As is known, the purchase ticket for a famous journey from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya and to Ella should be a real challenge. The trains are always full and the seats reserved for a couple of days in advance. As the locals and staff at the train station informed us, it is only possible to buy a ticket on the same day, one hour before departure. On a daily basis is a huge crowd of tourist at the tickets window, who hope to be still among those lucky enough to be on the next train to Nuwara Eliya. We were lucky enough to be among them and we afford a little more, so we bought two tickets (reserved seat, third class) and paid Rs 800.
Why is this ride so different from the others? Due to the beautiful landscapes… hills, tea tree plantations, the collectors of tea… beautiful, especially when the weather is sunny. For best pictures and view, we recommend seats on the right side of the train, or “stand-up” at the open doors, where your feet can dangle out of the train, while you enjoy the ride. For Nuwara Eliya it is necessary to hop off at the Nanu Oya station and to continue your journey on the steep road with bus or tuk-tuk.
Nuwara Eliya is a city that lies at about 1.900 meters above sea level and it was shaped at the time of English colonization in the 19th century. Here you will see different buildings from that time, which give city this English appearance and because of that Nuwara Eliya is also sometimes called “Little England”. The town is surrounded by tea tree plantations and factories, where the tea as we know is actually made. And that is the main reason why is Nuwara Eliya so popular among tourists.
Despite the large number of tourist and the huge demand for accommodation, it is hard to get proper and cheap room here. They are mostly much more expensive than elsewhere in the country. We reserved our guesthouse last day and focused more on location than anything else. Our first day we take advantage to visit Victoria Park in the town centre. It is listed as one of the top sights, but it’s just a normal, pretty small park. Trees, some roses, pond, grass… yeah usual park, we are telling you. In addition, it is necessary, of course to pay an entrance fee, which is Rs 300 per person.
For the end of sunny day, we finally gather some courage and try a few treats from the street. We are talking about Tal, fried dough with spices, which reminiscent of our “mouses” but it is salty and has the shape of the American mini donuts. Great thing for a quick snack, if, of course, ignore where and how everything is done 🙂 they are also very artistic with serving. These snacks are served in newspaper or even on an old sheet of their kid’s homework.
As we mentioned before, the main thing for which we are here, of course are tea tree plantations and tea itself. To get an insight the tea production process, we went to Pedro Tea Factory. They offer organized tours of the factory and tell you all about the production of tea. Since the factory is a few kilometres from the town. The best way to get there is to catch a bus for a mere Rs 20, in the direction of Ragalla and get off at factory, which you will see it from the street.
Tickets for guided tour can be purchased a Lovers Leap Tea Boutique inside the factory and they cost Rs 200 per person. Convenience store is well equipped and has a terrace with a beautiful view of the plantation. Here you can buy all kinds of tea, which only grow at this plantation. Tour passes through the point where they collect freshly picked tea and then trough drying and separation facilities to the final room, where they pack tea in large swore. The entire tour lasts around 20 minute.
The main part in this tea story play the tea pickers, the poorest and most uneducated women in the country. For a mere Rs 650, or four euros per the day, they must collect a total of 18 kilograms of tea. They should be paid much more, as we know that we pay that much for one or two box of that tea in our store all around the world. Keep that in mind when you will be next time enjoying your cup.
The best tea is produced from the youngest leaves, in Pedro Tea Factory they call it Lover’s Leap, it is named after the nearby waterfall. You can get to that waterfall by crossing the main road and then walk for about three kilometres among tea plantations in the hill on a gravel road. At the end of the road you will see 30 meter waterfall and great view of the city.
Tomorrow we continue our journey by train through the land of tea to the village of Ella and from there by bus to the south coast, in the city of Tissamaharama.
S & B