After four months of travelling around India, I landed in Colombo on the 23rd of February 2016, with the intention of applying for a new Indian visa, to continue my journey there. I had given myself ten days, and arrived on the island with no plans or expectations.
As I knew the country was predominantly Buddhist, I had contacted my friend Thupten - a monk I’d previously met in Darjeeling, asking him if he could introduce me to his fellows in Sri Lanka. I was very lucky to meet his friend, Siri Vajira - a very organised, generous, yet strangely cold and mysterious monk. He welcomed me on my first night on the island and organised a room for me across the road from the monastery, on the outskirts of Colombo. On that night he told me he was leaving in the morning, for a pilgrimage across the north of the island and offered that I join him. To which I happily agreed.
The next day, I was introduced to a large group of elderly Nepali tourists who had just landed from Kathmandu. Siri Vajira hadn’t informed me but, they had come for the pilgrimage I was about to embark on.
So off I went, me, Siri Vajira, four younger monks and the fifty Nepali tourists, on this big bus, across the island, to discover the wonders of Buddhist civilization, dotted around the island.
On the 3rd day, after visiting a temple near the town of Trincomalee, on the north eastern coast of the island, Siri Vajira, decided we would take the afternoon off, and go to the beach, for a dip in the ocean. I soon realised that none of the Nepalis had ever seen the sea… I remember them singing with joy, and clapping their hands with excitement on our way there. When we finally arrived, the bravest ones ran straight in, while others held hands as they slowly approached the ocean. The rest of the group preferred to stay away from the salty waters and started building ‘sand Stupas’ on the beach instead. It was a very touching scene to witness and I couldn’t help but get my camera out to capture them as they came out of the water – after their first dip.