There are three million rickshaws in Sri Lanka. That’s one for every seven people. This is even more incredible considering the bus service covers 95% of all roads. You never have to wait longer than ten minutes for a bus, wherever you are. Unfortunately unlike India, they are not so direct, meaning it often involves a lot of changes to get anywhere. The bus to Haputale was no different, with five in all. Ten minutes into the first bus we stopped for lunch (I hate it when that happens!). By the time the bus was ready to set off again, six policeman had boarded and were searching bags and people. You might think they were on the hunt for bombs, weapons or even terrorists, but their secretive smiles and giggles told a different story. They were on the hunt for a missing vegetable from one of the Ladies bags. They found nothing much to the amusement of nearly everyone on the bus. With no crime obvious, we carried on our journey.
Haputale is beautiful. Clinging to the hillside and surrounded by tea plantations, we had a stunning view from our balcony. On the first day we walked through the plantations. Unlike in India, where it all seems to be private property and keep out signs, here we were free to explore, amongst a chorus of ‘hellos’ from all the workers. There is surely no happier, friendlier and more polite country in the world. The highlight of the walk turned out to be the two large lizards we saw. One had a large array of bright colours and sat there undeterred by our presence. I will add photos soon.
On the second day we caught a bus to the third largest waterfall in Sri Lanka. It was great at the bottom but eager to climb to the top we enlisted the locals to help us. Diverting us through their homes, bogs, paddy fields and grass over six foot tall, it was a chore in the heat of the day. Eventually we arrived and dived into the pools at the top. There was a mini-fall where you could stick your head under as well as a pool where you could peer over the top as the water thundered down from it. It was immense. That said there is always a downside to paradise. Upon getting out my whole hand was covered in little black spiders and I had a lizard attached to the back of my leg. Lovely! In the evening we met a five year old who could strip wires and mend a battery to power his toy train. That’s something you don’t learn in reception class.
We then journeyed through the hills on the wonderfully old fashioned train to Ella. Very much like Haputale it’s relaxed and very green. Over the two days I did two climbs to little Adam’s Peak and the striking Ella rock. With both the views deteriorated quickly due to the clouds but they were good varied walks. This was certainly the case with the latter where you had to traipse along the railway line for a good forty five minutes before crossing paddy fields and then climbing up through the forest to the top. Finally you plonked yourself on the rock admiring the hazy view in the distance and the sheer drop below. In the evening I did a cooking course at a nearby restaurant. The smiling and charismatic chef is renowned for the twists he makes to traditional recipes. The food he showed us was probably the best food I have had to date on my travels.
That was it for the hill country. A very beautiful area of the country. Despite quite a lot of cloud we were very lucky to not see much rain outside of Kandy. Next it was back down south and into the sauna once again.