To conclude my travels throughout Asia this year I take the train to Colombo Fort Train Station.
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 😉
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.
… … …
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.
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 😅
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!!
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!
I was staying in Pemuteran at Mango Moon Guesthouse. Putu & Kadek did everything to make my life more beautiful there. Kadek Suparma is also a diving instructor! Well well well… Time for some fun dives. And so I went to Menjangan Island off the Northwest coast of Bali. No GoPro Cam, no pictures. Instead, some pictures of my visit at the largest Buddhist temple in Bali. Also, a video about the ceremony I attended.
Doddy and me had just met yesterday evening – it so happened we stay at the same guesthouse. We share some stories and he tells me he goes to Surabaya the next day. Sure he can give me a ride to Pemuteran – he is happy to do so! We are meant to start at 5 a.m. But for some reason we leave two hours later. Ok by me. Going back to bed for another two hours I listen to this:
We go south from Bedugul (Hotel Melita, IDR150,000/double room)… I had scootered there from Ubud with an Italian guy named Andrea: Mille grazie amico!
So from Bedugul Doddy goes south to do some business, and from there he goes to Surabaya where he lives. He brings me all the way to Gilimanuk. So generous! Inviting me for breakfast (Nasi pecel) and offering to help out as a guide next time i am travelling Indonesia. Please bring some friends along so We can make a group tour, he says, and keeps on repeating also when I visit him in Surabaya a week later. So, my dear reader, now you know that I know a guy who can help you with organising a trip to Bali-Lombok-Flores-Timur!!
Oftentimes I suspect people expect something from me in return. That might be true in some cases. Sometimes, though, the generosity of some person I meet is genuine and his/her only motivation is to give without wanting something back (and be it only a loose connection to that
Austral… European traveller). Anyways, I have to make a confession of being somewhat stingy at times. Having arrived here at yet another paradise in Bali – a shadow cast over dat place – all I can think of is to save money by negotiating the price of accommodation. I am ashamed of how I acted. Even if it is common as a backpacker to negotiate and to try saving a buck – I have come across people who truly excel at this pastime, made it a sport even (“look, I’ve only spent 100 rupiah in a month” etc. etc.) – even so, I sense that I hurt Putu by my attitude, the lady welcoming me at their homestay in Pemuteran. I regretted this and told her I am sorry as soon as i could muster up the courage to do so. Stinginess hits me sometimes. I would like to be inspired by the generosity of the people I meet. Or is it that I am generally generous, grateful and giving? Am I being too harsh with myself? Like a white cloth on which a small stain of stinginess is all the more visible than on a dirty rag? Who can tell? Who knows my innermost drives, values and motivations… but me? All I know is that I don’t particularly like myself in survival mode!
Maybe it has brought the species where it is nowadays. Be that as it may, suspicion and mistrust remains a nasty habit nonetheless. So I give the tuktuk driver some more than he expects, something more than what we agreed upon. Surprised, he looks at me and smiles… and tells me my next ride “if you go to airport or whatever, sir” is free of charge. Now I am surprised.
Too surprised to get his phone number.
And off he goes.
Suspecting others to take advantage of me and trying to make the best deal. I need to change my view if my actions shall habe a more gentleman touch. Simply ‘wanting’ to be more generous does not work. It’s gotta be in the spirit of wuwei – not forcing it. Advice is appreciated, dear readers? how do you deal with this issue in your life? Are you aware of why you are giving time, money, resources, smiles? Do you expect anything in return? Are you disappointed, even angry, when someone is ungrateful? Do you identify yourself with the giver? Do you use giving as a means of self-aggrandizement? Do you think you can only give once you have enough – and when will it ever be enough?
This has helped me along my journey:
“Any wish, any desire, any activity in the mind is dukkha, because all thinking is forever moving. Movement is irritation, which creates dukkha, and can never be totally fulfilling. if we think about the past, for instance, we bring it into the present. If that past was unsatisfactory, we wish it had been different, thereby causing ourselves a lot of needless suffering. We should let the past rest. […] Equally, if we bring the future to mind, hoping for something we want, or praying that some other thing will not happen, we bring that also into the present and with it, dukkha. We need to look at ourselves honestl, though without judgment, and recognize how frequently we do this and how foolish it is.”