Tea plantations at Nuwara Eliya - July 4th 2015

Temple of The Tooth

Temple of The Tooth

Visited The Temple of The Tooth last night. It houses one of Buddha’s canine teeth removed after his cremation and is an extremely important relic in the Buddhist faith. Arrived early for the 18.30 ceremony when they open the door into the chamber housing the tooth. The Tooth is covered by several gold covers forming a small stupa. In the chamber are a pair of giant elephant tusks.

Tooth Chamber

Tooth Chamber

The crowds were enormous and include thousands of school children all dressed in white. Drums played, the Monk’s feet were washed and they opened a lower section with a silver door, went inside and climbed internal stairs to the “Tooth Chamber”. After more drumming they opened the door revealing the gold stupa housing the tooth. We were lucky enough to be able to walk past the door and glance in. Very impressive! Interestingly I had been to this temple 60 years ago as an English migrant boy transiting through Colombo with my family on the way to Australia. I remember it well and there was no traffic or tourists in those days! (And a lot less people.)

Had delicious dinner last night as usual. This time beef and potatoes, lady finger ochra, mustard seed dahl, grated carrot with green chilli, pappadam strips, green bean sambal and red rice. It was followed by fresh buffalo curd with Fishtail Palm treacle! A taste sensation. They bind the immature flowers of the palm and cut the ends attaching a bag to catch the sap. They change the bag every day. It takes 8 bottles of sap to make one bottle of treacle. They boil the sap and it goes dark like treacle. Funny thing is we had planted an avenue of these same palms at the Zoo in the 1980’s.

Early to bed tonight as we have a 6am start to see the Tea plantations at Nuwara Eliya.

Well, what can I say about today. The fact that I took over 160 pics says it all. It was probably one of the most visually stunning days we have had while travelling!

Left at 6am passing an Ox cart pulling firewood, the suburbs just coming to life and buses speeding and leaning precariously through corners. Before arriving at Nuwara Eliya we stopped at a Tamil Temple where the morning Puja was occurring. A wonderful and unique experience. They worship the Monkey God Hanuman and it was sighted overlooking Monkey Sleeping Mountain at 960 metres above sea level.

The scenery up there was remarkable and tea plantations began to appear. After many switchback hairpin bends and climbing all the time we were at about 1800 metres above sea level. The Mackwood Tea Plantation surrounded the area and we stopped off at the Tea Factory. Prince Charles had visited last year while the CHOGM meeting was on in Sri Lanka so we felt in good company. The Factory showed us exactly how tea is grown, processed and packed in huge brown bags for export. We partook of a complimentary pot of Orange Peakoe tea (as Charles had done before us) and were amazed at the size of the teapot. The Mad Hatters Tea Party came to mind as we struggled to hold the beast! When my turn came to pour I burst into fits of laughter at the thought. The plantation employs 1,000 workers of whom 900 are pickers as each plant has to be picked by hand once a week.

Still climbing terraced vegetable patches began to appear looking like a giant quilt. The temperature dropped markedly and the clouds began to envelop us. It was visually unimaginably stunning. Words cannot do the scenery justice. Leeks, onions, cabbage, carrots, eggplant and many other cool climate vegies filled the plots. One group were busily digging potatoes.

Arriving at Nuwara Eliya it was about 15°C. It was a British Hill Town where they went to keep cool. The Post Office could have been in England and was unchanged since it was built in the 1850’s. Many British bungalows remain and can be seen overlooking the Race Course or Gregory Lake. It was a real time warp. The Victoria Park Botanical gardens was our next stop in the centre of town. It was very old and had a marvellous Rose Garden. I have become a late convert to roses and found myself snapping pics uncontrollably as there were some remarkable specimens revelling in the cool climate.

Driving on through the masses of “Oh so neat” vegie plots we reached yet another Botanical Garden. The Hakgala Botanic Gardens were established in 1861 and were in a magical setting with a massive 2,200 metre Rock face towering over it. In the collection was the largest Bunya Pine we had ever seen. Roses abounded here as did platoons of white uniform clad school children who visit at the weekends with their teachers.

Onwards again to Ella which boasts the longest waterfall in Sri Lanka. Its source is underground in the rock face and it cascades down a series of joined drops. Now the journey home along the same route and as it had been raining all the roadside waterfalls were gushing and at several points we were totally clouded in.  A truly mystical drive. Arrived home at 19.30 after thirteen and a half hours very tired but not as tired as our driver who still had to return the car to base and catch the bus home! Many beautiful sight are too numerous to relate but we can emphatically say “Take this trip if ever you are in Kandy”.