Kandy & Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka - 15 to 19 April 2012

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April 26th 2012
Published: May 1st 2012
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After breakfast we set off from Kandy to visit an elephant orphanage but our driver guide, Jaywa advised us to visit the Millennium Elephant Foundation (MEF) instead which he thought was better and less ‘touristy’. The MEF charity has eleven elephants rescued from situations such as ill treatment from mahout owners or retirement from working in local temples. The MEF charity was founded in August 1999 with the assistance of the World Society for the Protection of Animals and has been working continually to improve the care, protection and treatment of elephants in Sri Lanka by providing a place of sanctuary and medical services and facilities for the country’s fast dwindling elephant population. Since the MEF’s inception, care and sanctuary has been provided to more than 60 elephants. The day we visited the foundation had elephants ranging in age from 25-60 years either temporarily or permanently residing there.

On arrival we were met by a knowledgeable staff member who was happy to answer our questions as he showed us around a small museum. The museum had a few boards with photos and information that were very weathered but still legible. We always knew that African elephants were different to Asian but had not realized that there were so many differences. On one of the photos we recognized the actor Brian Blessed, apparently he had visited the foundation to make Elephant Sanctuary, a two-part short film for ITV. The focus of the film was the Millennium Elephant Foundation's sterling conservation efforts, including its successful elephant dung paper project and mobile veterinary clinic.

After visiting the museum we walked down to a nearby river and were able to wade in an help the Mahout scrub and wash a female elephant who was thoroughly enjoying her bath and it was indeed one of the most memorable and moving experiences of our trip so far. Afterwards we were invited to ride on one of the elephants and although we were unsure whether we should we were assured that it would be bare-back and not on a howdah which is an elephant chair which is very uncomfortable and hurts the elephant because it is strapped around the elephant’s stomach and creates deep skin wounds on the elephants hips after long term use and will cause early death to the elephant because of the constant pressure on the internal organs, much like the corsets worn by the women in Victorian times.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time at the foundation, the staff there were genuinely interested in the welfare of the elephants and we came away with a deeper knowledge and understanding of the elephant as well as having an amazing experience.

On the way back to Kandy we saw many locals enjoying village festivals for the New Year. Local lads were racing to see who could climb the highest up a coconut tree which had been smeared with grease all the way up the trunk. Others were on a wooden pole using one hand and trying to hit the other one off with a pillow. Youngsters were enjoying racing and other games and everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time.

We stopped at some Spice Gardens just outside Kandy to see the many different types of spices Sri Lanka is famous for like Cinnamon, Cardamom, Pepper, Cloves and Nutmeg. In addition to their commercial spices, the gardens also had ornamental plantings of saffron and cocoa, as well as the vanilla vine. Not all spices are primarily culinary; this jungle garden also contained the fragrant sandalwood tree. The oil extracted from this tree is highly prized both for perfume and as a beauty aid. A few chips of the wood are sometimes added to scalding milk to flavor custards. In addition to individual spices, the estate sold its own version of Sri Lankan curry powder. Whilst there we tried their hair removing cream on a small area on both our legs and left it for 20 minutes and then just wiped off with a cloth and it really worked - have bought some to try!

We then visited a Batik Factory and were shown the process by which batik is produced, basically multiple waxing and dyeing of cloth. First, the desired pattern is drawn on a plain piece of material and then Molten wax is applied to those areas of the cloth that are not to be dyed. Next, the material is immersed in the required dye and washed when the colour has set. If more colours are desired, the process of waxing and dyeing has to be repeated. The factory produced many different items but we were not persuaded to buy!

We did enjoy our visit to the Kandy area and the Temple of the Tooth was amazing but it was time to move on and the next morning we set off for Nuwara Eliya and the tea plantations. The journey was long on narrow windy roads, up and up to the top of the mountains and into the clouds - surreal - raining one minute with no visibility and hot and sunny the next. For many miles all we saw in any direction were acres and acres of tea plantations, in fact nothing but tea estates and large factories open for visitors. A little bit like the wine regions of Australia only tea instead. The hills were so green and the terraces were breathtakingly beautiful. On the way we stopped at a small hotel near the Ramboda Falls which had a drop off of 329 feet which we viewed from the hotel where we had a welcome break.

We also stopped at a working tea factory to see the process and were shown around by a local girl and when Paul asked how they removed the stalks she said it was all done by hand. We looked at her amazed and then she said ‘only joking! In fact they were removed by weight. At the end of the tour we were offered a cup of tea and again Paul drank mine but I did have a lovely slice of chocolate cake...... We continued on and saw many tea pickers on the multitude of terraces, all you could see was tea plants on every available space of land. We finally arrived in Nuwara Eliya which is blessed with a lovely climate, breathtaking views of green tea valleys, meadows, mountains and greenery, it was hard to imagine that it is only 180 km from hot and humid Colombo.

Situated at around 2000m above sea level and surrounded by lush tea plantations Nuwara Eliya is the main hill resort of Sri Lanka and the heart of the tea industry. Once a pleasure retreat of the European planters the town is in fact known at ‘Little England’. Since the introduction of tea to Sri Lanka in the mid 19th Century, Nuwara Eliya has been the capital of the tea industry. Sri Lanka is one of the world's largest exporters of tea but it is still exported as “Ceylon‘ tea despite the country’s change of name in 1972 and is one of the country’s main exports.

Continuing on the main road we then turned up a narrow lane with the last 5km to our hotel zig zagging up the tea terraces. The hotel building was for several decades an active tea factory that manufactured the world’s finest teas. In 1891 tea produced at the factory was auctioned in Mincing Lane, London and realized a price thirty times above the average. By 1968 however the factory had past its heyday as its machinery was considered uneconomical and for over a quarter of a century the building was closed and abandoned remaining as a silent memorial to the great days of pure Ceylon Tea. However in 1992 the building was transformed into a hotel preserving much of the original style and machinery.. The entire exterior of the building is still exactly as the British engineers an planters left it and some items of machinery still remain in their original locations. The interior though has changed, the reception was where the factory's leaf drying process was carried out and the atrium was latticed with steel. The place where the tea was sifted and graded is the restaurant while the tea packing room is now the bar and the engine room the kitchen.

We had a great welcome from the staff with of course ‘a cup of tea’ and we were - given a mixture of sugar crystals with cardamon seeds - different, but quite tasty. Our room was lovely on the third floor and the views from the windows were out over the tea plantation where you could see locals picking the tea leaves and popping them into the bags on their backs. Guest of the hotel can help the locals pick the leaves if they want to but we decided to ‘chill’ as tomorrow we were heading to Horton Plains for a long trek. As we watched the workers out of the windows the mist rolled in quickly across the hills and everything disappeared. That evening we had a drink in the bar and could not believe that they had huge log fires but you needed it though as there was a definite chill in the air and soon the rain come down in torrents and a storm surrounded the hotel. We had an enjoyable ‘warm’ evening and the food was some of the best we had had in Sri Lanka.

We had to be up early to leave the hotel at six and Jaywa was there prompt, as usual for our trek to the Horton Plains. Horton Plains is a National Park and the highest plateau on the island consisting of grassland interspersed with patches of forest. The park is Sri Lanka’s highest and most isolated plateau discovered by Sir Thomas Farr in the 1900s and named after the then British Governor, Sir Horton and it is the only place where you could see the Bear Monkey as well certain plant species, birds and insects.

Located on a high windswept saddle the plains are really hard to get to but we drove into Nuwara Eliya and met a driver with a four wheel van who took us up the mountain to the entrance of the Park along a very bumpy ‘pot holed’ road. On the way we stopped at a local ‘shop’ for coffee which was very basic, Paul decided to have one but I decided to give it a miss! Locals were out on the road where a road race was taking place for youngster who were running with bare feet, as we neared the finish line all the locals waved out to us as we watched the leader reach the line.

Half way up the mountain Jaywa pointed out a spot which was where a vehicle had literally gone over the edge - didn’t really need to know that. They had erected a narrow bamboo cane fence (as if that would stop another vehicle!) Up and up we went until we emerged on to the plain and straight away spotted a group of Samba (Deer) with huge antlers grazing on the plains. After a while we arrived at the entrance to the park where we left our driver and vehicle and set off on foot with Jaywa. We were feeling lucky as the sun was bright so hopefully we would be able to make it to ‘World’s End’ our final destination before the mist set in. The weather on the plains was so unpredictable we were unsure whether we would be able to get there yet alone see the view which is considered to be the finest in Sri Lanka - but we still had quite a hike to get there.

However our luck was in and after a long trek over wet, muddy and sometimes rocky terrain we arrived at a platform with a good view into the distance - we had arrived at Little World’s End which had a superb view but we still had another trek to get to World’s End. We continued on and finally arrived at our destination. We could see why it is called ‘World's End’ as it is where the southern Horton Plains suddenly ends and a sheer drop off of 1050 meters was an awesome sight indeed. I even managed to get quite near the edge where the view was amazing and you could make out a couple of large reservoirs far below.

We continued in a loop and climbed down the side of a ridge to see Bakers Falls with gallons of water tumbling over the edge before we arrived back at the park entrance. The Plains were a really beautiful, silent, strange place and we were so lucky that day as we did not just get the best views but we also saw five bear monkeys high up in the trees as well as many birds and flowers including huge areas covered in red rhododendrons.

The next day we walked around the tea plantation watching the planters and pickers as well as the local villagers going about their every day life - tomorrow we move on again to Udawalawe National Park - see you there.


1st May 2012

Wow love the shots of you two riding the ellie and giving him/her a bath. Enjoy x
1st May 2012
Our Driver- Jaywa

!love it!
I love this one - the elephant is almost trying to look like it's hiding!!~ But funniest of all... Daddys toes'!~!~~!! xxxxx
1st November 2012

Be cautious about the hair removal cream
Last month end (Oct 2012) I visited the spice garden with a group. I also got the hair removal cream (US$15) for a small bottle. After reaching India, I tried that on my skin. My skin has not become very smooth as he showed. After applying I got burning sensation on my skin. It doesn't work as they showed. Really I am duped. For good I did not buy the other things. In my group many people spent a lot on fat reducing medicine, diabetic medicine, green oil for migraine etc. etc.
2nd November 2012

Yes the cream did not work......
Hi there - thanks for your message on our blog. We had the same problem when we returned home and tried the cream it did not work, we were lucky though that we did not have any adverse effect - but just put the bottle in the dustbin......

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