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“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  H. Jackson Brown Jnr

INTERESTS

Love from a jungle paradise

2

The sounds of the jungle at night are plentiful. A cacophony of humming, cheeping, buzzing, croaking, calling and crying, occasionally interpreted by the urgent rustling of rapidly trampled bush as wild boar tear around the huts. 

There is nothing for it other than complete submission to the unfamiliar soundtrack as I lay cocooned under my mosquito net in my open-sided hut. 

The hut is made of mud and poles of thick, yellow bamboo and the roof, of dried palm leaves carefully woven to keep out tsunamis and gentle summer showers alike. The floor has patches of bright golden powder that I discovered is turmeric to keep away the many ants - especially the fire ants with their painful bite. 

Some of the group have been bitten by these huge insects and the victims’ shrieks give testimony to how painful they can be. I am on the look out especially when hiking up to the rocks that overlook the village - a beautiful place to take in the sunrises and sunsets. 

 

The village has almost 50 inhabitants who farm the land by growing food for themselves, the guests and to trade. Crops include red rice, herbs and spices, all manner of vegetables, beans and fruits - all of which are used to serve wonderfully fragrant meals to us 18 or so privileged guests. 

There really is no electricity at all and the most important piece of equipment to have is a torch as night falls early and quickly and there are only a few oil lamps lighting the pathways. 

Bathroom blocks are set away from huts and visits during the night entail a walk in the darkness with only a head torch or oil lamp knowing that monkeys and snakes are likely watching. 

 

Showers are cold and beguilingly primitive other than during Ayurvedic treatments at the clinic where the hot showers consist of an open-topped stone hut, a copper bucket of water from a giant wood-fired cauldron, a coconut scoop and a stone to sit on. 

 

I am on a ten day Ayurvedic program and today was day three. 

Each day is a visit to the doctor who takes my pulse and send me off of to various massages and treatments. He says I need more fire. 

I argue I am already pretty feisty but he says I am currently lacking energy and resources are depleted. 

Of course, he is right. 

 

Day 1 was a 1.5hr massage with strong smelling dark sesame oil that began with some strange, but wonderful banging on the top of my head. 

I was then put in a wooden bath of herbs and petals in a shack where monkeys watched curiously from the wall. Despite their presence it was deeply grounding to be bathing in the warm, open-air watching two tall palm trees swaying in the late afternoon breeze against an unsettled, slightly threatening sky. 

The second day I had another, slightly firmer massage followed my 15 minutes locked in a dark wood- fired sauna hut. I fell immediately asleep in the heat and darkness.

Today after my massage I was slathered in a foul-smelling poultice and placed into a coffin-like basket to be steamed. It was slightly unnerving to begin with but as I relaxed the steam soothed me once again into sleep. Another warm “shower” and a visit to the doctor who nodded reassuringly and wrote notes in perfect script against my name in a small exercise book and smilingly announced that,  tomorrow I would have a bottle of oil poured on my third eye and my head wrapped in a turban which must stay in place for two days. 

We are going on an excursion to a temple tomorrow so I will look a strange sight indeed!  

I will also take “good medicine”.

 

We rise every day at 5.30am if we wish to meditate on the sunrise (which I have been doing) or 6.45am to go to yoga. The morning class is tough, vigorous and energising and we are constantly challenged by a deeply inspiring instructor from Chicago called Wade. It is certainly not for beginners! 

 

My treatments are usually after lunch, which is a communal affair between 12.30 and 1.30 and offers similar dishes to dinner. Fragrant curries, dhal, various vegetables that I have never before tasted, red rice, fruit and buffalo yoghurt which is more like a cured cheese and served with syrup from a cactus. We drink coconut water fresh from the coconuts, water from the stream and a variety of daily juices and lime with salt. 

The kitchen is a fascinating place where food is cooked in iron pots over wood fires. There is a little stone seat where the curious can sit and watch the daily preparation. To watch the cooks turn bright coloured vegetables, picked that day, into glorious feast of goodness is a sight to behold and I can not resist peeping in each time I visit the clinic next door. 

 

The tailor visits each afternoon and has made me some yoga pants and a dress which took him only a few hours. 

The monkeys are very naughty indeed and always trying to steal our bananas. I don’t know why they don’t climb the trees and get their own! They must enjoy the chase. 

After swimming in the lake this morning I came across a whole group of them and I got up pretty close. 

 

My room mate is the utterly glorious Alena who is originally from Lithuania but who now lives in Chicago. If I could have chosen anyone from the group to share a space with it would have been her but we were put  together by chance (or magic!) and will be firm friends for life. We laugh so much and hang out on the swing beds overlooking the lake. She is brave and strong and lived under terrible persecution under communism and fled to America alone and with a very young child. Her English is heavily and beautifully accented and she has me enthralled with her stories and we read poetry to each other before we sleep. 

We are both reading the same books!

She hasn’t asked me the dreaded question and I hope she does not. It matters to me that people know me for me and not for what has happened to me. 

 

I feel very free in the simplicity of this extraordinary village and my body, mind and spirit are moving in harmony. 

The beautiful and deep connection to the earth is grounding and strengthening me and I am grateful and humbled to be here. 

 

Being here is a stark reminder of how little we really need and the manager tells me they even the villagers here are trying to encourage others in neighbouring villages to convert to this wonderfully simpler life of self-sufficiently. The buffalo are used only for milk and lovingly tended and appreciated, there is no meat and food is plant-based. The land is lovingly tended and we are asked not to tip as tipping brings about discontent and completion which is unnecessary in a place where everyone is equal, 

But like all of us, greed and “progress” come our way and we are complicated by the things we desire and the more we have the more we seem want. The airport is not full of the luxury duty free good we are used to at our western airports. Here there are washing machines, kitchen appliances and the like. It seems charming but reminds me of where our own consumerism began. It is sad in many ways. 

Christmas has become a crazy mix of buying stuff and consuming rich, unnecessary food and drink and being here in such simplicity magnifies the difference. I wonder if my own Western desires could be quelled enough for me to live a long time here in Ulpotha. 

Perhaps I am too far gone. .  . 

 

I would like to write more but a huge insect has become attracted by the light from my phone and is dive-bombing my mosquito net! 

Blessing and love. ❤️

 
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