Travelling with teens is one of the most enjoyable, amusing, rewarding and challenging experiences that any parent will undertake. I know. I’m currently travelling the world for a year with my husband and our 16 and 13-year-old teenagers. But I couldn’t do it without wine, and a few teenage essentials.
Over the past three months, I have said thanks more than a hundred times for investing in the sanity-saving (ours and theirs) products that we bought for our teenagers before we set off from New Zealand on our travels.
Traveling With Teenagers.10 Must Have Items You Will Need To Keep Everyone Sane.
As you know, teenagers love anything gadgety. But they are also kept entertained for hours on end by a simple puzzle toy. That’s why I’ve included both of those things in the post. Some of the things may be out of your budget, but I doubt it. Have a look and see what you think. We have been saving for a long time to be able to travel with our teenagers so I scrutinized and compared the cost of everything before I let go of my hard earned money.
Whether you are planning your next summer holiday together as a family, sending your teen off on their independent travels or taking a huge leap and travelling long term as a family, I have compiled a list that will save yours and your teenagers sanity. And everything here is what we travel with personally. I promise.
Take a look at my recommendations for essential items when travelling with teens.
Blue Tooth Portable Speaker.
Teenagers and music. My teenage boy couldn’t live without his JBL Flip 3 Portable speaker. You can connect up to three smartphones or tablets to it meaning that his sister can also share the music (and the love if he’s feeling kind). It has a built-in rechargeable battery which lasts for up to ten hours – essential for when you are travelling.
The sound is very impressive too; it has a beautiful rich tone – so not offensive to other people (depending on the music they’re playing I suppose) My teenage son uses it on ferries (it’s also splashproof which is ideal) on the beach and in his room at night. It’s small enough for a travelling teenager to pop into their flight bag. Plus of course, they look cool – which let’s not forget is essential.
I can’t believe I didn’t think of this before we started travelling. The Discraft Ultra Star Sport Disk is something we bought in India because every teenager (and fit young adult it seems) is playing frisbee on the beach! This one is not something I can say I share. I don’t do frisbee. Believe me. Me jumping for a frisbee is something my teenagers would howl with laughter at. So, instead, I sit on the beach and write useful lists like this for you instead.
Unbeknown to me, it’s a very cool sport amongst travellers. And it’s cheap and lightweight, fitting easily between the clothes in the rucksack. Even better! My teenagers had never really shown an interest in sport until they got the frisbee. So this is perfect. It gets them off their devices and gives me half an hour of uninterupted bliss knowing that they’re burning off lots of teenage energy!
We did try buying one for a couple of dollars but the cheap ones are too light and a waste of time – unless you just want to play with a little child. For the travelling teenager to look cool, there is no other frisbee than this one.
I’ve talked about my love of the Kindle Paperwhite many times before on this blog. l adore it and so do my kids. It is one item on this list that I couldn’t do without. I have been homeschooling both of my teenagers for the past nine seven years. Before we started travelling I was initially concerned about how we were going to continue reading without carting a ton of heavy books around the world. The kindle paperwhite weighs just 205 grams. Perfect for the travelling teen. Let’s face it, they don’t like to carry too many heavy things…
The Paperwhite has got a built-in backlight which is why it is a top choice for those travelling with teenagers. Long after the lights go out my two kids will be lying awake reading. But please. Learn from our mistake! Don’t buy the Kindle without also buying the:
Initially, we tried to save money by not buying a case for our Kindle. Big mistake. When we were in America at the beginning of our travels my teenage son scratched the screen of his new Kindle with the metal seat belt. Amazon was absolutely amazing and replaced the kindle free of charge (another reason I’d always buy from them). Luckily we were in a country where the replacement arrived promptly. I’m glad it didn’t happen in India for example. Teenagers have a habit of bein heavy-handed. To avoid the same thing happening to your Kindle buy them the case.
Photography Gear For The Travelling Teenagers
Teenagers and phones. They never travel far without them. I’m sure my two have had them surgically implanted into their palms. And it seems the more gadgets they can attach to their phones the better. But here’s a little add-on that you will be happy you purchased.
If your teenager is showing an interest in photography – as my 13-year-old teenage daughter is – the amir Camera Lens Kit is a clip on 2 in 1 lens that clips over the lens of an iPhone (8, 7, 6, 6s, 5) Samsung or smartphone, and is perfect for the travelling teen. No more asking Dad if she can use his very expensive – and therefore highly treasured iPhone 7+, because it takes better photos. This little gizmo is the answer to great teenage photography.
It turns taking everyday photos into art by using a 0.4x super wide angle lens that expands the field of view. Meaning that the teenager can get more of their travelling friends into the picture! The 10X Macro lens enables you to shoot photos at a distance of 1.18 – 1.57inch from your object, allowing your teenager to be able to take amazing close-ups in crisp detail. They are tiny and a very cheap alternative to a large expensive camera for when your teenager is travelling.
Who would have thought that this 1980s phenomenon would be entertaining our teenagers forty years later! If you are travelling with teenagers I insist that you take this Rubix cube with you. I have lost count of the number of hours my son and daughter have spent fiddling with this addictive puzzle, leaving us to plan the next part of our trip.
Whenever there is a train delay or an overnight bus to take (hence no wifi) they always reach for it. If your teenagers are anything like mine they will want to be fidgeting (constantly, it seems) with something. Anything. My 16-year-old insists that this is the one to use. Apparently, the cube turns quicker and more precisely than any other. Believe me, he has tried the lot.
Portable Battery Charger
Never hear the words “my phones flat!’ again. If you are like us and are travelling with teens, then no doubt you will be taking a lot of gadgets with you.
With four phones and an iPad to charge every day, there wasn’t any way we could travel with teenagers without a portable battery charger. We bought the Anker 20100mAh and it’s been perfect for us.
This super powerful little gadget that weighs no more than a can of soup can charge the iPhone 7 almost seven times, the Galaxy S6 five times, or the iPad mini 4 twice. It recharges itself within 10 hours with a 10amp charger. If your teenagers are out and about for the day they can easily pop this into their packs. If they are off on their own for a long day you have the peace of mind that their phones won’t go flat.
More importantly, they won’t ever have the excuse of ‘my phone was dead’ when you ask why they didn’t call you to tell you they got to the coach station on time.
If you prefer to go down the eco route you could go for a solar portable battery pack. We have got both and use them. (Each of my teenagers carries one).
Portable Solar Battery Charger
This solar charger Dizaul 500 is rainproof, shockproof and dustproof. In other words, teenage travel proof! We love the little hook feature it has. Teenagers have a habit of holding too much stuff and usually end up dropping everything. Just saying.The hook lets them put it onto their backpacks for long flights or onto the cup holder on the train.
On the downside, it doesn’t charge as quickly as the Anker so just something to be aware of. I have an impatient teen versus a ‘save the planet’ teen. If you do too, maybe do what we did and get both. Then everyone is happy.
You won’t have been expecting this one but I cannot recommend this miracle powder enough.
If you are travelling with teens or maybe waving your teenager off to travel on their own, make room in their pack for this coconut activated charcoal powder. We swear by it. It’s benefits are endless. They include teeth whitening, rejuvenating your skin, detoxifying the body and helping with digestion. The charcoal powder also works wonders on bug bites and wounds and apparently accidental poisoning. (I’m glad to say we haven’t needed it for that yet.) It cleans and whitens teeth naturally and beautifully.
My teenage daughter’s hair has become very dry with all the sea sat and sun while she has been travelling. She adds a spoonful of the powder to her shampoo and the result is amazing. Try it. The whole family will be arguing over it I can guarantee. Don’t let this put you off though. Just say you’re the oldest so you count more. That should do it.
One tub lasts for ages, is natural and is reasonable in price considering one powder has multiple uses.
Waterproof case for Phone
These lightweight, durable waterproof cases are incredible value. I bought one each for my teenagers when we set off on our travels and it’s one of those things that I find myself congratulating myself on!
The case creates a secure seal around your teenagers’ device and is waterproof, dirtproof and dustproof. The best thing is (for the teenager of course) is that the touch screen function still works perfectly while in the bag. We bought the FRiEQ waterproof case and never stop using it. It’s one of those things that your travelling teen will never stop using when they are near water. In fact, I’m sure my 16-year-old teenage boy takes it in the shower with him.
I hope you enjoyed browsing this post on essential gear for travelling with teens, and thanks so much for using the links. If you do, we make a small commission but they cost you nothing. Thanks.
And remember, everything you see on this page are only the things that my family uses personally. For the sake of all our sanity.
If you are planning to travel with teenagers you are going to have a ball! They are the best company ever. Just don’t forget to pack some patience and a sense of humour. And if at all possible, lots of wine.
You are in Alleppey in Kerala. Home of the well-advertized houseboat. You are maybe thinking of booking a houseboat or some other mode of transport to see the Kerela backwaters. But you want your experience to be unique. You don’t want to be ripped off. You don’t want to feel like just another tourist.
On arrival in Alleppey, Kerela, almost everyone you meet will try and get you to take a backwater tour with them. They will usually work hard to sell you the Alleppey houseboat option. They will promise you that theirs is the best houseboat, the most genuine of all tours. They will also tell you that they ‘give you very good local price’. But there are better, cheaper options.
If you’re like me, you won’t want to hand over your hard-earned cash easily. You don’t want to follow the crowd. You don’t want to be told to wear a bright orange sticker and stand in line with all the other tourists. And you certainly don’t want to feel as though you are going to get ripped off and receive a crap experience.
But at the same time, you don’t want to be overly cautious and suspicious because then you end up missing out and not doing a tour at all for fear of making a mistake.
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What Are My Options When Wanting To Cruise The Kerala Backwaters?
It’s a bit of a minefield cruising the backwaters of Kerala. But here’s a rundown on what we found out after having spent ten days in Alleppey. Here are the answers to the questions that I wanted to ask people but didn’t.
We booked our chosen tour through our guest house, and I know that we didn’t get ripped off. We stayed in Abru’s guest house while we were in Alleppey. It was a bargain and probably one of the nicest placed we’ve stayed in in India so far. Click here to take a look. He only has two rooms so it’s lovely and quiet but close to all the good restaurants.
You will also find a video of us experiencing our chosen tour at the end of this post. Please like and share it. It will make my 16 year old happy. He spent ages editing it.
Kerala. Alleppey, and Houseboats.Tell Me More.
#1 What are the Kerala Backwaters?
Kerela is made up of 900 kilometres of canals rivers, lakes and inlets. Amidst this labyrinth of waterways, many towns and cities that act as the starting point and end point to the famous backwater cruises.
#2: Why Alleppey?
Alleppey (confusingly also known as Alappuzha) is one of these cities. It is famous for being the starting point of the houseboat cruises. Actually, it’s only the size of a large town, although it is listed as the sixth most populous city in the state of Kerala. Don’t be put off by this title though. Alleppey is charming once you get to know your way around and is the perfect place to hire a houseboat or some other form of transport (which I’ll tell you about next) to enable you to experience these beautiful waterways.
#3:Is a houseboat the only choice I have to cruise the Kerala backwaters?
No.You have various options. Here they are:
The Alleppey Public Water Taxi.
This government-run boat is the public taxi service that transports locals from their homes on both sides of the backwaters. It starts from the central ferry terminal, and you can catch it every couple of hours. The first one is at 5.50am, and the last one leaves at 16.15pm. Check these times though. This is India, and anything can happen. It’s a great way to see Alleppey from the water and…
It’s really cheap.
But. It will only go along the main waterways. Imagine a highway right down the centre of the waterways, and you’re almost there. That’s pretty much where the water taxi runs. They are too big to go down the little canals, but, as I said, they are incredibly cheap ( 15 to 40 Rupees per person), and if you really wanted to you could just stay on all day. As we did.
We stayed on the Alleppey water taxi for the whole round trip. We didn’t know this is what we were doing, we just boarded and said round trip, please.Typical us and something that worries my teenagers incessantly. Our bums were undoubtedly numb by the end of the day. It is a long time to be on the boat – five hours – but it only cost us about 100 rupees each (which is approx $1.50) Check the exchange rates here and we got to see some village life and experience being with the locals. Remember, You won’t see the intricate little waterways on the water taxi, but you see kids going to school and women going a few stops to meet up with neighbours. You can also sit and look at the houseboats in the traffic jam.
Sharing the water tax with the locals in Alleppey
Note: If you sit on the top deck of a double-decker water taxi the price increases to almost three times. The conductor will try and convince you to sit up top. If you don’t want to fry insist that you stay put and only pay the lower fee.
The Allepey Shikara.
Please know that we didn’t experience these for ourselves. But we had friends who did. The following is based on ours and their observations.
These are a covered longboat with a roof. Seating between six and twenty-two people. Open at the sides and filled with reclining purple velvet-covered seats.I thought it was important to mention that the velvet is purple. If you’re like me, you’ll appreciate these details. If you’ve ever seen the series of “The Tudors”, Henry travelled in one along the Thames. You get the picture. A bit posh, quite pricey. A little over the top for our liking but you might love it.
The price: We were quoted 800 rupees per person per hour. Not an option for us on a budget. Far too expensive. Again, they only take the broader waterways. Being too big to go down the backstreets. We never saw any on the smaller waterways. I don’t like to say this but I will. You do look a bit pompous sitting there in your velvet lined longboat. Sorry, but its true.
The Alleppey Houseboat:
Again, not something we experienced personally as we didn’t have the cash. I talked to others who had taken the houseboat, and I observed them from the water.
Originally, the Alleppey houseboat was the option we were considering – until we found out how much it cost -and then we fled, screaming down the street with our knickers on our heads. We were here in high season (January), and the price we were quoted was 5,000 rupees a person!
I’m so glad I didn’t phone the bank and ask for an extension on the mortgage because after going on the waterways and seeing the houseboats with my own eyes, I realised how much we would have hated it. But that’s just me. You might love it.
They come in various sizes depending on your family. They are usually covered in bamboo to make them look as though you are sleeping in a jungle hut – maybe in an attempt to feel more authentic.There are bedrooms of various extravagance, again, depending on how much you want to spend, a dining area with a view of the waterways, and a seated deck area at the front. Before you go getting all romantic on me take off your rose tinted glasses.
They are noisy and they smell of diesel. The smoke chugging out of the back of the boats was enough to put me off. My dream of sitting on the deck with my book disintegrated into a cloud of diesel fumes. Add to this that there are loads of houseboats, all chugging along together. It looked as though they were all in one big traffic jam. Granted, if you visit out of season, then you may get a section of the water to yourself but don’t count on it.
The value for money was also an issue for us. The actual time spent cruising.The boats leave late morning. They stop after a couple of hours and moor up for lunch until three o’clock. Yes, they cook for you onboard but I wouldn’t get too excited. We heard stories of the same Dahl curry and rice being served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In saying that, if you pay more you are likely to get more. Just state what you want before you hand over the money.
The Alleppey Houseboat that every man and his dog will try and sell to you
After lunch, they continue down the highway and then moor up again at five o’clock for the evening. Five o’clock. That’s a very early night considering you’ve just remortgaged your house. There you are, sitting on a boat unable to get off. With only the crew to speak to – and they will talk to you – which was another reason I didn’t fancy it. Too sociable. Not my cup of tea. No thank you. But you may not be weird like me. In which case, pay the money and chat away.
In the morning they will feed you breakfast and then take you back from whence you came. At around 9 am. Seems a bit of a rip off to me but that might be your idea of enough, in which case, phone the bank.
The Alleppey Canoe:
This was our choice. This is the way that we saw the backwaters of Alleppey without splashing out on the much-publicised houseboat and for us, a family of four on a budget, who don’t mind paying for something if it’s going to be truly memorable – it was perfect.
Canoes vary in size. Ours sat four which was ideal for our family. Along the way we saw other canoes that seated six – although I must say, they looked a bit cramped.
Canoes start from one of the local places along the backwater. Your guide will meet you at Alleppey and take you on the water taxi to his village. You will then walk along the waterway until you reach his home. Here you will receive breakfast (if this is the deal you have arranged beforehand) after which you will hop onto his canoe and he will take you around the more intricate waterways of the area.
Our canoe was covered with a bamboo roof which saved us from the blistering heat, and our seats were padded and super comfy with loads of legroom. I have heard others complain of wooden planks as seats. Perhaps ask before you book.
Our Alleppey alternative to the houseboat. The canoe was peaceful and comfortable for four people.
Our tour went from 9 am until 3 pm. Six hours including breakfast, lunch and a tea stop. The price was 1000 rupees per person. We also stopped for ice cream which was an extra 150 rupees. We bought our guide icecream and a cup of tea, although I saw other tourists at the tea shop and they didn’t. It’s up to you. I don’t think its expected. Me, being the kind and generous woman that I am just couldn’t stop myself.
By choosing the canoe option, you will get to see real village life. The beautiful jungle covered waterways are used as a launderette, a children’s swimming pool, fishmongers, a dishwashing area, a hair washing area and a place for Herons to catch their lunch. It is both fascinating and humbling.
It is also an incredibly peaceful way to spend five hours. The lull of the canoe and the gentle dipping sound of the oar is enough to send you to sleep. It was heaven.
My teenagers took their kindles with them and read for a large portion of the trip. If you are travelling with kids, don’t even think about leaving home without a Kindle.
You will not regret it. Yes, they are pricey, but I don’t know what we have done without them. The internet in Asia is so hit and miss, but at least with the Kindle, you don’t have to worry about wifi and the battery lasts for days. The kids were bought one each for Christmas, and it was the best presents they’ve ever received. Check out the ones we have here.
Does it get any more perfect than this? The kids reading in the canoe. It was the quietest they’ve been in a long while!
For breakfast, we were served an unusual concoction of peas in curry sauce, and some bread dumplings washed down with some ginger tea. Brian and I thought it was nice – sort of – but the kids struggled. It wasn’t your usual breakfast. Just be aware of this. If you have kids and are a kind mother, maybe feed them beforehand. There are loads of bakeries in Alleppey that serve samosas or jam and cream buns. If you are like me, however, tell them to suck it up and enjoy the experience.
Lunch was served on a banana leaf. It was fried fish and three different vegetable curries. Basic but authentic. It wasn’t the most delicious thing I’ve eaten in India although lots of people rave on about how the quality of the food is amazing on the canoe tours. I thought it was just ok.
You don’t have to take a houseboat cruise in Alleppey to receive locally cooked food. Very nicely presented but not the best food I’ve tasted.
I was under the impression that after lunch we would be heading back out onto the canoe to see some more of the beautiful backwaters, but no, that was it. Know that after lunch you are done. This takes you to about three o’clock which, to be honest, is long enough. Im just greedy.
The guide will take you back to the water taxi pick up point. Be warned! You are expected to tip. We didn’t. Not because we are from New Zealand and nobody tips for anything in New Zealand, nor because we are a family of four on a very tight budget, but because we didn’t have anything less than two thousand rupees. We had bought our guide tea and ice cream but if you don’t want to feel like a cheapskate as we did, make sure you break some big notes for a tip.
This is what the water taxi stand looks like. This is where you will catch the taxi back to Alleppey after doing your backwater tour.
So, that was our experience of cruising the backwaters of Alleppey in Kerela without splashing out hundreds of dollars on a houseboat. It’s almost a relief after you’ve done it because you can go on to further enjoy Allepey without feeling constantly haggled by tour touts.
Check Out Our Vlog On The Alleppey Canoe Experience!
In a nutshell.
Take The Alleppey Houseboat if you are feeling flush, and want to join the hoards of other tourists sitting comfortably in a big floating condo traffic jam. Take the Alleppey houseboat if you don’t mind the noise and smell of a diesel engine.The only positive I can think of for the Alleppey houseboat is that if you are a big group, you will all be together.
Take the Shikara if you want to pretend you are Indian royalty. And you like the colour purple. Remember though; they don’t go down the tiny waterways. Just the main waterways and some medium size ones.And they’re pretty pricey.
Take the Water taxi if you are on a tight budget. If you want to experience the main waterways and some village life occurring on the side banks. Take the water taxi if you feel like spending the day on the water with the locals, watching local life. (Remember, just ask the ticket guy for a round trip from Alleppey).
Take the Canoe if you want to travel in a peaceful, gentle way through the most intricate of the Kerela backwaters. Take the canoe if you have put aside a small budget for a once in a lifetime experience in India and know it will be well spent. Take the canoe if you want to spend time with a local family and let them cook for you. And take the canoe if you have a kindle for the kids and a bag stuffed with pastries.
Let me know if this was helpful and remember to share if it was. And I’d love to hear whether you have already experienced the Kerela Backwaters and how you did it!
We have been on our backpacking trip around the world for two months now. We started with America and then flew to Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has been amazing. Absolutely stunning. I wrote a post on what surprised me about Sri Lanka here. I’d say one of the highlights of the country is the many beautiful train journeys. Now. You know me. I’m not one to moan and I strive to remain positive. I take copious amounts of hormone therapy and wine to aid this, but, although travelling the world may seem lovely and romantic, sometimes the reality is a tad different. I wasn’t going to tell you this. I said “No Liz. That’s disgusting. It’s not the sort of thing you want your kids to read”. But I’m sorry. Someone’s going to have to hear about it. And mummy needs to write in her travel diary. So here it is. My Travel Bog Diary #3. Apologies to the kids in advance.
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Because we panicked when we first arrived in Colombo, we booked the observation carriage that goes from Colombo to Ella. I had read in all the guidebooks that if you want to secure a seat on this particular train, then you should book it at least a week in advance. So I did.
Our first mistake.
The trouble was, we were going down South to spend time in Marissa, which, to cut a long story short meant that we would have to double back on ourselves in order to take the pre-booked train trip.
We later found out from our Sri Lankan Couchsurfing host that it’s much easier to get the bus from Mirissa to Ella – this only takes about three hours – and then get the train from Ella, via Kandy and back to Colombo. Easy peasy he said. Only silly idiots do it the other way, he said.
We were now in Mirrissa with a ticket from Colombo leaving at 3 pm sharp. Because I was determined not to forfeit 30 NZD, we decided to take the train back to Colombo and start the trip from there. Kind of start again. No big deal. After all, this train journey – along with many others – is said to be one of the most beautiful train rides in Sri Lanka. We might as well experience as much as we can.
“Why are we going on the train in a big massive circle?” Wailed the kids
“Because you get to see more of the country this way. And anyway, a whole day spent on the train means I don’t have to buy you lunch, and this saves me at least $10. Plus, I can put my headphones on and listen to a podcast and ignore you for three hours.”
I wanted to say this, but because I’m sick and tired of answering questions that I don’t know the answer to, I instead just said:
“Oh, Shut up.”
The train journey from Marissa to Colombo. The train trip that is said to be one of the most beautiful train rides in the whole wide world. That’s what we were to be doing today.
Only twenty minutes into the big day of the beautiful train trip and things didn’t get off to a good start.
I made the mistake of deciding to wear my baggy hippy yoga pants for the train journey of a lifetime. I wanted to look the part.
“Why are you wearing those?’ asked Tess “They’re all stretched and look filthy.”
‘Because my little darling, mummy looks like a hippy yoga goddess in these. And those around me are bound to think I have just come from a meditation retreat in Tibet and that you two are not my real children but some helpless bratty orphanage kids that I am taking on my spiritual pilgrimage in order to cleanse you.
I wanted to say this, but instead, I just said: “Shut up and don’t pass personal remarks.”
One tuk-tuk, bus and horrendously hot walk later, we finally huffed and puffed onto the railway station. I was dying to use the toilet. Sorry, bathroom. Only it isn’t is it? A bathroom I mean. So, I’ll say toilet. You’re lucky. What I really want to say is the bog. Shit hole.
Oh, God. What’s happened to me? Since I started this year-long trip around the world, I’m embarrassed to say that I have become somewhat obsessed with toilets.
I talk about them and dream about them.
I spend most of my waking days thinking about what the next toilet will be like. Or telling anyone that will listen to my account of a particularly bad toilet experience. It is turning into an unnatural obsession. If I’m not talking about my fibre intake – or the lack of it, I am quizzing the kids on their’ ‘movements’ and when I go into shops, the first thing I look for is toilet roll or baby wipes.
It’s taking over my life.
My poor, poor husband. Brian.
Not only does he now have to witness as I sniff my clothes before I choose whether or not to wear them, but he also has to endure regular updates on my bowel movements or, in most cases, the lack of them. How romantic.
He looks on, becoming more and more horrified.
The other day I caught him looking at me – not in a – ‘Wow, you’re the mother of my children and the sexiest woman I’ve ever had the honour of travelling the world with’ sort of way, but in the way, one might look at an old woman with no teeth sucking her thumb. Loudly. Just think about that for a moment. There you go. That’s how he looked at me. Imagine that.
Back to my day. If you travel by train in Sri Lanka and happen to find yourself at Weligama station busting for the loo, be warned. Although they may look all pretty and ordinary from the outside, pots of geraniums lining the doorway, and signs written in golden painted letters, they are squat toilets.
Clean squat toilets, I’ll admit, but still squat toilets. Not to worry thinks me. I’m a big grown-up lady with nice strong thighs. Heave Ho Liz. Down you go.
Why the hell did I wear those baggy yoga pants?
It’s not a very pleasant start to the day when you begin to relieve yourself, only to look down into the urine stained hole to see the crutch of your baggy pants dragging in the flow of pee.
What to do? No posh blower hand machines in Sri Lanks to dry my soaked pants. Not even any tissues to mop up some excess moisture. I walked out of the station toilets and onto the platform and tried to remain composed. Wet thighs rubbing together. Becoming chaffed with every step. And stinking.
My baggy pants.
The same baggy pants that I’ve had for three years but still refer to them as new.
Those baggy pants.
The ones that I’d worn not just because they’re comfy, but because really, I secretly believed that I would look like Julia Roberts in them – when she was in Eat Love Pray.
As I walked along the platform of shame towards my family, I looked as though I was sporting a giant soiled nappy. Swinging, sodden between my legs.
Hardly the look I was after.
The Train Journey From Marissa to Colombo. Three hours. And hot. Bloody hot. With pissy pants.
The German woman that sat down beside me on the train to Colombo had an eight-month-old baby with her. I tried to smile. A friendly and slightly desperate smile. I wanted to tell her how much I admired women who travel with young babies. And that I was sorry for the smell of urine. But she didn’t seem to want to talk to me.
I knew she could smell the smell.
She tried to turn the baby away under the pretence that she didn’t want to bother me.
But I knew that she wanted to take her bundle of joy on her very clean German shorts and sing out:
The baby, on the other hand, was very friendly and apparently keen to interact with me. Her head kept pinning backwards like something out of the exorcist. Why do our kids do that? Suddenly become fascinated by smelly weirdos on trains.
She kept gurgling and smiling and, unlike me, she smelt divine. All baby powder and milky skin.
I wanted to grab that little baby and ram my face under her Babygro to remember the smell of clean. But I thought that her Mother might become alarmed and call for the station master, so, instead, I took the tiger balm out of my flight bag – the one I keep for Brians’ stiff back – and had a little sniff.
Apart from the smell of my pants, the train journey from Marissa to Colombo was beautiful. You have the coast on one side and the village life on the other. If you get the chance, do it. Don’t travel any other way. It is stupidly cheap (about $2 a ticket), and it is an experience you will never forget.
Especially, if you are lucky enough to be sitting next to me with my stinky pants.
Two hours into the journey and I found myself staring with envy at the girl opposite me. When I say girl, I mean girl. Young, beautiful travel girl. About twenty-four years old. She was sitting with one leg draped over her boyfriend’s knee while she turned the pages of her book – probably a book on how to look young and beautiful while travelling. Twisting her hair around one finger. She repeatedly tip tip tapped that foot of hers against her partner’s calf – playfully – like a real-life girl, and he wasn’t even getting annoyed.
Not once did I hear him say “Will you please stop doing that you annoying cow. It’s extremely irritating. And have you seen my glasses? I think you’ve lost them.”
No. Instead, he looked down at her – because she was small and petite and he was a big tall, hunky giant and he mouthed “Hello …You’.
“Get a room!” I wanted to yell in their faces like a crazy urine stained hobbo. But instead, I just smiled and covered the yellow stain on my pants with my kindle and shrugged my shoulders as if to say “there’s a funny smell around here isn’t there?”
I looked at her foot and felt a surge of envy rise into my stomach. Smooth brown feet and beautifully painted dark burgundy toes, all topped off by one of those silver jewelled toe rings that would have only had just fit my eyeliner pencil.
I wanted to fall at her toe ringed foot and beg her for pity or at the very least for the number of her pedicurist. But I didn’t.
I looked to my own fat little trotters. Swollen and bloated from carrying a rucksack twice my own body and retaining enough water to bathe an elephant in.
I looked to Brian who was squinting at the screen of the phone trying to work out whether or not we had missed the connecting train to Kandy. And I looked to the kids who were arguing about who was going to sit in the seat next to the drain in the floor of the train. The one that houses the giant cockroach.
We arrived in Colombo with a couple of hours to spare.
This is very unlike us. We are usually the family at the back huffing and puffing like four pug dogs.
Because of our immaculate timing, I must say that I felt proud of my planning, and if I say so myself – I felt a little bit cocky because of it. A renewed sense of confidence washed over me.
Everyone was hungry after the train journey, so I thought I’d be a kind mummy and treat the kids to some lunch.The afternoon sun seemed to be getting hotter and hotter by the minute, and Tessa was starting to complain that her backpack was rubbing her sweaty back.
With the urine stained baggy pants having long since dried, I was once again on top form and announced to the kids that we would be eating where the locals eat.
“Why can’t we just go and get some popcorn off that man on the station like all the other people?” Cried, Tessa,
Because this is the real Sri Lanka, said mummy as she marched off in front, looking like a pregnant tortoise in a running race. With her sun-dried, cracky, weey pants on.
The café that we went to at the railway’s station was packed with an equal amount of Sri Lankans and flies. Always a good sign. When the food came I tried to show off in front of the kids and scoop up the sloppy rice and sparrow leg curry with my fingers. Just like a local.
Sonny sat opposite me.
With the terrified look of a sixteen-year-old boy who is going to die of embarrassment perchance that someone might look at him and then his Mother sitting opposite, eating like an animal, and guess the connection.
“WHY are you doing THAT when they have given you a SPOON to eat with? Oh, God. You are SO embarrassing…”
“Yes”, piped up his thirteen-year-old sidekick sister, “you are so E-x-t-r-a ”
Whatever the hell that means I don’t know. Silly girl. I just ignored them both and carried on shovelling and wiping. All I know is Julia would have eaten with her fingers -so I am.
Sonny tried to hide behind his fake Ray Bans, crossed his arms and sighed. Scratched his mozzie bites furiously, checked his phone – which made him even madder because there wasn’t any signal, and in the end he just read the writing on the back of the water bottle about a thousand times, shaking his head.
‘Hush now my love’. I wanted to say, ‘Mummy’s going native, that’s all. Everything will be fine if you just both relax’. I wanted to say this. But I had a mouth full of rice and bones, so I just spat and spluttered: “Shut up and turn that bloody phone off at the dinner table”.
After three attempts and threats from the kids to go and wait outside, I gave up. I’ll admit. It was a rather revolting spectacle. It was like watching someone in a nursing home eating soup with their fingers. Not pretty.
It’s my birthday in a couple of weeks and while I was on Colombo station wandering up and down the platform trying to look relaxed and not bloated from too much curry, I came across my perfect gift.
At the far end of Colombo station on platform two, sits a little old lady in a green kiosk. The kiosk looks very much like a small witches coven. She is surrounded by all things natural and herbal – the things that women love but that make men twitchy and nervous.
The woman looked a bit like I imagine myself looking by the end of this trip. There she was, crouched inside, looking out from a little square opening, and behind her, just above the witches special brew tea urn (which incidentally was a delicious green tea concoction and only 20 rupees!) was the thing that I’d been looking for all my life. My ideal travel present.
My Ideal Birthday Present. I used to ask for Chanel but now I’ll take the Sweat and Stench potion, please.
“Body Wash,” it said, in big letters
‘Drives away excessive sweat and stench!’
That’ll do nicely I thought. I swear, I started to get excited.
I used to long for Chanel Mademoiselle for my birthday. But now I just wanted that stench lotion.
Brian couldn’t quite believe that I was serious about buying some. But believe me, if I could have bought a year’s supply I would have.
Unfortunately, the train for Kandy pulled into the station five minutes early and so I didn’t get chance to buy it.
I could see the two bright red faces of the kids at the end of the platform as they panicked and tried to haul our rucksacks, as well as their own, onto their poor teenage sunburned shoulders. I felt a pang of guilt as I witnessed Sonny’s trainers – that were tied to the back of his pack -swinging to and fro, continuously smacking him in the face as he tried to run.
You see it was me who had told him to tie them onto his pack like that.
I told him that that’s what all the cool travellers do.
And if there’s one thing that Mummy knows about, it’s how to be cool.
Ask my mate Julia Roberts. She’ll tell you.
“what would you do if your Mum p*ssed her pants when she was taking the train from Marissa to Colombo??”
SOME OF THE THINGS WE TRAVEL WITH:
An iPhone 7+ for photos.
Tiger Balm for when everyone gets achy (or when Liz gets smelly)
Silk Sleeping bag Liner for hot nights and when we go Couchsurfing.
Couchsurfing is not for everyone. But it should be. If you are travelling the world and want to experience some local culture, then there is no better way to do it than to couchsurf. But is it safe and can you go Couchsurfing with kids? Or are you all going to end up in some weirdos basement, chained to the walls with only a doll in a clown suit for company?
Ok. I’m teasing.
So far, we have been Couchsurfing as a family in America and in Sri Lanka. As we travel the world in the next twelve months, we plan to couch surf you in every country that we visit.
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What is Couchsurfing? A Short Review.
Couchsurfing is an organisation in which you can choose to be a ‘host’ a ‘surfer’ or both. I don’t know why it’s called surfing. Probably because surfers are cool. That’s why I’m doing it. I’m a cool mummy. With no money and no friends.
The hosts are usually people who have travelled themselves extensively and after having surfed with other people are now in a position to repay the favour and host other travellers with a free bed in their home – or maybe a couch.
The surfers (like us) are travellers who are looking to meet locals, get an inside look at what its like to live in the chosen place. And to not have to pay for expensive hotels.
You don’t pay to couch surf. It is free. That being said, a small gift is etiquette and is always appreciated. A bottle of wine or, if the host doesn’t drink (is there such a person??) a jar of coffee and some washing powder. Perhaps even a takeaway meal. If you surf at my house I’ll take a bottle of Merlot, please.
Couchsurfers have a profile (usually pretty extensive hopefully) in which they describe themselves, their interests, where they have travelled and what sort of person they are willing to host. (Families, couples only, solo female travellers etc.). Don’t bother applying to a family if it states on a hosts profile that they are looking for single twenty-somethings to have a party with.
Couchsurfing hosts often put images of their homes onto their profile – this takes the shock out of what you are turning up to. Not always though. Our Sri Lanka couchsurfing host didn’t post any images. I’m glad they didn’t otherwise I wouldn’t have gone and would have missed out on a memorable experience.
Where we Have Been Couchsurfing With Our Kids:
Charleston in America was our first couchsurf. It was very relaxed; we had our own room and (almost) an ensuite bathroom. It was weird in the sense that the owner was never there. She left the key in a safe box outside, and we simply let ourselves in. How trustworthy is that? The lady was a devout Christian who gave me the chance to talk to the kids about religion. Back in New Zealand, we homeschool, so that was the religious education lesson ticked.
We have also been Couchsurfing with the kids in Washington Dc. The lady was a government lobbyist. The night we arrived, she was having a party with some friends in celebration of her latest victory over a bill she had put into government. She invited us all to eat with her and her friends which were lovely. The conversation at the dinner table was fascinating, to say the least, and needless to say, the homeschooling lesson in world politics was most definitely ticked that night.
We had our own room, but the kids were in the basement. I hadn’t told them my fear of the doll in a clown suit, so they trailed on down there, innocent and unknowingly.
It was a warm, carpeted basement but all the same, it was a basement with only one single bed, the washing machine and the smelly cat litter tray.
One of them had to go on the floor in the sleeping bag. My son did the honours, but he wasn’t happy and complained about a stiff neck and back for the next week. I told him that the money we had saved on accommodation in pricey Washington Dc would pay for him and his sister to go and eat burgers and fries for lunch. This softened the blow somewhat. I advise you to bribe your kids when Couchsurfing. It works a treat.
Being in the suburbs of Washington DC meant that we had to catch public transport. Something that we might otherwise had not done were we in a hotel in the middle of the city. Our host walked us to the train station and even gave us three unused metro tickets. As I said, this is the beauty of Couchsurfing. You get to live like a local.
We have also experienced Couchsurfing in Matara, Sri Lanka with the kids. Not a very comfortable stay but one that none of us will ever forget.
A Quick Review of Breakfast, Dinner and Wifi When You CouchSurf.
When you couchsurf do not expect people to arrange breakfast for you. It is not a hotel.
Where we can, we always take our own cereals and tea bags with us. We used the kitchens in all but one of our Couchsurfing places. Of course, with the permission of the hosts first. Remember to pull your weight when you couchsurf. We always wash not just our own dishes but the hosts’ as well.This is a job that the kids are always given. It makes them feel part of the whole Couchsurfing experience. Honest.
Unless the host asks you to stay for dinner, take it that you will be making your own plans.You will probably be invited to use the kitchen to cook for yourselves. We were, but with a family of four I felt this was just too intrusive, so we ate out. But we did offer to prepare a meal for our host in Washington on one of the nights. This is always appreciated and an excellent way of saying thank you.
We were given the wifi code in just one of the properties we stayed at. We didn’t ask for it; I felt that would have been rude, our host offered it to us. She probably didn’t realise that I was travelling with two wifi junkies. I dread to think what her bill would have been for December.
So. Just to be clear.
A RUNDOWN OF WHAT COUCHSURFING WITH KIDS IS:
Exciting. Perhaps my kids wouldn’t agree with me on this. They prefer hotels in all honesty, but I like the feeling of apprehension you get just before you get to the couchsurfers house. I would call it exciting, my kids would call it terror.
But yes, sometimes scarey. I won’t lie. When the tuk-tuk driver pulled up to our Couchsurfing house in Sri Lanka, I thought I was going to enter into that building never to return. It was only because a) I didn’t want to make myself look like a baby in front of the kids – they already think I’m a scaredy cat. b) I’m too mean to book a hotel when we had planned on a cheap night c) I had Brian, my husband with me and d) I knew we had travel insurance! If anything was to happen to us at least I could say we had excellent cover. (We always use World Nomads. They make me feel pretty safe when I travel with my kids). I don’t mind skimping on hotel rooms but I will only ever get the best insurance.
Couchsurfing is a way to meet local people. In the case of Sri Lanka, their families, the Aunty, the old man next door and the tuk-tuk driver who – as far as I could make out – slept in the carpark.
And to gain inside information on the place that you are visiting and to be given valuable tips that you would not otherwise read in a guidebook.
It is a way to step into some else’s life for a couple of nights. In some cases a life totally opposite to that of your own, but a wonderful opportunity to see a different perspective on life.
And of course, Couchsurfing is an economical way to visit somewhere you’ve always wanted to see.
AND WHAT COUCH SURFING WITH KIDS ISN’T:
Easy. You have to make an effort. After a long day on the road when you are feeling pretty knackered, and all you want to do is crash on the bed and watch some youtube junk, you cant. You have to go and socialise. For adults this might not be too bad, at least there may be some alcohol involved, but for teenagers, it can be tough. My kids can manage about forty minutes, but then I can see them fading.
They also haven’t quite learned the art of speaking in whispers. I have had to mouth “SHUT UP” many times when I have caught them telling each other how the blankets smell funny – all the time with the host standing just behind the door.
A free hotel. You will be expected to (and I hope would want to) pull your weight. The host has been gracious enough to put you up, at least wash the dishes and wipe around the bathroom. If you can’t see yourself doing this perhaps think about booking a cheap hotel instead. If you happen to be in Sri Lanka then I can recommend a few that were not only cheap but were approved of by my teenagers so they must be good. We stayed at The Little Mount Guest HOuse after we had been couch surfing and it felt like the Hilton. Check it out here.
If YOU CHOOSE TO GO COUCHSURFING WITH KIDS BE PREPARED FOR THE FOLLOWING:
That you may have to sleep on the floor. It’s free. Just get on with it. (says she who made her Son kip on the floor while she slept on the air sprung mattress).
The sheets may be a bit iffy. We always travel with our silk sleeping bag liners for this very reason. We used them in two of the places that we stayed in. They are brilliant and have been a Godsend when not just Couchsurfing but in a couple of dodgy hotels too.
Same goes for the pillow. We have our own travel pillows. They are soft and fleecy and pack down pretty small. There is something not very nice about sleeping on someone else’s pillow unless you know its clean. The travel pillow is the closest thing we have to our luxurious memory foam pillow at home.
Socialising. Not always, as I said, one of our hosts was never there for the whole of the three-day couchsurf, but the others were all keen and ready to chat. Hosts are Couchsurfing because they want to meet travellers and their kids and find out about them.
You’ll be given lots of useful information. Tips on cheap restaurants, the best time to visit the Whitehouse and how to get a cheap whale watching cruise were just some of the many invaluable pointers that we received.
And Now For A Slightly Different Couch Surfing Review. CouchSurfing With Kids in Sri Lanka…
Had I known what we were going to I would probably have backed out. I’m glad we didn’t though. The host was a really nice guy. Although, the whole experience was slightly unnerving.
Firstly, we were asked to pay a “donation’ for our stay. In return, we were told that the hosts’ wife would be cooking us three meals. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Whether we wanted it or not. Like I said though, we were keen to meet a local who would give us inside information on the place. This isn’t usual Couchsurfing practice but I was happy to go along with it. He was only charging us $10 per person which still works out pretty cheap for a nights accommodation and all meals.
Secondly, it appeared that we were to have the only bedroom in the house and the family were to sleep on the floor in a room next door. As you can imagine, I wasn’t at all comfortable with this arrangement. Partly because the sheets were still warm from where all five of them had just climbed out of bed, and partly because I couldn’t stand the fact that I was making a family sleep on a concrete floor.
But the host was adamant. He seemed momentary insulted when I tried to insist that he, his wife and his children should not give up their room for us, so I smiled uncomfortably and told the kids through gritted teeth to bring the backpacks inside.This was going to be a story for the future Grandchildren I assured them.
It was awful.
There was just one large room with a single bare lightbulb, a TV in the corner (playing those annoying, screeching pop idol programmes that I talked about in my last Sri Lanka diary post) and a plastic table with some outside chairs.
The kitchen was, well, I didn’t go deep into the kitchen – I couldn’t – and wouldn’t. Not if we were to have three meals prepared for us out of it. Some things are best left unseen.
And the bathroom. The bathroom was a toilet, a bucket and a hose. A modern three piece bathroom set. All encased in three tumbling concrete walls. One side open to the jungle and everything missing a roof.
It wasn’t the Couchsurfing experience my kids had quite envisaged. Or that they had become accustomed to. This made the floor in the basement look like The Ritz. But, hats off to them, after I nearly stapled their lips together so that the host couldn’t hear them crying: “There are lizards under the bed” they floated through it and got stuck in.
And the saving grace was that the host was lovely. As is the case of most Couchsurfing hosts. He was a Buddhist and spent the entire evening educating us all on his religion. That experience in itself was worth the pain of almost giving myself cystitis, caused by the sheer determination of not wanting to use the bucket.
His children were delightful and were intrigued by us. Touching our clothes and laughing when we sang nursery rhymes to them. Sonny did card tricks for them all. That was a real hit. Children are a universal icebreaker. I’m so glad they were there. If you plan on Couchsurfing with kids, try to find hosts who also have a family. It makes it all the easier, especially where language barriers are a problem. When the conversation dries up, you can always ask how far their kids can count up to in English. That’s sure to be a winner.
Couchsurfing with kids is not just fun but extremely rewarding. Try to find a host that also has a family as we did in Sri Lanka.
We had dinner, we slept (all in the same bed. Don’t ask), and we awoke. All unscathed by the smell of cat pee burning our nostrils and the walls that were alive with lizards and ants.
As I told the kids, “This is the real Sri Lanka. This is why we couch surf”
And as they said to me…
I won’t tell you what they said to me. Message me and I’ll tell you privately.
Let’s just say it was an experience. For all of us. And it will be for you too should you decide to try Couchsurfing with your kids.
Leave me a comment below and tell me if you have tried Couchsurfing or are thinking of it. I’d be interested to hear your experiences!
I‘m finding it difficult two write a big grown-up Sri Lanka travel blog. I’m struggling with remaining positive and upbeat every day while travelling the world with my family. So, instead, today you are going to get my Bog Travel Diary. Part 2. You can read #1 here. I warn you though if you’re looking for a useful travel blog you may be disappointed. The Bog Diary is a look into what bad days look like as well as good ones. We are currently in Sri Lanka. If you want to read my positive post on Sri Lanka you can find it here. Otherwise, read on and take a look into the life of a woman who convinced her family to leave beautiful New Zealand and to go around the world for a year.
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The Bog Diary. Sri Lanka Travel Blog. Same same but different.
I’ve got to write this down or otherwise, I might explode or even worse go down into a pit of negativity and find myself unable to return. If I write it all down without stopping it’s my way of getting it off my chest. It does work.
They say that you have to have a bad day to appreciate the good days, don’t they? Every cloud and all that. Well, I’ll be waiting with open arms today ’cause yesterday left me feeling like shit. It was one of those days that come 9 pm I was struggling to keep from breaking down and blubbing in front of the kids.
We spent the whole day at the guest house because we were trying to plan for our upcoming trip to India. As I said before, you imagine that you will be able just to rock on up and pick a hotel/flight/train/bus. But in reality, when you get there, more often than not, all of the above are fully booked, or else you find yourself hanging on for dear life out of a bus doorway. Not good with two kids in tow. (actually, why the hell am I using them as an excuse?) But anyway, I am.
Booking an itinerary with hotels and trains with connecting buses is no mean feat. I do use all of the usual search engines which makes it easier but still it makes me want to smash the computer screen into pieces with a bottle of warm water.
A whole day sat at the guest house.
First, you have to picture the guest house.
I don’t want you thinking that this is a homely B&B on a Cliffside in Cornwall, England. With couches and telly and stuff. The guest house. I’m not going to say anything horrible about this place because the owners are beyond helpful. But. After yesterday I’ve had enough. Ten days in the same guest house and its time to say bye-byes.
The guest house.
You cant go into the room in the day because:
a) its like walking into a sauna.
b) It’s dark because there is a piece of material up at the window and its stapled on so there’s no way of taking it down, and
c) It’s like a sauna.
And anyway, the kids are usually always in there sprawled all over the bed ’cause they don’t need much light to play the one game they’ve got on the phone. The one that doesn’t require any internet. Did I mention that wifi doesn’t happen much in Sri Lanka either?
And, I’m glad about that because now at least the kids spend their days either talking, arguing, playing cards, winding me up or reading their kindle. Or arguing. But I’m not glad about that because I’m getting sick to death of having to go and buy mobile data so that I can check an email.
Because of the room situation, I have to sit and do my work on guest house patio. Yes. A square concrete table with four chairs. Thankfully it’s in the jungle, so its nice and cool but I swear, if that manky tom cat walks past me again and sprays up the steps, I will kick its flea-bitten backside from here to New Zealand. I know it hates me and is waiting for me to look away so it can squirt its stinky piss all over my only- thing-that’s-clean. My precious computer bag.
So, we spent the whole day at the table.
The kind guest house lady brought some juice out. Which was very, very kind. Be grateful Liz you moaning cow.
But I’m just saying because I can. The Juice.
Here it is. Tree Apple Juice. When I was a kid my Mum would tell me that if something looked horrible it was good for you. It’s true people.
Tree apple juice.
Why did I ever worry about being constipated in Sri Lanka? Tree apple juice. Its given to us every day. Every. Single. Day. Brought out on the tray while the owners stand over us nodding and smiling until it’s all gone. Every last drop.
It’s the best laxative on earth.
Which is a pain because yesterday the water stopped working.
“Finished! No water!”. Laugh, laugh. Smile, smile.
How bloody hilarious.
“You use our bathroom”. Oh great. Just what you want to do when you’ve recently had your daily dose of Wood Apple juice. Bearing in mind their bathroom is a concrete bunker with no roof and a hose over the toilet for the shower. And its attached to their kitchen.
“No water!” Smile even bigger.
Yes. I heard you the first time. Bloody hell. What is this? I half expected Jeremy Beedle to jump out and scream in my face ‘You’ve been framed!’
I sat at the concrete table becoming more and more frustrated with the fact that whenever I managed to find somewhere that resembled semi-decent to stay in India, by the time the super slow internet had loaded the page I am met with:
‘We do not have your dates! ‘
Don’t put a bloody exclamation mark after a sentence that is going to wind me up anyway. It’s kind of rubbing salt into the wounds.
‘Sorry, You just missed it. These dates are already booked!’
No water! Water gone! Smile smile.
Keep at it, Liz. You need to book your India trip.
I told myself that I would just keep plugging away at it until 2 pm and then we would head off down to the beach and get a green tea.
Here it is. The table. I spent 9 hours around this yesterday trying and failing to book anything descent in India
2 pm came and went.
Never mind I thought, at least I have tonights meal to look forward to. I started to plan that we would go to the over our budget Pizza place. Sod the expense I thought. You can get beer there, and the tomato and mozzarella salad is lovely. Keep going Liz; then you can get changed (not showered cause ‘no water’ Smile smile) and head into the town.
Out comes the man of the guest house. Did I mention to you that he is the local police sergeant? Well, he is. And he is a bit scary actually. It’s good in one way staying with a police officer, the tuk-tuk drivers never rip you off, and he did get us a bunch of cheap sarongs. But, he is a man of the law and what he says seems to be written in stone.
It was 5 pm. I was getting ready to make merry and skip into town.
Out he comes.
“You eat here tonight. My wife. She cooky for you.”
“No, No, honestly that’s a lovely offer, but really, we are fine!”
Silly girl Liz. You are 47, not 16. Just say no. Stop smiling Liz. He thinks you want to stay. Stop beaming and just say No.
“Well, ok. But only you’re sure”.
“Yes, yes. You eat here”. Gone.
Back through the curtain and into the abyss that houses the kitchen the bathroom and the lounge. I know it’s the lounge because when you come home from a night out and look through the window, you see sergeant sprawled out on his leather chair – in his orange sarong. Watching the pop idol game show that he and the rest of Sri Lanka seem to love so much. Laughing, laughing, laughing.
So then. Not only have I now spent the whole of this beautiful day sat around a concrete table, swatting flies, swearing at the stupid internet and growing to hate the thought of visiting the country that is India, but I am also now destined to spend the whole evening here too.
Out comes more Wood Apple Juice. Just to keep things flowing.
“Juice good” Smile, smile. Stands and watches like Annie Wilkes from Misery until its all gone.
‘Yes, you’re right! Juice is good.’ I want to say. ‘Especially if you have a nice shiny toilet and plenty of soft Andrex’.
India is apparently not the cheap bargain budget destination that I believed it to be.
“Why are we even going?” Wail the kids.
We are going so that mummy can pretend she is Gandhi’s daughter and wonder the streets in flowing sarongs and wooden bangles. All the while blessing the rain and the trees and the sunsets.
This is what I want to say, but instead, I just started to cry and mutter about the way nobody appreciates what I do for them. I go to the toilet to get some toilet tissue, but then I remember there is only a bum wash shower, so I cry some more instead and wipe my nose on my black dress. It’s dirty anyway.
Today, I don’t want to go to India. Tomorrow I’ll be fine – but today? I want to go back to my home country, New Zealand.
Did I tell you that I have lost my only tiny teeny weeny bit of perfume that I was carrying? It’s gone. Along with the floss and Brians toothbrush head. All three of which can not be replaced in Sri Lanka apparently. There’s a bit of useful information for the Sri Lanka travel blog. Buy plenty of bloody floss.
I swear I’ve grown fur on my teeth.
And I stink.
I’ve even given to letting Tessa share my clothes. The poor girl had a meltdown the other day sobbing that she was sick of wearing the same dirty shorts and teeshirt. The trouble is, while she looks gorgeous in my vests and shruggy cardigan, I resemble Vikki Pollard from Little Britain.
So now my wardrobe – of three teeshirts, two pairs of baggy pants, a sarong, and a shruggy cardigan, has been slashed in half.
I’ll just wear this filthy black dress again then shall I? The one covered in snot.
And because our guest house owner is a police sergeant and a Buddhist and a control freak, he vehemently disagrees with alcohol.
The invitation to stay for dinner sees my only chance of a cold Tiger beer go floating off down the paddy fields.
Dinner was served at 8 pm, and yes, it was delicious, as always. I’m sorry I’m moaning. I don’t want to sound like an ungrateful whinging Brit, but it was a shit day, so someones going to hear about it. What else is a travel blog for?
“Dinner good!” Smile smile, nod nod.
This, I feel, is a statement, not a question.
Yes. Dinner was good.
Now please. Let me out of this guest house to go and scavenge the town for a drop of alcohol. And some space. And look for fireflies. Oh, and can I leave these two kids here with you while I go and get pissed?
This is what I wanted to say, but instead, I just smiled and said:
“Delicious, thank you!”
I was becoming weaker. More and more fragile and wobbly. On the verge of hysterical crying. I think the Sri Lankan sun is playing havoc with my hormone tablets.
The bright single bare bulb that dangles over the concrete table was not being very kind to my tear filling eyes. Is there anything worse than when you want to start blubbing, and you sit, lip quivering, willing the tears back, only to hear both your kids turn round and say:
‘Whats wrong? Why are your eyes all red”?
Waaahhhhh!!! Sniff sniff, snot, snot spit, spit. No tissues. Wipe, wipe. Thank you dress.
My only sanctuary came when we went for that walk after dinner.
The kids came too. Of course, they did. Why would they want to stay at the guest house table only to wait for the curtain to fling open and out strides sergeant, ready to grill them about what sport they do back in New Zealand? ( I swear, it’s obviously a worldwide question targeted at homeschoolers)
“Karate? Black belt. Good!” Smile smile. Slap slap on Sonny’s sunburned shoulders.
The zipper broke on my silk sleeping bag liner last night. My one piece of nighttime luxury and its buggered. Great. Now I must lie there with my back and bum constantly open to my long-suffering Brian and the hungry mozzies. Either that or fork out on a new one. This is the one I want incase you want to buy it for me and ship it over. The Friendly Swede Travel and Camping Sheet Sleeping Bag Liner (Cobalt)
I don’t want to go to India. I tried to read some travel blogs on the place to inspire me, but I swear, every single one said about how hard and impoverished it is, and how difficult it is to travel with children.
Today is our last day at Mirrissa. Tomorrow we are taking the train to the tea plantations. I wish we were going to a vineyard. I need wine.
You have to have bad days to appreciate the good days, don’t you?
Every cloud has a silver lining.
Maybe today the plumber will come and fix the water.
Maybe that wood apple tree will burn down to the ground. Never to produce fruit again.
I’m joking. A bit.
See, I’ve made myself laugh. Clever girl.
I feel much better for writing this all down and sharing it with you. I’m sorry if its a load of nonsense. I’m trying to remain positive, I really am. But I find it challenging when days like yesterday happen.
And so, onwards and upwards with our trip. Only seven more days and we will be in a country where the men reportedly shit out of the open train doorways.
Maybe they’ve had too much Wood Apple Juice.
Stay with me people. Let me know you are out there.
Forever the moaning Brit,
Thank you for listening to my whining. Its got to be done. It’s the law. I’m from Britain.
I’m Liz and this is my family!
Previously in the Deacle drama… Life was getting too busy and although Liz was homeschooling and we had a good wage coming in from Brian’s business we were longing for an adventure. Fast forward to 2017. In November this year we set off to travel the world together.Go to our start here page to see how we are now embracing change, living differently and travelling the world on as little as possible!