Ryoko Jones

Joined December 2016
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  • Day1

    Hanimaadhoo

    January 22, 2017 on the Maldives

    Surprisingly only 10% of Maldivians can swim. Local people fear for creatures in the ocean so they are not keen to swim.

    Crazy isn't it? No crocs in the water here though! Darwin locals swim in the ocean knowing crocs might be there. That is another level of craziness however.

    I wanted to see very remote part of Maldives especially old villages so I came to Hanimaadhoo which is located in the north Maldives.To reach this remote Island I had to catch a domestic flight (45mins) from Male, Maldives' International Airport.

    It was so worth it staying away from busy tourism and immersing myself in nature and peace.

    I stayed at Barefoot Eco Hotel for 6 nights which is run by Swiss Italians. The hotel has a half mile private beach (fantastic for swimming) and a few Italian chefs and Sri Lankan chefs. Food was amazing.

    If you are a swimmer, staying at a hotel with access to (their own) beach is essential in Maldives because Maldives is a Muslim country and women are expected to be fully covered even in the water at the public beaches. Imagine swimming in clothes! I could be drowned..

    I swam horizontal to the beach up and down feeling safe without worrying about breaking the custom.

    The water temperature was 28 degrees, turtles and dolphins seemed super happy outside the lagoon.

    Hanimaadho village has charming characteristics. The old house walls are built with coral stones (in stead of bricks). There is a school as well as a pre-school. They have local teachers as well as Indian teachers who teach the kids English.

    On a Sunday I was cycling around the village expecting kids would be playing around the back yards or the beach. No. They were all at school. I visited the school and met with acting Principal Ebi. Ebi let me teach their Grade 5 class! I showed students and Ebi how to make Origami paper crane and counting numbers in Japanese. The kids gave me drawings and a note to say "We like you". My heart melt.

    The Maldivians grow a variety of vegetables and fruits on their islands and they catch a lot of tuna. Most households' income come from fishing industry. I don't know how this fish market works but here is a picture of Hanimadhoo fish market.

    The white sand beach and a turquoise lagoon are so peaceful, it is certainly a place of calming the mind and restoring energy.
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  • Day16

    Adam's Peak

    January 10, 2017 in Sri Lanka

    5500 steps along the pilgrimage climb.

    Tips for climbing Sri Pada (Adam's Peak)

    - Don't start earlier than 2:30am if you are a fit person. You will get to the top too soon and freeze.

    - Once you get to the top, don't go up to the  temple, it's windy & freezing. Instead, secure a spot at the top stair of the observation stairs. The wall behind will protect you from chilly winds

    - At the final stalls, they tell you "Have a tea you need to wait for another hour to see the sunrise" Don't listen. You want to see the down

    - Toilets are available but expect to pay 30 Rupees

    - If you want a tea at a stall. Ask them to make it really hot otherwise it's just slightly warm tea

    - Take your time to go down and enjoy the scenery

    - Must have items are a pair of gloves, a beanie, comfortable shoes, a water bottle, extra jacket, snacks and some songs to sing along (yes!), small changes for toilet and tea, 1000 Rupees for the administration (donation)

    - If you want to sleep early for the climb, drinking a shot of Arrack would help

    (After the climb)
    - Take a tuk-tuk to the big waterfall (most hotels know) this one is different to the one on the way to Delhousie. It is 30mins away from the village and you go through tea plantation. The driver will walk and guide you among the tea plantation because the tuk-tuk can only get to the edge of the plantation. You can swim or stretch by the lake
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  • Day14

    Nawalapitiya

    January 8, 2017 in Sri Lanka

    This was the most unique, extreme, unsual, and unreal trip I have ever made in my life.

    The Tamil people I only met yesterday included me in their pilgrimage trip to their most sacred site deep in the mountains.

    It was 2:50am I got out my bed. I rang my tuk-tuk driver to wake him up whom I arranged a pick up the night before. The driver turned up at 3:21am and took me to Sri Atman, the Kuriya yoga master's house (about 12km away from my hotel). His students all met at the house for a 4am bus. I didn't know what to expect for this pilgrimage visit. I just guessed we might be doing some yoga so I was in my fitness cloths. Then the ladies arrived in absolutely stunning sarries. Suddenly I felt extremely undressed so I quickly changed to my saree but later I was told that my saree is  Sinhalese dress (Tamils' once enemy).

    The road to the hill country was rough. I still fell asleep from exhaustion. I quickly woke up as everybody was chanting loud on the bus.  I could follow some of the chants so went on with them. At 7:30am, we stopped at our first destination, a Hindu Temple where our breakfast was prepared by Indian builders. The temple was partially under construction and I learned that the builders were especially hired from India who specialises in building Hindu temples. It was interesting to know.

    Breakfast was amazing. We women sat together in the builders room and ate first, using right hand off course. It was one of the coolest moment that I felt I was treated in the same way as the Tamils. It looked quite funny as we were all dressed up and eating in the very basic room while the men served the meal to us. I felt like a princess!

    So they served me coffee. It was the most sugary coffee and was delicious! It was just exactly what I needed to kick off the most unpredictable day.

    We came back to the bus, by the time it was 8:30am. Another 2 hours on the bus climbing up a very narrow road in the mountains, more chanting. This time chanting with a loud bell there was no chance to fall asleep.

    We got lost.

    Our master said "I forgot the road", we stopped and asked local people where the yogi's temple is. Finally we arrived at the destination where it was tucked in behind a tea estate. I would have never imagined there would be a temple this far and very much hidden.

    But their temple was not even there. The yogi temple was located high up in the mountain so we climbed up on foot for another 90 mins in the beautiful sarries (so dangerous I nearly tripped over many times). I spoke to many of the Tamil ladies on our way up learning that their family from Jeffna, the north of Sri Lanka had to flee to Germany and Australia during the war, I also learned a few words in their language and something about their religion.

    The scenery was spectacular. It was probably the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen in Sri Lanka.

    We reached at the top. The special temple was built next to a big tree overlooking mountains and valleys. Just stunning. We all feltl amazing vibration. We sat in the temple and prayed, chanted. Outside the temple, we made a fire for some rituals, chanting, burning branches, walking around the fire.

    After walking around the fire, the master told us that we are going to a very sacred cave to meditate. The rules are 'no speaking' and 'no touching others'. It was a steep way down to the cave.

    The cave was almost exactly what I have ever imagined the perfect cave to meditate.
    We were meditating. I could smell amazing incense and the sound of wind blowing the candles was magic.

    We headed back. This time I was talking to a tamil gentleman who brought his wife and son to this trip. I enjoyed our philosophical conversation.

    There were many local children who followed me everywhere even when I was praying they were sitting in front, beside, behind of me. It was like back to my Peppimenarti time. I was told that the kids were curious about my skin (much lighter than theirs) and my facial features.

    I taught them to count numbers to 5 in Japanese and they loved it.

    The master then showed me the religious ritual that was held at a Hindu Temple near the yogi temple. This was another highlight of my trip.

    After much of chanting, drumming and praying, the priest opened a special door. From the door I saw a body of an enlightened person who has been kept for 100 years after he died. My heart rate went up.

    The priest was burning incense and offering us special water. I smoked my head and drank the water, I even ate the food that was offered  to the enlightened person.

    I didn't know what to expect. I was told that the body of the enlightened people after the soul left smell beautiful like Jasmine.

    The body was carefully covered by some cloth and flowers.

    The master's students then fed the children and gave them notebooks. The kids were given some entertaining lectures.

    It was almost 5pm. We left the mountain to return home. The tamil gentleman and his family kindly gave me a lift to my hotel. They were so lovely that they made sure I am safe and negotiated a price for my next transportation so I don't get over charged. Really nice.

    I can't believe how amazing the day went. It was so unexpected.

    The kindness of the tamil people and the yogi experience, I will remember for the rest of my life.
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  • Day13

    Colombo, Sri Lanka

    January 7, 2017 in Sri Lanka

    I rang up Kriya yoga studio. I wanted to try out the ancient yoga. However the studio was closed until February. To my surprise I was invited to the teacher's house where TTC (Teacher Training Course) is currently being held.

    When I arrived at his house, the teacher was lecturing his 10+ students yoga philosophy in Tamil language. I joined in the class not understanding the language but I felt something really good about the place and the people.

    I followed all the postures without any struggle. The teacher and his students were not expecting that I would be able to hold the postures much longer than anyone. Many questions were thrown at me. "Where do you practice yoga?" "Who is your teacher?" "How old are you?" "What style of yoga do you do?"

    The teacher told me to come back at his house next morning before 4am to join in their spiritual excursion to a yogi temple somewhere deep in the mountains 170km away from Colombo.

    I had plans for next day but the spiritual excursion sounded very fascinating especially I am inclined to that side of the world at the moment.

    I set an alarm at 2:50am thinking 'wow this is a little bit crazy, I am traveling to middle of nowhere with people I only met today'.

    During the day, I also visited Geoffrey Bawa House, Sri Lanka's most famous architect's house. It was the most stunning ancient fused multicultural architecture.

    The accommodation I stayed for the night offered Shiatsu massage (Japanese style massage). All the massage therapists were blind and were given a training by a Japanese master. My therapist told me that he is 36 years old and has a wife and 3 children. He lost sight when he was 7 years old. He was the best massage therapist in Sri Lanka.

    At night I had a brief visit to 'Gangaramaya Temple' and 'Seema Malakaya Meditation Centre'. I had a mixed feeling when people tried to charge me 3 times more for admission because I am a foreigner. In my country (Japan) we don't do that to visitors from overseas.
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  • Day11

    Galle

    January 5, 2017 in Sri Lanka

    Sri Lankan pre school kids are well mannered. They listen to their teacher attentively. The teacher told the students "smile at the camera". The kids here are truly gorgeous.

    In Hikkaduwa I had to visit Tsunami Photo Museum.

    I was speechless.

    40,000 people lost their lives in Sri Lanka when the Indian Ocean tsunami struck in 2004. The photographs displayed at the museum tell the stories of the dreadful day. It was extremely sad.

    I asked my tuk-tuk driver to stop by the Sea Turtle Hatchery after that. I learned how quickly turtle grow big. The owner takes care of injured turtles and bring them back to the ocean. These cute one day olds will live for 100 years.

    The two places are not far from each other. I'm glad that I visited the turtle hatchery after the tsunami museum as seeing baby turtles is sweet and cheering after feeling saddened.
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  • Day9

    Tissamaharama

    January 3, 2017 in Sri Lanka

    Animals are the true owners of the jungle. About 300 elephants live in the Yala National Park.

    It was truly magical to visit Kataragama at night, the most colourful, important religious pilgrimage site for Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus in Sri Lanka.

  • Day8

    Ella, Sri Lanka

    January 2, 2017 in Sri Lanka

    It was only 13 degrees this morning.
    My bottom was still numb after 10 hours ride yesterday. I regret that I didn't bring my own saddle. We left the 'Little England' Nuwara Eliya and rode 56km to Ella, another popular hill-country village.
    Descending 1000m required me at least 3 layers.

    The Little Adam's Peak had 2 peaks. I walked down very narrow and steep hill to get across from one to the other. It was scary seeing the valley (Ella Gap) my legs were shaking but the view from the top was amazing.Read more

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