Tales from Serendib #7 – Sri Lanka’s tea country

Shamelessly repackaging a blog written in Sri Lanka, 2011…

Time is hurtling forward! Already it’s week 7 and I have just under 2 weeks left! So much to do, so little time.  As the weeks progress, they get slowly more and more crammed, last week was certainly no exception.

Monday & Tuesday were not especially exciting from memory. Wednesday I was grateful for the Poya day, one of 21 Sri Lankan bank holidays in a year. I was able to enjoy a lie-in after the busy weekend in Colombo. I literally spent the day on the beach soaking up the rays. (There was also lunch with Francesca in Galle Fort, sunset at Una’s temple with Harrison and dinner with Bec and Sunila – the remaining facilitator for  a creative writing workshops at Dreamhouse, the only Italian restaurant)

Thursday & Friday is where things heat up. ASL ran 2 creative writing workshops for school children. One of the facilitators managed to confuse the dates, double-booked herself and was subsequently unable to attend – all this information we found out rather last minute! As the next best thing and stepping into the fold, I ended up running a two-day creative writing workshop. Digging deep into the memory vaults, I based my “workshops” on stuff we did in English at secondary school!

My weekend, could not be more busy. I managed to drag Harrison out of bed at 4am to catch an 8hour bus to Ella.  Yes! We finally made it to the Hill Country. Our rickety bus (I cannot describe how uncomfortable!) climbed higher and higher, through clouds emerging in vast expanse of tea fields – looked like something from National geographic. We spent our day in Ella climbing Little Adam’s Peak for views of the Ella gap and finally, down to Rawana Falls – a waterfall where Sita was imprisoned by the King of Sri Lanka. The day was topped with one of the weekend’s resounding themes, a rice ‘n’ curry dinner (and/or lunch/breakfast if your Harry!).

Sunday, we took the train from Ella to Nuwara Elyia – the heart of the tea hill country, a quaint trip of 3 hours. Known as ‘Little Britain’ it cherishes all things British, from the Ascot-like Racecourse to the central Victoria park. The buildings themselves have a distinct Alpine undertone although some stick to the mock-Tudor style. The weather is even strangely British with the damp drizzle and due to the height above sea-level, one is even required to wear a jumper! Although the Sri Lankans’ take this to a whole new level and don hats, scarves and full-on duffle coats at 16 degrees.

A visit to Blue Fields Tea Plantation was a must and I battled with myself not to buy yet more tea! We made sure to have a Lion beer in ‘The Pub’ where I was the only women and the Grand Indian supplied us with slightly different version of rice ‘n’ curry for dinner.

Normally, I try not to spill over to Monday but I’ll make an exception for this week’s instalment.  After a well deserved lie in and a breakfast which consisted of more than just jam and toast (another weekend theme!) and shower with hot water (I was living the life!), we took yet another dying bus to Hakgala Botanical Gardens, the spitting image of Kew Gardens but with monkeys.  We finally and somewhat reluctantly, joined the bus home – 5 hours to Colombo, then 3 hours to Galle. We arrived home in Galle at 1am.

But the night had still one more trick up its sleeve for me… after dropping Harry home and was virtually back on sacred Una ground. Harry calls, he’s been locked out, obligingly I turn the tuk round and head to collect our stranded guest. Finally, after spending 14 hours on buses, a 3 hour train ride, 2 hours in a van and at least an hour in a tuk-tuk, I eventually got to my bed! I worked out that of the three days, we spent 20 hours travelling! It was definitely worth it but if I never see a bus again, it will be too soon!

Next weekend, I head back towards Kandy and then on further north but this time I may splash out and hire a van!!! I was never destined to be a harden backpacker…



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