Search long and hard and far and wide and paradise you shall find. As to what it is, or where you find it; that path is yours and yours alone to tread. But seek if you will and you will find a land to steal your heart.
Over the summer we found a paradise. An exotic and intoxicating land of magic… Where ancient cities lay amongst the vines and palms and statues of Buddha rise majestically from the vegetation below. Where Elephants roam the plain and leopards stalk the night. Buzzing market stalls and colourful saris and red hot curries and happy smiles. Emerald surf pounds the coast while mighty blue whales thunder past. The lone and level sands stretch as far as the eye can see, fringed by swaying palms and heavy surf.
A land of contrast, once marred by conflict. A teardrop at the foot of India. A land once divided, but now whole again, standing proud. It’s been known by many different guises… Ceylon, The Saffron Island, The Lace Island, The Elephant Island and The Teardrop Island… But you will know it as Sri Lanka.
It was dark when we arrived. Under a starry purple sky, only the silhouettes of the palm trees were visible. In the distance you could hear the surf crashing on the beach and the start of the cacophonous early morning dawn chorus from the birds in the jungle canopy.
The early peace of the morning was soon shattered by the heady buzz of the airport arrivals lounge, where flowing saris of every colour imaginable mixed with the brightest smiles I have witnessed as families where reunited and long lost relatives… Tuk Tuks winding in and out of the crowds competing for business.
It was 5:00AM and the air was thick and humid and the sometimes oppressive tropical heat was already evident. As we drove away from the airport towards Colombo Fort Train Station and got our first glimpses of Sri Lanka, I could already feel the wanderlust flowing… The desire to get out and see as much of this country as I could… The busy markets of Pettah were setting up for the day as we walked through into the station as the busy rhythmic dance of daily life commenced.
As you fly to a new destination, your mind is working overtime thinking about what lays in store for you upon arrival. For me, the flight is a time of child like excitement as I dream of what I will find. What treasures await me, what adventures will I go on, what will I learn…
I will go into our findings in more detail over the next few blog posts, but suffice to say that what I found blew my mind. How could an island as small as this contain so much… In the centre mighty peaks of over 2,500m tower above the clouds, hiding verdant valleys, dizzying waterfalls, lush tea plantations and a rich spiritual re-awakening. Surrounding these are ruinous cities, vast, beautiful and mysterious. The remnants of a mighty ancient people, now being lost to the vines and vegetation of the jungle.
Monkeys bounce around in the trees overhead, while crocodiles bask on the riverbank…. At night turtles lumber ashore to lay their eggs, while leopards stalk through the jungle silently like phantoms. During the day, the surf pounds the white sands, while palm trees sway gently in the tropical winds. At sunset, the sky above the Indian Ocean explodes into colour, while locals play cricket in the shadow of Galle Fort.
Street vendors hawk their goods as the fragrant aroma of Sri Lankan curry fills the air. School children run down the street clutching their books, while fishermen cart the mornings catch from the beach.
Emerging from from the palms and contrasting with the red clay colonial tiles, the pure white dagoba’s and stupa’s and colossal statues of Buddha serve as a reminder of the Islands predominant faith.
However, what stands out the most is the genuine kindness and friendliness of the local people.
In Sri Lanka we found a paradise… A paradise where one truly wants to lose oneself…