Misc

Nuwara Eliya

posted by Stu 0 comments

Sri Lanka being a major honeymoon destination causes some problems for independent travellers. The most obvious being prices, not just for accommodation but everything. These couples come away for two weeks and are looking for the time of their lives. Sri Lankan locals are well oiled at exploiting that fact and so only 3 days in I was getting bored with all the inflated prices and plastic service. Sometimes you don’t want at seat service with a smile – You just want a quick snack and then to get out there pronto having only paid a few rupees for it. It’s awkward, the locals see you walk in and see a dollar bill on legs, it is what they are used to and most tourists probably don’t realise or even care, and so heading away from the Cultural Triangle and the usual elephant haunts I expected things to change.

Nuwara Eliya is a place that is a pain in the arse to get to and so generally all you get here is independent travellers. I wondered if my theory of prices being lower/fairer would be correct and I have to say I was spot on. We are back on the traveller road and whilst everyone else gushes over a few elephants they have paid fifty quid to see, or a temple that was rebuilt last year we found ourselves with a blank canvass and a sense of adventure in a part of Sri Lanka that still offers that backpacker feel.

We decided that we would visit Horton’s plains and the world famous ‘Worlds End’ Of course Charlie asked the obvious question and the answer is no, it is not actually the end of the world. It is a sheer drop from a 2300m high plain dropping down almost a kilometre. In other words it is a huge massive joss off drop.

Getting a vehicle to take you to the Plains costs 3500Rupees, however I had spotted a tuk tuk sat near to our hotel for a whole day, every time I looked the guy was there waiting for a job. I went down and discussed him taking us to the plains. After a bit of negotiating the driver – Faizal, agreed to pick us up at 5am the following morning and take us to the plains, wait and then bring us back for 2500rupees. It’s a return journey of about 70km.

Sure enough, in the rain and mist and darkness we left at 5am. It was absolutely freezing cold and after driving through the darkness for about an hour we arrived at the entrance. I had to buy a permit and everywhere I had looked previously for price confirmation were incorrect and so here are the correct prices as of today (all in rupees)

Local Adult – 60

Foreign Adult – 1700.85

Foreign Child – 907.12

VAT – 429.01

Total for one adult, one kid (Abi turned 5 again and so was free) a driver and tuk tuk all in – 4004.10 (£22.10)

It’s an absolute scam by all accounts and the reason you can’t get an accurate price is because almost monthly the prices change. The park authority is trying to raise them as much as possible without affecting the influx of tourists.

By the time we got to the visitor centre the skies had become blue and we grabbed a couple of chapattis for breakfast and set off. The route is about 10km which is about 6 miles and is well marked. You can walk any direction you want, we turned left at the main sign and headed toward Mini World’s end. The walk was stunning, it took us across plains, and into thick tropical greenery. As we walked we had the phone playing music and we found ourselves yet again completely alone. Being at such an altitude the air is thinner and so you tend to get out of breath slightly easier. After a while the trees opened up and the path just came to a vast precipice. The valley opened up directly in front of us and gave for a stunning view. We then followed the lower path to the right and meandered our way down into another forest. I thought we had got lost but about twenty minutes later the trees opened up but this time we stopped in our path and looked at the spectacular abyss which appeared before us. The drop of almost a kilometre was pristinely clear and the view perfectly amazing. It was obvious why this place was called the ‘worlds end’ if ever there was an end it would look just like that. The rolling planes and forest come to an immediate stop and simply drop vertically to the valley below. The views are breathtaking. We have never seen such a sheer drop and it took us all by surprise, though we had seen pictures and knew what to expect nothing could prepare us for the actual view and feeling we had stood looking over the edge.

From here we headed back inland and ended up passing huge Sri Lankan Sambar Deer and saw snakes and lizards. We crossed grass lands, rivers and eventually found ourselves at the stunning Baker falls, this waterfall was a mission to get to since it was so steep and slippy. It was worth the effort though.

From there we followed the river back and eventually ended up back where we started. The whole walk had taken around three hours and we had absolutely loved it.

That afternoon we were feeling tired and so en route to Horton’s Plains earlier in the day I had spotted a Tea plantation a few miles out of Nurawa Eliya called Pedro Tea Plantation. We jumped in a tuk tuk and headed there. For whatever reason they don’t work Mondays and so there were no tours, a bit of gentle persuasion and a woman took us on an impromptu tour. We saw how tea came from the plantation and was picked, dried, cut, sorted, sieved, dried and then packaged. Exporting tea makes for about $700Million (15% GDP) each year and so is a major source of income for the country. It is the fourth largest producer of tea in the world and over a million locals work in the industry.

Pedro’s does not sell tea commercially but they sell it at auction in huge bags, the tea is then bought by companies such as Tetley’s and then taken to the UK to be processed and tea bagged.

We actually had a really interested time at the plantation and as we sat in the offices overlooking the plantation we had the best cup of tea any of us have ever had. It was great to get something warm in us too since we had spent much of the day freezing cold.

But as we sat there looking at the absolutely stunning scenery, drinking gorgeous tea and having just been taken on a tour of a factory completely at whim I thought of the morning and the amazing things we had done that day and I wondered; can Sri Lanka get any better.

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