Archives for posts with tag: sunset

photo 1Anyone following my Instagram posts (@newcarolyn) over this last year, will have noticed I have been using the hashtag #simplethings quite often.

It is my way to remind myself to stop and appreciate the simple but not so ‘ordinary’ things around me, to look for the special in the everyday. The things that I have here and now. A simple meal with friends, a glass of bubbles with new friends, a good cup of coffee, a beautiful sunset…

A handful of shells found on the beach… 4985f9803fce11e3bf8122000a1fd13e_8

A little gift for no reason…

Tasty, homemade guacamole…

photo 2It is a reminder that looking out for the special in the everyday is a better way to look at life –  rather then thinking the everyday is just something to be endured until that something ‘special’ comes along. ‘If I can just get through this work day, then I’ll be OK’… ‘I just have to keep going until my next day off or my next vacation…’

I don’t always manage it very well. I still get caught up in everyday things… In work that I think is ‘too’ important… With the little things that I turn into big things… In the future, rather than the present…photo-5

It’s not that I am a particularly unappreciative or negative person! It’s just I find myself too easily not taking in the moment, thinking about too many things at once, and getting caught up in things I don’t need to worry about. This is my time to make a conscious decision to change that. Although changing habits can be difficult!

photo-6Mmmm… And then there’s my camera – sometimes it’s important to remember that it’s OK NOT to take that photo! Just to appreciate the moment too! 🙂

 

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Because of the various places I have been able to live and work, I have travelled quite a bit over the last 10-15 years. A lot of the time by myself. Travelling alone can sometimes be hard work – you have to do it all – there is no one to help out when you’re feeling tired or ill. Although, conversely, travelling alone sometimes brings amazing opportunities that may not come along otherwise!

And sometimes to travel alone, and to a new destination, you need to be in a good place, mentally and emotionally. For lots of reason, it has been easier the last couple of years to revisit places in Europe and South East Asia – and they’ve all been good trips.

But I was determined to do something new for this trip, to get out there and challenge myself again, become the person I enjoy being when I’m travelling – the person I feel sometimes gets lost and caught up in the everyday grind.

And so to Sri Lanka. As I have mentioned, I was slightly unprepared for this trip. I was also slightly apprehensive about travelling alone – the guide books indicate that travel in Sri Lanka as a single woman can sometimes be difficult.  But as I quickly, and fortunately, found out, the guide books are quite out of date in many ways, and there is so much to see and discover! And I’m so glad I’ve been here! Despite my worries and apprehension, travel was easier than I thought, everyone I met was very helpful, and I certainly did get back into the swing of travelling and exploring!

I challenged myself at times.

I had many funny moments – watching the young guy seemingly leap over people and seats to save me a spot on the crowded train, being intensely stared at at a very local tea shop on the road from Kandy to Puttalam.

There were happy moments – watching the elephants bathe in the river at the Millennium Elephant Foundation, having fun with the traders at Galle’s fruit and vegetable market, eating delicious curries, making new friends with shy children, finding a huge pod of dolphins that frolicked and pirouetted around us for an hour.

And relaxing moments – an ayurvedic massage, cocktails by the pool (after not drinking alcohol for most of the trip!) with new friends, watching beautiful sunsets in Galle in the south, and at Udekki on the west coast.

And no major dramas or problems.

Of course, I didn’t see everything there is to see in Sri Lanka! My plans changed often, and depended on busy travel during the Buddhist New Year period, as well as remembering I was on holiday and did need some time to relax – I didn’t want to be moving to a new place every day or so! My travel plans ended up being right for me at the time. There’s a lot more I could have been, or some may say ‘should’ have done – but with this sort of travel, each has to find their own way of making it work, and being happy along the way. But it also means there are plenty of reasons to return!

I’m so glad I spent this time in Sri Lanka. And glad that I ended up not having a car and driver for the entire trip as I had originally thought would be the best way. Whilst I may have been able to visit more places, I would have missed out on many of the wonderful experiences travelling by train, tuk-tuk, and bus!

I’m having a Dorothy moment. One when you’re not quite sure how you got to be where you are. One where the reality is so different from what you expected or what you had been experiencing. It’s one of those times in your life where you recognise that this is special – and you’re glad you’re able to acknowledge it at the time, and not just reflect on it later.

Through the good fortune of a network of friends in New York, I got in touch with Glen Terry when I first arrived in Sri Lanka, and to finish my time here am fully ensconced in Udekki, on the West Coast, about 2 1/2 hours north of Colombo.

Aroos drove me from Kandy Thursday morning, the 140 km trip taking about 3 hours – which was a good time apparently! There was not much traffic on the road because of the New Year holiday – but there were plenty of police out and about – and we were stopped twice! As Aroos said, ‘These police, they are making a lot of money today for the holiday!’ That’s when I learnt that the speed limit in Sri Lanka is 70 km/h. Most of the time there is no hope of going that fast! But once we got through a number of small towns and villages that seemed to have no distinct boundaries but all just merged together, we managed to get up to about 70, slowing down frequently for the buses and tuk-tuks, before then rapidly overtaking them!

We stopped for tea at a hotel in a small town. Now, a hotel in Sri Lanka is not a place where accommodation is offered, but is more like a tea stand, or a cafe. The little, men-only, grimy place we stopped at, was pleased to serve us. And then all the men proceeded to stare at me! It wasn’t menacing at all, although after a while it became a little disconcerting! Whether it was because I ordered my tea without milk or sugar (a rarity here!) or whether it was because a ‘white’ woman had never stopped at their hotel before – I’m not sure! At one stage, one older man sat across from me and stared and laughed! I burst out laughing too! The guy making tea, with only his piercing black eyes showing above the counter, stared and stared. I tried to outstare him but couldn’t do it! He won hands down!

Onwards, and closer to the coast. As we neared the power station, Glen helped us with phone calls and messages to navigate the turns and tracks to get to the Alankuda beach. Stepping out of the car to a lovely welcome, a cold drink, and a villa with a view of the sea and the pool! No visible neighbours, no noise other than the sea lapping the beach, ahhh! I recovered from the trip over a bountiful seafood lunch on the verandah, and wondered how exactly did I end up here?! And when I am I supposed to be leaving again?!

Ah! What a delightful change Galle is after Colombo! Although to be fair I only really had one day in Colombo.  But on the other hand there is many a person that recommends skipping Colombo all together when coming to Sri Lanka!

I love traveling by train. And whilst Sri Lanka doesn’t have an extensive train system, some key places are accessible by train. So I opted for the train from Colombo to Galle. But even that wasn’t going to be as simple as I thought. Half of the line from Colombo to Galle is under reconstruction. So rather than look at other options, I decided to catch the train half way, and once I got to Kalutara then I’d work out how to get the rest of the way!

Because of the limited train service I travelled 3rd class. And considering the Lonely Planet recommends that solo women travelers do not take the train at all, I was a little apprehensive (as in other parts of the world, women traveling solo can experience problems here). But after meeting a mother and daughter who were traveling the same route, I had a safe trip, enjoying sitting at the open window, as we followed the sea south. This was certainly no inter-city express – we stopped at stations every 5 – 10 minutes all the way, barely getting up to full speed in between!

I met the delightful Mr Suji (more about him later) as he was finishing his shift at a beachside resort just before the last stop. He helped me negotiate a tuk-tuk to continue the journey – taking advantage of this option to get where he needed to go too!

But 2 hours in the back of a tuk-tuk on a relatively busy road takes it toll. And whilst it is nice to have the constant movement of air, the layers of dirt and grime that came off me once I arrived were incredible!! I began to question my adventurous determination – why didn’t I just take the A/C bus all the way?! Coming into Galle we made our way through the new city – with its bustling bus station, touts looking for unsuspecting travelers, a busy market, and the cricket oval where the 1st England/Sri Lanka test match was held last week. It was hard to believe that the city was decimated by the tsunami 7 years ago.

I am staying in the fortified old city of Galle (Galle Fort) – surrounded by the fort wall on all sides, and beyond that water on 3 sides. Arriving as 1000s of students were being dismissed, all traffic routes become one way, and could only leave the Galle Fort area not enter it. So I walked through the gate, and surrounded by the girls in their pristine white uniforms, instantly felt the stress of travel and uncertainty fall away.

Galle Fort is full of traditional homes built from the only material that was available – coral. Many are being lovingly restored with dark wood and brass fixtures, each painted a different beachy hue. The area has a large Muslim population – many things close or partially close on Friday. There are galleries, and restaurants, and guesthouses. And in the midst, the locals going about their daily lives – warehouses, training barracks, law courts, small businesses and manufacturers.

Once the sun’s strong rays begin to lessen at the end of a day, everyone heads to the walls of the fort – to play cricket, fly kites, enjoy an ice-cream, take the breeze, or steal a moment with aloved one – culminating in a beautiful sunset.

Yesterday was the full moon, but arriving on Thursday, the moon was still fairly impressive! I was watching the sun set to the west, but looking back to the east, the nearly full moon was rising, and the surrounding clouds colored by the opposing sunset.

Life seems more relaxed, it is easier to get about, people are welcoming; I can see why for some it is their only destination in Sri Lanka, and for others it becomes their home. Wherever I travel I ask myself whether I could live there – and it is a resounding ‘yes’ for Galle.