Ella, Kandy, Sharing, Sri Lanka

Sweet Kandy, Bella Ella

SWEET  KANDY

In Kandy it is time of Perahera, the Buddhist festival. What is being celebrated, though, I couldn’t find out, really. (Something’s to do with Buddhas tooth being shown around… sammā-sambuddha would surely be amused…) Musical performances, people dancing, processions, and everything is pretty much over at around 9 p.m. when somewhere else, parties haven’t even started yet 😉

  

To include that which does not run so smoothly, I have to state I have a hard time finding the Homestay. Buddha shows the way… and um, well… local people with their cellies help, too 😉

   

Next day I rent a scooter and go northeast to visit Hunusgiriya Waterfall and explore Knuckle’s Range via Panwila-Huluganga-Bambarella. On the way, I stop several times cuz I meet friendly locals waving at me and pointing out a cemetery in the middle of tea plantations, guesthouse owners inviting me for tea and a chat. Sometimes I also decide to have a rest and snack some delicious vegetable samosas, checkout a tea factory, and enjoy the view over the hilly terrain.

   

At 5 p.m. I still have not reached Knuckle’s Range. It is getting dark (and chilly) soon so I make a U-Turn and go back to Kandy. On the way back I come across a ceremony at a temple in Madawala, a small village. I stop and sit down with the locals. Three monks come to chant and one of them gives a dhamma talk in Singhalese after that. A man called Bandara invites me to have dinner with his family.

When i finally arrive in Kandy, I notice how noisy it is because of Perahera. Many buses, construction sites, loud music, neon lights.

      

This is what Kandy looks like from the viewpoint of the White Buddha

   

   … … …

   

One of the things I like about Sri Lanka, I mean… apart from the delicious food, the hospitality of the people, the diversity of the natural landscape … is the transport system. Given there is so much talk on the web about the special train ride from Kandy to Ella I  decide to see for myself if all the hype is justified.

   

On the train from Kandy to Ella

   

   

   

Coming Going Coming Going Coming Going

   

BELLA  ELLA

   

Look, maaan, Nine Arch Bridge, right over there !!!


   

Ella is a beautiful place to be for a couple of days, a week even. There are opportunities to hike, e.g. Ella Rock and Little Adam’s Peak. Also, a nice walk to Nine Arch Bridge along the railway tracks. I was lucky to have an Indian friend named Vineeth at my side who knows a lot about fauna and flora (among other things). He pointed out the names of birds, butterflies and reptiles along the way and gave me the chance to hold a snake in my hand. Thanks, bro, in case you happen to read this, I had a great time with you and lookforward to meeting you in India 😅

   

Scootering around Horton Plains with my dear friend Vineeth singing songs with deep meaning

At Bomburu Ella Falls

   

Also, I have to say, I was really happy to stay at Ja’s place called “ostello”. Located on a hill with a wonderful view on Ella Rock and a sunrise to make the fresh Ceylon tea smell even more intense, this place is my base for some days. I am very grateful for being around like-minded travellers, have inspiring conversation and enjoy my breakfast which was different every day.

Yes it’s tiny, I know, but still, it’s a snake, a snake on my hand… and the snake charmer’s right ear

   

Having a break on our way to Ella Rock summit

View from Ella Rock!

The Dhamma is Everywhere!

   

A family’s potato field near Bomburu Ella Falls

  

Sunset as seen from Little Adam’s Peak

   

One morning, Vineeth and I rent a scooter and head towards Horton Plains approximately 30km west of Ella

   

When we return in the evening the ostello is fully booked. Nevertheless, we can stay as friends and even get breakfast for free the next morning. Oh my Buddha! Thank you, Papa Ja!

   

Batman in Rawana Cave, Ella

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Anuradhapura, Sharing, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

North of Kandy

Together with Pranavan, a fellow Vipassana yogi at Dhamma Kuta and student in Jaffna, I pay a visit to the Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya. We are there for around 4 hours to walk about, meet some Austrians, see flying foxes and indulge in the splendour of natural surroundings.

   

With plants, fresh air, and a good friend by my side, happiness comes naturally

   

Whatever grows on this pale blue dot in space… … and is reincorporated to make other things grow… … which again, will wither up and die… … just to contribute to the growth of another generation…

   

The story of a tree, the story of a man… interconnected invisibly

    

After that, Pranavan and I take the bus to…

   

Anuradhapura

   

Tending the garden, the temple within prompts me to visit some holy sites in the north of Sri Lanka. Not the far north… just a couple of hours bus ride to reach Anuradhapura, ancient city and capital of north central province. Historically, it is closely connected to Mahinda, the son of Ashoka who had taken refuge in the triple gem after being overwhelmed by the atrocities of warfare necessary to secure and expand his empire in 3rd century BC.

Together with Yuna, a french woman living in Barca, I venture forth to explore the area by bicycle. We see Bodhi trees with people sitting in a circle around it, chanting, praying to it as a wish fulfilling sacred magical plant. We come across white pagodas being renovated. We watch playful monkeys in trees and we wash our feet in the nearby river. It is hot and we’re sweating a lot. So the refreshment is more than welcome.

  

The Ruwanwelisaya Stupa, like a spaceship just landed

   

Green green green , can it get any greener?

   

After the sweaty bike ride to see various temples, ruins and sacred trees we decide to take a dip in the lake Nuwara Wewa. Next to where we jump in is the City Water Supply. We meet people doing laundry and intensive body soap scrub washing. Can you see the white stupa in the distance? I am told that is Mihintale.

  

Wonderful friendly family hosts at Lucky Holiday Home, Anuradhapura. A-ma-zing breakfast!

I enjoy my time in Anuradhapura a lot. The place I am staying at is called Lucky Holiday Home [affiliate link that is]. I highly recommend it. I find it hard to leave.

   

Sigiriya

   

Shortly before we, Yuna & Kimo, reach the summit of Pidurangala Rock …

   

We are lucky. The weather is clear, the view is great! Over there, Lion’s Rock looks more like an elephant if you ask me 😉

   

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Dhamma investigation, Kandy, Sri Lanka

Dhamma Kuta

When I start a journey I usually start with a meditation retreat to collect myself, to be clear about the purpose of the trip. Similarly, when the journey comes to an end, as it must, I conclude my travel period with a meditation retreat to gather mind and body and to reflect on the many experiences I made throughout the trip.

   
Therefore, I choose to sit down and digest the myriad impressions at Dhamma Kuta Vipassana Center on top of a hill near Kandy. Especially after tending for the dogs and cats at Tikiri Trust I find this is a great way to understand raw existence and the suffering and compassion and love I have encountered there. Remaining silent for 8 days after so much barking at the animal shelter to come to terms with the lot of all beings, including my own.

   

View from the Dhamma Hall

   

   

Uphill, the light reflects on the stupa and meets the lens

   

Perfect spot to watch the sunset

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Kandy, Sharing, Sri Lanka

Cats & Dogs in Kandy

I took care of dogs and cats for about a week along with local workers, a french girl volunteering, and Padma.

Working at an animal shelter near Kandy certainly opened my eyes once again to the lot of the lesser fortunate ones. Well, in fact, the dogs and cats who came to Padma’s place are the more fortunate ones. They are washed, fed, oiled with neem and coconut oil if they have some skin disease, and wherever they shit and piss, it’s gonna be cleaned up shortly. They are cuddled and taken on the lap if they allow it. Most have wounds, inner and outer, be it a lost friend (Rosie), an experience of being kidnapped (Charly) and being beaten into submission, being abandoned.

At this place around 160 dogs and 60 cats (July 2017) find some rest. Finally, they don’t have to fear some person who intend to hurt or harm them in any way. What a relief that must be! To find, after years and years, a place where you are welcomed, a place called home.

Here are some impressions of where I volunteered. Just amazing how much they hunger for affection…

   

   
This world is beautiful. This world is cruel. Both statements are true and untrue. It all depends on what the world is for you and me. I think the world gives each and every one his/her share. I also think that sometimes that world is considered ‘unfair’.

In which way is the world something you have extrapolated from your experience, something you get estranged from? In which way have you incorporated your experience to create a world you really like to live in, and: is your perception something you take responsibility for?

   

And how much time do you find to play, my friend?

   

After having been neutered, three dogs nap in my room until the anaesthesia wears off

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Indonesia, Java, Yogyakarta

Joooogjaa …  Jogja !!!

Borobudur Buddhist Temple from northwest

   

Prambanan Hindu Temple from afar

   

Misty morning at Borodbudur… I like that photo.


Visiting the famous temples – UNESCO world heritage since 1991 – is only one of the highlights of my stay in Yogyakarta or, as the locals love to call it, Jogja 😉 I find the price gap between locals and foreigners exaggerated. Locals pay IDR40,000 while foreigners pay IDR520,000 to visit two temples. I struggle at first, but in the end I accept it. Tourism is a market, and as such its game rules of Supply & Demand simply have to be acknowledged.

At Prambanan Temple (originally built in 9th century CE, like Borobudur) there is a museum with artefacts, statues, photographs, and also a film to watch about history, architecture and the epic story named Ramayana (part of Bhagavad-Gīta).

   

Borobudur, at the base

   

My friend Dhika and me


Candi Borobudur is impressive. There has been a lot of work involved in the restoration and conservation of this temple. Its construction presumably took place between 800 and 900 CE. Original purpose unknown. Much folklore and mystery revolve around abandoned Borobudur until part of it was restored in 1911 by Theodoor Van Erp. Another period of renovation took place between 1975-82 by the Government of Indonesia and UNESCO. Today it is part of UNESCO World Heritage and used for annual ceremonies like Vesakh and as a tourist attraction with must-see status. (Be aware, don’t let anyone tell you what you have to see or what you mustn’t miss out on! Remember you can always practice JOMO)

   

Great to walk around on a sunshiny day in the Prambanan temple park

   

My Homebase

I am very lucky to find such hospitable, generous and thoughtful hosts here in Jogja. Dhika picks me up from the bus station. Having arrived at his newly created home he shows me my room. I am tired after ten hours night bus ride from Malang. So he lets me sleep in a big bed for a couple of hours. When I wake up, food is served by his amazing sister Dini.

When I arrive I intend to stay for 2 nights. It all turns out otherwise. In the end, I stay for more than a week and skip volunteering in the north of Jogja.

We cook together. Eat together. We visit temples and go to the beach. i also get the chance to give Ohashiatsu treatments and learn some more Bahasa Indonesia with them. Whenever I mention what I would like they always find a way to make me happy! Sometimes even to the point where it’s almost uncomfortable for me because it seems they change their own plans and practice renunciation only to make my life easier.

I am so grateful to have friends like you who treat me like family. You are mosdef three reasons to come back and visit Jogja again. I will check the sixpack, Dhika, and we go up Mount Merapi, finally!


So … what’s the most important tourist attraction of Indonesia?

The PEOPLE!

  

My wonderful hosts Ndi, Dini and Dhika cared for me in Jogja at 3DI Backpacker’s Guesthouse. Together we go to the traditional market, to the beach, to an Indian Restaurant, to the temples…

   

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Indonesia, Java, Sharing

Hiking the Fire Mountains


IJEN VOLCANO
   

No need for a package tour. No need for a guide.

One night at 1 a.m. I started from my guesthouse Gandrung Payungan Inn in the village Karang Asem with a scooter (IDR 75,000/day) and turned back because after a while it was raining too hard. It was around 2 a.m. when I decided that it’s not worth it. The road had become a waterfall with me going upstream on a steep & uneven road in dark fog. I pushed on. Reminded myself “Dude you have no proper shoes.” My rain poncho was still the same one I had torn up in Bali and makeshift-fixed with a safety pin. Looking back, it was wise to turn back and give it another try the next day.

And that’s what I did. Next day I found some hiking shoes my size – that is, finally!… after having checked more than a dozen shops in Banyuwangi and surroundings in vain. I was so glad to find this adventure/hiking equipment store that I also exchanged my flippers for a pair of trekking sandals. Evening I prepared myself, went to bed early. Got up at 1 a.m. and went up northwest, following the signs indicating ‘Kawah Ijen’. Ohhhh, the scooter ride is so much better without rain! Even so, dear adventurous reader, be sure to get a good scooter – sometimes the road is quite steep and rough, with pits here and potholes there!

When I was almost at the entrance (thank you GPS!) I noticed that I am running out of gas. I made it there but the marker was on ‘E’ (empty). Well it was about 3 a.m. or so and I could worry about going back later, so no reason to do that now ;-P

Within one hour I was on top of the hill. A guide called Tao was joining me up the whole time. I told him “Thank you but the path is obvious, Tao” but he said he don’t mind joining me and it’s for free. There were so many people going up there! I overtook most of them and was at the summit in an hour. There are three steep ascents with plateaus in between so it’s not a real hike, rather a nice morning walk.

Walking up? Walking down?

At the top Tao asked for IDR150,000 to go down to see the blue flames: “It’s very dangerous, very dangerous” down there. Yeah right. I said goodbye and joined an American photographer named Jason and his Malay friend. As we go down, I meet the workers I know from Glawogger’s movie Workingman’s Death. It’s an entire different thing to watch it with your own eyes, to smell the sulfur, to have to crouch down in order to avoid burning eyes. These people carry loads of sulphur uphill every day, and they are paid per kilo. I do not buy a turtle or any other ornament made of sulphuric rock to ease their lot – but I want to give something. So two of them get my last pieces of chocolate.


For pictures or videos of the blue flames, please consult the internet, e.g. Wikipedia. There are great records of that phenomenon… far better than what I could ever achieve with my tablet camera.

   

Wokers on Kawah Ijen carrying bringing up loads of sulphuric rocks from the place tourists go to see whooohooo the ‘blue fire!’

 

Sunrise at the edge of Ijen Volcano (2,800m above sea level)

   

 

Sulphuric acid lake at Mount Ijen. In the morning I was down there (top right corner of the lake) together with hundreds of other people

   

MOUNT SEMERU

I meet Jakob at the guesthouse in Karang Asem. Together we walk up and down Mount Semeru in around 26 hours. It is one fast hike. The last part is quite heavy and we almost do not start the climb in the early morning because of heavy rain – again, like on my first eve at Kawah Ijen. At 4 a.m. the rain stops and at 5 a.m. we start to hike the last section. Rolling gravel has gotten lumped together by the recent rainfall. That makes the ascent somewhat easier. It takes us around 2hrs30 from Kalimati to the Volcano peak (3676m).

   


Are we fit enough?? … Before starting the hike, we need to get a document confirming our health

 

   

After the ride from Ranupani Base we pose for a photo before we have a 30min briefing in Indonesian language and start the hike up to Lake Kumbolo (4hrs) and Base Kalimati (2hrs)

   

Up there at the summit – it’s hard to describe. The volcano spits out ashes every 15-20 minutes. It is loud. It is spectacular. It is immense, gigantic! I have never seen anything like it. Very impressive. Certainly unforgettable.  

    

At Ranupani Base Camp after ½hr intro talk in Indonesian


Misty Jungle Hike

 

Lake Kumbolo Base Camp. We decide not to stay but venture forth to reach Kalimati

 

Someother bloggers described this ascent as challenging, and yes, it is quite challenging. But if you’re not fixated on being there at sh rise, have proper shoes and a good walking stick to prevent you from sliding back down, it can be done in around 2.5 hours. Especially if you have a friend carrying the backpack with camera, water and peanuts – Thank you, Jakob!!

The summit 🙂

 

 

 

Every 15-20 it goes WHOOOOSHHHhhh !!!! and the volcano erupts, spewing out ashes hundreds of metres high

   

..

   

Thank you, dear Jakob, for embarking on that beautiful hiking trip to Mount Semeru with me. We made it… in 26 hours, man!!



Sitting in the night bus to Yogyakarta. I skipped the hitchhiking I had planned because of Eid Al-Fitr, the muslim festival in June. Prices of accommodation are raised five times as high as normal. Traffic is gridlocked (kemacetan) because people from Bali go west to visit their parents in Java. On the other hand, people from central Java go east to Bali and west to Jakarta, and Jakartanesians go everywhere to spend some time with their relatives. To put it in simple terms: it’s all a huge car salad!

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Indonesia, Java

Bardo states

Again, a day or two when I simply rest. Not do anything special. Read. Eat. Sleep. Meditate. Recover. Digesting impressions of Kawah Ijen and preparing the hike of Gunung Semeru.

   

One of the most beautiful guesthouses and friendliest hosts I have come across during my travels this year: Mango Moon, Pemuteran, Bali. The owner of this guesthouse, Kadek, is a diving instructor, ouhhyeahh 🙂

   

While I am at Doddy’s place in Surabaya, nothing much happens. Still, in retrosprct, these two days have been filled with events. He showed me around Malang, Batu, and Sidoarjo – There was a mud flow here which people call Lumpur Lapindo 2006!

   

Travelling these days feels really great! Accepting that things do not turn out the way I thought. Almost always, plans don’t hold when confrontwith reality. Whenever there is an agenda, there is lack of flow. And I just love the flow of koving with what comes along. And I also feel the magick of staying somewhere for some days or weeks 🙂

It’s a good mix, indeed: Beaches, Hikes, National Parks, Retreats. And from time to time a temple, a shopping spree, a day of relaxing with  good book.

   

Balinese Buddhist Art

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