We traipsed through the Knuckles Mountain range in Sri Lanka this week, stretching limbs and breathing fragrant air.
The climb is vigorous: a steep uphill and downhill with potential for slippery rocks.
While we dressed in Patagonia trousers and Columbia t-shirts, our tour guide and trek guide wore their everyday clothing. And shower shoes.
The contrast of West and East was illuminated by the feet.
Sri Lankans favor flip-flops or plain barefoot, whether walking the streets or climbing a mountain.
Silly tourists: we worried too much about the right style and correct fabric, and the locals put us to shame.
We slogged through the paddy fields at the base of the mountain where the mud grabbed my sneakers by the heels.
With soggy shoes and socks I shrugged my shoulders, gave in to the mountain gods, and sloshed behind the grinning guide.
At the mountain top we were greeted by a few ranging cows. The guide explained the locals released their cows for a few months at a time to rove the range.
The hotel packed us sandwiches that reminiscent of my years in England: buttered bread with cheese, a mysterious meat, and egg with tomato salad, sans crust.
We sipped chocolate milk in containers children take to school, and I thought I had spilled milk on my thigh.
A few pools of dark liquid formed on my left trouser leg, but they seemed to come from within my trousers.
I snuck behind a tree and pulled down my trousers and discovered a leech from the paddy field has lunched on me.
The leech found a choice refuge on my thigh where blood dripped, thanks to an anti-coagulating agent the leech brings to such feasts.
Honey ran to my rescue by lunging for the camera to snap a picture.
He found a bandaid in his pack to slap on my thigh and we pronounced that I had earned my badge of honor on the Knuckles range.