Not quite my cup of tea but fascinating nonetheless

To start a small technical point. The photos may not be to the usual quality as I’m unable at the moment to recharge my cell phone to upload photos from my camera. Therefore for the moment please bear with me and all else being equal I’m hoping to back fully functioning soon. If not, I’m going to bore you rigid with my holiday snaps when I’m back in the UK! I think all my friends will be too busy to see me for months!

The tea factory in Hatton in the valley below the plantation managers house

Today dawns at the Strathmore Mandria bungalow in Hatton to the smell on the breeze of tea dust and the dulcet tones of someone practicing Fur Elise on their recorder. The whole scene is idyllic.

I need to point out at this stage that I am one of the few people in the world who doesn’t drink tea – the smell is all it needs to send me running for cover! So a visit to a tea plantation in the tea growing area of Sri Lanka would seem incongruous but it will add to the sum of knowledge!

But first, a couple of stops at viewpoints for two of Sri Lanka’s largest waterfalls.

Devon Falls and St Clair’s Falls…but not necessarily in that order!

To grow tea bushes (originally Sri Lanka was earmarked for coffee production in the 19th century but that failed when parasites affected the crop) you need warmth (here in abundance), water (ditto) and labour (ditto too). The advantages that tea bushes have is that they will or even prefer to grow on hillsides – I don’t know who asked them or how they know but they do and there’s loads of steep hillsides, rolling landscapes, sharp bends, steep gradients, nooks and crannies and every square inch of land covered in tea bushes.

The visit to the tea factory was a little disappointing as their working patterns mean that they pick today and process today/tomorrow and as yesterday was Sunday, there was little to see except some idle equipment and a few maintenance men and builders- everyone else was out on the hillside. The equipment did seem a little pristine and lacking in evidence of any recent tea leaves but interestingly the pickers – as it reached lunch time or even the end of their shift – had all their bags collected by another team who then proceeded to carry all the bags up the mountainside in the opposite direction to the factory.

The option to sample the output was politely declined without causing an international or diplomatic incident and a few photos snapped.

Lunch in Nurawa Eliya – the local commercial centre – at the Grand Hotel was fine and a wander around the gardens aided digestion after a pleasant coffee! And a spell outside the post office emphasised how cooler it was in the uplands compared to the incessant humidity of the coast where even paper almost disintegrated in front of your eyes.

The Gardens of the Grand Hotel in Nurawa…

The post office where you can buy flim

By way of light relief, I’ve seen a Naandos, the option to buy Kodak Flim, a school called the Terminal Education Academy and at Galle cricket ground, the ‘right wing stand’ as it was on the right as you looked from one end of the ground.

I’ve checked my tickets for the Test in Kandy and it seems I’m not allowed to take a juke box, food, back pack, camera, weapons, short sticks (presumably long ones are ok?), selfie stick, sharp objects (presumably my sharp edged wit and repartee will allowed?), bottles, umbrellas, crash helmets or coins into the ground. Doesn’t say anything about trumpets, trombones, picnic set, cuddly toy, fondue set etc….

Mrs Aggers’ exoneration and the Jewel in the Crown experience

The plantation managers bungalow

Today sees the journey from Galle to Hatton in the central highland areas of Sri Lanka but not before a slightly delayed departure to join the hundreds of English fans who gathered at the Clock Tower in the old Fort in Galle to commemorate Remembrance Sunday and the centenary.

The journey starts heading back towards Colombo on the E1 expressway built with Chinese investment into the Sri Lankan economy. The route then heads east through towns large and small with a lunch stop at a restaurant where like Barkis, everyone was willing but service was closer to a well known fictional hotel in Torquay- but who cares? The group were all fed and watered eventually and a convivial time was had.

As we proceed upwards and eastwards, through Avissellawa the incline becomes noticeable as the roads twist and turn. The greenery across Sri Lanka is something to behold and the vegetation becomes thicker and thicker; this is starting to sound as if we’re trekking through jungle but no…rubber plantations, tea plantations and coconut palms in abundance.

Today being Sunday the use of the horn seems to be more subdued but it may be due to lighter traffic. If you’ve been to Asia you will know what appears to the visitor to be chaos and driving ‘at the edge’ but no one seems to mind if you travel three abreast in one lane of a two lane road – a tuk tuk, a bike or scooter, and a bus/coach all side by side. It all works because this is the norm. Lane dodging on the M25 would appear equally strange to others! All you need to survive in both is skill and judgement!

Following on from comments from readers regarding my audacious question to Mrs Aggers yesterday and the laundry process in the Agnew suite, she spotted me in the hotel lobby before we all departed and I advised her of the level of disquiet expressed. She assured me that she blogged about the laundry first and I should not take the comments of others to heart!

Gradually and almost imperceptibly the gradient increases, the bends become hairpins and the ascent to over 650m (3,000+ feet) in traffic which allows overtaking on two lane road! The views are increasingly stunning and as the sun sets increasingly beautiful but as we are behind the original schedule, the light fades too much and too quickly for what I had hoped would be some picturesque sunset snaps but as I write this we are at a stop for an off-licence (or what Brits would understand as such) cum liquor store as the hotels the group is booked in does not have its own licence and guests need to provide their own. A couple of dry days will help me restore an equilibrium and give my liver a chance to ‘rest’.

After much searching in the darkness, the hotel – or rather the bungalow – was located. An exquisite Empire style tea plantation managers bungalow operating as a boutique hotel. There are only four rooms for five of us staying here so we are outnumbered by the most welcoming and helpful staff. The best way to describe everything is to recall the TV series Jewel in the Crown. If Rules restaurant (the oldest in London and one of the most opulent) ran hotels…this would be it!

The process seems to be that the guests form a ‘house party’ in that we all eat together and eat the same. This is wonderful as it gives everyone the chance to properly meet each other and discuss the meaning of life, the universe and everything in very convivial company.

There is only one aspect I’ve found to fault…the bath is very deep so if anyone has issues with their hips or knees, they may not be able to get their leg over.

It has not quite fully upgraded itself to life in the 21st century as the Wi-fi is spasmodic and I cannot recharge my phone at the moment but the power will recharge my iPad? Odd but I suppose I’ve come here for relaxing and sightseeing so being ‘off the grid’ is not the end of the world! After all the human race managed for centuries without the technology of today but it does show me how reliant I have become on such technology so perhaps it’s time for me to rethink.

And at least we would be none the wiser about others laundry arrangements which prompts me to…

The view to the tea treatment works…idyllic as someone close by is practicing Fur Elise on their recorder and the sounds drift across…