Sri Lanka Part 2 – Nuwara Eliya, Ella and Hikkaduwa

Day 221: October 19, 2018

We had breakfast at a nearby restaurant sponsored by Planeterra, GAdventures non-profit organization that sponsors local projects. We had three different types of hoppers (bowl shaped pancakes similar to crepes) and roti.

Hoppers and roti

Then we started our morning driving south through the hills towards Nuwara Eliya. Along the way we stopped at the Glenloch tea plantation. The area used to be covered in forest, but now only 5% of the forest remains. It was all transformed into tea plantations by the British.

In the 18th century, the king married an Indian queen. He had no sons or brothers so the crown went to the queen’s brother. The chiefs were not happy with having an Indian ruler. The British took advantage of the conflict and swept in. Tea plantations were started in the British period. Sri Lankans didn’t like to work for the British so South Indians were brought to work in the tea plantations.

The factory we visited was 140 years old and had 100 workers outside and 40 workers inside. We had a tour of the factory and were told lots about tea.

Green tea uses only the young leaves. White tea uses only the bud. Black tea uses the full thing. The green and white tea is only steamed and dried. Black tea undergoes a different process. The leaves spend 12 hours drying then are sent to a rolling machine for 20 minutes to break the leaves into pieces. They are screened with the bigger pieces going back to the roller. Next is the fermentation phase: a fan sprays water causing the leaves to turn brown in an oxidation reaction. Next the leaves are sent to the dryer at 120 degrees for 20 minutes. Stems are then separated from the leaves with a fan. The stems have no taste so they go back to the garden as fertilizer.

Black tea drying, rolling and separating

The factory makes five tons of tea a week. Most of the tea (75%) is sent to Colombo where it is mixed by tea companies to create their own blend. We were told that orange pekoe is actually a grading of tea. Orange refers to the copper colour of high quality oxidized tea leaves prior to drying. Pekoe refers to the origin of the plant being from China.

After the tour and a tea sampling we walked around the tea fields for a bit.

Tea plantation

We left and stopped for lunch at a restaurant beside Ramboda Falls for a buffet. They even had a self-serve soft ice cream for dessert.

Ramboda Falls

Our drive continued to Nuwara Eliya. We checked into the hotel then went for an Ayurvedic massage traditional to Sri Lanka. It was very oily and not much of a massage to get knots out. We were also given steam baths. Danny’s masseuse was a little rough and he was left very very oily.

We went for supper with a couple of people from the group and enjoyed the conversation. Sometimes its nice to just be with a smaller group. After we took the bus back to the hotel to go to sleep.

Day 222: October 20, 2018

We were able to sleep in this morning. Only two people from our group chose to do a trek through Horton Plains National Park. We had breakfast in the hotel then chilled until it was lunch time. It was raining all morning so I didn’t feel very motivated to go outside.

We went for a walk through the gardens of The Grand Hotel from the British period in the early afternoon. We sat in the wrought iron furniture and imagined it was the White Sands Hotel from Anne of Green Gables.

The Grand Hotel, Nuwara Eliya

After we drove to the train station to wait for our train to Ella. The ticket was only 150 LKR ($1.14 CAD). The train was about 40 minutes late which is apparently common. It was quite rainy and foggy so we only got a bit of a view of the tea plantations and hills.

Train ride Nuwara Eliya to Ella

We arrived in Ella at 6:30 pm and were taken to the hotel. We all went out together for supper. We had kottu roti, a mixture of roti, vegetables and meat. Roti is round flat bread made from whole meal flour and water. After supper we returned to the hotel to go to bed.

Day 223: October 21, 2018

Happy two year anniversary to us!

We had breakfast in the hotel then we did a trek to the Nine Arch Bridge, a beautiful stone and brick train bridge that is 300 feet long. Along the walk I got two nice leeches on my ankles. Bug spray made them detach, but the blood was already pouring.

We arrived at the bridge and waited for the train to cross to get the perfect picture. Of course, the train was late.

Nine Arch Bridge, Ella

Once the train had passed, we walked along the tracks. I could hear our parents yelling at us in my head. We hiked up the hill and were very sweaty by the end from the heat and humidity. Our bus was waiting for us with the A/C at the top. It drove us to the base of Little Adam’s Peak which is named after Adam’s Peak due to it’s similar shape. At the summit of Adam’s Peak there is a footprint shape that is said to be the footprint of Adam when he first set foot on earth. Buddhists believe it to be that of Buddha and Hindus believe it to be that of Shiva. Among all those religions it is revered as a holy site at 2,243 m tall. Little Adam’s Peak was only 1,141 m tall.

Hike to Little Adam’s Peak, Ella

The hike was an easy 30 minute climb to a beautiful view. We went back down then the bus took us back to the hotel. We went for lunch by ourselves then chilled in our room.

Around 5:30 pm we decided to go out for supper. We walked up the road to Ceylon Tea Factory. The restaurant was very nice and we had the place to ourselves. We sat outside and enjoyed a romantic meal with time to reconnect.

Anniversary dinner in Ella
Day 224: October 22, 2018

Danny and I had breakfast up the street then we met up with the group and boarded the bus. We stopped at Rawana Falls along the side of the road. Udi bought us some mango which was so delicious.

Rawana Falls, Ella

Next we stopped at the Elephant Transit Home in Udawalawa that was established in 1995. It takes care of orphaned baby elephants until they can be released into the wild at the age of five. The elephants are free to roam the area and many wild elephants also visit the area. The home has taken care of more than 250 elephants.

The baby elephants are fed every three hours. Most are fed human baby milk formula, but if a certain elephant does not digest it properly soy milk or rice broth are tried. Funnels with tubes are used to pour the milk into the elephants’ mouths. Some of the elephants came running up and eagerly put the tube in their mouth with their trunk. The smallest was fed with a large bottle. There were tree branches laid out nearby that they snacked on afterwards. They ripped the leaves off first then tore off the bark.

Elephant Transit Home

After we had a four hour drive to Hikkaduwa, on the west coast of the island. Our hotel in Hikkaduwa was gorgeous. It was right on the beach with a swimming pool and bar.

View from our hotel in Hikkaduwa

We went next door for supper then Danny went out for drinks with some of the others while I relaxed in our room before bed.

Day 225: October 23, 2018

Danny got in around midnight the night before. We had breakfast in the hotel which was way too much food: omelettes, French toast, fruit, juice, tea, toast and pastries. We ended up wrapping the pastries and taking them to our room for lunch.

After breakfast I did some blogging and Danny had a nap. At 2:00 pm we met the group and the bus took us to the Galle Fort.

The first fort was built in Galle in 1588 by the Portuguese. The Dutch expanded the fort in the 17th century. Then the British controlled it starting in 1796 after they captured Colombo. Sri Lanka was under British influence until independence in 1948.

We started with a visit to the Dutch Reformed Church which was built in 1755. We then passed a Dutch warehouse that was used to store mostly spices. The Dutch were invited by the Sri Lankans to fight the Portuguese in 1638 which gave them a monopoly over trade. Dutch Ceylon existed from 1640 to 1796.

Dutch warehouse, Galle Fort

Next we visited the harbour then the original Portuguese fort. The Portuguese would have had 400 soldiers stationed in the fort. The walls were built using coral from the water. We saw the ammunition storage room and a meeting room. Buildings inside were still being used by the local police. If we hadn’t been led to that portion by Udi we would have never known it existed.

Portuguese Fort, Galle Fort

After we passed the hospital in the Dutch area that has been turned into a strip mall. Then we saw the lighthouse that was rebuilt by the British in 1938.

Lighthouse, Galle Fort

Next we walked along the rampart. The group split off and we walked around inside the fort with the Swiss couple on our tour. The inside of the fort was like a little town with lots of hotels and restaurants. We found one large store, “Embark”, that sells clothing and other items in support of street dogs in Sri Lanka. The branding was amazing and all the profits go to resources, sterilization, vaccinations and education of the street dogs.

We rested at a hotel for a drink and watched the sunset. We met the group soon after and went up the street for supper. At 7:30 pm we boarded the bus back to the hotel.

Day 226: October 24, 2018

We woke up and walked up the street to a little family restaurant for breakfast. We were the first people there, but the lady made us a very nice breakfast of eggs, toast and fruit.

We walked back to our hotel then put on our bathing suits. We walked up the beach and saw some sea turtles which were much larger than I expected.

Beach in front of our hotel, Hikkaduwa

We walked back the other way along the beach where it was packed with locals swimming and snorkelling. Danny and I took turns with the snorkel mask he has been carrying since Greece. The current was actually pretty strong. We both got a couple of scratches from the coral. We saw a lot of colourful fish.

Fish seen when snorkelling, Hikkaduwa

We returned to the hotel area and suntanned on the deck. I went in and out of the pool reading in between. Danny went back to see the turtles a couple of times with the snorkel. He got to swim with them which made him so happy.

Sea turtle, Hikkaduwa

We returned to the room for showers then chilled until our farewell dinner at 7:00 pm. Udi made a very nice speech and then our meals were brought out. It is interesting how people form into groups based on personalities. All the British and Irish stayed together and the rest of us stayed together.

We said our goodbyes to Udi and the drivers then they left around 9:00 pm to go back to Colombo. We stayed a bit longer then decided to say goodbye to everyone and go to bed.

Day 227: October 25, 2018

We had breakfast up the street and enjoyed watching two crows waiting for some food. We packed up and our car picked us up at 10:00 am to take us to Negombo.

We arrived at our hotel around 12:30 pm. The family who owns it was very nice. We went to our room and watched some Narcos on Netflix. For lunch, we walked up the street to an Italian place then walked back along the beach before it started to rain.

For supper, we went to a restaurant next door. Danny had vegetable curry and I had fresh fish which was super tasty. While we were at supper I got 21 mosquito bites. The mosquitoes here are super aggressive, but you rarely see them. We returned to our room and watched some news before bed.

Day 228: October 26, 2018

Breakfast was brought to our room and we ate it on the balcony. It was string hoppers with egg curry, chicken curry and pol sambol. There was also a plate of fruit.

We went down to the beach and found a nice spot to sit. We went into the water for a bit then when we came out a very friendly doggy hung out with us. Danny took him for a run, but he kept running and Danny turned back. We were in and out of the water. The waves were quite large so it wasn’t the best for swimming.

Friendly doggy on the beach in Negombo

We returned to our room, showered, then went back to the Italian place from the day before for lunch.

Our host drove us to the airport at 4:00 pm. We couldn’t check in to our flight until 7:00 pm so we chilled then when we were through security we had Pizza Hut for supper. Our flight to Kuala Lampur left at 10:55 pm.

Sri Lanka was such a nice surprise. We hadn’t originally planned to go there, but we are very glad we did. Many people referred to it as “India Minor” as it has a similar culture, but is much less busy. We haven’t been to India so we can’t confirm that. The people there were very friendly and the scenery was gorgeous. It is a bit out of the way for Canadian travellers. I don’t know if we would have gone a trip just to see it so I’m glad we got the chance this time.

Being on tour also allowed me to relax and de-stress a little bit. The beach time at the end of the tour was also a nice treat. I feel I can go move on with our trip with a fresh outlook. Danny and I have agreed that we will see how we are both feeling during our time in Phuket, Thailand. By the end of the week we will decide if we want to go home or continue and for how long.