I woke up to the call to prayer from the local mosque. It was nice to hear something familiar in this city of unknowns. We headed up to have breakfast in the dining area- it’s all lovely and open plan, with panoramic views of a blue-skied Kandy. One thing I’ve noticed about Kandy is the amount of potted plants on each residence here, each windowsill and ledge. The plants spill out of the pot and reach up to the sun; orchids and bougainvillea and crepe myrtle. Such stunning bursts of colour really add a welcoming warmth to the town.
Breakfast was a delicious selection of tropical fruits; rambutan, papaya, pineapple, sugar banana. We also had scrambled eggs, rice (laced with coconut) and chutney. The meal was wholesome and delicious.
The sounds of Kandy wafted up to us as we sat on the balcony. A school marching band was parading through the streets practicing for their next sports meet. A crackly megaphone was blasting pop songs. An anvil hitting metal, a dog barking. The overwhelming cacophony of horns blaring in the traffic. A military helicopter carrying none other than the President of Sri Lanka. It was nice to sit mountainside away from the noise.
We left Kandy and drove towards a tea factory, but not without stopping at the local supermarket first. I always love going to supermarkets in other countries, there are minute differences in the way things operate. There was a jewelry section, a pungent fish section, a weighing station for fruit and aisles and aisles of packaged goods. We grabbed some bags of chips and left.
The tea factory smelled of woodfire. We were served a cup of tea each before entering and my goodness, the tea was light, clear, unsweetened amber and I loved it. The tea factory seemed rustic, as if the processing machines had been running since the 1940s. We were shown the difference between two camellia varieties and how they create different teas, and how to categorise the leaves into different grades- Best, Below Best and … something starting with P. I was very impressed. Did you know that there’s a machine invented in Japan that can categorise tea leaves by colour? Remarkable!
We made our way to Gampola, the town were we were to catch the train. Our host at the bed and breakfast was telling us how Gampola was his hometown and he was very proud to have us visit there. It’s small and sits in the shadow of a mountain. I probably would have walked right past the train station had I not been shown it. The station is has all the original train paraphernalia which still in use. The switch room still has a thousand levers for all the different train lines, and there’s a scale of the watermarks left by different floods since the 1930s.
The blue train came, picked us up, and jolted onwards.
We were given first class tickets, which Snidely and I were a little bit disappointed by at first. We wanted the authentic, original Sri Lankan train ride through the mountains, and instead we got a sealed capsule of foreigners, all pressing up against the window for the perfect snapshot of the tea country. After a while, however, we were happy to have comfy seats and air conditioning, so we can’t complain.
The train jerked it’s way up the mountains and through little communities on the way. We passed through tunnels and over bridges and gained speed on on the flats. I had to use sports mode on my camera to make sure the photos weren’t just a blur of green. Once you emerge from the congestion, the mountains open up to reveal terraces of tea plantations. The landscape soars and the tips of trees become shrouded in mist.
The wind picks up and clouds race the train.
We pulled into Haputale, then traveled a short distance down the mountain to a little community called Beragala. I watched rains smear from the clouds from the window. All the townsfolk had knitted beanies.
At our accommodation, we settled in, then gorged ourselves on Ceylonese Fried Rice and a hundred types of curry- all so flavoursome, all so delicious.