In the past few days we have traveled from Colombo, Sri Lanka to Singapore to Auckland, New Zealand to Hobbiton to Rotorua. There have been several long flights and the jet lag has really been messing with my internal clock. We’re currently staying at an amazing lodge in a lush forest on the rim of an extinct volcano. This is the first Chance I’ve had to sit and collect my thoughts about our trip up to this point.
We’ve been on the road for about five weeks and we’ve traveled to nine countries. They are: Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, India, Sri Lanka, Singapore and New Zealand.
The journey has been absolutely remarkable and neither myself nor Christy can pick one thing that stands out above all our other experiences. Everything has been a peak experience. However, all of our time in India with Rohit was joyous and special, it is something we will always cherish.
One of the great revelations of the trip was my new Fuji X-Pro2 travel camera outfit. It was a little rough to use on safari where I wished I had my Nikon with a longer lens but it did surprising well nonetheless. The Fuji performed flawlessly as an urban camera, for landscapes, documentary and street photography. I am currently writing a full review of the Fuji as a travel and expedition camera.
I have quite a bit more to say about our experiences on our third full around the world expedition so stay tuned.
I’ve been trying to put my finger on Sri Lanka and I’m having a difficult time doing it. The island nation has little in common with it’s large neighbor India to the north and they speak different languages. The people were very nice but they were also kind of distant. They were definitely island people but not like the islanders in the Pacific or West Indies. I guess I’d call them “old world” islanders. There was almost an Africa vibe to the place if that makes sense.
We flew from Mumbai to Sri Lanka and exiting the plane the humidity was immediately noticeable. This was a tropical climate and suddenly I felt a little over dressed. We made our way through to passport control and the people were very nice. We were greeted by a large sign proclaiming that the possession of any illegal drugs would be punished with death. Yes, death! They were very serious about this and we later learned that many people were put to death each year for drug offenses. Yikes!
When we got to our car we realized we had left the little bag containing the sari Christy had worn during her dunk in the Ganges so she had to wind her way back through security to retrieve it. Thankfully it was sitting right where we left it. Our lodgings were on the South Coast of Sri Lanka which was a two hour drive and we settled in for the long trip.
We were staying in a beautiful old Dutch Army Building that had been converted into a hotel. It featured high ceilings and tall windows, since we had a corner room the light was spectacular. I found it uplifting, bright and cheerful, perfect for writing and journaling. The beautiful setting even inspired me to get out my watercolors to do a bit of painting in my art journal.
Sri Lanka was colonized first by the Portuguese, then the Dutch and finally the British. It regained it’s independence in 1948 and became the Republic of Sri Lanka in 1972.The spiritual tradition of Sri Lanka is primarily Buddhism and we found a mix of Theravadan and Mahayana traditions. There were also a number of Hindu temples. We visited the oldest Buddhist shrine in Sri Lanka which dated from about the 12th century.
The shrine was formed by a set of massive boulders that created an almost grotto like enclosure. It contained a beautiful reclining buddha in the parinirvana position which is the position the Buddha was said to have died in, laying on his right side, head propped up on his right hand. We had asked one of the monks at the shrine to give us a blessing and it was very nice but a little odd since it used a string in an interesting way. Christy had been doing some reading about the spiritual culture of Sri Lanka and had learned that there was a strong branch of local folk magic woven into their practices and we believed the way the string was used was part of that.
We also visited the homes and gardens of Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa and his brother which was very interesting. Since our hotel was in the old Dutch fort we spent time walking around the large area. We walked all the way down to the sea and wandered through some old buildings that had been converted into shops. I did a little architectural photography and some people photography, I didn’t take any beach images because I didn’t find it to be that interesting. Spaces, shadows, light and people, are what I enjoy photographing.
Wishing family and friends a very Merry Christmas from Sri Lanka!
The flight from Mumbai to Aurangabad was pleasant and we had a leisurely discussion about what do. There were quite a few sights to see and we were most interested in the Ellora Cave complex. The most remarkable aspect of the Ellora caves being the “great Kailasa”. This is a large Siva temple that was carved out of the solid volcanic basalt hillside. The complex was carved completely intact during the 7th-9th centuries as a single monolithic structure and took five generations of devoted builders to complete. There are no seams or individual stones.
First the sides of the Cliffside were cut to create the rough dimensions then the entire complex was carved from the top down. The large interior spaces are exquisitely carved out caves and the high ceilings in the main temple required the artist to intricately carve a solid rick ceiling much like Michaelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I’d never seen anything like it.
We spent a long time there because it was so beautiful and peaceful and the light was quite remarkable. The stone buzzed with spiritual energy and throngs of people came pouring through. There were families with children, artists with sketch pads, loving couples, elderly women, all of them had come to see this remarkable place.
Mumbai was a big congested city, and I mean big. The population hovers around 21 to 25 million people. The city sat on a peninsula like San Francisco and was surrounded by the Arabian Sea. I have a deep relationship with the ocean and I was excited to be in a coastal city. Traveling through the Mumbai, there was no shortage of signs of the former British colonial presence and I spied a number of gorgeous neo-Gothic buildings.
From our hotel, we had an ocean view that overlooked the Gateway of India Arch. Looking out the window at the small bay in front of the arch, I could see small tour boats moored on one side and small fishing boats on the other. The sunset was beautiful. We decided on dinner in the hotel at the modern Indian restaurant, We were seated next to the gentleman who was hand rolling, tossing and cooking roomali roti, known as handkerchief roti in english. They looked absolutely delicious.
We walked around a few places in Mumbai, one being an outdoor hand wash laundry and another being the lunch box people. While we were driving I saw a weathered wooden fishing boat up on the sidewalk next to a group of what looked like lean-to’s and shanties. This looked interesting and we stopped. It was a small busy community of fisherman. Judging by the looks of things it was low tide as men were being attentive to their nets and children walked about looking for ways to send their homemade kites high into the air.
I found Mumbai to be a very vibrant city and appreciated having a chance to see and visit the smaller communities and businesses that contributed their energy to the life of the city. No trip to Mumbai would be complete without discussing “Slum Dog Millionaire”, and our chat about the slums was pretty interesting. I can tell you that all the shanties have power and satellite dishes. Also due to their hard work and population density, the people that live in the slums make up an important part of the cities economy.