In the heart of tea country in Nuwara Eliya

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January 11th 2015
Published: January 14th 2015
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We took the train from Kandy all the way up to Nuwara Eliya in the heart of tea country. It would have been quicker to take the bus but the route the train takes is far more dramatic. We were not disappointed; it was a breathtaking ride.

The train doesn't actually go to Nuwara Eliya. Instead you are deposited in the nearby town of Nanu Oya. On any normal day it's then a simple task of taking a bus into town. This was not a normal day though as the country was celebrating the beginning of a new dawn with a new president. That meant no buses! Fortunately there were plenty of tuk tuks and a few enterprising minibus drivers. We joined forces with some other foreigners to get a minibus and, as the only ones with no accommodation booked, were taken to a guest house run by a relative of the driver. We're not normally happy with this sort of arrangement but the Princess Guest House was lovely and we needed no persuading to stay.

While there was still plenty of light we walked down into town. All the hotels are on the hillsides surrounding Nuwara Eliya so you have to be prepared to walk and a torch is necessary once it gets dark as street lighting is sporadic! Tuk tuks are, of course, available for those who don't enjoy the challenge of a night hike. We wandered around watching people playing cricket in vacant car parks, admired the former colonial buildings and even took a stroll up to the golf course where we had a good nose around before deciding to find somewhere to eat.

We had a brief look at the forlorn race course before going up the road to the Grand Hotel. Because it was still considered election time all the bars were closed and no alcohol could be served. That's a shame because we fancied a drink in the hotel. As we had walked up the hill the smell from the hotel's Indian restaurant had been incredible. Even more incredible is that they were full within minutes of opening at 6.30pm so we couldn't get in! Instead we went to the cheap and cheerful Restaurant Two where we sat with a Frenchman we had meet on the train. The inauguration of the new president was in full swing on the TV and the service suffered somewhat as a result. The food was good and the portions were large but there was a sting in the tail as some sundry items made the bill much higher than it should have been. Despite our protestations we had to pay up in the end. Our night hike back to the hotel was great and the stars were resplendent in a crystal clear sky. That's the good side of no lights!!

Our plan for the next day was to visit a tea plantation. We walked down to the bus station and sat on a bus for 25 minutes until it finally departed. In that time it filled up beyond anything we have seen before. Two men were particularly interested to hear where we were getting off. They made sure we didn't miss it as they were desperate for our seats, although they haven't learned that it is easier to get into a seat if you actually let the previous occupant get out of it first! The journey was half an hour or so of white knuckle twists and turns. Disney should design a ride just like this!!

It was quite a relief to get off the bus. The first thing we then saw as we entered the yard of the Mackwood tea factory was a troop of plastic reindeer and a giant sled with a sign saying Merry Christmas. Time to take the decs down guys! We found a guide to take us round the factory and he was so good that we left a pretty good tip. He was more informative than the guide has been in Kandy and we learned a lot. Don't drink Tesco Value tea because we have now seen what the sweepings from the floor look like! After the tour we had a walk around the tea plantation which is stunningly beautiful, although the Hollywood-esque "Mackwood" sign looks a little out of place. You can't go far though as the tracks all end after a short distance. Then it was time for some tea and chocolate cake. Delicious and refreshing, and the tea was free too.

We took a tuk tuk back into town which turned into more than an average trip. No sooner had we negotiated a price than the driver declared he was out of petrol and free wheeled down hill through the death defying hairpin bends where he stopped at a friend's house to pick up some petrol. Tuk tuks don't fill up like a regular motorbike. They store petrol in used drinks bottles and fill up p from them. It's a little unnerving the first time you see it, but at least they don't smoke at the same time! On our way back we saw a terrible car accident, or at least the aftermath of it. A car had lost control on a bend and taken out a fruit stall. The woman running the stall was taken to hospital along with her baby and we hope they are OK. The occupants of the car were very lucky because they got out and their car was now clinging to the edge of a very sheer drop.

That evening we made it to the Indian restaurant and it was well worth the effort. They were full by 6.40 again. After a fabulous meal, and surprisingly cheap (even the sundries were properly priced!), we went back up to the Grand but the bar was soulless, a big disappointment. Just down the hill we went to the bar in the Glendower Hotel. That was much better and we eventually left there for another night hike back to the hotel.

The next morning it was off to the bus station for our onward journey, hoping that the information we had been given was correct. Much to our surprise it was, and we were on our way down to a more tropical climate.

Additional photos below
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15th January 2015

looks nice!
very interesting! keep it coming!
5th February 2015
The professional tasting room

Sri Lanka
We've followed your trip and have enjoyed the locations you explore. Sounds like an excellent ride on the train. We love train travel. Enjoy the world one moment at a time.

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