The Hill Country - Part TwoDecember 14, 2016 in Sri Lanka
Monday morning arrived all to soon and we walked to the train station to head to our next stop, Haputale. It was an hour away and supposedly is one of the best train journeys in the world as it cuts through amazing scenery - our plan was to see and enjoy it, but what we hadn't planned on was that it would be one of the very few public holidays Sri Lanka has, meaning every man and his dog has a holiday. At the time we thought the train was busy, but as it was only an hour we were able to slip out quite easily when the time came. We did have a great view out of the window as well so all in all the journey was relatively painless.
We headed to another mountain once we'd arrived, nearby Lipton's seat named so after Thomas Lipton who established a tea plantation in the area that is still working today. His seat, atop a mountain, is a 7km climb through some of the most raw and beautiful landscapes we've seen. We cheated on the way up and were dropped 1km from the top but then did the descent 7km to the nearest tea factory. From the top there were yet more incredible views as well as a huge number of Sri Lankan tourists, all enjoying what the area had to offer. As we climbed both ways we'd seen that almost all of the locals going to the top were doing so by driving up however the road was barely wide enough for one car, meaning that traffic meeting in both directions led to huge jams. To clear these they all jump out their vehicles and debate how to manoeuvre around each other - it's quite a sight and shows their impressive spacial awareness. Well, except for the poor bloke who reversed his minivan off the edge and got wedged half off the road by a tree (better than a tumble 100m to the next stretch of winding road below).
By the time we'd reached the tea factory our tuk tuk driver wasn't very happy at having to wait for us for 2 hours as he told us normally people do the 8km round trip in 45 minutes. Yeah right....This was a rare instance of any resemblance of a problem that we'd had but ultimately it caused no issue as we were dropped back at our guest house for time to unwind and relax after the early mornings and hikes. That evening the guesthouse also served up freshly made curry that was our best curry experience in Sri Lanka so far. It proves that if you eat as the locals do then you're in for a treat. Our favourite was definitely the aubergine curry!
Tuesday was yet another early morning to catch the first train from Haputale to Kandy, a 5 1/2 hour journey through more spectacular vistas. Remember I said about the public holiday? Well Tuesday is the last day so everyone had to travel home ready for work on Wednesday, meaning the train was packed to capacity and then some! Beth made friends with a family who were on holiday for the weekend and landed herself a seat (plus food they shared with her) but I didn't fare so well, spending the full journey jammed by the toilet with a mass of sweaty men around me. It reached the stage where the train was was so busy that we couldn't move at all and feeling only returned to my feet when someone climbed on them to squeeze through to the toilet - great. Further to that the train's have food sellers who walk through the carriages selling freshly cooked treats from a 2ft wide basket. As the train was so busy you'd expect them to stop walking through, right? WRONG! Instead they climb through the tiniest gaps possible and hold the basket over everyone's heads; that is everyone's heads but mine, instead full-on hitting me in the face and leaving me to enjoy the smell of their wares for the rest of the sweaty journey!
Even Beth in a seat was cramped up for the last hour with a 5 year old on her lap and a lady sat basically on her hip. People were constantly shoving themselves into the carriages into non existent spaces and there really was no such thing as personal space. I'm writing this blog post the day after this journey and now that I'm feeling more rested I can reflect that it wasn't SO bad but at the time I would've happily traded all my clothes for a cold water and a comfy seat.
Thanks to Prabesh and his cousin (sorry I forgot his name!) for entertaining me on the journey with great conversation, if you're reading. And thanks to the very sweet family that adopted Beth and took a million 'flattering' photos of her!
PS: We thought about taking a photo of the packed train once we'd battled our way off at Kandy but we just couldn't face it after the journey!!Read more