Monkeys in Kandy

It’s just past 6:30am, and I’m sitting in a screened-in veranda at Kandy Cottage, a small locally run guesthouse located deep in the lush foothills that rise above Sri Lanka’s hill country capital. With my internal clock not yet fully reset after the long haul from New York a few short days ago, I’ve already been up for about an hour, and I could really use a cup of coffee. Strong coffee.

In the absence of caffeine, a shower does some of the trick. Austere and simple, just like the people of Kandy, the bathroom is all bare concrete walls. Busy rows of ants wind their way around the bathroom door, over the mounted water tank and it’s long pull-string flusher, past me in the walk-in shower, and out a small crack in the window. The wonderful reality of where I am on the map sinks in a little bit more.

On the veranda, I catch my journal up on the magnificent train ride from Colombo to Kandy. Tropical bugs are batting and buzzing against the screen. Birds are chirping, crickets are creaking, and monkeys are scrambling through the tropical-green canopy of trees. Flights through Abu Dhabi, and onto Colombo are behind us, and over a month of travel through Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and South Africa is ahead of us. I’m drunk on the invigorating newness of traveling and that intoxicating thrill of extricating myself from everyday life and everyday surroundings. Of dropping myself off in a foreign place, of re-awakening all five senses, and of kickstarting the curiosity that inevitably dulls from time to time during the weekly grind.

There is little to do here in the cottage this morning except read, write, and wait for our home-cooked Sri Lankan breakfast; I’ll later look back on those meals at the cottage as some of the most memorable of the trip. It’s now 7am, and Kumar, Kandy Cottage’s gracious host, live-in manager, and one of the kindest men we’ll meet in the country, softly knocks on our door and produces a pot of coffee. The wily neighborhood monkeys are clamboring across the roof now. “They are not afraid of us, and they tease my dog,” says Kumar. “They come here and they pull the plants out. They are not even afraid of firecrackers.”

Boom! Boom! Boom!

On queue, the morning jungle tranquility is broken by what sounds like shotgun blasts on a firing range—Sri Lankan firecrackers, apparently. The dog starts barking as the monkeys scamper into a small tree just outside the cottage’s back door. A plate of steaming hoppers, a bowl of curry, and fresh fruit is laid out on the kitchen table. I stare at 4 ½ more weeks of this, and smile.