The Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge. Stunningly beautiful!
The road that leads to the Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge is long and winding. But the landscape along most of this 150 km drive is worth it. Exhilarating is the word that comes to mind and I am glad to be on the road again.
Warmly welcomed by Bhathiya Gunasekara and his staff, I am amazed that creativity is at its best at this spectacular location called the Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge. In the middle of a tea estate, 1000 meters above sea level, facing the Knuckles Mountain Range, backed by a steep bare cliff, with absolutely stunning views on both sides and clear blue skies, this picturesque 25 acre land has been turned into a veritable paradise. The Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge is a French collaboration and managed by co-owner Bhathiya.
Nine lodges, named after birds, are tented camp-like abodes, situated above the tea bushes. Each Lodge has been cleverly placed to maximize on privacy and with the most spectacular 360-degree view. At this height, there is a chill in the air. A couple of Black Eagles, that nests above in the cliffs soar gracefully in the sky and an inquisitive, yet shy Barking Deer peers at me from behind a tea bush. The stunning view is what makes all this perfect.
I set my alarm for an early morning wake-up call and sit outside my tent and watch the greatest show on Earth – daybreak. Slowly, the sky begins to glow as the sun rises from behind the Knuckles Mountains. As the entire sky is awash with the light of a new day, I am reminded of the words from a Cat Stevens classic ‘Praise with elation, praise every morning, God’s recreation of a new day’. Absolutely stunning.
A quick breakfast and I am ready to explore with in-house naturalist Anuradha Kithsiri. Three and a half hours later, 200 meters higher and ten kilometers further, I am standing at the edge of a waterfall. This trek has taken me through tea fields, up the steep mountain cliff and into the Campbell’s Lane Forest Reserve and to a height of almost 1200 meters above sea level. I cautiously edge closer until I am a few inches away from the sheer drop. Despite the danger, I sneak a peek over the edge. The water cascades fiercely over the rock promontory and the sound is deafening. At this height, the mist is thick but occasional winds chase it away momentarily to give me clear scenic views. Behind me, the sharp layers of rock make the veritable runway as the pure, cold waters come rolling down from the Forest Reserve. Reluctant to leave, I spend some time in this beautiful secluded forest enjoying the company of a Jungle Fowl and a flock of Common Babblers.
My feet ache but Kithsiri coaxes me to walk ‘just another’ two kilometres to see the ‘mini’ world’s end. My smile has turned into a grimace and my feet are on auto pilot as I trudge on, purposefully stopping more often to admire the perfectly manicured tea plantations, to cautiously follow a Scimitar Babbler and to gulp plenty of water. After what seemed like 22 kilometres (!), we are at the Hatale World’s End. Breathless, both from the hike and the awesome sight, I stay long enough to rest my feet and take plenty of photographs, Miles away, the Victoria Reservoir can be clearly seen in all its vastness. The rolling spine of the Knuckles Range is intermittently exposed from cloud cover whilst the valley far below is like a blanket of shades of greens. I say a silent prayer of thanks for another beautiful memory.
Back at my Lodge, I hobble around. I have a strange feeling that it is going be a long time before my feet forgive me.
The main hangout here is a colonial styled bungalow that overlooks a large garden. An infinity pool at the far end of this garden looks inviting. But my instincts tell me the water is cold. I opt to stay away.
The food is delicious and is served at perfectly placed tables that give me a spectacular view no matter which way I face.
On the other end of the garden, workers put the finishing touches to a helipad whilst Haresh, outdoor instructor and adventure fanatic, whom I meet, has just completed setting up the ropes for abseiling along with a 50 meter climbing wall. He tries to coax me to be the first to take the plunge down this steep outcrop. I scamper back to the safety of my Lodge, barely able to climb the ten short steps to my tent.
In the chill of the evening, the fireplace crackles happily and many guests gather around to sip their wines or enjoy a chat. The entire room is warmed by the yellow lighting that adds to the charm of old estate bungalows. A library and a pool table along with various indoor board games are also available.
Many of my friends who have already seen the photos that I have posted on Facebook ask, “Is this heaven on earth?” I believe that this is another place that we can be proud of in this picturesque paradise we call home.