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Published: September 10th 2017
More than 40 teas in one day? That's easy in Sri Lanka!
This morning we had a lie in until 6am! Glyn couldn't believe his luck. It's amazing we slept as the ineffective ceiling fan is incredibly noisy. At our £7 per night hotel, breakfast is included so at 7am we were served with toast, fried egg, tea, noodles, spicy coconut sambal and dahl. Plus some watermelon.
Across the road we caught a tuk-tuk driven by a middle aged guy in a red stripey shirt. He'd not heard of Hundungoda Tea Plantation that Glyn had seen in Lonely Planet and I found on TripAdvisor, but after much discussion with the other tuk-tuk drivers he agreed to take us there, wait and bring us back. It turned out to be a fair journey for a tuk-tuk and stripey-shirt had to ask directions three or four times. Glyn asked to stop at a shack shop so he could buy water, stripey-shirt got out with him. When Glyn returned to the tuk-tuk he told me that somehow he had also bought his new mate 2 cigarettes. How kind of him!
Down a rickety potholed track we came across a tea plantation.
Stripey-shirt spoke to three lady workers at the edge of the field in Sinhalese, they just stared at him. 'Tamils' he explained to us. Now I do appreciate that these two people were at war with each other for around 30 years, but it also amazes me that two races live side by side and cannot communicate. The signs at tourist places are in Sinhalese, Tamil and English; I noticed that the Sinhalese and Tamil alphabets are different too.
Upon arriving, we were asked if we wanted a tour, er yes! As it was early on a Sunday, we were the first guests and were shown various tea plants. The guide particularly talked about the Virgin White Tea which is untouched by human hands throughout the whole process. Stripey-shirt followed us and picked a piece of black pepper plant to show to us. Now I can't understand Sinhalese, but I could tell he got a ticking off from the guide who told him he was doing the tour. After looking at various tea plants and hearing all about them, we were invited to sit and drink tea with some chocolate cake. You can't fault that especially as the tour
The tea factory has equipment that is up to 145 years old including one machine from Belfast in Ireland but that can't get the parts for it anymore. It was explained that once the tea is air dried, it is prepared and packed within half an hour. The tour ended up in the museum aka shop. Now I already had been told that we would have the chance to taste their 40 varieties of tea but little did I realise that I had to! We were presented with a long table on top of which were two rows of white bowls of tea, all lined up perfectly as one young lady had a long ruler to align them with. Each bowl contained tea a shade darker than the next. We were given a hot spoon and shot glass each so we could spoon the tea into the glass and taste. We slowly worked our way around, liking some, not so much liking others (there was a fair bit of hippy tea). We bought some tea and then the rain absolutely slatted it down. But after 10 mins the rain subsided and we were back in the tuk-tuk.
I enjoyed the tea plantation but because of it being a Sunday, there were barely any people working so I was unable to capture the classic tea worker in field shot.
Stripey-shirt asked if we wanted to go to a turtle hatchery. Go on then! On route we stopped at the beach to see the famous stilt fishermen at Koggola which we had been planning to see later. They do charge tourists to take photos which is fair enough, they sit there to work after all, so Glyn paid 1000 Sri Lankan rupees for the both of us which is around £5. Three fishermen caught no fish on their stilts whilst we took photos from a wooden platform at various angles.
Turtles are endangered so the hatchery at Koggola is important as it helps give them a chance at survival. This was our next stop where a guide told us about the five varieties of turtle you can get in Sri Lanka. We saw some rescue turtles that had lost fins in fishing nets that can no longer survive in the wild and Glyn held a couple whilst I took photos. Out of 100 turtle eggs in the
wild, about 1 survives. This is because of humans and other predators. At the hatchery they pay more for eggs than the poachers do to encourage people to bring eggs to them instead. They hatch the eggs and keep the turtles long enough to give them a decent chance at survival when they are released.
The turtle hatchery guide spoke good English and Stripey-shirt took the opportunity to get him to do a bit of translating: did we want to do a boat safari, it's very good, see crocodile? OK!
The boat safari started off with a 'free' tour of a herb garden that included yet another cup of hippy tea. Obviously it ended up in the shop. However the demo of wild onion hair remover that is 'totally safe, no ammonia, won't give you cancer' worked a treat on a patch on Glyn's leg that is now smoother than a baby's arse. Glyn hates shaving and was assured that the amount he bought would mean he would never have to shave his face again. We shall see.... It was strongly hinted by the guide that he needed tipping.
The boat safari was a bit expensive and
the promise of crocodiles was quickly dashed once we were onboard with the boat driver: 'crocodiles are seldom seen'. Pity as this was the main selling point to me. We didn't want to stop at 'Fish Feeling', a place where fenced off fish in the lake nibble at our feet, this just isn't my bag at all. So we went to Cinnamon Island where an elderly gent donning only a sarong showed us some plants, the processes he does to prepare it and then tried to sell us some after his wife served us more tea - cinnamon of course. The cinnamon was rather expensive and the guy was visibly annoyed that we didn't buy any.
Last stop was an island with a Buddhist temple, but I was more impressed with the wild iguana we met when we landed. This was the time my camera card became full so I missed photographing it despite chasing it into the jungle. But I did get a photo of three monks, I always like shooting monks.
After the boat safari, Stripey-shirt tried to take us to a snack bar but we were ready to return to Mirissa. Quite by coincidence (sarcasm),
we happened upon Stripey-shirt's son on the way back. Somehow he convinced us to hire him to take us to Uda Walhala the day after tomorrow in his tuk-tuk. Now according to google maps, this journey would take 2 hours 20 minutes in a car, but Stripey-shirt-son says 2 and a half hours or we don't have to pay. Hmm. But he promised stops to see wild elephant. Oh go on then! He also said he will pick us up for free after our whale tour tomorrow - ok this guy is convincing. But this will be one long tuk-tuk ride.
Upon returning to Mirissa we got something to eat and headed towards the beach or so we hoped. But in fact we ended up in the harbour. A bit more of a walk and we came across a sign to a Secret Beach. Oooh! The path led up a rather steep hill that was quite unwelcome in the heat when we were gagging for a refreshing dip. The path led through a residential area which was interesting with kids shouting hello. Eventually we found the Secret Beach and quelle surprise there was a bar playing Bob Marley at
the edge of a cove with very powerful waves crashing to the beach. We walked around the corner away from the bar and we had a small beach to ourselves, only shared with two stray dogs and hundreds of small crabs.
The sea was too dangerous to swim in. This beach was sandy but with small stones and rocks, so when standing ankle deep in the sea, the powerful waves bashed stones into our legs and almost knocked us over. I tried sitting in it and the waves spun me around almost 180 degrees. We sat and read in the shade for a couple of hours until the midges decided to start feasting upon us.
The end of the day was sat at a beach bar, watching people surf in the sunset. The waves are so powerful they made it up to our table at one point, soaking my book. Never mind, it's a beautiful spot.
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