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A journey towards the forest

A story in a about Responsibility, Purpose, Mushrooms and Oneness.

By : Rachel Porquet-Chanmugam

We are living in strange times; where predictions of doom flirt with the hope that it is still possible to stop the time bomb our species has unleashed. We ripped off an almost perfect equilibrium, within the blink of an eye in the evolutionary timeline. We, guests of this planet, have screwed up big time with our benevolent host, and in all possible areas we can think of, and there’s no hiding behind excuses and denial anymore.

Although I don’t completely deny that this could be part of a bigger evolution plan that is anyway meant to happen (?..), it is my solemn right and duty to attend to healing, care, protection, nurture and restoration of that which is screaming for help! Personally, I feel it’s about bringing back a balance of reciprocity; in actual tangible ways, and in the spiritual realms too.Some people already got their wake-up call and hopefully a lot more will join very soon.

I did get mine about a year ago, a few weeks before my first visit to Belipola actually. Since then, I have been forging ideas as to what my options could be for participating in very practical ways, keeping in mind my own skills, abilities and interests. I figured out that a few things are important for me: to live and simply experience just being in lush nature, to connect deeper with it in gross and subtle ways, to learn and practice new sustainable ways to restore / nurture ecosystems, and to share it all, especially with our 9-year-old son, Manu, who is the one who motivated me in the first place…


Manu has been pushing harder from the very beginning. He didn’t need a wake-up call, I think he was born with it! He has been an animal and nature lover since a very young age. For the last couple of years, he has been telling us how bad he felt about the way humans were behaving towards the planet, and how much he’d like to go to live full time in nature, like indigenous tribes from a time gone by.

For me, this was a very important, positive signal that I just couldn’t ignore!

So last October, the whole family went with a few friends for a long weekend in Belipola. It was pouring with rain, cold and overrun by leeches, but surprisingly it didn’t weaken our motivation to come again, and for longer.

By the end of 2019, we had come up with a plan for Manu and me to live in Belipola for a couple of months. To check if a long term stay in the forest would be as promising as it sounds.The downside being that the whole family can’t go together due to my husband’s work in Colombo, but we’ll definitely find ways to meet each other in between.

The organization and planning took a little bit more time…

I have been in discussion with Manu, Belipola management, my son’s school and my husband. I eventually managed to convince them all that it was indeed a great thing to do, despite the challenges we might face.

Eventually all was ready for us to start our nature adventure by mid-April.

Manu and I went to Belipola once again before that; planning and running our first Kids Nature Camp together with a couple of experts in their fields - which was quite a lot of fun!..


But here we are, May 2020. Lockdown in Colombo.

Sadly, the start of the pandemic changed the rules of the game and we’re stuck in our house, like so many others, enjoying quality moments as a family despite the downside of feeling trapped in this city.

But such is Life; neither good nor bad. It is the same with our project. I’m definitely aware that it will be most probably as tough and frustrating as it may be awesome and inspiring, for both me and Manu.

More than just a trip, I see it as a Journey, with its ups and downs. After all; it’s mostly through challenges that we grow and understand the lessons of life. ..

Because this trip is definitely not just about spending nice holiday time in nature!

We will both be volunteers. Which means that we will both have to work; mainly in the organic farm and in the tree nursery, as well as helping in the kitchen and cleaning the rooms. We will also keep aside a couple of hours for daily homeschooling - which is already being practiced pretty successfully with the confinement in place, so at least that’s covered.

Personally, I’m using the opportunity to get trained in Analog Forestry on-site, plus in Ecosystems Restoration Designs online.



As a yoga teacher and sound healer/practitioner, I will also keep some time aside every day for yoga, inspiring still moments of silence surrounded by nothing else but the forest, mixed with reciprocal healing via meditation and sound practices.

During these times, Manu will then have his dose of roaming freely in the safe trails of the forest, where he likes playing his own imaginary games and adventures. He might use the time to observe his surroundings, help or socialize with Belipola staff. This is a great opportunity to build up his independency.

Mushrooms :

CALVATIA (Puffball)


Knowing that we were not going on vacation and also knowing that my son’s scientific and engineering mind needs to be put into action mode on a constant basis, we needed to brainstorm beforehand together about what our proposal plan would hope to demonstrate. Something that we both thought was new, interesting and full of potential.Manu came up with the idea of a mushroom farm. I knew nothing much about mushrooms, so we started looking around online and we realized this was indeed a great idea!

Videos and books from Paul Stamets and articles about fungi uses from other mycologists showed us that we were on a good path, connecting the trails of biodiversity, spirituality, environmental solutions, therapeutic health and sustainable innovations.

Some species we have seen at Belipola arboretum are shown here:


A kind of CHAGA perhaps?

Fun facts: fungi can be used to produce leather, packaging or building material! Some species are very efficient at boosting the immune system or even treating cancers or chemotherapy side effects. Some mycorrizal fungi, on top of stabilizing and enriching the soil and enhancing pathways of communication between plant species, are also providing them with defense services such as increasing their stress tolerance through tough weather conditions or warding off predators.


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