POSTED: 16 September 2017
The journey from Dalhousie to Nuwara Eliya is where you can really appreciate that travel is slow in Sri Lanka. The jade green hill country doesn’t cease to capture the imagination with its serene beauty. The area overlooking the crystalline Castlereigh Reservoir is just gorgeous. Nuwara Eliya sits at an altitude of about 1,900 metres and it’s a spectacular climb up a winding road.
The beautiful Castlereigh Reservoir
Nuwara Eliya means ‘City of Light’ and it is Sri Lanka’s main hill station. It is sometimes referred to as ‘Little England’ and a walk around the town offers reasons why. There are influences evident in the red post boxes, colonial bungalows, and pink brick Victorian post office. Right now it has an unassuming, misty mountain ambience that you can’t help but enjoy. During spring though the town is crowded with holiday-makers enjoying horse racing, sports-car hill climbs and the Sri Lankan New Year. So, despite the cold nights it’s probably a good time to be here.
Visitor instructions at Victoria Park
The first thing I did here was visit Victoria Park which was pretty but really comes alive when flowers start blooming in April. I then jumped on a bus heading down the winding road toward Kandy and got off at the Ramboda Waterfall where water tumbles down a rock face of 108 metres. Back in town I did a hike up into a hill for great views of the surrounding area. I passed a number of tea plantations, some with Tamil pickers at work. Getting late in the day, I had to seek shelter from a shower of rain before getting back to my hotel. The bright, sunny mornings are always the best time in the higher parts of the hill country.
Before arriving in Sri Lanka, I was naturally curious how it was going to compare with India which I’m now reasonably familiar with. Well, without wanting to state the obvious, there are similarities and obvious differences. Without being unkind toward India, Sri Lanka is cleaner and more refined. Western influences are more obvious in dress and cuisine. If I can give a vague analogy, Sri Lanka is to India what Singapore is to Malaysia. Costs are similar but India is certainly a bit cheaper and offers better value accommodation.
View from Single Tree Hill (2,100m)
Although travel is slow, the roads are generally good and despite often being crowded, the buses are more comfortable. The horn is used with more moderation although bus stations are hectic, noisy places. The people here are generally very friendly, helpful and a pleasure to meet. Like Indians, they share a love of cricket and often a conversation will be sparked simply because I come from a country that plays the game at international level. Even those that can’t speak much English don’t shy from at least an enthusiastic greeting and smile.
So, all in all it’s a pleasure to be in Sri Lanka and in about an hour I’ll be on a bus to the lovely town of Ella. There are some pleasant walks through tea plantations to waterfalls and temples but nothing too strenuous. After a month of fairly intense travel it’ll be an opportunity to ease off the accelerator before making my way down to Galle on the southern coast.