Cecil the Lion Hoopla. Long May it Last!

I eat meat.  I wear leather.  I even sell handbags made from African game skins  (these are skins which come from animals that are also used for their meat, by the way).  I know and love plenty of vegetarians, but I also know and love people who hunt.  They enjoy it and I’m ok with it.  I could never do it myself, but I’m ok with it.  As long as they use the meat of the animals they are hunting. 

I, like many hundreds of thousands of other people apparently, am not ok with the whole trophy hunting scenerio.

I will never understand the desire to kill an animal for the sole purpose of decorating a home with it’s head.  Or taking a smiling photo next to its carcass.  It’s creepy, for one thing, to have animal heads in your home.  And doubly creepy to have a photo taken next to an animal’s carcass.  I wonder why people do it.  And much as I’ve tried to come to terms with it, I will never understand a person who can kill an animal for the sake of killing. I find the idea of trophy hunting abominable.

Though this is not Cecil, he was a spectacular lion I saw in a National Park in Namibia

Though this is not Cecil, he was a spectacular lion I saw in a National Park in Namibia

My initial reaction to Cecil’s death was one of anger and sadness.  I wanted the comfortable rich dentist to pay with the shut down of his business and was happy he was being shamed by the world.

But the truth is trophy hunting has been going on for centuries.  It continues to go on in Africa, Canada, the US.

During my years living in Africa I met people who were professional hunters or who ran hunting concessions.  They were nice people.  I liked them.  I couldn’t understand their chosen profession, but these were people from a different culture than me.

They weren’t bad people, they just had different values than I did.

The closest I ever got to a Rhino. Beautiful & strange. One of many animals that is trophy hunted in Africa & poached in Africa and in South East Asia to near extinction.

The closest I ever got to a Rhino. Beautiful & strange. One of many animals that is trophy hunted in Africa & poached in Africa and in Southeast Asia to near extinction.

In my travels around the world, I have been through many castles, estates and museums, many of which have trophy kills adorning their walls.  Chances are your ancestors did it, whether in Africa, Europe or North America.  I’m pretty sure mine did.  That doesn’t make it right, but back then it was accepted practice.

It is obviously still accepted practice among some circles.  Some people are brought up to believe that it is ok to waste the life of an animal.

But times are changing.  And the thing is now to change the times ourselves.

We were so close to this herd of elephants we could almost touch them. These gorgeous creatures mourn the loss of a member of their herd. Poaching & trophy hunting is devastating for those remaining in the herd.

We were so close to this herd of elephants we could almost touch them. These gorgeous creatures mourn the loss of a member of their herd. Poaching & trophy hunting is devastating for those remaining in the herd.

The negativitity and death threats, anger and hatred towards this one human being aren’t  doing anyone any good.  We need to redirect this energy and find a positive outcome to this horrible situation.

I hope with all of my heart that Cecil’s legacy will be that of change when it comes to these hunting concessions.  There is now a worldwide outcry about it, which is great, but please let’s not let Cecil’s death be a flash in the media pan.  We can transform these laws if we consistently make our feelings known to the governments who allow these customs to go on.

Here are a number of petitions you can sign to voice your opinion to varying governments that these practices should be banned.  Many of these are growing by the day.  Please add the power of your signature to strengthen our fight.

If we continue to speak up laws will be amended. Trophy hunting bans will be put in place and we can reshape the world of those without a voice.

Let this be Cecil’s legacy.

Petition to the Government of Zimbabwe to stop issuing hunting permits

Petition to South African Airways to ban the transport of trophy kills on their airline

Petition to the Government of Zimbabwe to stop Lion hunting

Petition to the US and EU authorities to ban the importation of trophy hunt kills

Petition to the Prime Minister of Canada to ban trophy hunting on Canadian soil

Sri Lanka: Big Beasts, Big Beaches, Big Beauty

After landing at midnight in the sleeping Colombo and damping down my excitement at having landed on Sri Lankan soil, we went straight to bed and awoke the next morning to the happy sunshine and gorgeous lagoon on which the hotel was located.  We found smiley welcoming people and efficient friendly service. With an amazing cup of local Ceylon tea (yes, apparently tea can be amazing!), we were off to a great start as we hit the road.

Our trip began in Galle, on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka.  We arrived by float plane from Colombo (bucket list item, check!), which took us over the beautiful emerald landscape of lush hills and valleys of the interior of the province and landed us on the lovely Kogalla Lake nearby the city.

Galle is home to the old Dutch Fort established in 1663 and thanks to these fortifications the old town was mostly protected from the devastation of the tsunami in 2004.  It is like a little piece of colonial heaven within the confines of the fort walls. Outside the fort walls are the turquoise waters of the Laccadive Sea and the small but buzzing new town.

Galle Fort is filled with pretty little boutique shops open to the steamy outside air, the weathered walls of colonial architecture and cozy restaurants and boutique hotels boasting an interesting history.  There is a cool, relaxed vibe in Galle. It’s a great place to stroll around and stop to sip a cocktail while watching the sunset over the clear blue ocean.

Sri Lanka Buddha

Heading east we explored herb gardens, a tea plantation and temples before finding ourselves at Mirissa for our morning on the ocean in search of the immense, but shy Blue Whale.  We were lucky and spotted some reasonably quickly. A Bryde’s whale, a pod of dolphins, some flying fish and a mating sea turtle couple also made an appearance.  It was a good morning out with one of a few reputable companies who respects international guidelines for approaching the whales.

We stayed at a hotel right on the seaside away from the touristy Mirissa beach and, though there were several other buildings on the same stretch of sand, we rarely saw a soul away from the accommodation. There are vast expanses of completely uninhabited beach all along the coastline in Sri Lanka. The water is warm and welcoming, with teal blue waves lapping at the shore. It is postcard stuff!

Sri Lanka beaches

It is common for travellers to hire a car and driver for their journey in Sri Lanka.  The guide book suggests this because the driving is quite frightening, though in comparison to other countries we’ve experienced in the region, I would say that’s debatable. Regardless, it’s nice to be able to sit back and relax and be driven about by someone who knows the territory.

The scenery changes drastically from idyllic lonely sandy beaches along the coastline, to the vibrancy of the many green-hued tea plantations, national parks and farming landscapes inland, though it would be difficult to decide which is more beautiful.

For a small island, Sri Lanka is park-rich – 14% of its landmass is allotted to the Department of Wildlife Conservation.  Our experience was at Uda Walawe National Park, a peaceful wildlife sanctuary which is known for its wild elephant population and birdlife.  We arrived just as the rains had begun, at which time many of the elephants are less reliant on the main watering holes and move further into the park and away from tourist eyes. We did, however, manage to see several small herds of elephants with a few young ones under their protection.  As a group they graze unobtrusively on the park’s greenery and, given their size, seem barely to disturb their quiet surroundings.

The birdlife is incredible in the park, including an abundance of peacocks who could be found in the trees out of the way of their predators while their feathers were drying from the rains. They would fill the air with the sound of their disappointment at getting their feathers wet.  The peacock’s jewel colours remind me so much of the vibrant hues of the whole of Sri Lanka – the azure and turquoise blues of the ocean and the rich, emerald greens of the inland hills.

peacock silhouette

From Uda Walawe, our driver delivered us to Ella after several hours on good winding roads. There seemed to be surprises at every turn on our car journey, like a quick detour along a meandering road flanked by small lakes covered in blooming water lillies.   At the road’s end, the vast Buddha images carved into an immense rock wall were revealed at Buduruwagala temple.

Buduruwagala temple

Once a quiet town, but now gaining in tourism popularity, hilly Ella is home to several tea plantations and the well known Little Adam’s Peak.  After a gentle hike through one of these tea plantations and up the peak, we found views through the beautiful Ella Gap all the way to the coastline from which we had just come. Smiling tea-pickers in their brightly coloured saris line the track on their breaks from their grueling work.

We drove through stunning landscape all throughout our Sri Lankan journey, but nothing compared to the views we saw from the train from Ella to Kandy. We slipped past train stations with names like Nuwara Eliya and Pattipola, some of the highest elevations in the country, making it ideal tea planting territory and favourite locations for the British tea colonials escaping the heat. The scene from the train window is streaked with rich green tones. It didn’t get old even after a 6 hour journey.  It is breathtaking!

Sri Lanka train trip

We didn’t linger long in Kandy, but we did take some time to explore the impressive and popular Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic and its surrounding grounds.  The temple was congested with locals leaving floral offerings for the Buddha and awaiting the Sacred Tooth chamber to be opened.  Our morning at the temple was filled with the ceremonial drum beats of a cluster of traditional drummers striking through the quiet scene as the Buddha in the downstairs chamber was prepared for his ritual washing.

Arriving again in Colombo, we had come full circle on our Sri Lankan trip.  Our brief stay here was accidentally timed with Poya (full moon) Day.  Poya Day is a monthly Buddhist national holiday, so most shops and restaurants are closed aside from a few catering to tourists, as many of the locals head to the temples to spend their day in meditation.

Because it was a holiday, locals were also out in force on Galle Face Green, a big open grassy area facing the ocean and adjacent to one of Colombo’s most famous hotels, the Galle Face Hotel.  Kites were flying, people were playing in the waves, vendors were selling deep fried snacks and music was blasting from 1980’s-style boom boxes. It was a great vibe and a great way to end our stay.

Despite the incredible adversity with which the Sri Lankan people have been faced in their recent history – a 26 year civil war and the major impact along most of the island’s 380 degree coastline of the 2004 tsunami – they are seemingly happy and rightfully so.  It is a beautiful place with so much to offer (including vast amounts of amazing tea!). We were completely taken by this vibrant country and its friendly people and as we left early the next morning, I found myself sad to be leaving.  That is definitely the sign of a good holiday.

My Top 10 Sri Lanka tidbits

  1. Definitely try arrack (liquor distilled from coconut) while in Sri Lanka. The stuff we had was like good whiskey!
  2. As noted, the tea is fantastic in Sri Lanka. If you find yourself in Ella, try the iced tea at Chill Restaurant.  Delicious!
  3. Don’t be surprised if you can’t get alcohol on Poya Day anywhere in Sri Lanka. Though you may be able to find it via room service in some hotels…
  4. Be prepared for delicious but repetitive food across the country. Most of the local dishes don’t vary much anywhere you travel.
  5. The Sri Lankan’s are very serious about any considered disrespect to the Buddha. Always ask if you can photograph at temples and never pose with a Buddha image.
  6. Take the train from Ella to Kandy rather than the reverse route.  This direction is far less congested and seats more readily available.
  7. Malaria is all but eradicated in Sri Lanka, though there are mosquitos and some sand flies. Bring bug spray with you as it’s apparently not easy to find in country.
  8. English is widely spoke on the island making it very easy to communicate.
  9. Stay at the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo. It is an old beauty with fantastic service and a delicious breakfast.
  10. Go now! There are some big hotels being constructed in Colombo and it appears tourism is on the rise quickly. Not surprising, but go soon if you want to avoid the inevitable masses.

Travel Style

I do a reasonable amount of travelling and, as I confessed here, I detest packing. Love to travel. Hate to pack. You’d think it would get easier – or less formidable at least – the more frequently it is done, but no, it is still one of my least favourite things about going away.

However, given my frequent usage of airplanes, suitcases and foreign accommodation, I have some things down to a fine art in the category of easy packing and comfortable travel attire.

In my experience airplanes tend towards Arctic temperatures while airborne, though while on the ground they can be anywhere from cool to roasting hot. Layering is the only way to go, with a preference for at least one long layer to keep the back warm while seated on the flight in case I miss out on a coveted blanket (or two). Kim Kardashian has it down here with a long layer, jacket and scarf, comfy jeans and someone to carry her bags for her!

Kim Kardashian’s travel style

Coordinating clothing is a must to keep suitcases from bursting at the seams.  I try to stick with either a black, grey & white or a brown, cream & white clothing combination when I travel. I’ll then throw in a few colourful pieces which I can wear with almost everything in my bag, as well as a few accessories to upgrade basics from day wear to evening. Anything that can multi-task while on the road gets priority.

Shoes are always a problem since they take up so much space.  It’s much easier when travelling to a hot climate when you can get away with flip flops (I take one gold pair and one black pair, either of which can be worn in day or evening) and a pair of runners for hiking, walking, trekking, etc. For winter climates I will usually travel in my converse or a pair of boots and pack runners and a pair of multi-tasking day-to-night ballet flats. The pic below shows how versatile these babies can be, worn with skirts, dresses, leggings or jeans. Our Earth, Wind & Style boots are also great to travel with as they are lightweight, super comfortable and take up very little space in the suitcase.

Celebs wearing the versatile ballet flat

I have a very well travelled friend (she’s been everywhere from Antarctica to Zimbabwe) who swears by a version of the below packing technique. Though I confess I have yet to try it (I pledge I will on my next trip!), she always looks polished and unwrinkled when I’ve seen her while globe-trotting.

Some of my other must takes:

A sarong or pasmina can be used for multiple purposes when travelling, including as a scarf or wrap on a cold airplane, as a swimsuit cover-up, table cloth or picnic blanket or as a lightweight blanket for those must-have holiday naps.  It can be used to cover your head, shoulders or legs if you are visiting any religious sites that require these be concealed, or even as a top or dress in the right environment with a few creative tying techniques.

I pair down my cosmetics bag and take Lancome’s multi purpose makeup compact with me.  This saves heaps of space in my toiletry bag, keeps everything together and contains a good colour palette.

Lancome Absolu Voyage

Solid hand cream and solid perfume have got priority in my bag unless I’m going to a land filled with mosquitoes, in which case I will opt for l’eau de repellent and remove any scented items from my bag altogether.  I’ve had enough spills and leaks and refuse to decant my gorgeous bottle of perfume into a mini plastic container, for this would be sacrilege! All my other lotions and sauces are either travel size or get transferred to travel size containers and zip-locked.

All Natural Canadian-made Rocky Mountain Hand Butter.

Marc Jacob’s solid Daisy perfume doubles as a necklace

Yoga toesox and grip gloves.  As a yogi I want to be able to practice yoga wherever I go, so to save on the space my mat would take up, I purchased my yoga toesox and gloves.  This germ-aphobe has, however, come face to face (literally) with a few not so immaculate surfaces on which I’ve been forced to practice and a mat at least acts as a barrier between my squeaky clean bod and the potentially grimy floor…  So, out comes either the sarong again or I lay a towel on the floor and practice over that (hands and feet still on the ground for gripping purposes).

Yoga Toe Sox

Grip-Gloves

Even with all these travel bits and pieces down to a science, I am still on the lookout for things that will make my travel experience even better.  I most recently fell in love with this Rag and Bone woven bag when I spotted it in a post on Bag Snob suggesting it’s multi-tasking potential as a beach bag and carry-on thereby lightening the packing load.  It’s high on my wish list, though I will likely have to suffer with a look-alike rather than the real deal.  Sigh.

So, once I’ve endured the horrendous packing process and included these few practical items and stand-by’s, my journey is made a little more comfortable.

What goes into your bag when you travel?  Do you have ‘must-pack’ items and travel stand-by’s or do you wing it every trip?