Hillside Getaway. High up at Haputale.
Up in the hills, high above low clouds, surrounded by terraced tea fields, I am in the heart of Haputale which is almost 180 km from the capital city of Colombo. The weekend is a cool getaway from the scorching heat of Colombo and I am at Sherwood, a quaint planter’s bungalow that has an old world charm replete with fireplace, comfortable beds with thick blankets and big soft sofas. As is expected, the bungalow’s sloping gardens are perfectly manicured and a profusion of bright and colorful flowers are in bloom.
Located 4,500 feet above sea level, this bungalow gives a stunning 180-degree view of the countryside around us. From tea-covered mountainsides, and thick jungle covered hillocks, to water tanks and reservoirs far away in the dry zone, the spectacular land below us reaches far as the eye can see.
The weather, as expected is almost perfect- cool breezes blowing across misted mountains bringing a hint of the aroma of tea. Tea pluckers dot the fields as they pick two leaves and a bud and toss them over their shoulders into wicker baskets strung on their backs. Along steep, gravel footpaths, their nimble-footed children scamper along, on their way to a local bathing spot. Barking dogs accompany them in perfect companionship.
Tonight, a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle has been spread out on the coffee table and despite groans of dissent, we are intent on putting Tintin and Captain Haddock together for the next couple of hours.
The smell of freshly brewed coffee wakes us up. The garden is washed in overnight dew and the mist has cleared. One of the best things about upcountry living is the morning time when everything is bright and blessed with the freshness of a new day.
Curious to see a new hotel, the 98 Acres Resort, we head down to Ella. Located along the Bandarawela-Ella Road, this resort is striking in location, landscape and accommodation. The floors, walls and most of the furniture are made of discarded railway sleepers. A pool and viewing deck add to the architectural beauty of this place. But we are here to have some lunch, which, frustratingly, after over two hours of waiting, was served. Despite this little glitch, we enjoy the view of Little Adams Peak and the clean, cool air that surrounds the 98 Acres.
Someone suggests a visit to the Adisham Monastery that is home to a small community of Benedictine monks. Back in the 19th century, British resident Sir Thomas Villiers built this bungalow as a copycat version of the Leeds Castle in Kent, England. The beautiful landscaped gardens, the stunning views and the famous Adisham jams and cordials are now an attraction for travelers. The reclusive priests are not to be seen. The little on-site shop is bustling with people and the gardens are the backdrop for plenty of photo ops for the visitors.
We drive on to another famous landmark, the Lipton’s Seat where Scottish tea planter Sir Thomas Lipton used to sit and survey his properties. However, due to the early onset of heavy mist, we abandon this journey and head back to Sherwood.
The jigsaw puzzle is still incomplete and we gather around it once again. With hot cups of coffee and steaming pots of tea and homemade potato crisps, we are soon immersed in it. But, the raw, cool weather outside is too tempting and before long we are outside, embraced in the mist that has now completely covered this bungalow. A shadow of the full, yellow moon can now be seen, faintly silhouetted against the thick clouds.
The next day we take off to Macaldeniya Estate in Koslanda, a tea estate owned by a friend. The drive through the Ella Gap is one of the most beautiful sights to be found in this land. Ella is also used as a base for trekkers and this morning, the wayside kiosks are full of backpackers grabbing a quick breakfast before heading out on their journeys. We pass the Ravana Ella, a waterfall with a drop of about 30 feet and known to be one of the widest waterfalls in Sri Lanka. According to legend, the demon ruler of ancient Lanka, Ravana is supposed to have hidden Sita in the caves behind these falls, when he kidnapped her from India.
Along the Ella – Wellawaya Road, we detour 5 kms and head off the Diyaluma Falls. Also known as the ‘Fall of the Smoking Water’, at 220m this amazing cascade is the second highest waterfall in Sri Lanka and supposedly the 361st highest waterfall in the world. Besides this amazing sight is an old arch-shaped bridge built by the British and made completed of bricks. The water flows under this bridge and forms into a tributary of Kirindi Oya.
Reluctantly we leave this scenic location and head off on the final leg of our journey. Macaldeniya has always been a favorite holiday home for us and we are glad to be in this beautiful part of the country once more.