When you stay in a hostel you go for dinner with anyone and everyone. It’s a chance to swap stories, have some laughs and acquire info about which places to visit and which ones to avoid. It also beats sitting on your own like a lemon, except for those days when you really want a bit of peace and quiet. So it goes without saying that you should be free to choose when you go to dinner, where, and who with. Or not. Not if you are hounded by the Dinner-Going Terminator. Remember him? He cropped up in my earlier piece ‘Snow White and the multiple roommates’.
My objective whilst in Sri Lanka was to learn vital field skills and to, hopefully, contribute to the conservation of fishing cats. I didn’t fly for over 12 hours, enduring a screaming spawn of Satan, just on a jolly. I hadn’t planned on any travelling around the island either, which was a shame, but my budget was tight and gallivanting off on your own is expensive, even out here. That’s not to mention the massively differential tariffs in force.If you’re a foreigner you get charged over 10 times as much as the locals, and my blinding un-tannable skin prevented me from even attempting to blend in. Continue reading
My Facebook feed is constantly filled with wildlife updates, usually small cat and vulture related (big surprise?). So some time ago, when I saw a post about a cat conference with a rusty spotted cat as the cover animal –I thought ‘Oooo small cat that’s exciting’. I didn’t look too closely, as it was bound to be in some far-flung country that I wouldn’t be able to afford to get to, so I didn’t think any more about it.
One of the main things I’ve always found incredibly exciting about wildlife conservation is the collaring of animals. Firstly, it is the chance to see your study animal up close, which for many people is a rare thing, and secondly, it is a massive insight into where the sneaky gits go. I couldn’t believe my luck when Anya informed me she had another GPS collar and that we would be setting some trap cages in order to catch and collar a cat. Eeeeeeiiiiii! I had to rein in my excitement, I knew it wouldn’t be as easy as ‘here kitty, kitty!’
Wildlife conservation is a funny thing. People are all for protecting animals and saving the planet but rarely think past the cute fuzzy emblem. As the human population continues growing rapidly and parasitizing the world, more and more habitats are being destroyed leaving innumerable species under threat (I know! Quite a dark beginning for one of my posts, but it gets happier –I promise). Continue reading
Zoooooooom! Brrrrrrrrup! Beep beep beep! Brrrrrrup! Honk honk! Oh, the constant noise surrounding this damn hostel!! It gets a tad quieter after 11pm but it starts up again just before 6am, usually initiated by the insanity-inducing bread van. Imagine a chubby little brightly coloured tuk with windows filled with bready goodness. Cute, right? Wrong! Oh, so very wrong! In Sri Lanka everyone is competing to be heard, from the constantly screaming horns of the vehicles to the walking candyfloss man who rings a bell and shouts (just like the good old days during the plague). Continue reading
We had another study site to visit called Biyagama and I was told it was quite a tuk-tuk drive away, which was fine by me as I love them, I’d bring one home if I could. I suppose they reflect my nature, excitable and not all together there. Our tuk-tuk driver/ field assistant, Maduranga, finds my obsession with them highly amusing, especially when I become really animated if we drive past a tuk sales lot. I can’t help it, they’re adorable and they come flat-packed! It’s like an Ikea car!
Visiting another country is all about immersing yourself in the culture and, for a greed monster like me, that means the chance to scoff loads of new tasty food. My philosophy for discovering new dishes basically follows 1 rule, if you can’t pronounce it or have no idea what it is –then eat it! This has worked really well for me so far. Luckily for me I also have insider knowledge. Anya, my Sri Lankan friend and field work buddy, is also a food beast so when it comes round to lunch she knows just where to go. I seem to have the best of both worlds, guaranteed great food for lunch and I also get to explore places for myself when it comes to dinner time.
After finishing our urban habitat surveys we moved on to our second site, located outside central Colombo at some unpronounceable (Thalawathugoda) reclaimed wetland. Earlier in the year Anya had captured and collared a fishing cat that, due to his unfortunate habit of stealing chickens, had to be relocated and this was the area that was chosen:
Living in a hostel is 60% great and 40% a pain in the arse. The positives are that you learn all the hostel quirks to your advantage. For example:
– Which shower is the largest (by about 5cm but as Tesco love saying, ‘every little helps’) Continue reading
Anyone that’s met me knows how much I love food. There is very little I will not try, I’ve eaten bugs before now but I draw the line at testicles and eyeballs. Luckily, I seem to have quite a strong stomach which has –in the past– prevailed over some suspect food while others have been left glued to the loo. I do, however, have a slightly unusual reaction to spicy food that both my friends and family find hilarious – I hiccup. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a cutesy little hiccup, it’s a beastly depths-of-your-body-rocking mouth explosion. It’s embarrassing; onlookers think I’m having some kind of fit. It takes ages to get rid of them and they hurt. I do usually get warning if it’s about to happen. I feel this strange sensation at the back of my throat and I have learnt that I should drink some water or take a few mouthfuls of something bland like rice or yoghurt. My problem is I really love food and don’t have a lot of self-control when it comes to food. I always think ‘Oh, just one more mouthful, I can get away with it’ then BAM!: Dying whale in the room.
I decided I’d test my map reading, memory and place-finding skills today (I know it’s quite a feat for someone as easily distracted as me). I looked at my dinky map of Colombo and saw an expanse of green called Viharamahadevi Park. It didn’t look too far and I wanted to fill my day rather than getting there quicker than a squirrel fart via tuk-tuk.
WORST IDEA EVER!!
My first day of actual real field work had arrived and I was nervous as hell. I wasn’t worried about bugs, mud, snakes, or even the heat (well, not too much), it was more a nervousness that I would be of no use what so ever. I’d worked my arse off during 4 years of uni and left with a good degree and a Master’s. Unfortunately both were taught theory courses so, with the exception of a month’s field work in South Africa, I felt I had no practical field experience. I was excited about learning a whole new set of skills but desperately didn’t want to be dead weight. Continue reading
The rules of the road in Sri Lanka are interesting. I am, of course, assuming there are rules –they just seem to be followed very loosely. The direction of travel is more or less adhered to, though a wild U-turn into busy on coming traffic is the norm. Maybe Sri Lankans are just masters of time management. After all, why barge along the road a few 100 meters and go all the way round the block when you can pull a sharp turn and stamp a look of horror across a tourist’s face? Lanes are an extension of their version of queuing: see a gap and zoom-zoom-zoom! Continue reading
After months of planning and the sending of (probably) 100s of emails my year of exploring has finally begun!
My first flight was with Oman Air from Heathrow to Muscat. The other passengers and I eagerly scurried aboard the plane like rats fleeing a sinking ship, where we were rewarded with the sight of a mysterious thing called ‘leg room’. Yes, actual leg room for normal-sized humans in the economy seats! Continue reading