Posts Tagged With: Hatton

Gihilla ennang, Sri Lanka! (The Final Chapter)

Before I lament the snail’s pace at which this school year is coming to an end, I need to begin by saying I should be at work right now. It’s 2pm on a Wednesday, and I am writing a new blog post from the comfort of my couch, nibbling on a fresh batch of pomegranate white chocolate chunk cookies (crafted by yours truly—there are a few perks living in the Middle East, one of them being that we’re situated so close to the regions where pomegranates are grown).  Instead of facilitating literature circles and grading papers, school was canceled today due to a power outage. (I believe this is day #8 they’ve called off this year… and we don’t have to make any of those days up!) The day started out like any other day, and then at around 9:30am everything shut down. The school was eerily quiet, and I was thankful to be on a planning period. An hour and a half later—during which I held class in the dark—they cancelled the day and we all went home. I’m not quite sure what caused the outage, but as they say, never look a gift horse in the mouth.

I come to you today with the FINAL blog post on Sri Lanka. It’s been a long journey, but it’s gotten me through the last few weeks of school. (We’ve only got 18 school days left!) To assist in brevity, I fused the last three days of Sri Lanka together into a single post. Hold on tight, and try not to book your plane ticket! Our journey begins when we head to Hatton to climb Adam’s Peak…

We arrived in Hatton at around 4:30pm. We stayed at “Slightly Chilled” guesthouse, which was perfect for our climb. It included dinner and breakfast the next morning, and had an amazing view of the peak from the dining area. The picture above was taking as Sean and I sipped tea and played cribbage. The plan for climbing Adam’s Peak is this: You’ve got to wake up at around 2:30am and start the hike at 3am so that you can get to the top by sunrise. I forgot to mention a very important aspect of this endeavor—Adam’s Peak, known by most as “Sri Pada”, or ‘sacred footprint’ is one of the holiest sites in Buddhism, and popular for pilgrimages. It is also sacred for Christians, Muslims, and Hindus. For Muslims and Christians, it is where Adam was cast out of the Garden of Eden. For Buddhists, the ‘footprint’ on the top of the peak was left by Buddha. For Hindus, it is the footprint of Lord Shiva.

With an elevation of 7,359 feet, we wanted to be on top of it.

There are 5,200 steps to the top.

The tricky part was convincing Sean to wake up at 3am to climb it…

The evening before our trek, we walked to the beginning of the trail head. (I know, unnecessary walking, we aren’t looking any pity here.) We were touched by the translated English sign for all pilgrims and tourists trekking up Adam’s Peak.

After dinner, when the sun had set, we snapped a picture of our soon-to-be route up the peak. Just writing this can I feel my knees shaking from all the steps…

There were Buddhist shrines all the way up. We snapped a few pictures, but the chilly temperature and thrill of getting to the top for sunrise kept us going.

Once at the top, the sun began to rise around 5:45am. It was truly stunning.

Sean was saying, “Thank you, dear wife, for encouraging me to complete the hike for the sunrise. You’re right. It is completely worth it. You are so wise.”

One of the most interesting things about making it to the top for sunrise is the Brocken spectre cast on the opposite side of the sunrise. You can see the peak’s shadow on the clouds! It was incredibly difficult to capture on camera, but the affect was haunting.

True pilgrims ring a bell when they reach the top. They are supposed to ring the bell the number of times they made the pilgrimage. We saw one man ring the bell over 25 times… I didn’t know which was more inspiring; him, or the sunrise.

A new days is dawning, even for puppy dogs.

On our way down we managed to snap a few pictures, in awe of what we had accomplished.

As we took a tuk tuk back to the train station, we paused for this great photo—can you spot Adam’s Peak in the background? 🙂

Our last destination was Kandy, the largest town we would be spending our time in. It was about two and a half hours from the airport, and we had been recommended by friends to stay in the “Kandy Mansion”. Skeptical at first, when we got there I was COMPLETELY blown away. For $50 a night, we were staying in LUXURY! It was truly a mansion, built by the Sri Lankan elite in the late 1800’s. It had a colonial feel to it, even though it was built by a Sri Lankan native. Ghandi stayed there, as well as Gregory Peck when he was filming his movie, “The Purple Plain”. Located outside the city of Kandy, it was built in the rainforest with sweeping verandas, spacious, architecturally beautiful interiors, amazing meals, and, oh yeah, a pool!

Our room at the Kandy Mansion.

The inside of the Kandy Mansion.

Moth (also at the Kandy Mansion…)

Sean in the doorway of the Mansion.

The next day, we went into the town of Kandy. There is a lake, with an island in the center, which used to be the Chief’s harem!

Kandy streets. (We were in love with the tuk tuks by the end of the trip!)

Our entire trip, I was in love with how beautiful the women looked in their saris. We stumbled upon a touristy clothing store, and the two ladies who worked there were more than eager to doll me up in one!

The sad news? I looked pathetic. I had nowhere near the grace and beauty of the women I saw on the streets. I’d like to blame it on the thick fabric… had I been dressed in a lighter version instead of the heavier cloth it would have been more delicate… but I know this is a lie that I tell myself. My cultural heritage is that of lederhosen and bratwurst.

This was me before I saw the pictures—optimistic at the thought of resembling the local women… little did I know…

After we perused the town a bit, we quickly got sick of the crowds and car exhaust (we get enough of that in Kuwait), so we headed to the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens.

Sean had fun playing George of the Jungle.

He also learned that pineapples grow on bushes!

We found a bat colony. Can you spy all of the bats in the trees? There were over forty trees housing bats… I was afraid to stand too long underneath them…

We concluded our vacation with a swim in the pool and a last meal of rice and curry. Sri Lanka really is a dream come true. When all the world turns to concrete and parking lots, I will retreat to Sri Lanka, where the beauty of the natural world is only paralleled by the kindness of the people.

The final countdown until we leave Kuwait begins! We fly out on June 10… which means 33 days left in the sandbox… Don’t worry, you will be treated with at least a few more blogs of our adventures here before summer begins. Until then, keep smiling!

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Sri Lanka: The Birthplace of Lipton Tea! In which Sean and Kim explore tea plantations, meet a buddhist monk, touch a carnivorous plant, and practice Zumba moves on the side of a mountain.

I truly hope you are not yet bored with my photo montage of Sri Lanka, for there are still more stories to still and highlights to be had. Today I would like to speak to the highlight of the hill country in Sri Lanka, the tea plantations. After our two idyllic days in Ella (which still remain the favorite part of our trip), it was time to travel to Hatton, home of Horton’s Plains National Park and World’s End viewpoint.

We had originally planned to take the train to Hatton, but were having second thoughts around the breakfast table. I knew that our hotel in Hatton was very remote, so we thought we should do some exploring around the area before checking into our hotel. We spoke with Martin and Karen at our Ella homestay, and they recommended we have a guy drive us around in his tuk tuk for the afternoon. They had a friend named Lanka (yes, that is his name) who commonly takes tourists around for a fee. I spoke with Lanka and negotiated a cost of 4,000 rupees for an afternoon tour across the country. 4,000 rupees = $32. A four hour private tour for $32? Yes, please!

We had originally planned on traveling with Lanka for six or seven hours to visit various waterfalls, but realized our plans were too ambitious. It generally clouds up around 3 or so, which meant that less is more. Instead he recommended “Lipton’s Seat” and the tea plantations, along with a tea factory tour. We were happy to oblige.

Lipton’s Seat, to quote Lonely Planet, is where “The Scottish tea baron Sir Thomas Lipton used to survey his burgeoning empire.” Yes, that is correct; the tea being grown in Sri Lanka is grown for all the Lipton iced teas you are drinking back home. It was a wild realization that I came to—that all of the rolling hills of tea plantations I was seeing is the tea that is fueling our consumerist, caffeine-driven society. Every time I walked into a restaurant and ordered an iced tea, every time I pulled a “Brisk” off the shelf in a gas station, every time I served tea to customers at Fairtrade Coffeehouse on State Street, someone had to HAND PICK that tea for my personal satisfaction. All that talk about ‘fair trade’ and ‘organic’ doesn’t remove the fact that there are still human beings on the other side of the world working ten hour shifts filling burlap sacks with tea leaves so that we can have another tasty beverage. It made me feel somewhat selfish…

…But I digress. Onto the photographs!

Our last morning at the bed and breakfast in Ella. Sean is sitting at the outdoor dining table. It is built with a deliberate overhang off the side of the slope, so that you really feel you are suspended in the trees with the monkeys… *sigh*

Before we left to Sri Lanka, Sean and I were nervous about having indigestion due to the change in diet and the cleanliness of the water. A good friend of mine here in Kuwait told me to eat “the local yogurt”. She claimed that while she was in Sri Lanka she had “buffalo curd”, made from the local water buffalo, in which the natural bacteria that is present in Sri Lankan food helped her remain healthy from any illness. Sean responded with, “There is no way on earth I am eating ‘buffalo curd’, Sharon…” Little did he know that buffalo curd is the MOST DELICIOUS thing on the face of the earth! In the photo above, the earthenware pot is filled with fresh buffalo curd. It tasted like a very thick, creamy yogurt. You top it with the syrup made from the local palm trees and a few slices of banana, and you are in heaven. Needless to say, we were free from any bathroom-related illnesses the entire trip!

Before we left Ella, we had one more hike on our itinerary. Named “Little Adam’s Peak”, you reach the summit by walking through private tea plantations. Along the way, we met a guy who was selling handmade jewelry that his parents create. After close inspection, he informed me that the “beads” were actually seeds from the trees that had been sun dried. A friend of mine also told me that the red beads were also what the Sri Lankans used to use for currency. I made a few purchases before continuing on our trek…

You can see the summit of Little Adam’s Peak in the background…

Sean at the top of Little Adam’s Peak.

On our way down, we saw a bearded dragon!

Once we returned back to our homestay, Lanka picked us up and we began our travel through the tea plantations. You can see Lanka’s tuk tuk in the background of the above photo. The first thing he did was to stop on the side of the road to show us this flower. He explained that this flower is carnivorous, and anybody who has taken Botany 100 could see why. (If you were paying attention in class…) The bug is attracted to the sugary liquid in the bowl of the plant, so they make their way into the opening, which is coated with hairs that point in one direction. Once inside, the bug cannot escape due to the hair that has trapped him in! Yum…

Lanka took us on  a *very* scenic route through the hill country…

A family swimming, bathing, and washing their tuk tuk. There is something unspeakably beautiful about seeing human beings living so closely in communion with nature…

On our trip Lanka stopped near a Buddhist monastery. We saw this little boy outside in his saffron robes. We did not see many Buddhist monks while on our trip, so he was very interesting to us!

The stupa at the monastery. A stupa is a mound-like structure containing Buddhist relics and is used as a place of worship.

Then, Lanka’s tuk tuk began to climb. And I mean switchbacks up, up, and UP. We were climbing us the side of a tea plantation on the side of the mountain. The above photo is on a large Ceylon tea plantation.

Sri Lanka is the third largest producer of tea in the world! They export Ceylon tea (black, green, and white), which you can order in any coffee shop around the world. Try it next time you are at your local cafe. Thomas Lipton, founder of Lipton teas, helped Sri Lankan tea grow to it’s international success in the late 1890’s. Sri Lanka actually used to be named “Ceylon” until 1972, which is why Ceylon tea is called what it is today. Any Ceylon tea you order has come from Sri Lanka.

A very Dr. Seuss-like landscape… The humidity, cool temperatures, and rainfall make this region ideal for growing tea.

The bags and bags of tea leaves after an afternoon’s picking…

The Dambatenne Tea Factory gives tours for only a few rupees. Lanka was nice enough to wait for us while we took a tour of the factory!

We had a personal tour of the factory (not many tourists make it into these high-altitude regions where tea plantations are abundant and locals make their living). In the above picture you can see the rows and rows of leaves that are being dried by an air-circulation system.

In the above picture you can see that after the tea has been ground and roasted, it is being sorted by quality in these sorting machines. The machines act as a sifter, where the finest, highest quality teas are pulled by magnets into one part, and the lower quality tea falls through.

After the tea factory, we would up in the town of Haputale, where Lanka bid us a fond farewell. As it was 3pm, we contacted our hotel, and they sent a man in a tuk tuk to pick us up. We were very disappointed upon arriving at the hotel property as it was all covered in clouds. This hotel was in the middle of NOWHERE. The tuk tuk ride took forty five minutes, half of which was on dirt roads through a rainforest. I was very nervous, apprehensive, and upset. I had originally thought, due to the information on their website, that the hotel was on the border of the national park. Well, they might have been, but they were on the BOTTOM of the valley, not on the plateau on the TOP of the valley, where the national park was actually located. I shed a few tears on the tuk tuk ride that kept winding down, down, down into the heart of the valley when I realized that we were likely not going to make it to the national park during our stay…

Determined to enjoy myself, however, I pranced through the fog amusing Sean and taking my mind off the cloudy weather.

Little did I know that once the clouds cleared in the morning, we would be perched on the edge of the most beautiful cliff on the entire island…

This is the same view above, where I am surrounded by clouds. In the morning, my spirits lifted at the prospect of getting to explore such a beautiful landscape. While we may not be able to visit the national park, we still were going to be able to climb a few mountains, play in the rainforests, and enjoy the beauty around us.

The pool at our hotel. I know, what was I complaining about?

The next post will be quite the narrative treat. As I said above, any hope of actually hiking in the national park was out of the question. Therefore, we spoke with a man at the hotel (whose English was VERY limited), and got a vague idea of a tentative hike for the next day. Little did we know we would gain—and lose—3,000 feet in elevation, walk through a village that has probably never seen white people before in their lives, completely lose the trail, get bitten by leeches, and have the time of our lives.

Looking forward to sharing the experience with you…

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