A 5.30 start took us to Kandy to catch the train south through the mountains to Haputhale. This is considered one of the great train journeys of the world. Tissa had purchased 2nd class reserved tickets. He kept saying they were very hard to get. We couldn’t understand why until the train arrived. There were 12 coaches. One first class reserved, one second class reserved, and 10 which I would class as ‘squeeze in if you can, and if not, hang on to the outside!!’. Thank you Tissa for our seats!
What a journey. 5 hours climbing through the mountains and the tea plantations. We climbed to 6,252 feet above sea level.. nearly twice as high as mount Snowdon, and the highest broad gauge railway in the world. All for £8 each!
Our hotel, the Melheim resort, clung to the side of a mountain, with stunning views, an abundance of birds, and great food eaten on the terrace. Next morning we climbed yet another hill, up through the tea plantations to Liptons seat. At 4,700 feet high, we, like Thomas Lipton, had a commanding view of his tea domain.
We also learned that only the two newest leaves are harvested each time…the ‘tips’. In the rainy season these regrow every 3 days, in the dry it is every 7 days. So the plants can be continually re-harvested, and are just replaced every 40 years. It still has to be done by hand. The tea pickers must pick 20kg each per day for which they are paid 600 rupees.. about £3. For each extra kg they get a bonus! Many are Hindu..brought over from India by the British. Some live in very poor conditions. Your tea comes at a price, although we suspect conditions are worse in other countries.
Following our dawn walk we visited the stunning mountain area of Ella, and its waterfalls.
Then down to the southern part of SriLanka to Udawalawe for our safari in the National park. Oh my, elephants galore, including one tusker who was a little close for comfort.
My shot of the day! The birds too were amazing… some great close up encounters.
Tonight we sleep in our mosquito dome for the first time!
Next morning a visit to the elephant orphanage. Great place… no elephant rides or exploitation. Any orphaned elephant is brought here. Currently they have 46 babies under 5 years old. They receive a milk feed 3 times a day, but return to the jungle in between. It was funny seeing them queuing at the gate. Babies as young as 3 months! They form their own herds.
The most remarkable thing was an older elephant who had lost part of his leg when he stepped on a land mine. They had made a waterproof lower leg for him. That must have been an interesting rehab programme. He stays at the base, but was so happy to greet the others. At one point, he laid down. Immediately 2 of the older elephants went across and
orked together to lever him up onto his feet…and support him there. It was remarkable to see.
From there we headed west to Yala. Our final safari was to be in search of the elusive leopard. Very few remain in Sri Lanka and our chances were slim. Yala national park is huge. It has many lakes and even beach. – our first view of the Indian Ocean. Tragically this is the coast where the Tsunami swept ashore in 2004. 47 people were killed at just one site here.
The abundance of lakes meant more amazing bird life, and more elephants. Dusk was approaching when, as we were leaving the park, our driver slammed on the brakes. Leopard in the bushes. He edged forward and we were rewarded when a magnificent leopard leisurely walked across the track. It was magnificent. A truly Triumphant moment to end a great day.
Well not quite end it. We got back to our eco b’n’b to hear that Jen and Menna had skied brilliantly in the World Cup to get a silver in the giant slalom.. woo hoo. Go girls. Another Triumph.
And Chris decided that from now on he would like his Lager served like this….