school children walking along the train tracks in matching uniforms, the girls each with braided pigtails tied in bows.


In India I have come to understand that the most incredible experiences are of something beautiful, magic, unique, or rare combined with something that is annoying, frustrating, or seemingly impossible to deal with.  The scenery was fascinating enough that the combination of food/drink/bathroom/outside smells and yelling vendors didn’t bother me for the duration of my trip.  At each stop vendors from the town will get on the train and until the next stop walk up and down the isles selling coffee chai and fea, samosas (vegetable filled pasteries), and other baked goods.  At station stops you can reach your hand out the window to buy a warm cup of Chai; pay, drink up, and return the glass before the train departs.


The screaming voices “COFFEE, COFFEE, COFFEE” were just a soundtrack playing with the incredible passing by scenery and the scent of fresh vegetable curries, chai and bathroom smells remind me that yes, I am in India.    

Adventures around Mulgirigala

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Time with Sandun

Sandun (pronounced SAHN-doon) is one of my friends that lives in the village behind Amanwella.  I met him during my first week at Aman through one of the butlers, Sampath.  Sandun first invited me to go octopus hunting with him and his father, but that time we were unsuccessful.  Fortunately there ARE really other fish in the sea and we ventured through rock and coral as Sandun pointed out interesting creatures or showing me which ones where dangerous.  He picks creatures up out of the water and shows them to me while giving me a detailed explanation on their living situation, eating habits, and detail about their body parts etc.  He showed me how to pick up star fish without breaking their limbs and how to gently pull one of the many spikes of the sea urchen to watch them flinch. 

I found myself snorkeling with Sandun everyday, finding new kinds of fish, venturing further and further off the coast and being able to swim deeper below the sea’s surface.  Recently I was able to realise that in addition to enjoying our under the sea adventures, I enjoy Sandun’s company.  One day I vocalised my slight frusturation with the fact that I hadn’t explored much of the area yet and that I finally was going to see the Rock Temple.  I told him my driver Lalith was going to charge me 1,000 SLR’s, and asked if that was a good deal.

“You are going by yourself?  I can come with you and my friend can drive us for free!”

I accepted his offer and rode with him and Dinush to the Rock Temple in Mulgirigala 25 kms away.  It felt so nice to be in the tuk tuk, driving through villages and seeing people and places.  I had always wondered what it would be like to drive a tuk tuk so you can imagine how pleased I was when Dinush offered to show me how to drive it.  It was obviously manuel, and I do not have much experience with a clutch, but somehow I did it.  I drove us the entire way through crazy Sri Lankan traffic (with the lovely addition of vehiches honking due to my slow speed) to the Rock Temple.     

The Rock Temple is a beautiful monestary build around a sacred rock.  There are several mural covered caves throughout the rock containing giant sleeping Buddhas, and one of the dead Buddha.  You can climb over 500 steps to the top of the rock where you will find a breathtaking view of the jungle (monkeys included!) 

Moments i LIVE for 

We could see rain clouds in the distance so I made Sandun wait till they were right over our heads so we could sit on the top in the pouring rain.  Sure enough only moments later the monsoon shower began!!  Large warm raindrops danced on my face, drenching my clothes and hair!  I played in the rain the entire way down and the others took refuge underneath the trees and hid under their umbrellas.  I muddied up my feed and jumped in puddles.  Sandun bought us some tea from a street vendor to warm us up for the ride home.

Back in the Village

Before arriving back at Amanwella, I went to Sandun’s house to meet his family.  I met his little sister (8 years old), mother, aunt (who lives next door), and his two cousins (8 years old and 16 years old).  I enjoyed another cup of Ceylon tea while I watched his aunt cut stacks of cloth into pieces which would soon develop into a t-shirt.  Sandun’s aunt sews plain t-shirts (and there are other designs that are more complicated) and she recieved around 300 SLR’s for each one from the stores.  No one else in his family speaks English, but the children non-the-less hung around us curiously watching Sandun and I speak foreign talk.  His family insists that I come back soon for dinner.  I happily oblige.