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Published: August 31st 2018
Yesterday was a travel day, with the possibility of some sightseeing along the way, the route being Kurunegal-Kandy-Nuwara Eliya, about 5 hours of driving as well as whatever stops we made. I had some places on my wish list, but we weren‘t going to have loads of time if we wanted to arrive at a reasonable time.
At no point along the route would it be described as easy driving. It was not for the faint hearted, anyone prone to carsickness or with a weak sphincter. I did my best to look relaxed and not hyperventilate or clutch the door handle. It was busy all the way and the last part was a long climb up with hairpin bends.
The first stop was Kandy. I managed to finally persuade Anton I didn’t want to actually go into the temple with the Buddha tooth relic, a photo from the outside was enough. He drove me up to a viewpoint so I could see the lake. There were lots of vendors waiting to pounce. Then I wanted to walk around the town for a bit and he had a nap in the car in a multi story car park with (unfortunately)
4 exits, so my plan to wait outside the exit didn’t work that well.i walked up to the lake, which was full of large fish, mouths open, waiting for the popped rice stuff you could buy from people along the edge. There’s a big colonial hotel and a busy shopping street with lots of tea shops. I found some back alleyways to walk through and then ran the gauntlet of a market area. There was a strange sales technique where the stall guy threw an armful of clothes up into the air, everyone grabbed and wrestled like a jumble sale.
The place I really wanted to go to was the Botnic Gardens, which was actually quite far from the centre but on the road to Nuwara Eliya. I said an hour to Anton, but really that wasn’t enough time to see everything, even at a yomp. It cost 1500r to go in, the local price was much less. It was so beautiful, the hugest trees with colonies of fruit bats hanging up for the day, monkeys in the bamboo, everything was on a grand scale. The outer path was next to the river. Luuuuurve was in the air, many
courting couples canoodling under umbrellas and taking selfies. I saw as much as I could and exited through the gift shop, ery reasonable prices but again the sales girl stuck to me like glue. Kandy looked to be a very nice town to wander around, I’d like to go and actually stay there. It was cooler and higher then Kurunegala, and much prettier!
We had a break and snack at the side of the road as Anton was a bit sleepy. It didn’t seem the best place to park as the road was busy and not that wide. Then we began to climb up and up. The whole way the scenery was lush, paddy fields, wild banana palms, I loved it. Then we got to the first of the tea plantations. They are really huge and they look so manicured, neatly planted with flowers along the edge of the road. We stopped for another break at a little restaurant. Wouldn’t PARTICULARLY want to have eaten there but it looked OK for a cuppa and get some caffeine into Anton. The people were very kind. That was my 6th cup of the day and not the last! There were lots
of waterfalls to see along the way and women were washing clothes in the streams.
My last request was to visit a tea factory. We stopped at one called Blue Field and a girl came and got me to take me on a quick tour. There didn’t seem to be a charge for this, but she was very good and explained the processes and different types of tea. I was more interested in the tea pluckers themselves. They are all women, work from 8-4 and get paid 500r (£2.50) a day if they pick 20kg. One basket weighs 10kg so they empty it into a sack at lunchtime and again when they finish. They get paid more if they pick over 20kg. The terraces are so steep in places and they don’t go out in really torrential rain, but don’t get paid if they don’t work. The youngest are 18. There are women and men working in the factory itself but they did not start as pluckers. They pick just the top bud with 2 or 3 leaves. Want to know about the tea processing? Google is your friend.
The final leg of the journey took about an
hour and there was tea all along the road, and then nearer the town people selling vegetables at the side of it, sometimes just a small pile of carrots or potatoes, others had more of a wooden stall. It is very poor out here.
So finally we arrived at Nuwara Eliya, which looks like the Lake District, and is 1800m above sea level. Much, much cooler, misty, pine forests and is known as little England for they style of houses. I guess they are remnants of the colonial era, as is the Hill Club, my home for 2 nights. I wasn’t looking forward to it. Stuffy rules on dress code for dinner and Anton said that as a driver he isn’t allowed past the lobby, presumably only there if he is carrying my bags! The room is comfortable, enormous bed I need steps to get onto, lovely views of the mountains and the grounds. They must cut the grass with nail scissors. I stood in it feeling rather forlorn, and did some washing which I hung all round the bathroom in a small act of defiance. Then after a shower and a warm gin and tonic from my bag
Market stall, tossing everything into the air!
I decided to give the ridiculous colonial thing a go. The rooms are a Reading Room, TV Lounge, Mixed Bar (should hope so too, it is 2018!), and formal dining room. I met a French girl who’d come up from the town for a look and we had dinner together, taking photos of everything. The set menu was very western and cost 25$, the a la carte was more reasonable and the rice and curry (880r) had loads of side dishes. I had the smallest glass of wine in the world. The staff, in black suits and white gloves, kind of try to hurry you along. I was not impressed to be asked if I wanted a Sri Lankan or western breakfast when I’d just finished dinner. I couldn’t possibly decide that so far in advance. Then at breakfast he did it AGAIN, what was I going to have TOMORROW, this time in 24 hours’ time! There are boards with lists of past presidents of the club, of course they were all British for ages abut are now Sri Lankan. Back in my room someone had been in, turned the bed down (grrrr),turned on the heater so it was like
a sauna, and while I was on the phone and getting into bed I sat unknowingly on a hot water bottle and it was such a shock.
The various posh tat hung on the walls includes many photos of the Queen and P Philip, the cutlery they used when they stayed here, it luckily no stuffed animals. The cost isn’t huge, 75$ a night for bed and breakfast. It just feels so poncy! The area I worked in was much more interesting, very poor, and it looked like there was nowhere for lunch. Anton asked and they waved us to what looked like an abandoned shack, no sign outside, a few tables inside and some homemade pastries under a fly cover. Lookinground, you would be mad to risk it, but Anton tucked in and offerd me one. I’m going to die after eating it for sure, or at least not be able to leave the bathroom for days! It was delicious, no ill effects so far. Looking around, there were terraces growing vegetables, which is how the poorest make a living, that and working on the tea estates.
Leaving tomorow mid morning after work, back to Colombo for
one night, then flying home on Sunday.
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