One thing that has progressed well is my nights under canvass (unfortunately, I’m lacking in many photos, as the camera broke on Day 1 of my Sri Lanka trip.) After another 2 nights with Duke of Edinburgh (where I met another interesting person, Paul, the store manager and mountain bike leader), I had about 12 hours to sleep, post my postal vote for the Referendum and pack for a 2.5 week expedition to Sri Lanka, via Dubai to pick up 19 school kids and 3 teachers. (2 of whom I’m claiming as old friends I have reconnected with, as I led with them last year to Ethiopia – Sean and Andrew. The 3rd teacher I’m counting as one of my interesting people – Mallory is Canadian, just started her first ever teaching job on her first ever trip abroad in Dubai, and had now signed up to a Sri Lankan trip. We got to know each other fairly well through sharing tents and even a double bed for a week in one hotel!) I also met the interesting Ronnie Robb, one of the other expedition leaders, who was working 10 months this year on foreign expeditions (and wondering why he found it hard to hold down a long-term relationship.)
Sri Lanka also saw a fair number of different restaurants, although I have only included the ones that I can remember the name of……we had a lovely posh meal in the Royal Oak (old British colonial), lunch every day at our project site in Shan’s Rest, dinner most nights during our project phase at Kandy View Hotel, and our last night extravaganza in Tusker’s in Negumbo. Each served delicious Sri Lankan food, and sometimes traditional British cuisine, such as a hot dogs.
We also had a fabulous opportunity to learn to cook some Sri Lankan food – 23 people working in pairs to cook 12 different dishes, all organised in the front room of a local Sri Lankan lady. The experience was fantastic for team building, and produced the best meal that we ate on the whole trip, which given the kids previous cooking disaster during our trekking phase (no, I still don’t know how they made pasta have the look and texture of mash potato….) was a very pleasant surprise. I personally was involved in making coconut roti, which involved cutting down our own coconut with a machete from the tree in the garden, husking it, and grinding out the inside.
During our project phase where we helped the locals to build the foundations and walls of a sports pavilion for the local community, I took the opportunity to learn how to mix cement by hand, after the team carefully measured 45 palettes of sand from the sand pile, 2.5 bags of cement and 3 randomly sized buckets of water (plus a few extra sloshes) and a lot of digging over. We also passed rocks along a line from the rock pile delivered by a pick up truck, to the local workmen building the wall – this is a form of exercise I wish never to repeat!
I also took the opportunity to try lots of ‘interesting’ looking snacks at the project site, cooked by the local women. This ranged from what I think was mashed dates and potato in a leaf, to the rather delicious sugar and cinnamon something-or-other, to Vadi, a spiced, sun-dried dumpling made from ground lentils and chickpeas.
We were invited by Matt’s brother and his wife, who do regular cruises. It’s not the normal sort of holiday that we do, as we’re normally on action holidays – walking, kayaking etc, but decided to give it a go. Despite some initial apprehension about feeling sea sick and being stuck on a boat, we had a really lovely, relaxing holiday. Fair to say, I have now well and truly smashed my ‘drink 30 types of alcohol’ challenge, after working my way through the cocktail menu. My favourite was Raspberry Crème Brûleé, - a mix of baileys and what appeared to be some raspberry-flavoured yoghurt. I also completed the ‘eat in 30 restaurants’ challenge after eating in the main on-board restaurant (The Oriental) and specialist on-board restaurants, The Glass House and Michelin-starred Indian Restaurant, Sindhu.
The week back home has been fairly quiet, but I have managed to watch a new film ‘Now You See Me 2’ – good if only for Danial Radcliffe playing a baddie, try out a new exercise class Fitsteps (a ‘Strictly-inspired dance exercise class) and do all of Matt’s washing and pair up all of his socks, and make another ‘What’s in the Fridge’ Soup of broccoli and butternut squash.
- Against the advice of our local guide, it is definitely not “better to wear shorts as you can see the leeches climbing up your legs and therefore flick them off before they bite you.” This led to a leech bite on my inner thigh about 5cm away from my ‘important places’ that I wouldn’t have got if I’d worn long trouser legs tucked into socks like everyone else had who had ignored his advice.
- Not many people seem to know about the Monty Python ‘Dead Parrot’ sketch…..or at least know it in enough detail……we carried a Norwegian Blue (cuddly toy) parrot called Sketch around Norway with us, surrounded by British people, and only one gentlemen chortled at it….everyone else (I must say, including me, at first) looked blankly at us taking photos of this parrot.
- Pasta, cooked for long enough, will eventually look and taste like mashed potato. Well…..it you close your eyes and imagine its mashed potato, not some starch-filled sludge. Don’t trust 16-year olds to cook for you unattended!