Camping in the Hill Country of Sri Lanka
I LOVE camping. My father was a very serious backpacker for many decades – I remember as a kid him going on 2 week, 100-mile expeditions in big hiking boots and the shortest of shorts and coming back tan and strong, and with no toenails – and he was already into his 40’s at this point. I think he only ever quit because as they aged, none of his friends were able to do it with him anymore. While I never got the chance to go on a backpacking trek – something I have always wanted to try, but I don’t know if I can be that low maintenance – from the time I was tiny, he took me camping. And (if you couldn’t gather from the above) we’re not talking RV camping with a bed and a generator and a TV, we rarely ever even went to actual campsites with actual bathrooms. We would pull up beside a lake somewhere in Northern California, hang our food from the trees (in case of bears), shower in the river, catch fish and eat them for dinner every night – and I always loved it. Although on my own, I have stuck to campgrounds with some running water, I have kept the skills I learned as a little girl – how to build a proper campfire, and how to to pee outside in any condition.
The chance to spend a night camping while we were trekking across Sri Lanka was an experience I jumped at. All of the classics – the hiking, the campfire, the food over an open flame, the lanterns, combined with traditional Sri Lankan feasts and a new way to experience them made for the most amazing combination. And there is something so comforting and that makes you feel so connected to the world when you have these shared experiences and nostalgias with people from a completely different culture in a completely different part of the world. Despite being 10,000 miles away – some of the people we met grew up camping just exactly the same as I did. Despite the earth being so large, traveling can make it feel so small.
A hike up through the back tea fields in Hill Country. The mist here with the low sun was absolutely magical – I am constantly saving images of sun beams and trying to do everything I can to find them and capture them on cameera, but never quite seem to find the right light – but this day they found me. The local people picking tea leaves and tending to the fields were extremely friendly and has no problems with us taking their photo – something I definitely don’t run in to everywhere.
A little campsite in a clearing on top of the hill, with so many things to climb on and room to run around – of course we felt like little kids.
As we explored the area, we found some brick remnants of old structures – never got the full story behind these, but the way the setting sunlight came through the trees on to the brick was so beautiful.
One of the most incredible Sri Lankan meals we had in our two months on the Island. These women made everything from scratch – from the sambals (toppings) to the curries and cooked it all in these clay pots on a smoldering campfire cooktop. In our time across the island, we learned that each area of Sri Lanka has differences and specialties in their cuisine – one of my favorites from Kandy was Kiri Kos (Jackfruit Curry) – it tasted like the most amazing cheesy potatoes. Traditionally, Sri Lankans eat curries with their hands, which we had trouble getting used to, especially because I have a tendency to get everything everywhere, all of the time.
Our friend and fearless guide, Demi!
You didn’t think all that food was just for us did you? There was plenty to go around.
And a little home for the night. 🙂
In the morning, we went over to a traditional Sri Lankan village hut for a breakfast feast – all of the produce was fresh picked and everything was cooked and heated over the campfire and wood-burning clay ovens – and in typical Sri Lankan style, there was enough food to feed at least three times as many people as are at the table. (Luckily we had people to share this all with!)
The way everything was cooked out here was so impressive – it was amazing to watch the chef take care of it all.
Curries, Roti, Sambals, Coconuts, and my favorite Pani Pol (coconut and honey rolled pancakes)
The biggest feast of feasts!