On the second of our three days in Ella, we hopped onto the morning train, having decided that we couldn’t pass up a visit to nearby Haputale (ha-POOT-a-lay): a town on the southern extreme of Sri Lanka’s hill country celebrated for its beautiful surroundings and tea plantations.
Everyone knows that “getting there is half the fun”, but the train ride to Haputale accounted for at least 80% of this day’s fun. The rusty old machine rumbled slowly through lovely mountain scenery which, after the recent days of rain, was even more lush than usual, and we spent most of the journey hanging out of the open doors.
We didn’t spend much time in Haputale, a busy town with an abnormally large number of liquor shops, and instead immediately sought out a tuk-tuk to take us to Lipton’s Seat: a viewpoint said to be as stunning as World’s End. We had been warned that a late arrival at Lipton’s Seat could mean the mountain would be covered in clouds.
Despite our hurry, we were too late; a thick layer of clouds had arrived by the time we reached the summit, completely obscuring the view. Suck. We ordered tea and lemon puffs from a shop perched on the hilltop, then sat down and, with vibrant imaginations, colorfully described to each other what the view might look like. Or… that’s what we would have done, if we were annoyingly whimsical people who see magic in everything. But really it was us just sitting there, staring dumbly at the fog and stuffing our faces with cookies. Whining about our crappy luck.
At least the walk back down the hill was enjoyable. We cut through the enormous Dambatenne Tea Plantation, founded by Thomas Lipton (oh fine: Sir Thomas Lipton). Around us, small women with red-stained teeth packed bags full of tea leaves, and posed for pictures. Near a tea-pickers’ village, a prominent sign reminded us to “Be Respectful of Others!” Thanks for the tip, Mister Plantation Owner! Meanwhile, in the ramshackle village that can only be described as a slum, your tea pickers live in squalor. But yeah, I’ll remember to respect others.
We attempted to visit the Dambatenne Factory but after fifteen minutes of waiting for someone to attend us, gave up and hopped on a bus back to Haputale. Despite our inability to see the viewpoint or tour the factory, it had been a decent day out in some of Sri Lanka’s most beautiful country.