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Published: January 17th 2018
“Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta
So its been about 6 years since my last blog entry. It’s good to be back! I’ve done my fair share of travelling since then from European countries to the Caribbean to Asia but all much shorter trips to fit in around work and parenthood. I’ve ticked another few countries off my bucket list taking my total number now to 68 (as Easter Island and The Galapagos don't count as separate)! But to date, Sri Lanka has eluded me.
Now I find myself in the middle of Sri Lanka as part of the Mumpack Travel Club – a group of mainly Mum’s (although there are a couple of Dad’s in families) who have come together under the organisation of one ballsy lady – Evie Farrell, founder of Mumpack Travel (Her story can be read here https://www.mumpacktravel.com/about/
and her co-partner Carlie of Halpe Holidays.
I came to hear about her having been introduced to the equally ballsy exploits of Travel Mad Mum https://travelmadmum.com/
aka Karen who I met up with a while back. Its funny how one decision and event leads to another and now I find myself solo travelling in the Indian sub continent with my soon to be 4 year old.
So who are we? There are 11 adults and 13 children ranging from 3.5 yo to 17 yo. The group is mainly Australian plus an American Mum and her 2 children. Then Ella and I are the token Brits.
The furthest Ive ever flown with Ella was to Turkey and she was only 6 months old then. Looking back - now that was easy - I just breastfed her to sleep so a long haul 11hr flight was going to be a new and challenging experience. I armed myself with sticker books, Peppa Pig episodes on the laptop, colouring pencils, snacks, and a bottle of baby liquid Piriton – apparently can cause drowsiness! Ahem. I also invested in a a cheap Chinese version of a Plane Pal/Fly Tot – an ingeniously simple blowup cushion that fits in front of the seat creating a horizontal sleep space. It took about 4 months for me to get approval from Sri Lankan airlines to be able to take it on board but it created Miss E her own little bed/stretch out space and as we flew through the night, it came in very handy and three cheers for Amazon Prime next day delivery! If only I could have shrunk myself down to childsize as for me I found the Sri Lankan A333-330 very cramped and very full. There was not an empty seat on the 305 seater plane. It was hell. Aerohell. I contemplated drinking the entire bottle of antihistamine myself – anything to get though the interminable journey.
Having left cold, dark New Malden to get the X26 bus direct to Heathrow at 5pm, we stumbled through arrivals to see the bounteous blonde curls of Evie on the other side in bright, scorching sunshine some 15 hours later. Im not sure if its the heat or the humidity or its destabilising combination but it hits you like a full on rugby tackle. I felt dizzy with fatigue. Broken. But stabs of excited and nerves staccatoed through me. Ella, having slept like a baby was full of beans and excitement and as the beads of perspiration started to gather on her forehead remarked “it’s very hot in Lanka Mummy”.
The whole reason for doing this trip under the auspices of the Mumpack Travel Club was the relinquishing of the responsibility that comes with travel. Looking after Ella’s every need in a 3rd
world foreign country is enough for me and I confess I dont have the drive, energy or balls to embark upon the trip we are doing as a solo traveller avec child. So it was with overenthusiastic delight to be met and chauffeur driven to our guesthouse. No bargaining in rupees for a taxi or struggling to find which specific bus went into Negombo. Id packed light so my one rucksack – containing hopefully enough for 3+ weeks of travel appeared immediately alongside the very lightweight emergency McClaren stroller and off we went – winding our way through the bustle of the Colombo suburb.
The trip officially starts/ed on 11th
January but I had deliberately flown out a day earlier to help with the acclimatisation as its an intense fortnight which I think will push us out of our comfort zone especially Ella, who as one of the youngest children involved, will be tested and stretched.
We were dropped at the guesthouse I had booked – Cinnamon Villa https://www.booking.com/hotel/lk/cinnamon-villa-negombo.en-gb.html
, and arranged to meet Evie the following day, a mere couple of hundred metres up the beach at the super lush Jetwing Blue Hotel http://www.jetwinghotels.com/jetwingblue/
. This was totally intentional. I couldnt stretch the budget to another night in the opulent 5* place so I found somewhere that seemed more reasonable but close. By reasonable, I mean more “authentic”. The hosts were a charming Sri Lankan couple who settled us in to our spartan room and then as we were very content enjoying the delights of the pool in the adjacent shared hotel, left us to it and went out to an in laws nuptials.
Ella was content chasing the wild chipmunk looking squirrel creatures around the garden of the guesthouse and seemed oblivious to the fact we had just travelled 5421 miles and changed numerous time zones. Dusk fell and with it the biting mosquitoes and I started to feel a little daunted. Overwhelmed. Nervous about what I was embarking on. Back home, people said “have a great holiday” but I feel I have to stress the point that IT IS NOT A HOLIDAY! Travelling with a child IS NOT A HOLIDAY. Its unbelievably hard work exacerbated by the heat, the fact that all your comforts and your familiar are gone. One teddy, one bag of wet wipes, a bottle of hand sanitiser and 3 pairs of underpants. One on. One off and one in the rucksack! Well, I brought more than 3 for Ella as I am attempting to transition her out of night-time pull ups. I had the genius idea to buy a cheap shower curtain which Ill put under the sheets of each hotel bed we stay in and deal with whatever nocturnal leakages occur. A 85li rucksack does not have the space for 3+ weeks of night time pull ups!
Those of a squeamish disposition, skip the next paragraph. Those who have read my blogs before know that I do not shy away from discussing the intimacies of travel. Anything involving faeces and travel toilet experiences is always good blog matter.
So let’s rewind...Ella’s eaten, its getting dark but we are sitting out on the veranda of the guesthouse watching the sky darken with the sound of a tropical thunder booming in the distance when suddenly Miss E runs into our room with an urgency not yet seen. I hear her shout, determined yet plaintively, “Mummy. Ive had an accident”. Every fibre of my being being sinks. I just dont need this shit. Im desperate to go to sleep. What will I be faced with?
Thankfully, it was nothing worse than everything she’d eaten in her pants, down her legs, over the toilet seat. But the tragi-comic part of this was failing to find the bathroom light switch working, so in the dark illuminated by a torch, I found myself scraping a Mr Whippy like consistency tonne of faecal matter into the bog and trying to shower it off her. Poor thing. Poo accidents are few and far between these days so this was a first. Clean and not sleepy, we tuned into the Wi-Fi for some YouTube episodes of Ben & Holly and then under a whirring, clunking fan... attempted sleep at last.
After a midnight wake up, we slept through til 1030am and woke to 30 degree heat and the smell of woodsmoke as the gardeners burnt piles of rubbish and coconut fronds in the grounds of the Villa. After breakfast, I loaded my backpack on, strapped Ella into the McClaren and we headed off down the road to the sumptuous Jetwing Blue.
Now this is more like it I thought. Iced lemon scented face towels presented on arrival (although Id only walked 350m up the road), a glass of iced tea and shown to our room which overlooked the ocean. Spa products, air conditioning, an enormous pool with shaded wooden loungers sat in the shallow water and a sense of “oh hello Sri lanka...” including a delightful “welcome to our trip” bag from Evie & Emmie with antibac wipes, a fan, sunscreen, and an elephant keyring which Ella immediately purloined. She is one happy little lady. With that swimming pool, you couldnt fail to be happy….This was starting to look like that elusive word "holiday" but then however amazing the place is, Im still responsible for this little person, so the concept of lying down and closing my eyes in the sun or even attempting to read a book (read?!! hahahahaha) whilst my daughter is frolicking in drownable water is frankly an impossibility.
Slowly the Mumpack Travel Group came together and we spent the rest of the day enjoying the lavishness of a truly impressive hotel and its magnificent swimming pool culminating in a poolside large bottle of Lion Stout, welcome canapés followed by a Sri Lankan cultural show with drummers and dancers and fire eaters followed by a grand buffet dinner containing a vast array of Sri Lankan cuisine.
Full, sleepy and content.
Tot: 2.506s; Tpl: 0.052s; cc: 13; qc: 53; dbt: 0.0436s; 2; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb