Stuck in the rainforest?

Important note: 1 hour after writing this, we were informed that our upcoming plans and adventures for the rest of the trip have been cancelled. We have now been instructed to get the next flight home… If we can…

2 hours ago, I wrote this…
Today is Monday. Actually, I just checked my phone and it is Tuesday. The last time I put pen to paper was Friday evening and so it seems about time that I shared with you, our latest story. As I write this, I am stomach face down on a little beach cove on the edge of a rainforest in Borneo. Every few words I’m plucking ants from my arm hairs and counting the 11 mosquito bites on my legs received by one angry blighter in the space of less than 10 minutes.

We are staying in a treehouse here for 2 nights and we feel like the only humans on earth. It is deserted here. I dread to think how the situation regarding the coronavirus is evolving back at home (and the rest of the world at that matter). We caught a glimpse of the UK news yesterday morning when in the city of Kuching and things were not looking good… ‘The beginnings of lock down…’

In our travelling bubble, the last few days have been jam-packed with adventures and touristy goodness. I don’t want to bore you with a ‘we did this, we did that’ type of account. But feel free to feast your beautiful self isolating eyes on some pics, showing our journey from Heathrow – Kuala Lumpur – Kuching – where my sandy little arse is sat now, on a deserted beach in Borneo.

 *apologies, will have to insert photos when at home. Jungle WiFi not strong enough!!

Of course, there have also been moments when I’m not with a camera… Either because I’m pre-occupied wiping sweat from my upper lip, I’m too busy reading out loud all the signage because mum’s not wearing her reading glasses, or, wait for it, I’m too transfixed on seeing an Orangutan IN THE WILD, in a trance, watching him as my heart dances with excitement. This morning Mum and I went on our own hike into the jungle trails and, when stopping to sip some water, some branch movement caught my eye. We both immediately froze like statues. There he was…using the weight of his glowing orange body to swing from tree to tree. He stopped on a branch high above our heads…looking at us… I wish I had got him on video…

I also wish (going back to Kuala Lumpur now) that I had videoed Mum asking where the Petronas towers were, when we were literally so close…at the very bottom of them. “Erm. They are right here, Miss.” The local man pointed upwards.

I took lots of photos at the Batu Caves and I’m so glad I did because we had an epic time gauping at rainbow coloured temples and climbing a steep set of colourful stairs to reach the temple at the top inside the caves. Monkeys pranced at our feet and we had the joy of seeing a mum and baby who hilariously was using the baby’s tail as a makeshift child leash when he tried to scramble off to do his own thing.

On our way back to the centre, we found ourselves in the ‘Ladies only’ coach on the train. No worries, we thought. We are in fact, Ladies. We do Lady things. (remember when Little Britain was a thing!?) Anyway, there we were, hanging out as Ladies do in the Lady coach, when a group of ten or so men waltz in. Some of the local ladies looked horrified. The men sat down confidently and didn’t see the sign. I hear they are speaking Spanish.

“Shall I milk this whole power thing and tell them to shift? I know it’s not exactly equality, but there is a sign… Values are different here…”

“Do it, kiddo!” encouraged Mum.

Let’s keep in mind I haven’t done Spanish since school so it’s a little rusty.

“Hi. Hola. Hello. Sorry. This is a Ladies only coach.”

They look at me with confusion as if I have just recited Shakespeare in Arabic.

“Aqui” I point to one coach door.
“A aqui” I point to the other coach door.
“Para los Mujeres…. No hombres…” I then point to the pink sign with a cross through a man.
Very roughly translated to ‘Here. To here. For the women… No men…’
They look at each other and laugh and say sorry and I laugh too. They slowly amble out and a lady, wearing a head scarf and a face mask with her young daughter sat on her lap, smiles at me with her eyes.

I have just re read that paragraph and seeing the phrase ‘epic time’ does brew a concoction of emotions. We are so lucky, so blessed to be experiencing such an amazing trip together, however…Things are changing by the hour so what’s to come is unknown and the unknown is unnerving. But as I sit here, listening to the sound of tropical bug virbrairons and the South China Sea waves, I compile a list of positve things to be grateful for.

1. Where we are is magical and we are very lucky to be here.
2. We saw a freakin’ orangutan in the wild this morning.
3. The Nasi Gorneg we had for our lunch was bangin’
4. We have each other.
5. We have managed to avoid getting the shits (hope I haven’t spoken too soon)
6. I only have 11 mosquito bites on my legs. 111 would be worse.

Another Year, Another Mother-Daughter Adventure

‘Health is your wealth’ they say.
‘Look after yourself, love’ they tell me.
‘Take it easy, Liv’ they softly whisper as they leave the room. By ‘they’ I mean family / friends / colleagues / volunteers that I work alongside / my favourite lady at the till at Tescos / or Graham – the man who I have deep life chats with every Wednesday morning at 8am in the leisure centre sauna.

‘This is serious’ she said.
‘This is critical’ she told me.
‘You are not going travelling. Going to India right now is nothing but total self destruction. What would your family say if you don’t make it home? I don’t call patients up at 9.30pm at night unless it’s really serious.’
That was my Gastroenterologist Consultant in December informing me that I was too weak and too poorly to travel. Heartbroken is an understatement. I had quit my job (which I love) for this trip, so the stakes were pretty high.

Days have been slower than slow, but, now March, hip-hip-hooray, huge improvements have been made. I still have a long way to go but each day I have been getting stronger and my bloods and biochemistry are now ‘stable.’ So my solo trip to India has been postponed, but the annual Mother-daughter adventure is fast approaching. Lo and behold – Borneo.

By being very strict with the savings pot and loosely having a ‘no online shopping / only get the necessities’ way of life, our next big trip is upon us. I will soon be able to live out one of my many life-long dreams – to see an Orangutan in the wild. Oh what a fascinating, breath-taking adventure it will be. As with most of our trips – there will be joy, beauty, a large dilemma, a possible panic attack and many unwelcome mosquito bites.

I anticipate cheeky brown-eyed monkeys, crocodiles lurking, dolphins in turquoise waters…
We’ll be slurping traditional laska (a spicy coconut soup) from the bustling food markets…
Marveling at shades of green in the rainforest that we have never cast our eyes on before…
Learning from the locals…
Having warm, relaxed bones from the hot sun and sticky freckly skin.
Hearing sounds of – what’s that? It’s Mum getting cross with me that I lied about March’s average temperature and humidity levels so she would agree to come with me.
I’ll be having a hand sanitizer pelted towards me several times a day from said cross-over-heated lady.
Forget having a massage at the hotel spa… I’ll be rubbing Mum’s back at the airport to try and calm her down about her coronavirus anxieties…
…Potentially getting quarantined. Swapping my chopsticks for a face mask…
… even if we escape the coronavirus hysteria, let’s be honest, at least one of us will get the shits.
I can’t wait.

Shall we just not go back?

Ever had a panic attack in a Buddhist temple? Me neither, but boy, I was pretty close. 

We visited the sacred ‘Temple of the Tooth’ in Kandy. The temple protects Buddah’s tooth in a phenomenal golden casket. The crowds cluster and swarm to see such a spectacle. Adam encouraged us to push and shove. “Push past, stay with me, otherwise we will never see it!” I did my best to obey and queue jumped like I’ve never queue jumped before. I actually quite enjoyed being rude. It felt very unnatural but reminded me of my theatre days. It’s just being another character. Yes Mum, that’s the spirit! Elbows out! No sorrys here! We’re here for the tooth! 

Hi tooth. 

I only saw it for a second and then the crowds got so bad out of no where I suddenly found myself in what can only be described as a mosh pit at a rowdy music festival. A large boob hit me right in the face. I got stuck under someone’s armpit. Still giving it my best efforts to get a photo of the tooth casket, someone fell into me and I lost my balance, accidentally hitting some poor woman really hard on the head with my phone. 

I got the photo. Just. Blurred though. 

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Then the heart palpitations started. I needed to get out. And fast. 

***

We arrived safely in Nuwara Eliya. A beautiful town, up in the Sri Lankan hills, 6,000ft above sea level. 

Sri Lanka is such a luscious green country, and here in particular, the greenery really glows.

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We left the hotel at 6am to take on a hike in Horton Plains. The route was about 9k and allowed us to see an amazing view called ‘World’s End’ and a waterfall called ‘Bakers Falls.’ The whole way around it sounded like a wooden xylophone remix… Frogs. 

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The climate is more like Britain here. Fresh. And of course, rain. Luckily the sun shone for our hike, but in the afternoon back in Nuwara Eliya, the heavens opened. 

Speaking of British, are we Brits comfortable making complaints? Goodness no. Well actually, we moan all the time, but just to ourselves, or just to our friends or partner. But making a formal complaint? That would be far too uncomfortable. We’d rather just act polite and continue to be miserable.  

Must say, much to my Mum’s (and my boyfriends!) disappointment, I buck the trend here. I really don’t mind complaining. Of course, I would never complain for ‘complainings sake,’ but if I strongly believe something is not right, or something is unfair, well then, that ought to be put right. Now I don’t generally expect luxury (unless I’m promised it), and my standards are actually generally pretty low as I enjoy ‘roughing it.’ But my standards are extremely high in how people should be treated – manners, respecting others, keeping promises etc. 

Mum and I specifically requested a vegetarian breakfast picnic to take on our hike. I didn’t request it as a joke. I requested it because we are vegetarian. So when we were promised cheese sandwiches but served salami, I believe we had every right to complain. Mum cringed and creased. “No it’s fine! We’ll just buy something else! Don’t create a scene.” 

Didn’t listen. I sought out the hotel food manager. I politely told him I was very disappointed in the service provided when we had made a specific request, having to go on hungry on our hike. (Ok, I exaggerated here: we were also given croissants, muffin, yogurt, cereal bar, banana, orange and an apple so we weren’t exactly going to starve). But anyway, he was very kind and apologetic (he probably sniffed the risk of a bad trip advisor review!) We had only paid for Bed & Breakfast, but he made it his priority that we were treated like queens for the rest of our stay, and were offered an excellent vegetarian dinner which happened to include, quote Mum, ‘one of the best desserts’ she’s ever had. All complimentary. 

“Thanks Liv…”

“You’re welcome Mum…”

***

Why don’t we have hoppers in the UK? They’re so yummy! Super thin pancake cups made of rice flour. Either with an egg in the middle or just plain, dipped in spicy chilli. Salty, zingy, delicious! The Sri Lankan’s sometimes have it with their breakfast, or as a mid morning snack. Or an afternoon snack. Or maybe as a snack before dinner on their way back from work. We also tried a savoury jackfruit snack. YUM again. All yum. Always yum. Maybe if I lived here I would start to crave one of our classics: choccie digestives dunked in a cuppa. But not yet. Sri Lanka is too great. 

***

Spent 7 and a half hours in a car today. That was shite. But all part of travel. 

Nothing else to report. 

***

Last day spent on Beruwala beach. It’s been a quiet one. I’ve felt a little under the weather, perhaps prematurely feeling the end of holiday blues. Swollen glands too. Goodness knows why. 

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It’ll be a full day of travel tomorrow. More than a full day in fact. Probably consisting of worrying about the work inbox, reflecting on the cultural whirlwind we have experienced and also giggling at some of the classic moments we have had. A couple which I missed in the blog and just must share; 

Before climbing Sigiriya, when at the entrance and getting our tickets, a loudspeaker announcement startled us. Then loud music began to play. It was upbeat. Jolly. We joked and laughed and bobbed up and down doing silly dance moves. Then to our shock horror, we see 100s of others around us, respectfully stood tall, silent, hands behind their backs. It was the Sri Lankan national anthem!!! We must have looked so disrespectful! (lol though). 

Another moment of hilarity was trying some of the traditional Sri Lankan foods. One caught my eye. Didn’t know what it was but it was wrapped up in a leaf and looked exotic. 

“Vegetarian?” I asked. 

The lady nodded her head. I gestured to buy one. 

I assumed it would be salty and spicy. Wrong. It was sweet as sweet can be, like treacle, but grainy and coconutty. I bit straight in. Chew chew chew. 

Our new Sri Lankan friend, Adam, burst out laughing when he saw me. “You don’t eat the leaf!!!!’ 

So lessons learned: 

Sri Lanka is beautiful. Genuinely beautiful. The scenery, the food, the sweet smell of cinnamon. 

The people are warm, kind, and many are blessed with gorgeous smiles. 

I would love to return one day. I encourage you to visit if ever you get the chance. But remember, don’t eat the leaf. 

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Mum goes off-piste and visits a Sri Lankan hospital

Regret: Noun: A feeling of sadness, repentance, or disappointment over an occurrence or something that one has done or failed to do.

We ‘youths of today’ are encouraged to live each day by YOLO standards and we worship the #NoRegrets lifestyle. But as I’m sat here scribbling down this blog post, I am drowning in a cloud of regret. Why? Well actually, because of you. You, the reader. (And my desire to please).

For this post I feel I have not done my duty as a ‘yet another’ travel blogger, sharing weird and wonderful travel experiences to you via the combination of the written word, selection of iPhone5 images and an amateur WordPress account. 

Basically, two days ago, we suffered quite the travel trauma… Mum had to visit a Sri Lankan hospital (actually 2 Sri Lankan hospitals) due to some crazy allergic reaction in her right eye or possibly an aggressive infection. Her eye was ginormous – red, puffy, seeping liquid was running down her cheek like a tap. Her vision was so blurry, it basically wasn’t there. She was in a lot of pain. 

Now, my shameful regret kicks in… 

I didn’t take a photo. 

I DID NOT TAKE A PHOTO of her looking a right state. Gah, it would have been such great blog material. Quite the spectacle.

“Surely you took a selfie, Mum?”

“No. I was in too much pain.”

How inconsiderate of her. 

Jokes aside, I’m thrilled that after a very worrying day, the hospital gave her some strong prescription eyedrops and steroid cream and the following day it had genuinely really improved. Thank goodness. We are still unsure what it was. It could have been anything – such as grit / bug / bacteria getting in her eye and then just going to town in there.

Including the hospital visits, we had an action packed cultural day. Poor Mum probably doesn’t remember much of it; so here Mammy, let me jog your memory…

We visited a Buddhist temple in a cave. All 174, intricate and impressive Buddha statues were carved out of the same huge rock within the cave! The carvings and paintings were simply stunning. Staring at them you instantly felt respect for such craftsmanship. 

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The temple is located up high and the beauty of the panoramic views, once again, can have the power to make you feel quite small and insignificant, but at the same time: peaceful. 

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Back down all the steps we went and I was carefully watching out for Mum and her unsteadiness. Then who trips over their sodding flip flop? Me. Classic. No injures occurred just life flashing before my own eyes (LOL and Mum’s one good eye).

Our next stop was to peer in on how the carvings and artwork are made. Even the paint they use is fascinating as it is all natural and comes from wood. Firstly it was the colour red. Then by adding other natural ingredients such as lime or chalk it turns colour – purple, pink, orange, yellow. So clever! It does make me ponder…. who an earth thinks of this first? Who thought 100s and 100s of years ago that squeezing some lime juice into your wood juice would create an epic colour change and create a paint that would be weather proof and stand the test of time. Legend. That’s who. 

I once thought I was on to something when I accidently dropped a shreddie into my cup of tea. I spooned it out and ate it and it was blooming delicious. Next day; I make a bowl of shreddies for breakfast and rather than milk I pour over a cup of tea into the bowl.

Not good.

Do not recommend. 

I digress. But what I will recommend is where we visited next. To learn about traditional healing methods in Sri Lanka: Ayurvedic medicine. They believe Prevention is better than cure. Our nature provides a remedy and health benefit for everything and modern medicine genuinely shouldn’t be necessary…Most of their beliefs is what many of us already know in the UK, such as: fill your life with fruit, veg, and lots of warming spices (like turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, chilli, curry etc). Some things were a little new to me though, such as, avoid too much pineapple – but if you have too much (more than 2 or 3 slices) you can counteract with lime. The harmful properties in beef is also eased with lime. Another one was, avoid too much cucumber. Can counteract with curry powder. Who knew. 

***

The Ayurvedic gods have spoken. As we awoke the following day Mum’s gammy eye looked significantly more human. Maybe it was the steroid cream or the chemical properties of the eye drops…however I’m holding out on the belief that it was the healing cup of tea the Sri Lankan man made for us at the Ayurvedic garden, and the warming natural scent in the tropical air: cinnamon. 

Seeing as she was feeling better, time to get our Sari on! We had a super fun day which included trying on traditional sequinned saris and gawping at the beauty of the handmade cashmeres and fine silk. 

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We visited a tea plantation to see the whole process from leaf to brew. We sipped and sampled and I fell in love with a sort of tea I have never tried before. Pure white tea. “Yes Mam, this is the most expensive tea. It is not generally available in UK.”

Classic. What can I say, gal’s got expensive taste. 

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Speaking of the dollar. We next explored the world of sapphires (Sri Lankan’s precious jewel). Diana (And now Kate) has this wonderful Sri Lankan diamond on her engagement ring. How lovely for her. 

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The extravagant vibes continued into the evening when we had our evening meal. Rather than a roadside ‘eat with the locals taste sensation for probably less than a £1” type dinner, we splashed out at a lavish Sri Lankan buffet. All the works. Too good. No words. Food baby galore. 

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If that wasn’t enough, the luxury continues into tomorrow as for some unknown reason, apparently for our next hotel reservation there has been a mix up. So instead we have been upgraded to ‘The Grand.’ Said to be the best hotel in Nuwara Eliya. Well, won’t be questioning that. To Nuwara Eliya we go! 

Great quote from our driver, Adam: “Don’t get the High Tea there though. It’s not as good as they say. They only give you two muffins. At a High Tea you should get at least 5 muffins. Outrageous.”

“Is that noise your stomach or is that a giant sloth bear?”

We arrived safely in Habarana, although it was a little uncertain drive as our very sweet driver, Adam, risked taking an unknown shortcut, which actually resulted in us asking locals for directions on every little corner. Old school Sat Nav, ey. 

The following morning we awoke to greet the day with climbing up Sigiriya Rock – a bold statement of a 274m rock standing proud in the Sri Lankan countryside, which has gained a respectful reputation of being the 8th wonder of the world. With that kind of status = an overcrowding sea of annoying tourists. 

Why are you here. 

Why did everyone come in the morning. 

Why are you walking so slowly. 

Why can’t Mum and I have a selfie with the rock without someone else’s selfie stick poking me in the back. 

I’m a terrible person. Of course, Mum and I are also making everyone else feel that way too. 

(Note: I haven’t yet progressed to the selfie stick dark-side and I only sink as low as the classic long arm and forced grin). 

Apart from the irritating crowds, Sigiriya was a phenomenal experience. Our calves were burning from the never ending steps and our scalps were burning from the penetrating sun, but those views at the top: wow. It’s mind blowing to see the ruins of the palace up there. Imagine building that on the top of such a rock!? And what ‘King’ wants, ‘King’ gets. He even had his workers put two swimming pools up there. How the heck did they get the water all the way to the top!? What a lad. 

It was a little touch and go being so far away from the bathroom up at the top… 

Due to the nature of travelling, the way of life out here, and the exotic and occasionally risky food… Tum tum is in for a bumpy ride… 

I feel over the history of this blog I’ve already revealed too much about my bowel movements, but take a look at any of my previous India or Thailand or Indonesia posts and you’ll get the idea…We’re actually (touch wood) not too bad at the moment, but equally in a constant state of never wanting to be too far away from a washroom… 

We next made our way to a traditional rural village location. Now I’m gonna risk sounding like an awful human (again) here, but our local guide who we had leading the way did my nut in (thank goodness it wasn’t a full day tour). He was like an overgrown Boy Scout / Dora the Explorer type. The type who definitely always raised their hand in class even if they didn’t know the answer. The type that takes too many selfies. The type that says too much irrelevant information. The type that would probably make great First Dates material on Channel 4, offering high doses of cringe…

We took a catamaran across the lake to meet a Sri Lankan family who showed us how to make traditional roti and coconut pol sambol for lunch. All old traditional tools were used for making it – like an outdoor sturdy table and big rolling pin for crushing the chillies, salt and lime, and also a large old blade for slicing and grating the coconut. All very heavy equipment. They joked, “no need for the gym here!”

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We ate with our suncreamy fingers off a large banana leaf as our plate.  Warm roti (almost like a thicker chapatti made with rice flour / coconut) was so good it feels like your tummy is smiling when you eat it. And the fresh, fiery red chilli pol sambol was utterly mouthwatering. Cleanliness of the whole process: questionable. 

We rode back to meet Adam via a bullock cart and were greeted with a much appreciated air conditioned vehicle. Soon to change though. After our bad luck over the last two days with no wild elephant sitings… we have both agreed to pay for safari number 3. Thanks to making a Sri Lankan friend with local knowledge, he found ‘our guy’ with a jeep and knowledge of the wilderness tracks. (As with anywhere in the world… it’s who you know!!) 

***

Well aren’t we two lucky ladies. My dream to see one wild elephant – no fences, no cages, no vets bills, roaming free, living off the land… That dream was injected with steroids and multiplied as we were greeted with SO MANY WILD ELEPHANTS. I stopped counting at 26.

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We first cast our eyes on 3 females and a baby – no older than 6months old. Tugging at the foliage. Wandering. Who knows where. Just free. 

It was an unusual sensation I felt when seeing them. Joy. Excitement. Slight guilt. Intrigue. 

The slight guilt comes from even though these guys are wild, the fact I was there, looking at them, holding my camera, still sparked some negative feelings. 

Maybe they don’t want me looking at them. 

Maybe they don’t want their photograph taken. 

Have I gone ‘must get consent’ mad? 

Am I too sensitive? 

I tried to stamp on my niggling negativity and just embrace this moment and feel blessed for looking upon such beautiful creatures. 

We saw more as we drove deeper into the wild park land. Sometimes we were extremely close, at one point, so close I could almost lean out of the roofless jeep and touch her. 

Thank you, Habarana, for giving me my wild elephant dream! Next stop: Kandy… 

Buffalo & Brexit

Ayubowan! (Sri Lankan greeting). 

The journey from North Yorkshire – Heathrow – Colombo – Wilpattu was a long one, but, you’ll never guess what – smooth. What a shame. I thought we may have done a boob and flown to Colombo (Brazil) by mistake. We didn’t. (What a blog piece that would have been though!). Or I could have drawn the predictable short straw and spent an 11 hour flight sat next to someone stinky, such as frequent bottom burper. But no, it was actually just Mum and she was fine. Surely I at least accidentally left my retainers at home? Alas, no. The experience was genuinely smooth as silk. 

It was still a 4.5 hour car journey from Colombo airport to our first destination, Wilpattu. I don’t think we said a lot to each other (Mum and I). Or maybe we nattered the whole way. I wouldn’t know. Being overtired and experiencing some jet lag means existing in a bubble of confusion. Maybe we were in Brazil? 

Fear not, we made it. Wilpattu National Park: Sri Lanka’s precious land where one has the best chance in Sri Lanka to cast their eyes on a wild leopard. Perhaps an elephant too, if you’re lucky. It has always been a dream of mine to see such creatures in the complete wilderness. No cages. No fences. Just roaming free and living off the land. 

For our first night we slept in a treehouse. I think a squirrel of some sort was in there too along with mosquitos (of course) and a family of unnamed exotic bugs. 

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It was a long night but the sun eventually rose and I felt blessed to greet the day in what already feels like, a rather special, beautiful place in the world. I’m in Sri Lanka, I thought. 

I have just woken up in a tree. 

I have just woken up in a tree, in Sri Lanka. 

I like it here. 

Breakfast is usually my favourite meal of the day so I was looking forward to what our first Sri Lankan breakfast would bring. They smile fondly at us, the foreigners, expecting to eat with cutlery. Sri Lankans just get straight in their with their fingers and hands and I’m sure they think we’re rather odd and rather demanding for expecting a spoon. 

Firstly we were given a ‘Leaf Soup.’ They call it ‘Green porridge’ and it’s basically a leafy green warm smoothie with some rice in there too. 

“Very good. Very nutritious” said our new friend Sanjay who served it to us. Mum and I shared a glance between us both. Quite a clear “Erm. What the fudge” sort of glance. But then we both smiled that “bottoms up / when in Rome” sort of smile and put the green porridge to our lips. 

My response boiled down to an unimaginative, unintelligent, “errrrmmmm…..” basically meaning; it’s not vom in your mouth awful. But I also shan’t be adding it to the weekly shopping list.” 

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Next is what you’d expect for breakfast before 8am – potato curry and spicy chutney. Why not. Must say, it was pleasing to have some sliced pineapple and watermelon too. 

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Our next couple of days would be spent with wildlife enthusiast, Namal, who would unleash on us his incredible knowledge, humour and truly exquisite Sri Lankan hospitality (staying in one of his very cool tents at Wilpattu safari camp). 

He has a kind face, a fascinating brain and a rather round belly. “I. Just. Love. Food” he told us as he cradled his stomach and pops his 4th chunk of chocolate Swiss roll into his smiling little face. “Come, let’s go and find some leopards…”

***

As we sat around a camp fire, under the Sri Lankan stars, (Just the 3 of us: Mum, Namal and I) I had that wonderful “pinch me” sensation. It’s only now looking back at it, I was in a little bubble of present moment bliss (something I rarely experience). For once, I wasn’t worried about work. Life. Relationships. Self doubt. I was just sitting, watching a campfire. Wondering if a leopard was watching me. Starting to smell that delicious Dahl, Sri Lankan String Hoppers (like rice noodles) and coconut sambol. Dinner was served…. (must add, these moments of forgetting about life back at home can’t be said when in the car listening to Sri Lankan radio, for even THEY are barking on about Brexit). 

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***

It’s 5am and we’re up ready for safari day 2. Just had a questionable coffee and some cream crackers to line the stomach before the bumpy Jeep ride into the depths of the wilderness. 

***

During our two days in Wilpattu, unfortunately we didn’t see a leopard or an elephant. (So I’m holding out for our next location, Habarana!) We did however see deer, buffalo, exotic birds, mongoose, crocodile, snake and a giant sloth bear! The sloth bear stopped in his tracks when he heard our engine. He looked right at us. All I could think of was FLOPPY EARS. He has such floppy ears!!!

We had a picnic breakfast in the camp as the sun slowly started to warm our skin. Namal had kindly packed some boiled eggs and egg sandwiches in the back of his jeep as a vegetarian option for us. I told him yesterday I liked bananas and so he had bought be a whole bag full of sweet mini bananas for me too. 

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As we bid farewell to Namal I truly do wish him a treasured life, for he is such a gem of a man. May his Swiss rolls always be sweet and his curries always be fragrant. And may he always look back fondly on his memories doing Iron Man before he, quote Namal, “did his back in.” (That guy really was full of surprises!) Take care, Namal. Now on to Habarana we go…. 

Should we go to Sri Lanka tomorrow?

GP appointment. Physio appointment. Psychotherapy. Gastroenterology. Dietician. Rheumatology. Safe to say my health hasn’t been too sprightly these past few months and life has seemed to be one big appointment, just prodded in a different place.

Now for the next appointment: Heathrow Airport. Now I wouldn’t say I’m the strongest version of my self right now… so is it really a good idea to venture to the other side of the world to camp in a tent under the Sri Lankan stars, in the hope to cast my eyes on a dream of mine: a wild elephant… Mystical. Wise. Roaming free.

“Are you sure you’re up to this?” My Mum asks.

(Am I up to it?… Thing is, I’ve worked blooming hard to save up the $$$ to taste that fresh coconut fish curry & sip fine fragrant tea & feel a rich sun on my back & search for wild leopards. So yes. I’m up for it).

Yesterday I went for a stroll across quiet fields whilst listening to a podcast featuring one of my favourite authors, Matt Haig. He speaks openly about his own mental health struggles and was speaking about the power of not trying so hard. He had been trying so hard to ‘get better’ and to ‘put labels’ on his flaws, that this was actually winding him up even more, thus, making life even more of a struggle.

Perhaps my adventure will actually be an act of healing in itself?

If you’re a return reader of me ol’ blog (hi! Thanks!) you’ll know that 2 years ago I branched away from my beloved solo travel and went to India with my one and only Mum! The MamaDaughter adventures continued the following year too (India again, because we were hooked). This year I suggested Sri Lanka to use a couple of weeks annual leave. (Didn’t take much convincing, she must be addicted too now). She immediately agreed.

So now, time to pack the things that excite me the most:
Mosquito spray.
Imodium.

My stomach flutters and flicks with excitement when I think of a long haul flight. I just love it. It’s actually a length of time that forces me to slow down in life. For example, I often struggle to stay focused for an entire film as my mind will be flirting with a thousand other possibilities of what I could or should be doing in life right now that would be more productive (not a healthy trait and something I am trying to work on!) But on a plane, I’ll happily binge watch 3 films back to back. IT’S GREAT.

Also the plane food is great. I love the surprise. Even if it’s the surprise of tragic disappointment.

Speaking of tragic. I really don’t mind if I’m sat next to a complete loon. Or a heavy breather. Or someone that looks like they’ve eaten their family-size suitcase and so their stomach & side-back flop over half my seat too. You see, the weird and the distressing makes for a funny story and good writing material. I like it.

Let’s see if I get any decent writing material soon, ey? Will try to keep the blog updated. Bon voyage!

Suncream required when sitting on the loo

5th February, 2018

It’s always a fine line with poo jokes as to how much detail I can / should go into on this blog. Being respectful of the more reserved, I’ll keep it fairly low key.

Ever heard of Delhi belly? I haven’t.

Literally, WHO gets constipated in India?

Who has a 3 day no show in INDIA?

(Me apparently).

 

We’re right on the beach. No floors – just sand. Open toilets and showers (brilliant for passers by wanting sound effects). Keeping my promise of holding back extravagant descriptions (for the more reserved readers amongst you) In summary,  I’m uncomfortable. I’m being careful though, making sure I lather my scalp in suncream each time I ‘try to go.’ Like I said – open air toilets….35 degree heat. That sun on my head and my thighs is HOT.

My little bloated belly and I are still getting fully immersed in all the yoga though. It being a yoga & meditation centre, that is what I’m here for.

Our afternoon / evening yoga session was 90 mins of Yin Yoga. I’ve done this style of practise only once before (in Bali). It is where you hold each pose for 5 – 8 MINUTES. Long. Slow. Deep. Feelin dat burn. 2 minutes in you’re like, this is easy, this is totally fine, this is, ow, ow, this is actually quite uncomfortable. (Then by 7 minutes, shaking) DEAR LORD MAKE IT STOP.

Unlike most yoga, when you need to be gentle with yourself and listen to your body, we learned with Yin, if it is COMFORTABLE, you’re not doing it right. (of course if anything is sharp or stabbing then stop!) But for the benefits of Yin: you need to burn.

It is the discomfort of Yin that is a blessing for helping to train your mind to deal with uncomfortable moments in life. Don’t give up. Hang on in there. Yes it hurts but you are strong. This pain won’t last forever.

Holding the posture for so long works your inner muscles and body so deeply to the point when your muscles actually give up and let go. This sensation of truly sinking into the floor is a-a-amazing. It is the feeling of the fascia (connective tissue) releasing that is really intense. The teacher warned us at the start of the class that because it is so intense, it is not uncommon that unexplained sensations or emotions from the unconscious may be brought up. After the intensity of some Yin poses (especially vulnerable positions such as chest / heart opening), some people may laugh, some may burst into tears and they cannot explain why.

“Ha! What a load of old rubbish” I thought. How melodramatic.

Apparently not. The joke’s on me. At the end of the session I was blubbering like a baby – trying to be discreet, whilst in child’s pose, dribbling dribble and streaming snot into my yoga mat, hoping that nobody would see. My tears after Yin were for reasons I can guess but don’t want to think about too much… However, after the 90 mins of Yin and fascia release, I felt lighter, more relaxed and genuinely happier, more positive and grateful about the future.

(Still constipated though….)

 

 

 

Visiting Barcelona: Always a good idea

You could say my trip started when I asked myself the question: why have I never been to Barcelona before? It’s a city rich in culture with mesmerising architecture cradling you on every street. It’s a city that offers exquisite tapas, sangria galore, and it’s always ready to cater to your fresh paella desires. It’s a city for the fashionistas, the beach bums, the health freaks, the foodies, the history geeks and the artists. It’s basically a must-see and therefore a must-go. To top it all, it’s so close (just over two hours flight, and you can get very very very cheap flights). So to answer the question, WHY have I not visited before? I really don’t know. This must change.

Me: “Lauren (colleague*), what are you doing a couple of weekends from now?”

*I use the word colleague very loosely. We’re great pals.

Lauren: “Nothing. Probably an Aldi shop. Maybe going for a run. Why?”

Me: “How about going for a run up Montjuic? In Barcelona. Let’s go.”

We then both did that thing that girls do when you jump around a bit and dance excitedly but you’re too excited you don’t really make any noise. (Note: no one else was in the office at this time).

We’re both the kind to save, save, save, and the odd splurge on an exciting last-minute travel plan, well, I don’t see anything wrong with that. We were lucky and found very cheap flights and cheap hotel. We’ll barely be in the hotel anyway, we’ll be too busy having fun, seeing new things and trying new food.

***

(Sighs). The concept of time is mad. Like the blink of an eye, it was about to start and then it was over. We went, laughed, ate great food, took some photos, got blisters, laughed some more and then came home. We’re back in the office.

Weekend trips away certainly don’t give you as much space or thinking time as a big backpacking trip and there isn’t enough time to feel part of a new community, BUT, they are very special in their own right. If you’re subject to the chronic travel bug, weekend trips to a new city will give you that quick fix, a boost of travel pleasure, if you may. In some ways they actually trump long-term trips as they’re less tiring and you’ll constantly have that energetic wide-eyed enthusiasm. (Unless you’re Lauren, having a sense of humour failure whilst getting harassed by locals selling mojitos and a foot massage on Barceloneta Beach).

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I hope that after reading this, you might consider saving the pennies to visit a new city in the near future! Or how about a national park you’ve never been to or a new museum in your hometown? Keep doing things that excite you.

But before you go, I’ll leave you with my tips on where to go / what to do in Barcelona, should you be visiting soon.

  1. Dine at Les Quinze Nits on the Place Reial. AMAZING food, great prices! It was so good, we went here twice and I had (big statement) the best dessert of my life. The Catalonian special was a magical concoction of coffee gelato, crème brulee and rich melted dark chocolate. (Video evidence of my foodgasm is available upon request).
  1. Trek (run if you’re a keeno) up Montjuic to see the Castell de Montjuic. Top tip: if you want incredible views, go early before 8am. No tourists.
  1. Rent bikes and ride along the pathway, parallel to the beach. It goes on for miles and miles. This was our favourite activity!

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  1. Meander around the Gothic Quarter and be in awe of the architecture that towers over you. Don’t plan too much, just get lost amongst it all and see what you find!
  1. Drink coffee in Els 4 Gats. It’s cute, quirky and has a great selection of drinks. To make it even cooler, it’s a café that Picasso used to hang out in.
  1. Visit La Boqueria market, one of the best food markets in the world. They say, ‘if you can’t find it in La Boqueria, it’s not worth buying.’

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  1. Of course, do the classics too! See La Sagrada Famila, Park Guell and eat tapas to your heart’s desire!

Shout out to Lauren: I’m usually a bit of a loner and I use this blog to encourage solo travel. But Lauren, I loved every minute with you. Thank you for such a special weekend. And thank you for walking all of those miles with me to get that sandwich that I really, really wanted for lunch.

The Snowdonia Adventure with Me Old Man

It’s been over a month since I returned from India. In order to soothe my travel addiction, something new had to be put in the diary. Of course, money doesn’t grow on trees and annual leave isn’t an eternal force, BUT, there are ways around this my friend; there is always a way.

Long Easter weekend: ideal.

Go somewhere new in the UK: easy on the ol’bank account

Go camping: even easier on the ol’bank account (plus, more fun).

I suggested going with ‘me old man.’ He has been guilt-tripping me for weeks about not getting an India-adventure invite. Of course, I’m not going with him out of sympathy. I want to go to Snowdonia with my Dad, because, if you’ve ever met my Dad, you’ll know that he’s a bit of a legend.

A blooming irritating legend, but a legend nevertheless.

Turning 68 this year (although he thought he was in his 70’s because, you know, memory issues)… he may not be able to run a sub 2.40 marathon anymore, or survive for weeks on end in a tent with temperatures dropping to -40, but in my Pappy’s little mind (and mine too) – once a Paratrooper, always a Paratrooper. But actually, if we’re being accurate, after eight years, he transferred to the Army Physical Training Corps.

I sent him a text earlier in the week, telling him about the really bad weather (rain and storms) that was approaching the Easter weekend in Snowdonia. To which he replied:

“Skin is waterproof. We’ll be fine.”

Looks like we’re going then.

He was a bit grumpy on the drive there, but certainly perked up when we started to hike up Mount. Tryfan. That guy can shift! I’m pretty confident in my fitness levels but even I was huffing and puffing a bit trying to keep up with his military pacing. To say we went off-piste is an understatement. Paths are dull and boring apparently and so our search for Heather Terrace had me scrambling through what felt like miles and miles of shrubs and ugly rocks. I think I annoyed him by being constantly indecisive as to whether I was taking my jacket off or leaving it on. It was extremely cold and I was wearing thermals, long sleeve, jumper, thin jacket, thick jacket, hat and gloves, two trousers, two socks.

Dad never has much sympathy and so there’s no point complaining, as you’ll probably get one of three responses:

“Oh shut your face.”

“Stop being a wimp.”

“Pain is just a weakness leaving the body.”

As you can imagine, my childhood was really quite something.

As you can also imagine, the thought of bringing a guy home to meet my Dad – well, you just wouldn’t, would you?

Anyway, we reached the summit in good spirits. We sheltered behind a rock for a bit and had some snacks and coffee from the flask to re-fuel for the way down. A couple of other guys were on the summit too. One of them took out a bottle of water and a sausage roll from his back-pack, then, before our eyes, a seagull swooped down and snatched the packaged savoury pastry from him. Gone.

“F***’in seagull has taken me sausage roll! Still had the wrapper on! What an f***’in’ joke! Did you see that!?”

We all burst out laughing.

The summit of Tryfan is famous for the twin monoliths of Adam and Eve, a pair of rocks some three metres high and separated by 1.2 metres. Dad, wanting to prove that age is just a number, jumped from one to the other with great ease.

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We took our time on our way down and enjoyed the views. They were cloudy views, but views nevertheless. There’s something about hiking – even though it can be exhausting at the time, there’s something so therapeutic about it and I never really want it to end. It’s blissful not to have to think about day-to-day life, no diary, no problems, no anxiety, just climb, and keep climbing, and see beautiful things.

It’s not all glamorous though. You become dirty and stinky and this time, the cold, damp conditions had made my chilblains flare up. Ouch!!!

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Dad told me about a guy he once knew who described hiking like so:

“It’s like banging your head against a brick wall… It’s lovely when you stop.”

***

After filling our stomachs with tinned food, we continued to wear all our clothing (including jackets and hats), got into our sleeping bags and tried to go to sleep.

Didn’t sleep. Swear I was lying on a rock. And Dad’s snoring, don’t even get me started…

But when you get back to the comforts of the everyday – the heating, the clean fluffy socks, the bubble bath, when you get back to all of that, no matter how gross the situations were when you were ‘roughing it’ whilst travelling… I sure do miss it.

When back at home and flicking through some of the photos that were taken, this one of me (below) makes Dad laugh.

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“You look like a page out of that book, ‘Where’s Frank?’

“You mean, Where’s Wally?”

“Yeah, that’s the one.”