"There is no country in the world that has attracted the attention of authors in so many distant ages and of so many different countries as Ceylon....Ceylon, from whatever direction is approached, unfolds a scene of loveliness and grandeur unsurpassed, if it be rivaled, by any land in the universe." ~ Emerson Tennent, Ceylon, 1845.
This bold statement was on a copy of an ancient map our group was given as we met up on our Sri Lanka yoga retreat adventure with The Travel Yogi. As we followed that map over the next two weeks, we found first-hand, Tennent's statement was not hyperbole. We'd all done our homework and knew we'd see beautiful beaches, lush green mountains and valleys, ancient and active temples, warm and humble smiles and of course, fabulous food. But we were still overwhelmed to find the reality even more extraordinary than our expectations.
Our adventure began with a 300' climb to the cave temple complex at Dambulla (2nd century BCE). Here we saw over 153 ancient buddhas! This was just a warm-up for the next day where we climbed 1200 steps to the Lion Rock Fortress of Sigiriya and later to the lush jungle temple of Ritigala. Throughout the week, we visited the Temple of the Tooth Relic, Gal Oya National Park, Yala National Park and the beautiful, pristine beach of Talalla. Sandwiched between these adventures, we enjoyed the hospitality of locals who taught us how to make Sri Lanka specialities (one home meal offered over 15 curries). And, as this was the Buddhist New Year, we got to share these experience with many locals who always treated us with warm smiles and friendly hospitality.
Sri Lanka: April 21, 2019. Easter morning. We had just returned from a safari trip where we found ourselves surrounded by a family of elephants, when we learned of the tragic bombing in Colombo and Negombo. The Travel Yogi's team on the ground hustled to meet the situation, altering our travel plans, allowing us to feel very safe and yet still part of Sri Lanka. First, we traveled to the sweet beach town of Tallala and then spent our last day and night in Galle where we visited a medieval fort city and stayed in a 100 year old chateau. We mourned with Sri Lanka and cared for her by still wondering at the beauty, resilience and the earnest hearts of the locals.
The day of our departure came and we had to get to the airport in Colombo. On the way the extra precautions that were being imposed on us left us feeling safe and not at all 'put out'. After numerous friendly and thorough check-points, we arrived at the airport to be greeted by this sign.
I think it, like Tenant's quote, says it all.....Sri Lanka is a very special place. It has been such an amazingly awesome trip...both the people and the landscape are beautiful, the food spectacular and, of course, the chance to see elephants, leopards, crocodiles and other animals in their natural environment is an opportunity of a lifetime. We are so sad for the tragedy wreaked on this country thorough a senseless, violent, hateful act and our hearts go out to those who have lost loved ones. But, I am confident that Sri Lanka will persevere, blossom and continue to offer her special gifts.
I hope you get a chance to visit “The Emerald Island” and I cannot wait to return myself in April 0f 2020. I hope to see you on this most amazing journey through this most amazing country,