We are spending the weekend at a wonderful estate bungalow that was built in the 1800’s by the British, for planters stationed in the hill country. The bungalow belongs to the company my friend Mihiri works for and part of the perks of her job include enjoying a bit of R&R here with her friends and family a few times a year. The climate in the hills is always cool and it is also (in my opinion) the most picturesque part of Sri Lanka. It was a pleasant change to pull on a fleece top and enjoy the sensation of feeling cool after the heat of South East Asia and Colombo.
The bungalow has about 6 rooms, each with its own ensuite and come fully staffed with a cook and various helpers who look after your every need. OK..this holiday will be a little different to my Basix adventure in South East Asia. The area has a real “English” feel to it and the bungalows have beautifully manicured gardens reminiscent of a cottage in an English village.
One of my favourite things to do in the hills is to go for long walks and long drives to explore the surrounding countryside close up. It is the start of the monsoon season here so the waterfalls are gushing. We do a bit of walking around Devon and St Clair falls, 2 of the many falls that dot this area. Sri Lanka is a major player in the export of tea and is ranked second behind Kenya internationally. Tea production is a complex business and the process of plucking two leaves and a bud is predominantly done by Indian Tamil women, closely supervised by a male superintendent!
Each woman has a basic quota that she is expected to reach and anything above this quota gets an extra payment. They will typically pluck about 20 kg of tea leaves which is then processed in the tea factories that dot this landscape.
The workers in the tea estates are predominantly Indian Tamils, brought here by the British who were unable to engage the laidback locals in the thankless task of plucking tea. Indian Tamils are now about 5% of our population and for many years laboured here as stateless citizens. Today, this issue has been resolved, with India and Sri Lanka agreeing to jointly split the responsibility of granting citizenship to this community.
Sri Lanka is a country of many faiths and Buddhist Temples, mosques, Hindu temples and churches are also found in every little village in the hills. We visit a lovely stone church built in the 1800’s and my mom reminds me we once came here for Sunday worship during our April holidays.
"All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking." - Friedrich Nietzsche