. Eventually we arrived in Nuwara around 5pm and secured a room at the tour guides rate at the Ceybank Rest Hotel– owned by the Bank of Ceylon and used to be a British Governor’s Mansion. Finding some warmer clothes to wear as Nuwara is 1889m above sea level and therefore quite a bit cooler then the coast, we headed out for a wandered around town. There wasn’t really much to do or see, except watch the drunk locals stumble out of the local bar, and see the long queues for Arrack (the local rum made out of coconut) at the wine shop. It was Friday evening and maybe payday for some. For dinner we went to a local joint for more tea and chapatti, dahl and sambol for dinner;cheap and delicious.
Before leaving town the next morning we drove around to take in the sites of Lake Gregory and Victoria Park. Nuwara Eliya is dubbed "Little England" and these two sites definitely fit the bill. Trying to get out town we were caught in a few road blocks and detours as it turns out the Vice President was coming to town. Finally finding a way out we started our way to the little village of Dalhousie which is the base for climbing Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada). It took all day to get there because of the narrow and windy roads but what scenery. Mountains as far as the eye can see and even more tea plantations with tea pickers in their colourful sari’s picking their 2kg daily quota
. Speaking of tea, we stopped at the Blue Field Tea Gardens near to Ramboda Falls where we had stopped the day before, and I got to have a tour of the tea factory and learn about how they make and grade what we know as tea from the picked tea leaves. And of course I also got to try some tea. I mentioned that I liked white tea which of course would be the most expensive kind and before I knew it I had a sample in front of me. Then about an hour from our destination we stopped at another road side place for rice and curry which was delicious, flavourful and just tastes and feels healthy; not like India food which always made me feel like I was having a food baby.
During my research and planning of this part of the trip, I wasn’t able to find a room in Dalhousie at all but thankfully Nuwan had no problem securing a room at the White Elephant at his reduced rate. We were welcomed with open arms and I think Nuwan had an hour long chat with the guys about this, that and the other thing. Later in the evening we went down into the little village to a local place and had some tea (do I need to mention this anymore – I think not), omelette and rolls for dinner. I really enjoy going to these local places with Nuwan as he seems to know everybody and they in turn treat him very well. I would probably not venture into these places otherwise because it is difficult to know what to order as there are no menus
. Afterwards we tried to get some sleep before our 2am departure to climb Adam’s Peak but it was more of a rest; knowing we had to get up in three hours. Nuwan has actually never climbed Adam’s Peak in its entirety. He has only gone halfway and then has left his clients to do the rest. I encouraged him that he should really do it so he can give an honest opinion and advice to his clients. Either it was my comment or his concern of me going it alone but in any case he committed to making it to the top. At 2:30am we went back through the village stopping again at Nuwan’s request (read stalling) for some ahem…tea before starting the trek. In total it is a 7km hike (14km return) with the first km in the village walking through many sweet and tea stalls before finally reaching the first set of stairs. There are 5200 steps to climb, some sets quite step and with the top of Adam’s Peak being at 2243m, frequent rests were needed. It was amazing to see so many pilgrims making the trek in bare feet no less, carrying children and bags of stuff with the intent of spending most of the day there. I only had my water bottle and little dinky camera (apologizing now for the not so great pictures) and was wishing I didn’t have carry those. I’m not sure I completely understand Buddhism and the need to do a trek like this once a year (there are some that do this once a week), but I definitely was in awe of the devotion that I was seeing. By 5am we made it to the final km and was completely stopped and had to queue as the path was getting narrow and it just could not accommodate all the people
. We figure there were 7,000 to 8,000 people doing the trek and being a Sat. night/Sunday morning it was probably the busiest time of the week. It took us 2hrs to move 250m and so unfortunately we missed seeing the sunrise from the very top but had a pretty good view from where we were standing. Many people had been jumping the queue and going up the down path and while tempting I just thought it was the wrong thing to do - at first. However by 7:30 am we had barely moved an inch and we justified trying it as we just want to reach the top, spend 5 mins and go down while others were planning to spend the whole day there. So jumping over to the other side we made our way to about 500 from the top and realized the queue just wasn’t moving at all and decide to give up. It was that or wait for another 3 hours or longer. It turns out they only let so many people on the top; kind of like standing in line for a club. I was a bit disappointed but on learning there is really not much to see at the top in terms of the temple and already having seen spectacular views I came to terms with it. So back down we began taking another 3 hrs to climb down with a stop for a certain drink I will no longer mention and a bit of a rest. Getting back to the hotel by 10 am we ate a much needed (but not that great) breakfast, had a much needed shower and then a much needed nap.
Feeling somewhat refreshed and more importantly Nuwan was refreshed enough to hit the road we started on our 7hr drive back to Negombo. Late afternoon we stopped for lunch (more rice and curry) in the town of Kitulgala which is known as being the white-water rafting capital of Sri Lanka. Knowing my like for white-water rafting, Nuwan was encouraging me to take a trip, but with the river being low due to the season and myself being completely exhausted from the climb I declined. We finally got back to Negombo around 9pm and was so thankful for that. It had been a long but thrilling day and I wasn’t sure what was more exhausted, my body or brain.
After having a cup of tea (I've never drunk more tea then here in SL) at the hotel in Kandy we left midday to head towards Nuwara Eliya. The drive was really beautiful going through tea plantation after tea plantation amidst the hilly landscape. About 45 minutes outside of Nuwara we stopped for rice and curry at a road side place with beautiful views of a waterfall and tea plantation. Afterwards we stopped again a few km's down the road at Ramboda Falls hotel to see the Ramboda falls; there are many waterfalls in the area. The goal was to see if Nuwan could work his magic and got some rooms here but it didn’t work. They were fully booked. Before leaving we went for a walk around their grounds to get a close up view of the falls and had another cup of tea compliments of the chef he knows there that we ran into. Unfortunately this is the place where I dropped my camera of less than two months old and it stopped working. I was completely gutted but hoped that it was a simplefix I could get done in Colombo, but that was days away