Sri Lanka Adventure [10 – 18 June 2010]
Part I: Pre-Trip [Singapore, 10 Jun 2010]
Part II: The Long Shuttle [Singapore – Kuala Lumpur, 10 Jun 2010]
Part III: AK255 [KUL – CMB, 11 Jun 2010]
Part IV: A Slice of Cultural Triangle [CMB – Dambulla, 11 June 2010]
Part V: Temples [Dambulla – Kandy, 12 Jun 2010]
Part VI: Into the Hills [Kandy – Haputale, 13 Jun 2010]
Part VII: Trekking to World’s End [Horton’s Plains National Park, 14 Jun 2010]
Part VIII: Retracing the steps of Sir Thomas Lipton [Lipton’s Seat & Tea Factory, 15 Jun 2010]
Part IX: Leopard! Leopard! Leopard! [Haputale – Tissa, 16 Jun 2010]
Part X: Will this journey ever end? [Tissa – Negombo, 17 Jun 2010]
Part XI: Goodbye Serendib [CMB – KUL – Singapore, 18 Jun 2010]
Part XII: Epilogue
Only the two photographers were game enough to wake up at 4.45am in the morning to catch the sunrise at Lipton’s Seat. The rest of us chose to sleep in and go at a more humane timing later in the day.
Lipton’s Seat, located 18km east of Haputale, was where famous Scottish plantation owner Sir Thomas Lipton used as a lookout to survey his vast plantations. On a clear day, one could get a 360 degree view and even catch glimpses of the coast from there.
To get there from Haputale, vans or autorickshaws were available for hire. The road wasn’t in the best condition so vans would be better for the butts. The alternative will be taking the public buses to Dambatenne Tea Factory and then make the 7km trek through the tea plantation to the viewpoint.
The two early birds took an autorickshaw to the viewpoint and then walked down through the tea plantation towards the factory. Plenty of opportunities for photography along the way.
These tea pickers are mainly Indian Tamils whose ancestors were brought in by the British planters to work on the plantations since the 19th century. It was backbreaking work and the pickers had to work eight hours a day. We had differing accounts of how much a tea picker earns; the figure lies somewhere between 100 to 200 SGD per month.
The photographers were kindly invited into one of the locals’ house.
The plantation provides most of the amenities that the community needs. Schools and clinics are examples of them.
While the photographers were busy taking photographs, the rest of us had taken an autorickshaw to Lipton’s Seat, admired the view, toured Dambatenne Tea Factory and returned to Haputale. Ashraf had arranged our return trip on autorickshaw for 1500 LKR.
Dambatenne Tea Factory conducts tour for 200 LKR per person and a staff would guide us through the entire tea-making process. It would take 24 hours to turn fresh plucked leaves into the finished product that we are familiar of. The guide was quite informative and tried to answer all of our questions. We were told that the tea estate is about the size of 700 football fields and a total of 1500 tea-pickers work the land. There is 60 working in the factory and the tea is chiefly sold to the likes of Unilever (Lipton is one of Unilever’s brands). All of us bought some tea (top grade: Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings) to bring back to Singapore.
The photographers had better luck when their guide allowed them to take photographs of the process.
While waiting at Haputale for the photographers to return, we patronized the internet cafe located on the road to train station. With just three terminals, we had to take turns. The speed was still acceptable at 60 LKR/hour and I got to check my e-mails. A train passed by while I waited for others to be done with the computers.
It was mid afternoon by the time all of us regrouped back at Haputale. We then discovered the sinfully delicious samosas from Risara’s Bakers.
The photographers went around the town looking for more pictures while the rest of us stayed behind at the guesthouse for the World Cup game between New Zealand and Slovakia (1:1).
During dinner at the guesthouse, a lawyer who was in town to settle some labor disputes sat in the table across from ours. He was enthusiastic in sharing with us his favorite places in Sri Lanka (Arugram Bay, Trincomalee, etc) and we were appreciative of his helpful tips.
If his description were accurate, we might be back in Sri Lanka sooner than we thought.