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Travelling in Sri Lanka Part 2 – The Tea Country

See Part 1 of our journey through Colombo and Kandy here. We had just turned off the main road to Nuwara Eliya and onto a treacherous, rocky path with no railings to protect us from the sheer drop into the deep valley below. My boyfriend thought it was an adventure. I felt sick with fear.

Our driver carefully maneuvered his precious car over the rocky, unpaved path towards Jetwing Warwick Gardens, a stunning Scottish country mansion nestled in the misty, rolling valley of a lush tea estate. The last few minutes of the drive was a steep 45 degree path up to the entrance which required a low gear and more of my nerves… Luckily, the kind butler was waiting for us at the door, took our bags to our room and left us alone in the study with a giant pot of tea made with leaves from the estate which helped calm my nerves.

The cottage is a restored colonial bungalow with old-fashioned décor and furniture, and amazing views of the green valleys and mountains from every single window. The temperature was cool enough for a cardigan and jeans during the day, and flannel pyjamas for bed. It wasn’t cool enough to keep out the mosquitoes though.

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Later that evening we padded downstairs to the fancy communal dining hall and enjoyed yet another delicious rice and curry feast.

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The next morning we woke up at 5am for a 2 hour drive to Horton Plains National Park where we encountered a deer at the entrance. After quickly eating the packed breakfast from our hotel, we started our walk at around 7.30am and reached ‘The World’s End’ at 9.15am. We were lucky because the mist swiftly rose and completely obscured the breathtaking view by 9.30am. Minutes later it started to rain so we quickly put on our raincoats and trudged through the rocks, water and mud to the van. Back at Jetwing Warwick Gardens we showered, put on fresh clothes and ate warm, freshly baked bread with butter; big bowls of pasta with vegetables, a small bowl of French fries and shared a pot of steaming hot tea.

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Our next stop was the the Ceylon Tea Trails in Hatton. This all-inclusive resort owned by Dilmah has four different converted tea planter’s bungalows sprawled on a large and gorgeous tea estate. We stayed in two different bungalows (Norwood near the tea factory and Summerville near a pretty man-made river) and experienced the highest level of service from the friendly and attentive staff who did their best to cater to all our requests. Norwood was bigger than Summerville and on our last night we splurged on the best suite which included our own little front garden, a massive bathroom, a study and lounge area.

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Summerville was a bit older but has the same decor and is set on this gorgeous lake which we could see from our room and the dining area on the porch.

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Bed tea made with leaves from the surrounding estate was delivered to our room each morning which we sipped in bed in our PJs. After getting dressed we enjoyed indulgent breakfasts of fruits, bread, pastries and eggs or Sri Lankan style milk rice and curries. The chef came by during breakfast to confirm the menu for lunch, and during lunch he came by again to confirm the menu for dinner. Lunch and dinner were relatively light meals like fresh salads with chicken and prawns or fish with sautéed vegetables. The meats were occassionally infused with tea or the plate came with a shot of herbal tea, like rosemary and mint, on the side. To top it all off, high tea was served each day either on the porch or in our own room.

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My boyfriend enjoyed a guided kayak tour on the Summerville lake one morning and we both loved our guided hike through the tea trails with a well-informed local naturalist. Both activities weren’t included in our package but only cost around US50 extra.

Our package also included a very informative tea factory tour with one of Dilmah’s colourful characters.

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It was hard to leave such a beautiful place but we had to say our goodbyes before our bank balance depleted or our stomachs exploded with all the incredible meals!

So we hopped on board the train coming from Colombo at Hatton station to our next stop, Ella. The 4 to 5 hour train ride was absolutely stunning, especially from the righthand side of the train. We admired lush tea plantations, jungles, and deep valleys as the train descended from the hill country. As the sun set and darkness fell, the train stopped at the station just before Ella. After about 20 minutes of waiting in the dark, we were told that there was a landslip just after the Ella station.

To be continued.

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