So we made it – back home safe and sound. One single mum plus a travelling toddler. What.An.Adventure. I don’t know where to begin with a blog post on what was a month of never ending experiences, so instead I thought I’d share a few tales from the trip instead.
We’ve only been here two days and I’m surprising myself. Today we trekked across town to the bus station, hopped on a bus to the waterfall and arrived there! Yes, that’s probably what usually happens, but it felt so easy. To travel thousands and thousands of miles, arrive in a foreign country and make my way to one of their beautiful landmarks all in under 72 hours. It really was incredible.
The bus dropped us only a few kilometres from the waterfall so off we went. Baby, buggy
and I. The waterfall had about ten different levels, we only made it to the first three but that was enough for us.
We went swimming in the second one. It was quite an experience. You know those fish foot spas? Well this was like a fish body spa. All the hundreds of little, and not so little, fishes started biting us. My little one got a bit freaked out by it but I discovered if you swam as close as possible to the actual cascade, then there were less fishes. Once we’d had enough of that we sat on the rocks and little one played in the shallow waters while I breathed and took in the beauty all around.
And, the most amazing thing of the day – on the bus back, he slept. Success.
Today we went to see the elephants. We did it all under our own steam. Once again it was a trek across town to the bus station and then we clambered aboard the bus. About an hour later and we were dropped by the side of road, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. A short walk away though was an elephant conservation centre.
When we got the reception there was a sign saying 5 km to the elephant sanctuary. As the sweat dripped off me I really thought I couldn’t make it. But we were in luck, there was a shuttle bus about to leave. We arrived in time for the elephant ‘show’. My son was entranced with the elephants, they didn’t need to do any fancy show for him, just walk and eat. He wouldn’t feed them, apparently that was a step too far, but he was quite happy to let me feed them and wonder in awe at the way their trunks lifted the food into their huge mouths as they crunched up the bananas, sugar cane and corn – skins and all.
After lunch it was off to see the elephants being bathed in the river. My son was transfixed on the mischievous baby elephant that was splashing around in the river. We were lucky enough to just crouch in front of it and watch its sheer enjoyment in the simple pleasures in life.
And then it was time for the off. A shuttle bus and short walk later and we were stood on the side of the road waiting to flag down a passing bus. Little one was asleep before I’d even managed that (and it only took five minutes), then it was back to town while he slept all the way.
Today I got my son to sleep in the bed at nap time. I was so excited. I decided I’d go and buy a nice cold soda, sit in the hammock outside and write whilst looking out at the ocean. Yes, this is what the holiday was all about. If I was in luck I might even get two hours of baby free time.
So off I went to the guy who owned the little shack we were staying in…could I have a coke please. No. Err, sorry? I pointed at the crate on the floor and said – one of those (it must just be a language barrier thing)? No apparently they were out of date! I’m pretty sure coke can’t go out of date. But OK then. His suggestion – go down the road and get one. OK so that won’t work as I’m already paranoid I’m more than 10 feet away from my son. So I ask what he has instead – a pretty rank, luke warm pineapple impersonating drink as it turns out – sure I’ll take that.
Off I dash back to the shack. Yay, baby’s still sleeping. So into the hammock I go. Pick up my book and, crash! There goes the hammock rope. And from the feel of it there goes my elbow. I wanted to scream the place down but figured that would only wake little one. It took me about half an hour to move from the floor I was in that much pain. Swearing and cursing as quietly as possible.
Finally, I mustered the energy to get up, position myself in the safety of a solid chair and pick up my notebook. Or should I say try, shooting pains went up my arm and eventually I gave in – this wasn’t going to work, perhaps I could read instead? And then, right on cue, ‘waaaahhhh’ from the bed…rest time was over.
Ohmygod. Last night went from what I thought was going to be the best night to the worst of the trip so far.
We were staying in some really cute looking beach huts. My son loved his ‘new house’, there was even a patch of green he could run around on. What’s more a nearby travel agent rented out baby cots. Fab, this is it, I thought. My chance to get a good nights sleep without worrying little one was about to fall out of the bed or without me getting head-butted in the night.
He went down in the cot nice and easy and then the music started. Clearly we were staying at the party beach, I just didn’t yet know it. I literally didn’t get a wink of sleep until about 5 am. Little one did slightly better but he kept waking up from the nose and crying about the popping (fireworks). I surprised myself with my patience with him. Feeding him throughout the night and hushing him back to sleep each time. The music blared all night, it stopped at 4:19am (I know, I checked my phone).
When we got up my little ones face was covered in about 20 mosquito bites. I felt so guilty. He kept scratching them and saying ‘naughty animals’. I packed up our stuff, demanded our money back for the nights we’d paid in advance, and got the hell out of there.
Little one woke up in a great mood, told me that the birdies were outside. Once I listened hard enough I could hear them too. We were off on a kayaking adventure today. We got picked up from the guest house and drove across the island to the pier. A friendly woman helped me carry little one and all our stuff to the boat so I didn’t even have to struggle.
Once we made it to the islands out at sea it was time to transfer to the kayak. Surprisingly for us this did not end in some sort of dramatic, capsizing incident. No, we got in to the kayak nice and calmly. Little one sat between my legs with his arm bands on and off we went. We kayaked round the islands, into sea caves and stopped in shallow waters for a swim. It was breathtakingly beautiful and even my son knew it.
On the way back to the pier we went to the mangroves. There were monkeys in the trees and they climbed on our boat. My son looked on in amazement, especially at the baby monkeys holding on to their mummy’s belly.
Finally it was homeward bound after another successful day.
Last night was a bad night. In between the frequent wake up calls and milk requests from the little one, the blaring of a local disco and the noisy fan that alternated between being a blessing that helped to drown out the dodgy music, and being so noisy and rickety you thought it was going to fall down on you and chop you into very small pieces, sleep was really not on the agenda.
The early morning city sounds – the hustle and bustle from the market opposite, together with the disco from downstairs that had, in the early hours, transformed in to some sort of factory – all woke us up at the crack of dawn.
I rushed us along so we’d make it in time for the next boat to the beach. Grabbing together everything I thought we would need and wrestling the little one to put on his sun cream and wear his hat. Only what I’d failed to notice was there was actually a torrential downpour. Still, we only had one day here and so off to the beach we went.
The walk to the boat can’t have been more than 600 meters but in that short time we lost a shoe, nearly lost a little one and went slipping and sliding along the rain soaked roads more than once. There was swearing a plenty and my son even joined in (I really am going to have to get him to forget some of his new words before he goes back to nursery)!
It was really not a good day, but being the stubborn so and so that I am I did not give in. We were going to the beach. It felt like everyone we passed had a comment to make about the missing shoe. Had it really got lost down a drain? Err, yes, what’s easier to believe – that I’d just forgotten to put the second shoe on my son and figured oh well, let’s just go anyway? OK, well maybe looking at the state of me that was more believable.
The second favourite question of the day was, where’s papa? Now I’ve had this a few times out here but today it felt like it was on everyone’s lips. Was it because they thought the slightly unhinged lady with the one shoe toddler couldn’t cope and really where was dad anyway to come and sort it all out? Believe me, if he was here he’d probably be missing a shoe too.
At the pier we waited amongst the crowds for our boat. Narrowly missing it because they’d forgotten about us. But a short run back to the pier we’d already passed and we were in the boat and heading out to sea in no time.
At the beach I was offered a massage. Oh how I’d have loved to have a massage. But I pointed to my little terror who at that point was running screaming fully clothed in to the sea. I’d been hoping they’d offer to watch him for an extra few quid while I relaxed and stared out to sea. It clearly didn’t take them long to figure any amount of money was not worth all that chasing of a slightly feral toddler.
We attempted to have lunch but it was a failed affair. My son was in a slightly manic mood, he pushed into me, causing agony on my elbow (see Tuesday’s entry) and then ran off at high speed. I went hobbling after him (as by now I had a foot injury to boot). I’d had enough, now he was in trouble. I could feel the eyes of all the on lookers boring in to me. All I wanted to do was cry.
I gave up then. Found the biggest packet of crisps I could buy and used them as bartering tools, holding them one by one out of my son’s reach so he would walk in the right direction towards the boat. A mere hours wait later and we were heading back to town.
On days like this I really question what on earth I’m doing here putting me and him through this.
We are heading home today. I feel so conflicted. I wish I’d managed to relax more, I wish I could have enjoyed every moment. But I shouldn’t be wishing that. Lone travelling with a toddler is crazy, both good and bad. Although I can’t say I’ve loved every moment, I can say it’s been an amazing adventure. We’ve both learnt so much and our bond has become even stronger. And maybe in a year I’ll have the energy to do it again!