The hilly tea plantations of Sri Lanka

Tea is serious business in Sri Lanka. It probably has the world’s largest concentration of tea plantations in its highlands, and C and I had planned to spend the majority of our trip visiting this region for its natural beauty. It definitely lived up to expectations. Some of the highlights for us were:

  • Getting lost while making our way up Ella Rock. After climbing Adam’s peak, this seemed like a piece of cake on paper. We had spent the better half of the morning walking in the opposite direction to where the trail was supposed to start, and after a kind pickup driver drove us to the start, we walked along a railway track for about half an hour before we finally reached the base of the rock.
    Ella Rock is directly opposite mini Adam’s peak, and the whole town of Ella is just so pretty. I had read that local guides would persistently try to guide you on your way up, and somehow, no one approached us. A guide would have been useful though, after quickly ascending up some very steep rocks, we reached a field of tall grass and GPS was pointless in helping us navigate our way our. We spent a good 30 minutes walking around in circles, or so I think, before we somehow found our way out of that field. I have no idea how we did it though. After we exited, we faced another challenging climb through a steep forest that was very muddy and slippery.
    Much more challenging than Adam’s Peak, but the views were well worth the effort.
  • Climbing mini Adam’s peak the next day. This was literally a walk in the park compared to Ella’s rock. Best part of it was seeing two dogs have sex at the top lol. Looking across at Ella’s rock, it seemed to resemble a certain female body part…
  • The very scenic train rides. Traveling by train was dirt cheap – less than 50 cents for a 2 hour ride. The old steam trains went very slowly, but the view was stunning, think lush green forests and cloud-covered little villages. We sat by the door and could swing our legs outside just above the tracks. At train stops, vendors would get on and sell snacks. We tried a vadai wrapped in what looked like a piece of paper torn from a child’s notebook, complete with math homework scribbled all over.
  • Having high tea in Nuwara Eliya. This was one of the richer towns, where there seemed to be more horses than cars. We heard of a famous high tea set at a rather luxurious hotel, and since we couldn’t afford to stay there, the SGD10 tea set sufficed. C and I felt quite underdressed in our dirty tshirt and shorts, but quickly forgot to bother about that once the food came. It was so-so, but the ambience was great. Also, a nice break from all the rice and curry we had been eating.
  • World’s end. The name itself sounded like a place we couldn’t miss. World’s end is actually located in Horton’s Plain, a national park that seemed straight out of a fairy tale. It costs us quite a bit to get there, as there seemed to be no option other than getting a private car if you don’t want to join a tour. But once there, you can walk the 10km trail around the park and get lost in nature. It was heaven on earth, with huge waterfalls, views to die for and vast green fields. At World’s End, there is a cloud forest where full blown forests grow at the top of a hill 900m in the air.
  • Visiting a tea plantation. It was cool to see how the leaves were transformed into the tea we drink. Before this, I never knew that green, black and white tea actually come from the same plant and the only difference was when the leaves were picked and the amount of heat used to process them. It was really back breaking work, mostly done by women in the fields, and they earned less tan $2 a day! Rain or shine, they’d be out in the tea plantations hand picking leaves, one at a time. In the factory, the workers, mostly male, would then roast the leaves accordingly and sort them by grade.
  • Sunrise at Lipton’s seat. This was were Sir Lipton of the famous Lipton brand started his plantation. The tuktuk which was supposed to bring us to the top of the hill for sunrise broke down half way, so we made a mad dash to the top. While we failed to make it in time, the sun rose while we were climbing up, and that was good enough. At the top, we left our marks (once again), and drank a cup of Lipton tea. What else could we drink?
  • C’s company, especially in less pleasant times like when the super bumpy ride to Nuwara Eliya ended. We were thisclose to puking on the bus, something really worth mentioning as I hardly get motion sickness, and were so glad to be on stable ground again. Also, when we were pulling leeches off our feet after our visit to the waterfall. I found one last leech hiding in my shoe and to my horror, as I was pulling it off, it jumped (an exaggeration but somehow it got onto) my hand. I shrieked and threw my shoe and the leech into the basin. He very kindly helped me to retrieve my shoe lol. And defnintely, while huddling together for warmth in Nuwara Eliya. We hadn’t expected 18 degrees to feel this cold, and on a particularly rainy night, we were pressing against each other for body warmth, listening to music from the early 2000s reminiscing our teenage years. Times like these really made me appreciate C. I know I’m not easy to travel with, but we made it through the trip without killing each other.
  • Attempting to ride a motorcycle to the second largest waterfall in Sri Lanka. The homestay owner told us that it was easy, however, the both of us tried and failed so badly. It started to pour while we were “learning” and C and I got a photo of us wearing plastic raincoats holding onto to the damn bike. We had to pay quite a bit for a tuktuk to the waterfall, but it was quite a sight watching locals shower there.
  • A side story not related to the plantations or the hills, but when C and I were catching the bus from Haputale, where Lipton’s seat was, to Udawalawe, to see the elephant safari, he desperately needed to pee on the bus halfway into the 4 hour ride. The bus wasn’t going to stop, so we improvised with the one and only receptacle we had – an empty pringles can. Well, almost empty. It was lucky that we were sitting at the back of the bus and no one else could see it. I was trying so hard not to laugh out loud, and my attempt at videoing him pee into the can failed as the phone was shaky not just from my laughing but from the bumpy bus ride too. He filled the can nearly to the brim, and there were little bits of chips floating at the top. Not wanting to hold on to it for too long, we decided to do as the locals did, throw shit out of the window. He held the can, covered loosely with the lid,  out of the window for a while, waiting for an opportune moment to throw it without having it hit another car, or worse, person. However, the wind blew the lid off, and he just decided to unceremoniously dump it there and then.

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