Sri Lanka – Hatton – Nuwara Eliya – Haputale

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Armed soldiers in train

Getting train ticket to Nanuoya was trivial – but the train was well over packed and a bit of a pain to be honest.  Mostly westerners with backpacks, and some selfish people sitting on the floor in doorways taking up lots of room.  Annoying for others who could not get on, but did mean we had a great view over their heads through the open door.  We were tempted to push them out a few times, but decided it wasn’t the done thing.  We hoped their iphones on selfie sticks when hanging out of the door would meet a nasty end, but we were disappointed.

View out of open train doors

Nanuoya train station was a zoo but we cheated and arranged a pickup by our homestay owner, which made the journey to the guesthouse (AGP homestay) simple based just below Gregory Lake in Nuwara Eliya.  The owner is also a legit registered guide so great English and able to tell us lots of history and facts along the way.  Nuwara Eliya is “little England” – as at 2000m above sea level its cool, grey and frequently wet. It was the holiday destination of the bigwigs in the colonial times so is British in character – 18 hole golf course, horse racing track, posh (aka pompous) hotels and the like.  But everything is calmer and its rather nice place to wander.  Is a bit chilly at night though…

Tea and cake at factory (tourist standard, not local)

The owner took us (and his other guests) to the Damro Labookellie Tea Centre and Tea garden- which is around 18km away on the windiest roads we’ve ever seen.  On the map then look OK and fairly straight, but zoom in and its constant hairpins and slow going.  The tea centre is a working tea estate and factory, so we were able to walk around the tea plantations and see the tealeaves being made.  The pickers work stupidly hard, and earn ridiculously low salaries – a basic of 750LKR a day which is around £3.50….. 

The visit is free of charge (small tip) with a free cup of tea (and expensive optional) cake, but really was worth the visit.  The drive up was entertaining and seeing stalls selling British veg at the roadside was very interesting!  Bit busier than Kandy tea museum and better vista all round.

Local dish (non local eatery) – but note – no beer 🙁

After exploring the town for the night, there were very few restaurants we’d want to eat – but one stood out just outside Victoria Park.  Bit western, but clean and tasty!  The following day we walked up Single Tree Hill – no idea why its got that name, there are loads of trees.  The homestay owner has no idea either!  But a great walk with lovely views over the town and the plantations and well worth a hike up.  We subsequently visited Victoria Park which is a well kept old British Park (150LKR) and contains a small museum of old photos from the colonial days.  Interesting and shows how pompous it used to be! 

Nuwara Eliya

On leaving Nuwara Eliya we got the train to Haputale – and whilst we’ll say the scenery along the way is stunning, it’s a totally crap journey unless you were lucky enough to get reserved seats.   We didn’t so were having to stand crammed in the corridor – fortunately next to the open doors – but surrounded by travellers rather than locals and it was a little fraught with various mannerless traits from various nations coming through.  Not recommended.  The train was also late and stopped for a couple of hours due to a tree falling an blocking the line….  That said, transport options are limited…..

Nuwara Eliya – Authentic Little England in every way – including being cold and wet!
Nuwara Eliya

Haputale is a tiny town and appears quite poor and quite rough around the edges.  The walk to the homestay didn’t inspire, nor did the foggy weather, but the homestay itself was actually the best of the bunch and worked well.  Tea was more Indian-Tamil than we’ve had before so quite interesting.  The stay was only for one night, so the next day we got up early and got a tuk tuk to Liptons Seat where Mr Lipton apparently kept an eye on his empire. Stunning 360’ vistas and the sky was clear and blue with all of the fog gone. Happy days!  (1000LKR for one-way tuktuk (45mins), 250LKR entry and around 60LKR for bus back to Haputale). 

View on route to Liptons Seat

The walk down from the seat to the tea factory was very impressive showing massively steep tea fields – the women really do work hard here!  The bus to Haputale was trivial and caught at the tea factory. With a few hours to kill we caught a bus to a monastery which is in a really bizzare UK style old house (from 1931) with pristine English gardens and flowers, and even the brickwork is UK standard.  Impressive to see, but only 15 mins visit, the walk back to Haputale for our last leg of the train journey to Ella

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