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.

A few seconds too long at London Heathrow Airport

I tried my best not to breathe. Don’t gasp for air. Don’t move. Don’t do it. This too shall pass. This too shall pass, I tell myself.

My eyes bulged as I held my breath, glaring at the innocent strangers surrounding me. Don’t do it, Liv. Keep it together. Don’t do it.

Uh oh. Game over. I gasped.

There I was, only 1 hour in to the Malaysian Airline 787 flight to Kuala Lumpur, spluterring like a fool.

A chunk of cantaloupe melon which I was merrily eating from my airplane food tray had gone down the wrong way and the coughing and spluterring was uncontrollable. Fellow travellers curled away into their seats in sheer disgust. What a selfish girl, exposing us all to the coronavirus on a 12 hour flight. Shame on you, girl. Shame on you.

“Wrong! Way! Huhhhh – choking! Mel-on… Wrong… Hole.” I did my best to articulate.

I said before going on this trip, that I wasn’t put off by the hysteria that the media has created surrounding the virus… But in all honesty, it is a little unverving. Especially seeming to be the only two humans travelling and not wearing a face mask.

The 4 and a half hour coach journey to Heathrow, for example. Some woman, a couple of rows back (and another rare non-face-masker), was coughing up her lungs every couple of minutes. Not a smokers cough, not a mucusy cough, but a harsh, stubborn, dry cough – just like the NHS guidelines states.

‘We’re doomed.’ Being in the same claggy air as Mrs Splutter Guts for such a time, we were bound to catch something. And oh, what’s that? Yup. My throat is sore.

In a 20 minute stop at a service station, my proactive self purchased a pack of Halls Extra Strong (menthol action). Extra strong – ya not wrong. If you want your eyes to stream and your nose hairs to feel like they are being ripped out, give ’em a go.

Due to the virus, the airport was much quieter than usual. What was the usual though, was beeping as I went through security (gets me every time). This time, however was certainly the most thorough search I have had to date… Now I’m not sure there is a pretty way to describe it… Nope, there’s not. So here goes –

The swift all body rub by the stern gum-chewing female security offiicer had a very memorable moment – that moment being a very firm pressing on my pubic bone. Was it an accident? Did her hand slip? The question is, why was she there a couple of seconds too long? Perhaps, like in any job, she had a moment of daydreaming, wondering what she was going to make for her dinner that night and what might be on the telly. And then she thought, oops. I’ve been touching this lady’s private parts for too long. My bad.

I let out an involuntary giggle and my cheeks flushed a deep shade of red with the embarrassment that the crowds of people surrounding us knew exactly where she had just rubbed… I immediately told Mum and I’m glad she found my trauma amusing.

 

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. 

700507EC-3E3F-4CA3-A64F-E1001C4404F4.jpeg

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.

EC72D162-04CE-419C-B09A-50F0183B0FB6.jpeg

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. 

E5C2FD53-84B3-4CB8-BEE7-66DFF49D90E1.jpeg

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. 

F73BB130-488F-48D7-B2FC-55B2CAA5E256.jpeg

 

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. 

DC276294-0D76-4348-8E4F-A22C1FA95D57

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. 

4505ECFD-E912-4DDF-83B4-27E662568F0C.jpeg

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. 

0AE4AF7E-8F58-4902-9009-71E8CF45B104.jpeg

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. 

722D96E8-56E1-4804-8703-8AE802A4D424.jpeg

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. 

7BABEC2C-C268-4294-8856-F5769AEF0988.jpeg

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. 

836ADAD4-4B3A-4197-BDB0-C683E3550F79.jpeg

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. 

477AFF42-B83F-47B5-888F-433021BC91DC.jpeg

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!”

B67BFE6E-3D02-45B1-82DD-9E5EF05068FE.jpeg

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.

C745F16B-2DEA-4A28-8308-0A7B8D2AC2E9

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. 

8C784132-38AD-4789-8A6E-B9A5DBCD2C49.jpeg

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.” 

A618B3D1-0B0C-4629-8C8D-A7F8CF7B34F3.jpeg

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. 

67D9F107-26C4-4E6D-BFDB-C0C631FC98F8.jpeg

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). 

EF5A5585-C190-4F71-9FB0-FAFCB01F0AFB.jpeg

***

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. 

B7261A9B-CA6C-4C71-855C-12725670B71B.jpeg

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….