Hill Country in Sri Lanka gets pretty high pretty quickly, getting up to 6,000 feet for the town of Nuwara Eliya and eight thousand for the highest peak Pidurutalagala. Hill Country is much cooler than the plains and Colombo. Some enterprising Brits, mainly Scotts, introduced European farming and tea cultivation and cut a road up the steep hillsides to the small plateau of Nuwara Eliya. After a week in Sri Lanka arriving in Nuwara Eliya is a shock to the senses, the architecture is distinctly rural England, the weather mildly Welsh and the plantation names are Scottish, there is a golf course and a horse racing track. Apparently when first settled coffee was the main crop and as coffee only needs seasonal pickers the population was mostly European. After the coffee crop failed for a number of years and tea was introduced, which needs picking everyday the population became more diverse.
We visited the SOS Children's Village in Nuwara Eliya to meet the boy we sponsor, he is 16 and is cyclist, sportsman, photographer and good at his studies. He understands some English but was not confident to talk to us. Everyone at the village are very warm and supportive and the houses and grounds really well kept.
Nuwara Eliya town is pretty frenetic, everyone bustling around in jackets and hats with major label fashion and US sports team logos, many apparel items are made in Sri Lanka so everyone is wearing CK jackets or NY Yankees, or Michigan State while fixing the road or plucking tea.
Talking of tea, the bushes are everywhere, clinging to 45 degree slopes (flat ground is used for potatoes, strawberries, roses or other vegetables). The perfect pluck is 2 new leaves and a bud, each bush is ready for plucking once a week, so a large amount of pluckers (mainly women), pick 40 pounds of tea each day: Tough work on a steep hillside in variable weather. The tea is taken to a tea factory for processing: air drying for about 14 hours, crushing, fermenting, heated drying, sorting, packing, all done in 24 hours, nothing added, just tea.
The tea factories are tall imposing buildings typically on a hilltop, one is now a very fancy hotel. We visited for a great lunch and spectacular views. The road to Nuwara Eliya is torturous by any standard, the road the the Tea Factory Hotel was single width, but we met a full size buss, trucks and tuk tuks - certainly scenic.
The plateau of Nuwara Eliya includes a good size lake, which has a couple of parks offering boat rides, kayaks, jet skis, zip wire and some very improbable peddle boats shaped like swans. We took a walk to the lake in time for a spectacular sunset, apparently it costs Rs100 to enter the park, we were told it was closing, but we managed to talk our way in (for free) on the basis of "photo, photo" - look in the photo page for burning sunset (6:30PM) and the odd Swan boats.
It always amazes me how diverse this country is.
(Shout out to Evelyn for encouraging me to read and spell check, she is sitting next to me laughing at errors in wary posts)