Barberyn Reef Diary (11 to 27 February 2008)
Arriving at the Colombo airport, my eyes are searching for a sign with my name or the Barberyn Resorts logo. The driver holds it up, smiling cheerfully, and welcomes me to Sri Lanka. With two other guests, I get on the hotel bus, and we leave for the south.
A small pillow and a bottle of water alleviate the drive. European guests are advised not to focus on the traffic too much. Most of the vehicles use the passing lane, competing with tuk-tuks, cows, pedestrians and bikers. Intermitted by a few dismayed cries of touristic origin – seeing the amused face of a driver in the rearview mirror – we arrive at our destination safely.
At the reception, a water lily and a refreshing (nonalcoholic) fruit punch is offered to me. I feel at home immediately: Welcome to Barberyn Reef Resort. Tired from the long journey, I enter my room. The mosquito net is put up, and the canopy bed awaits me as its new guest. The first day at Barberyn Reef Resort, and it has managed to capture me already.
It is 6 am. I yawn. High humidity, heat and time difference still get to me. Nevertheless, I have a program! After breakfast, my first doctors consultation. I sit across a smiling doctor who inquires about my ailments. Silently, she listens, completely in the moment, taking in everything I tell her about my life. Then we discuss my treatment. Daily face- and full body massages, therapeutic baths, steam baths, acupuncture, yoga and ultimately the inimitable Shirodara. I will receive this gentle stream of oil on the forehead around the middle of my stay. I have already heard about its benefits. But let's start at the beginning.
Dressed in a simple green cloth, I enter the Ayurveda health center barefoot. My therapist welcomes me, as does her colleague. Both will accompany me through my whole treatment and anticipate my every wish. I receive my first face- and back massage, followed by a full body synchronized massage, which means I am being kneaded thoroughly by both women simultaneously – a holistic experience in every sense of the word. What a wonderful feeling.
Afterwards, I proceed to the herbal garden. Beneath palm trees, verdant, fragrant bushes and a small bonfire to keep away the mosquitoes, I am lying on a bed, warm herbal compresses applied to my tense back. The following facial mask is just as pleasant. What a delight! While I doze off, I ask myself if I might have arrived in paradise. I could have stayed like this forever, but just think of everything else I would have missed! With a friendly "Madam!" a nurse orders me to shower thoroughly - with a scrub. Off I am to the herbal bath. Sitting in the bathtub, I am doused with warm herbal water, and I am asking myself how one can keep up with this strenuous work all day – with such serenity. Respect! I thank her and am prompted to rest on a sun bed beneath palm trees – with a view of the ocean. Yes, I have definitely arrived in the right place.
Lying on my bed, I am fascinated by the beach, the waves and the long stretch of coral reef, really seeing everything for the first time. My book is resting next to me on the floor, but my head refuses to let me open it.
Willi, the security guard, has kindly prepared my sun bed and towel. He offers to answer any questions I might have. Later on, I start chatting with him. We talk about the tsunami. It seems as if it has brought a new way of viewing history - life before and after the tsunami. Many people have lost friends and family, some lost their jobs. Willi was able to rescue himself by climbing a tree. Later on, his friends pulled him from the water with a rope. It is a very different experience, hearing about this catastrophe from the victims themselves - instead of just seeing it on TV.
With a mixed feeling of well-being and reality, I return to the waves of the ocean, listening to life, as it comes and goes.
My stomach is rumbling. The first lunch is already a culinary delight. The comprehensive buffet, a feast for the eyes, confirms the assets of the ayurvedic, vegetarian cuisine. I have been especially taken with the sweets. I keep reminding myself I still have 14 days to sample everything. The culinary delights are very enticing: soups, salads in all their varieties, curry rice, red rice, fish- and vegetable dishes, rotis, tuttis, potatoes - and grain dishes, fruits, compote, all sorts of cakes and creams. Have I forgotten anything? A lot!
Sigrid sits across from me. She is from Germany, Mick from England, Karina from Belgium. By and by, I meet guests from Japan, India, Egypt, Switzerland and Austria. How international we are! How small the world can seem, here it shares a table. Everyone is here to cure a diversity of ailments, and everyone enjoys – with a full belly – the sunny feeling of this place.
I have the afternoon off. I could take a swim in the ocean, or a walk on the beach, go to the market by tuk-tuk, chat with other guests, read, take short excursions or loosen my tense limbs with a daily yoga lesson on the rooftop. Have you ever breathed a long drawn-out "Omm" into the quiet evening, while the sun is a glowing fireball, disapperaring into the ocean? Well, I hadn't, before, but I can tell you, it is awe-inspiring. Nandini, our yoga instructor, is very consistent. She keeps going for two hours, and for the first time since very long ago I can feel my whole body. The second evening at Barberyn Reef Resort - and I am completely happy. I almost forgot about my medicine. Never before in my life have I had to take such bitter pills and herbal juices. The things you do for your health! The doctor laughs, you will have to get used to it, she winks at me. I am not completely convinced.
I could tell you so much more about this place. Every day, something new is happening. I will restrict myself to a few details, the rest you have to find out for yourself. One morning, on the way to the health center, I pick up a chinese tea flower that landed at my feet. It smells heavenly. The room boy asks me if I like flowers. Yes, I say, and let him smell the flower. From this day on I find a sea of flowers on my bed, ever anew, the creativity of these flower arrangements increasing by the day. Small gestures like this one seem to me like precious pearls, bringing heartfelt joy, with such moderate means. To experience life with all your senses, to perceive it and create it accordingly, there is no requirement printed on a piece of paper, but "lived" life. The sensitivity and attentiveness the guests are met with in this resort is fascinating.
Shirodara – the middle part and most intensive phase of my stay begins. I have the feeling as if the whole rhythm of treatments is aligned to gradually direct the perception of the outside world to the inside, to be – especially during Shirodara – solely concentrated on myself. Not only physical waste, but emotional baggage will be transformed into something new or, in other words, "healed". Shirodara takes two to three days. You receive a headscarf after the treatment, which should be left on until the next morning. You will be asked to reduce your reading and talking, to concentrate on yourself, to not go swimming or on any excursions. This quiet phase is not difficult. The warmth of the oil stream leaves you with a feeling of comforting fatigue, which you can indulge in by a sunbed under the palmtrees.
Following the Shirodara treatment are the cleansing days. An oil enema or special herbal juice causes the bowels to empty completely, and leaves you with an actual feeling of purity. It is as if one awakens in a new life. Senses are sharpened, your view is cleared. Body and mind feel the lightness of being, bringing an involuntary smile to the face. One starts to exchange many thoughts with other guests, the staff and the management, feeling like part of the family.
Hospitality is the first priority at Barberyn Reef Resort. Even the pets of the house abide to that. Every morning at 6 am sharp, three watchdogs greet me with wagging tails. They wait for me to take them along on my beach walk. I wouldn't be able to tell who has more fun. I have not mentioned the "beach boys" and the women who, day after day, try to earn their meager income. Considering that a waiter earns 40 € a month, and a seamstress asks for 15 € for the fabric and the tailoringof a good quality summer dress, then 2,50 € are not too much for a handmade batik fabric, sold by the women on the beach.
Like every wonderful moment, a wonderful vacation has to come to an end, too. During my last conversation with the boss of the house, I learn about the long family tradition that have made Barberyn Reef Resort great - over generations. The great-grandfather's wish to bring out the inner peace and let all guests feel it – this wish is still alive. Nobody leaves this place empty-handed. In your luggage, you carry the music of the evening, the fresh scent of the morning, the sound of the ocean waves, the heat of the day and the cool wind on your skin. You leave with many happy memories of funny chatter, laughter, good food, many new friends and the love for a place one would love to return to.