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Published: January 27th 2018
“To travel is to live.” ― Hans Christian Andersen, The Fairy Tale of My Life: An Autobiography
Over and over again on this trip I am impressed with my daughter’s ability to go at it like a kid double her age. This morning, after a minor tantrum (her) about me not wanting her to fill her pockets with pebbles from the gardens of the hotel, we all set off to follow the track which winds its way on the side of the mountain softly up and up, through tea plantations, eventually culminating in – you guessed it - some steep climbing to the top of what is known as Little Adam’s Peak at 3743feet. The gentle little brother to the sacred and mighty Adam’s Peak at over 7000ft.
I carried her for a while on my shoulders then assisted by Matt, one of the Dad’s in the group – a 6ft tanned Aussie, whilst Amanda the American helped her up with some of the steps. However, basically those little legs took her to the top for breathtaking views all around. Mountains soared up and plummeted down into deep green coconut palm covered crevasses. Ella’s gutsy determination is really quite something. The flipside of it is the unbelievably stubborn backchat I can now get from her. Her resoluteness to not do something if she has taken umbrage is really a challenge to parent and on this trip there is little manoeuvrability for meltdowns. In fact, for the next Mumpack Sri Lanka Trip they are recommending a minimum age of 6 based on what we have done so far.
Ella is one of the youngest and Ive been told repeatedly by all the other parents how impressed they are with her ability to get stuck in, keep up and how “good” she is. And she really is and has. The “bad” behaviour – the foot stomping, the screaming, the “I want” has happened mainly in my company alone and often its as a result of hunger or fatigue – the same reasons you’d get the same behaviour at home. We have had a few moments in the past 10 days where Ive shouted and got cross but generally I try (and this is going to sound terribly pretentious) to parent positively around one of these difficult moments. I know this trip is pushing her hard and all her normal routines are gone. Hence, I am trying to give lots of positive reinforcement and encourage her to feel proud of herself when she does something that deserves recognition.
Repeatedly, this has seen this little 3.9yo blossom with the challenge – not always. When we reached the peak today, those classic words came from her lips “Mummy, I need a poo”! I sighed deeply. This is why you should have gone to the loo before we left Ella instead of ignored me and filled your pockets with stones…..aaaarrrghhhh.
So we dealt with it as best we could if you're at the top of a mountain with views to die for and not a lot else except a shrine to Budhha, some sleeping dogs, a load of other tourists and absolutely no toilets. I spent the rest of the hike carrying a bag of squished turd with me much to the disgust of some of the others – I didnt want to leave it behind, you know? But with wet wipes, sanitiser and a plastic bag, we were good to go to stomp back down and then tuk tuk the next part of the journey to Nine Arches Railway bridge in Demodara.
What a feat of engineering! Apparently, this “Bridge in the Sky” as it is also known is one of the best examples of British railway construction when Sri Lanka was called Ceylon and still a British colony. As the name suggests, 9 brick arches 80ft high span the 300ft ravine – think the Harry Potter viaduct in Scotland. It was completed in 1921 but rumour has it that construction work actually commenced on the bridge just as WW1 began and so the steel assigned for the bridge was reallocated to Britain's War related projects at the battlefront. As a result, the work came to a standstill, and locals were left to build the bridge with stone bricks and cement only.
As often has happened on this trip Evie changes her mind at the last minute – I have joked we are the “Mumpack Travel Club Guinea Pigs” with this being their maiden voyage – so there was a last minute scramble from one Juice Bar down to the train tracks and up again to another for her to get that “perfect” Instagram moment. Im not on Instagram and dont fully get it but she and her daughter are The Mumpack Brand and the trip is part of selling her Brand so if there’s a better Insta moment at the top of another mountain then off we go.
Thankfully, on this particular scramble Carlie stayed at the back with the slower/younger members so noone got lost or left behind. We made it in time to hydrate with freshly squeezed watermelon & pineapple juice and hear the sound of the train echoing off the mountains long before it chuffed into view and on its way over the impressive bridge disappearing into the tunnel on its way to Ella.
The kids were getting hungry and so groups of tuk tuk’s were organised for us to head back to Ella (accidentally leaving behind one of the Dad’s and his two eldest as they had walked out of sight and noone realised!) instead of walking along the tracks as is the common route back (and is what Carl and his daughters had to do!). The Group dispersed this afternoon and like with any tour where people are together day in/day out – its good to have a break. In my case though, Kate & Skip and Ella and I continued to do our own thing together with a wander into town, visiting the Ella vegetable market where wizened Singalese plied their wares along the Passara Road – piles of purple aubergines, watermelons, jackfruit, stalls with an assortment of tuppaware and the mountains as the backdrop.
We took a tuk tuk up Kitalella Rd to admire the really spectacular view of Ella’s Gap – no jokes please (!) and take a moment to contemplate what we have achieved on this first leg of the trip so far.
What a journey we have had so far! Mountains, ancient fortresses, massages, cave temples, elephants, train journeys, monkeys, Buddhas, swimming pools, sunrises, sunsets – such a feast of adventure, stretching and educating young and old (er) minds.
The next part of the trip is much slower paced as we drive down to the south of this beautiful island and to the beaches of the Indian Ocean…...
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