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Yet another early wake up call had us on the bus from the White Home down to Haputale center (us not wishing to take the “10 minute” walk down) in order to get to the famed views of Lipton’s Seat before the late morning clouds rolled in. We were too early, as it turned out, because once we got to town we were told we had to wait fifty minutes for the first bus heading in the direction we wanted.
Taking advantage of the time, we headed to the nearest place smelling of curry for some breakfast. It was the typical fare – roti, puttu rice, hopper, sambol, dhal, curries – with the requisite friendly inquisition from the locals as to where we were from, what our jobs were, and how much we loved their country. Overall it was a tasty breakfast. Having no idea what it would cost us Kim and I guessed 430 and 380 rupees respectively (about $3.50 and $3.00). Final bill: 190 rupees ($1.50). Amazing. After breakfast we caught the bus, which was unexpectedly long (50mins), then hiked the last two kilometers through very scenic and Dr. Seuss-looking hills of tea plants to reach Lipton’s Seat. Luckily for us, despite arriving later than hoped (around 9:30am) there were few clouds in sight. The view, and the chat with the local guy running the teashop, was definitely worth it. You could see for miles, and the guy could talk just as far as well.The Lipton’s Seat teashop manager was particularly intent on pointing out a distant rain cloud to us. I asked him if there was ever lightning in the area, which provoked him to bolt into his shack and pull out a laminated article from a local paper. According to him, a couple years ago a Korean couple was at the Seat during a thunderstorm. Mr. Teashop told them not to go out, as seven years of watching the Sri Lankan skies from his vantage point high above the country had made him an amateur weatherman, but they did not heed his warnings. Seconds later, a huge boom, and the two Koreans were struck dead by lightning. The poor Mr. Teashop shared the gory but enthralling details of how he on his own had to deal with the dead bodies and get them hauled away.Not wanting to risk similar fates, Kim and I took that story as our cue to head off down the hill to the tea factory below. Mr. Teashop pointed out a “shortcut” that unsurprisingly got us lost.Over an a half later, we finally made it to the tea factory, where we had to wait around for another forty-five minutes until somebody paid attention to us and took us on the tour. To our surprise, the tour was very interesting. We got to understand from seed to store the whole process of the tea industry. For me the most interesting learning was that all tea produced in Sri Lanka by law had to go through a weekly auction in Colombo, where all the big international companies had delegates that would taste each one and then bid on their purchase. Purchased teas would subsequently be exported, processed, packaged, and branded by the companies, and sold to consumers.
After the tour, we made our way back to our guesthouse to pick up our stuff and head to our next destination: Ella. Ella was the first very obviously tourist town we crossed in Sri Lanka, with all cafes and restaurants targeting tourists not locals. This made for higher prices and a less authentic feel, but also a more chilled vibe.
Upon arrival, we wandered up the hill in search of guesthouses, eventually stumbling upon the perfect place: Mountain View Guesthouses. The views from the room of Ella Rock, the waterfall, and the Ella Gap were magnificent and the price, 2000 rupees, was more than reasonable. Not to mention Buddhi, the guy in charge of the place, was fantastic and so were the breakfasts.We struggled with finding a reasonable dinner option and ended up “splurging” (1540 rupees for the two of us) on a dinner at the Ella Village restaurant. I got the normal rice and curry and Kim got the vegetarian. This gave us a combined selection of about ten different dishes to taste with our rice. The toddy we bought at the liquor store across the street, however, was not as good. No regrets though, as it only cost 80 rupees and no trip is complete without trying all the local swills.
Theory of the Day:
Forced travel could be a great way to cure various types of depression. Speaking for myself at least, I know I could never enter into a deep depression because if I was ever at risk of doing so I would buy a ticket somewhere exotic and escape my depressing world by exploring a stimulating new one. We are all at times at risk of getting down due to the monotony of everyday life. We think we’re stuck and it’s not getting better and lose perspective of the big picture. Traveling quickly gets you out of that funk and lets us see that there is a whole new world of opportunity out there.
– If ass hoses had two buttons – one for water and one for air – their inevitable worldwide dominance of the world butt cleaning industry would be inevitable. The wet ass after-effect of ass hoses is their only weakness. Having a wet butthole in a warm country is no big deal, but in the freezing winters of Canada that won’t fly. Nobody wants his or her asshole frozen shut.
- It’s astonishing how trustworthy Sri Lankans are when it comes to prices. We were not at all diligent with asking for prices beforehand (a MUST in many other countries), but not once did we feel even slightly ripped off as a result. It helps that the prices are so cheap that even a “rip-off” may not even be discernable. Regardless, not having to worry about being ripped off is a small detail that pays large dividends in mental relaxation while traveling, and unfortunately a rarity these days around the world.
- A company needs to set up a business renting bikes to tourists to go from Haputale to Ella. It’s an easy and scenic downhill ride on a newly paved road.
- Sri Lankans must have way stronger obliques than North Americans. The high-speed hairpin turns they perform on their tuk-tuks and bikes sent us flying from wall-to-wall of our tuk-tuk compartment, while they somehow stay fully upright.
- Tuk-tuks need to be introduced to North America somehow. Some quieter versions would be needed, but for urban centers they’re ideal: reasonably weatherproof, small, and cheap. If not
- There should be international tuk-tuk races where the best drivers from every country compete to see who can maneuver through urban mazes the fastest. My money’s on the Thai guys.
- It’s just a matter of time before all the tea pickers have headphones on and are listening to music while working. Building on that thought, imagine the possibilities for development of human capital if one were to give them MP3 players loaded with interesting and educational podcasts. While preforming the undoubtedly monotonous task of tea picking, they could be learning valuable lessons on finance, language, or other valuable topics.
- In Ella, get a place up the hill with views of the Gap, Rock, and Waterfall. Just walk up the hill and make sure to pay no more than half of what the managers of the guesthouses initially offer you.
- Go to the roti place a block or so down the street from the train station road and order a chocolate and coconut roti. It was the size of a burrito and mind-blowingly good. I spent the rest of my time in Sri Lanka obsessing over chocolate coconut roti, never finding another one up to the standards of this one