We have left at 5:30 am in an old bus to go in the jungle, to walk and see waterfalls at Kanneliya Rain Forest with a group of young students of the Dhamma School of Heenatiya aged 14 to 16.
I have the great honour and privilege to have been invited to participate to this journey. I don’t understand any word as they all speak cinghalese language, except the monk who invited me and a few of the young people who know some words. Doesn’t matter. I just appreciate the time shared with them as I can observe how they live.
After a three hours bus ride through rice fields, tea plantations and large palm trees, we plunge into the jungle.
Once arrived at the Kanneliya park, everyone moves to the ground in the parking lot for breakfast. It is 8:30 in the morning. White bread with a mixture of onions, spices and cardamone accompanied by an unsweetened black tea.
After breakfast, everyone involve in the tasks to prepare dinner. The gas cylinder is out with the burner, two wood fires are installed and three pans are simmering soon: dal lentils, soyaballs and vegetable in coconut milk made on site by experienced teens who extracted the pulp of the coconut by scraping on a fixed round knife. They added water and well mixed all before filtering.
Journey in the jungle
Once the preparation of the dinner ended, we put everything on the bus and goe on an adventure in the Kanneliya forest reserve. Kusala the monk had told me to take walking shoes. Great idea because the whole group was in flip flops and ended up with … leeches on feet and legs! All along the way, we heard cries of girls distraught to see a small critter hanging from their feet. A young man often helped then to get rid off the unwanted critter.
Tiny when hungry, leeches jump without that we know how, cling, make a small hole in our skin and suck our blood. We feel absolutely nothing. So much so that I found on my calf a long time after removing my big shoes to go soak my feet in the river. I peeled it easily, already well-fed by my blood. They do not transmit disease but only an anticoagulant that lets the wound, as tiny as it is, may bleed longer.
A good 2 hours of walking back and forth in a wet heat close to 100%. I do not know if I sweat or if it is the rain – occasionally – or if it’s damp but one thing is sure: I feel like a mop but in 30oC so not cold …
It is really a journey in the jungle ! It is hot and very humid. The forest is so dense and varied. The guide shows us a few trees and some animals including a small green snake, chameleon, birds … The rainforest is full of 1001 surprises.
We arrive at the falls. The bridge is shaky and slippery. Once down, everyone takes off his sandals to hit barefoot. “Feet are the best shoes” says Kusala to me.
Returning from the trip, the whole group will bathe in the river at two different locations. The girls on one side, boys on the other. The monks with the guys. I stay with the girls but do not bathe. I had not been warned of this activity and, anyway, my western swimsuit would really have not been accepted :
The girls changetheir clothes in a small cabin. I was wondering what was going to be their swimsuit when I saw them coming out of the cabin, all with a short sleeves t-shirt and shorts, often below the knees. This is the rule in Sri Lanka: women bathe … dressed!
After swimming, all the group put on white clothes, at least at the top, and we go for the lunch. Kusala did not tell me the program for the day except that we would see waterfalls and temple maybe, to take a white shirt. Looking at the white clothes of the teens, I presume that we will then go to a temple as we always must be dressed in white to enter a Buddhist temple. I just do not know where we go. Suspense…
Go to next article to see where we go !