A Journey Through the Hill Country in Sri Lanka
I had been wanting to play some cricket ever since I’d touched down in Sri Lanka; it was great to finally be in a country that had something in common with my own. It had taken about a week but there I was bat in hand, high up in the hill country of Sri Lanka, ready to show the locals how we do things in New Zealand. Thanks to me they probably think we always hit the ball forcefully into dense scrub. We searched for about 10 minutes. I thought I was going to have to shell out for a new ball, but finally someone plucked it out of the wilderness and it was back to the cricket.
I was in Ella, home of tea and amazing views. It also has buildings, people, barking dogs, rainy weather and some great short hikes. The walk to Ella Rock takes in all the best aspects of Sri Lanka’s hill country; waterfalls, tea-fields, trains winding through mountains and top-notch scenery. It also included some of Ella’s poor weather, so by the time I reached the top I couldn’t see anything. I picked a much better day to visit Little Adam’s Peak. Far less strenuous than the ascent of Ella Rock, Little Adam’s Peak was a peaceful stroll through tea fields and rolling countryside, with a short climb at the end.
The fog rolled in at the top of Ella Rock The view from Little Adam’s Peak
The main street in Ella
Haputale, a couple of hours from Ella, is another picture-perfect town nestled amongst the hills, and just like Ella the weather was terrible. I arrived to an unrelenting downpour, which would have been OK had it not washed away the road to my guesthouse. There was a tiny sliver of road left which I considered trying to walk across, but had I lost my balance I would have fallen to a tragic early death. After taking shelter for an hour or so I finally got in touch with the guesthouse owner who came and showed me an alternate path.
The main attraction in Haputale is Lipton’s Seat. If you are a tea fan, or have ever worked in a supermarket, you’ll probably recognise the name. Back in the 1890s Thomas Lipton used to escape the rigors of the tea-making business by chilling out on his seat. I’m not sure if he referred to it as Lipton’s Seat at the time, that’d be pretty weird, but now there’s a sign and everything. Its one of the better views to be found in the Sri Lankan hill country and is an easy tuk-tuk ride from town.
Getting to the Hill Country in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a small island, but while distances look short on paper it can take some time to get around. A lot of people hire a car and a driver, but that wasn’t happening on my budget. Buses and trains can be slow and crowded but they are cheap, and a good way to glimpse the local life. I went from Yala National Park (an awesome place to go on safari and spot leopards) on the southern coast to Ella, which took me 2-3 hours. From Colombo by train looks like it takes around 9 hours, but I’m sure the views out of the window would be well worth it.
From Haputale you can go by train to Nuwara Eliya, an old British colonial tea town on the edge of the hill country. I only passed through, but the bus ride (rain had caused mud-slides which canceled the train) was a nice trip through small towns, waterfalls and of course tea fields and jungle. From there it’s on to Kandy, the gateway to Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle. Another great place to check out is the Lion Rock, in Sigiriya.
I paid 1300 LKR ($10 USD) in both Ella and Haputale, which got me nice, clean rooms set in beautiful countryside with hot water showers (important in Sri Lanka’s hill country as it gets pretty cold). In fact, once you leave Colombo and Kandy, Sri Lanka has some suprisingly good accommodation options in this price bracket; a backpacker budget actually gets you a decent amount of comfort.
I had never eaten Sri Lankan food before so I wasn’t expecting much. To my surprise the food is really good; I ate a pineapple curry (with lots of side-dishes) at my guesthouse in Haputale which has to go down as some of the best food I’ve ever eaten.
I didn’t get to play any more cricket after my poor first showing but I had a great time exploring the hill country in Sri Lanka and can’t wait to go back. Anything more you want to know? Get commenting!
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