Haputale and Ella
20.02.2010 - 24.02.2010
We left Kandy by train for the scenic 5 hour journey to Haputale - not quite so scenic when you are standing up in a crush or sitting on your backpack in the canteen car for all of the journey!
Haputale is tea plantation country - just a few guesthouses but not at all touristy. We met up with Susan, who we'd met in Kandy, and ended up doing a couple of day walks with her. The first of these was up on a ridge through a bird sanctuary with lovely views of the surrounding countryside- didn't see many birds but did see a skink and there were a few monkeys around. We walked back along the train tracks, which seemed really alien to us Westerners - Sue was convinced that her foot would somehow become trapped as soon as a train appeared and Susan was recalling silent movies where the heroine was tied to the tracks by the villain. Fortunately we only met one train and had plenty of time to move out of the way.
The next day we chickened out of the 7km uphill walk and took a tuk-tuk up to Lipton's Seat - from where the famous grocer Thomas Lipton apparently used to survey his tea plantations. It was a lovely walk down through the tea bushes passing pickers on the way. Unfortunately the tea factory wasn't operating that day so we couldn't have a tour.
Back on the train to Ella - just an hour away and this time we had seats. The scenery at Ella is stunning with hills all around and on a clear day views all the way to the coast. The guesthouses all vie with each other to produce the best home-cooked Sri Lankan curries, including beetroot, garlic, bitter gourd, baby jackfruit and the most delicious aubergine dish - definitely not losing any weight here!
More walks to the tops of the two highest peaks - Little Adam's Peak and Ella Rock. The route to Ella Rock is a bit confusing and locals appear to be being helpful showing the way - then demanding payment as guides. We avoided all this but did acquire a dogged guide who helped us find the way up. He even barked when the next group arrived at the top. Not much wildlife but we did see a 5ft long snake slithering away into the undergrowth.
We decided to try another Ayurvedic massage. Not quite as oily as last time in Kerala but our program also included a steam bath (in a coffin-like contraption) and the special Shiro Dhara (something akin to water torture but with hot oil being poured on your forehead for 10 minutes). Think we might stick to Swedish massage with lots of fluffy towels and whale song music in the background in future.