Turning Tides in Hill Country

I dropped Kandy today like a bad sugar habit. My time spent was not unpleasant but I knew there was more fun to be made elsewhere. So at the crack of dawn, I grabbed my breakfast at the guesthouse, and headed to the bus station where I caught a bus bound for Nuwara Eliya.

The bus ride to Nuwara Eliya is a four-hour ride through steep and windy turns headed deep into the mountains of Sri Lanka. Within hours, the bus leaves the towns and small villages behind to hills and mountains draped with tea plantations.

Women picking tea leaves in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka. ©Matthew Worden

Sri Lanka is the fourth largest producer of tea in the world. These compact low plants exhibiting every color of green imaginable paint the steep hillsides lush and green. Women pick the young leaves and buds across rugged terrain and in ever-changing tough weather conditions. The women must pick nearly 44 pounds of tea a day which earns them only $3.00. Because of low wages, these hard working women live in substandard housing and are some of the poorest in the country.

A tea plantation drapes the hills in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka.

By mid day the bus crests the tea-capped mountains and we slowly roll into the valley where Nuwara Eliya lays. As I get off the bus I instantly feel an amazing 20-degree temperature change from the warm coastline areas. It’s such a remarkable change. It feel like you have been transferred to a whole other country.

While getting off the bus I quickly crowd surfed through all the swarm of touts, got my bearings, and walked a half-mile to King Fern Cottage where I will be staying for the night.

This place is amazing! It’s funky, it’s artsy, and everything is peaceful and zen- with huge handmade beds, warm blankets, and a stream passing right through this quaint little place. The ambience here has an amazing laid-back feel that centers around a rustic timber pavilion.

I’m warmly greeted and shown my room. It’s pink!! It has some black accent but it’s not bad. It has almost a rock-star pink feel. I instantly take the room that sits on the quite sounds of the stream a few feet away.

After I settled in, I went to explore the cottage a little more and to have a quick cup of tea. As I sat with some of Sri Lanka’s finest, I met Katie from Ireland who is an art teacher and a fellow traveler. We instantly hit it off like we have been friends for years.

As we sit, talk, and drink our tea the owner of the place sits down and discusses the hiking adventure to Horton’s Plain and World’s End that Katie was planning for tomorrow. She offered if I wanted to go and the next thing I know I’m getting up at 5:00am for a 6 mile hike through mountain top wild grasslands that leads to a vista that’s suppose to give you an amazing view of the country below; if it’s not raining.

It’s been raining most of the day since I entered the Hill Country so after we finalized arrangements we decided to head into Nuwara Eliya to buy some warm rain gear for our hike in the morning. Since Sri Lanka was once a very large garment manufacturer servicing western retailers, sweaters and jackets are extremely cheap. Things like North Face and Columbia jackets can be purchased for a small fraction of the cost in the states.

My room next to the stream.

We go to the open market and shop around. Katie’s bargaining skills are amazing and we walk away with some warm cloths for the morning cold and possible rain.

When we venture back to the cottages we have dinner and talk about life, travel and art. We retire back to our rooms early since we have a very early wake up call to World’s End.

As I sit in my pink room I keep thinking how within an hour of arriving in Nuwara Eliya, I find my self staying in an amazing place, meeting an amazing friend, and now I’m going hiking in a few short hours. It’s definitely a turning of the tides from the few days past.

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