09 Feb - 12 Feb 2011 Haputale

Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Double room with private balcony and with a great view for only LKR 1,650.- or US$ 14.90 per night.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Srilak View Holiday Inn in Haputale, which we would recommend, and for directions:

Following the trodden tea track and taking a local bus (LKR 20.- or US$ 0.15 per person, one way) from the south side of Haputale’s bus stand to the famous Dambatenne Tea Factory, built in 1890 CE by Sir Thomas Lipton, the Scottish tea magnate whose name lives on in Lipton’s Tea, hiking up through a maze of fine old drystone walls and a perfect landscape of immaculately manicured tea plantations (Camellia sinensis) with scarcely a leaf out of place (but with many of them embellished with telltale bluish “water stains” from pesticides) to Lipton’s Seat (elevation: 1,970 m), one of the finest viewpoints in the country (admission for foreigners: LKR 50.- or US$ 0.40 per person, one cup of genuine Lipton’s Tea not included but available for LKR 40.- or US$ 0.30), and touring Lipton’s original Dambatenne Tea Factory (admission: LKR 200.- or US$ 1.50 per foreigner; thanks, Lakmal, for your excellent input) where we learned about the making of the world-famous Ceylon tea: (i) drying, (ii) rolling, (iii) crushing, (iv) sieving/filtering and (v) grading/packing - all done by Tamil labourers who are paid the pittance of LKR 385.- or c. US$ 3.50 per day.

“I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.”

Hiking on the train tracks from Haputale via the Benedictine Adisham Monastery (an elegant stone-block building which once belonged to tea planter Sir Thomas Lester Villiers) and the Tangamalai Bird Sanctuary (a small patch of undisturbed highland forest) to the tea station of Idalgashinna, thus enjoying spectacular views with the terrain falling away on both sides, touring the Idalgashinna tea factory and taking thereafter the train in dirt-cheap and crowded third class (LKR 10.- or US$ 0.08 per person) over scenic rolling tea hills back to Haputale.

Having first-hand experience of (i) very heavy downpours, (ii) wide-spread flooding and (iii) dangerous land-slides throughout Sri Lanka during the month of February, statistically the driest month of the year with less than 50 mm precipitation, discussing the impact of man-made global warming and climate change (e.g. significant temperature increases, changing rainfall patterns, greater monsoon variability, drastic sea-level rises and more intense tropical cyclones) and skipping a planned visit to the nearby World’s End, a sheer precipice with a 1,050 m drop, since the End of the World seems to come to us, rather sooner than later.
“When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: if you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren't pessimistic, you don't understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren't optimistic, you haven't got a pulse.”


Taking the delayed podi menike slow passenger train in cramped third class, crammed cheek by jowl with a fair smattering of Sri Lanka’s population, from Haputale through orderly tea monocultures (a biological time bomb, but fortunately at least an aesthetically very pleasing one) to the busy one-horse town of Hatton (c. 75 km, 2 1/2 hours, LKR 70.- or US$ 0.65 per person) and thereafter a battered local bus for LKR 55.- or US$ 0.50 per person on a winding road with great views of the Maskeliya reservoir to the modest village of Dalhousie, the base camp for our upcoming ascent of Adam’s Peak aka Sri Pada.

Click below for more blog posts about tea plantations

Click below for a summary of this year's travels

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