Off we sauntered to Kandy station early on Wednesday morning in the hope of finding Charlie a train ticket for the ever popular Kandy-Badulla scenic route. We had been told the night before that only 3rd class no reservation would be available but by some miracle we found a quiet counter and managed to purchase the one remaining 1st class ticket. If that’s not good luck! Not that we are usually fussy, but it’s nice to have a seat and a place to keep your backpack(s) on a 5.5-hour journey. Said journey is famed for its breathtaking views of tea plantations and lush green mountains, and it certainly didn’t disappoint! Winding through bright green tea plantations and misty forests, we witnessed both the landscape and the climate change drastically in only a short space of time.
We arrived in Haputale early afternoon only to discover that our little hotel had the most amazing views across southern Sri Lanka. At night, we could even see a lighthouse blinking on the coast. Haputale itself is a tiny little village, perched on the top of a steep mountain, where the air is pleasantly more fresh than anywhere else I’ve been so far in this country. We spent the afternoon enjoying the view, sipping our complimentary fresh watermelon juice and catching up on a few bits of life admin (Laurita, that one’s for you).
The next morning, our alarms went off at 5:00 to give us just enough time to get up and get dressed, and to jump into a tuk tuk that took us to the bottom of Lipton Seat. We felt a little ripped off at first as our driver left us with 1km left to climb when other tuk tuks careened past us but it turned out vehicles aren’t actually allowed up the final section. In any case, it was an invigorating uphill walk through the tea plants with the sky getting gradually lighter. We sat and watched the sunrise over the distant hills from one of the hairpin bends and I then proceeded up the last bit of road to Lipton Seat itself to check out the views that Sir Thomas Lipton was so keen to share with his entourage. Tea, tea, and more tea! 360 degrees.
As we’d only paid for a one-way tuk tuk, we then proceeded down the mountain at around 7am, winding our way through tea fields along with children of all ages, laughing and chattering their way to school, some even brave enough to shout a bold “hello” before giggling into their hands! It really was a magical moment, the sun casting its soft glow on the shimmering green hillsides as schoolchildren chanted in the village below. Down, down, down we went until we reached Dambatenna Tea Factory where we had a somewhat disappointing whirlwind tour and no tasting! But not to worry we found our own very friendly pot of tea in the little hut opposite before hopping onto the very local bus – leaks, onions and all – back to town. And it was only 10:30!
So, after lunch, we decided to walk up something else! We’d spotted it on the map and went past it on the bus, so made our way to a huge cliff called Eagle Rock. Not recommended for anyone who suffers from vertigo! But the sweeping views once again made you feel pretty small. And we were totally alone, which seems to be quite rare! Admittedly, 2.5 days was a little long in Haputale but it was the opportunity to relax and soak in some magic views (and fog!).
The next day, despite some delays, we made it to Ella, where suddenly we were back in backpacker land. A small town consisting mainly of guest houses and places to eat, it was nice to enjoy a cold beer and really good pizza! I figured it was OK after 2 weeks of local fare… And guess what we did in our time there? More hiking! I wouldn’t have thought I would be so into it, but it’s been really great. And, as we’ve been saying with Charlie and Chloe who we met there, we wouldn’t necessarily have done all of these walks individually, had we not been together.
Our first little trek was up Ella Rock, which someone said was 1-1.5 hours from town. Our walk, albeit slow with a couple of pit stops, took us 5 hours total! And boy was it steep and hot and sweaty. And steep. And hot. And sweaty. By the time we reached the top, we were utterly drenched but were however rewarded a great sense of achievement and a wonderful cup of hot, sugary lemon and ginger tea. The next day, as if we hadn’t had enough, we tackled Little Adam’s Peak, which was admittedly much easier but still hot. And instead of stopping there, we walked a few more kilometres on to the stunning Nine Arch Bridge, where we lucky enough to catch one of the 4 daily trains going past, and then back to town along the train tracks – don’t worry, we were very careful!