More British Than Britain!!
Trip Start Sep 05, 2005
284Trip End Ongoing
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The last 5 days travelling round the ancient cities had been extremely action packed and quite tiring. However it was time to start phase 2 of the trip and head to the mountains for a break from the oppressive heat! Getting to the hill country town of Nuwara Eliya was going to be an adventure itself!
When we had checked into the hotel we had enquired about breakfast. The owner had been quite loud and forceful about going to his house for some breakfast before we left for Kandy. It seemed dodgy at the time and in the morning felt like a pretty bad idea. We hastily packed up, paid the bill at reception and made a runner for the bus stop. Luckily there was a bus just leaving and we were on our way towards Kandy by 8am.
As the bus had started in Anuradhapura it was packed by the time we got on. As a result we had to stand by the door for the 3.5 hours it took to crawl into Kandy, nearly an hour of this time was in the final 5kms around the jam-packed streets. Once in Kandy we had no idea where we were as there were at least 3 bus stops. We asked for some directions and managed to locate the train station and purchased some 2nd class seats for the journey to Nuwara Eliya.
We had decided to travel by train as the LP said it was a fantastic journey around the mountainous tea plantation areas. It sounded good so we sat about waiting for an hour, eating random pastries for breakfast before making our way over to the train. We couldn't find the 2nd Class cabin so I went for a look whilst Lars used the time to disappear off to the toilet. 30 seconds later the train left without us! Not best pleased but it had only cost £1.
A rather perplexed Lars reappeared and we went in search of a bus to take us there instead. We had had enough of the usual slow buses so we splashed out an extra 50rps and got an aircon minibus instead. On any normal route the air con would be a blessing but within 20 minutes of leaving Kandy it started to get cooler quickly as we gained altitude. I also made the most of the views by falling asleep for 90 minutes!
When I did wake up the views were great. Huge hills covered in tea plantations, nestled in the cloud layer. The temperature difference at 1900m above sea was incredible. It had been sweltering in Kandy but freezing 2.5 hours and 60km's away. The town was completely different to Kandy in every way. Massive pine trees, a horse racing track, golf course, cute colonial era houses. It was all very cliché and felt like a holiday resort. As a result the prices were double what we had been used to paying.
We looked around a couple of massively overpriced hotels, and checked out the Grand for the hell of it before settling on a much cheaper fleapit that was within our budget. It was probably the worst room so far but double the price of all the others.
With our bags dumped we set off into town to get some money and lunch. Amazingly the bank was open on a Saturday afternoon, which would be unheard of in England, and managed to get a load of cash for what would be an expensive day tomorrow. The main town of Nuwara Eliya doesn't really have much to offer. It's a couple of streets of concrete buildings selling off cheap tat for tourists. With very little to do, compounded by 3 hours of afternoon rain, we spent the rest of the day relaxing after the journey.
The reason we had come to such a tourist trap as Nuwara Eliya was to visit Hortons Plains National Park. To do this we needed to arrange a jeep through our guesthouse, at quite a fee, as the roads to the park are massively uphill and in quite a state. As the park is over 2000metres we needed to get there early before the clouds descended and blocked the views.
So we found ourselves standing around shivering at 5:30am waiting for our jeep to the park. Our jeep was a great old battered thing but it was perfect for the job. We stopped at a small shop on the way to pick up supplies but ended up staying for about 30 minutes, clearing them out of honey & coconut hoppers (delicious!) and some tea to warm up. The tea they seem to drink here is milky and very sweet, I prefered to have it black with no sugar which was quite difficult to get.
Once we got to the park we noticed that the fees were quite excessive and dual pricing very blatent. To get into the park we had to pay $15 each entry fee, $8 surcharge and 300rps charge for arriving in a jeep! This is on top of the 3500rps we had to pay for the jeep meaning the trip had cost us about £20 each. Local price was 200rps (£1).
Still, I think it was worth it in the end. The park was stunning and looked like Scotland. We were basically the only people in the park for the first hour or so and took loads of photos. We walked as quickly as possible to get to the main view point, Worlds End, before the cloud descended and managed to get about 30 seconds view of the 800m drop before the clouds obscurred it.
Once we had rested for about half an hour at the Worlds End viewpoint we decided to slowly make our way round the rest of the walk. It seemed that half of Kandy had decided to visit the park as well as there were bus loads of daytrippers on what turned out to be a national holiday. We took nearly 4 hours in total enjoying the walk and I'd highly recommend it even though it is quite expensive.
Heading back towards Nuwara Eliya we were thankful we had chosen to take a jeep. The car park was packed with full size buses which should never have been allowed up the narrow, twisting lanes and were going to cause chaos on the way back down.
Back in Nuwara Eliya we had considered visiting a tea plantation but it started raining so holed up in the hotel instead to plan the rest of the trip. We were knackered and had 5 days left in Sri Lanka, all of that was to be spent on the beach! We enquired at the hotel about how to get there and found out there was only 1 bus a day and we couldn't get a definite answer as to what time it left. We decided to get up really early to make sure we didn't miss it!