Sri Lanka Central Highlands - Tea Country

Trip Start Nov 29, 2013
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Trip End Jun 11, 2014


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Flag of Sri Lanka  , Uva,
Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The highlands of Sri Lanka are in the south central part of
the country and have peaks as high as about 7,500 feet. As well as scenic
beauty the highlands are also the center of tea cultivation. Sri Lanka vies
with Kenya as the world’s third biggest tea producer and second biggest tea
exporter after India (and China in terms of production). Famous Ceylon tea is
also named for the former name of the island.Our tea tourism involved visiting a tea factory, although
not much was going on; as in India the drier months coinciding with northern
hemisphere winter don’t involve much tea picking and the current drought in Sri
Lanka further reduced output in March. We made several stops in the tea gardens
to watch some harvesters at work and also west to a Tea Castle (showroom, tea
museum, and fancy restaurant with tea tastings) for lunch.After climbing Adam’s Peak our next night was in Nuwara
Eliya, Sri Lanka’s “Little England”, the highest town in the country at about
1,900 meters (more than 6,000 feet). The landscapes and formal gardens were
lush, the climate delightfully cool, and the hotels and official buildings half-timbered in the style of Merry Olde England. This was the favored place for the British in the Ceylon era to go to bear the heat for rest and relaxation. I wanted to
stay for days to be cool, but our visit was for less than 24 hours during which
I checked out the Grand Hotel (not where we stayed), Hill Club, and Victoria
Park gardens.Tikiri (the tour guide) made arrangements for us to take the
very scenic tourist train from a station in a village near Nuwara Eliya to our
next night’s accommo in Bandarawela, rather than making the trip on the minibus
we were using for the tour. The train line mostly followed a high ridge with
spectacular views of the highlands in one direction or the other depending on
which side of the ridgeline the track followed at different points. We were
unfortunately seated in air conditioned first class (it was cool outside so
high up) with very dirty sealed windows, so my attempts at taking decent
pictures were unsuccessful. It was one time when I would have rather been in
second or third class carriages with windows that at least opened.The end of our three hour train journey was at Bandarawela,
where there wasn’t much to see beyond taking in the atmosphere while staying at
the Bandarawela Hotel, a venerable old tea planters club where it felt like
nothing had changed in a century. The décor of the rooms was splendid – like
something out of Edwardian England, the buffet dinner and cocktails fine, and
my fellow traveler Linda brought down the house with her performance on the
piano after the official entertainment had ended.The next morning we continued towards the southern coast,
passing through tourist-oriented Ella village, down lush canyons with stops at
waterfalls and viewpoints. Sightseeing stops included the Buddhist statues at
the Buduruwagala archaeological complex and the orphaned elephant
rehabilitation center bordering Uda Waluwe National Park.

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