After reading about beautiful Nuwara Eliya, nestled in the rolling hills amongst tea plantations, spice gardens and charming British architecture, we couldn't wait to arrive.
If only we'd managed our expectations. As we bounced into Nuwara Eliya after a short drive from Ella (stopping on the way at nearby Hakgala Gardens, which cost $30NZD, and it was planting season, so there were no flowers - not off to a great start I must admit), I kept thinking there must be a mistake. This looked nothing like the pictures I'd seen online, and didn't match the descriptions I'd read in the guidebooks at all.
After checking into our guesthouse, Club Trout (ridiculous name, but excellent accommodation with a friendly host and a flea-infested but adorable ginger kitten), we headed straight into town to secure some lunch.
Perhaps the Cyclizine I took to manage my motion sickness was playing tricks on me, but I could see no redeeming characteristics in Nuwara Eliya, other than maybe the cool climate. The main centre was busy, noisy, crowded and dirty. By the time we arrived at lunch, I felt like I'd smoked half a packet of cigarettes just from breathing in all the exhaust fumes.
To get over our disappointment at the state of Nuwara Eliya, we decided to splurge on a fancy dinner at The Grand Indian - what better way to take a break from curry and rice than to eat a different type of curry and rice?! Our delicious fine dining meal of two curries, two naans, two poppadums, rice and tea set us back a whopping $30NZD. I tell you, we're living the life of luxury!
The next morning, Ajith came to join us again and we drove to the local tea plantation, Pedro's. We started with a wander through the tea plantation, finishing up back at the cafe for a refreshing cuppa.
From there, Ajith joined us for a leisurely 2km stroll up through some more tea plantations to Lover's Leap waterfall. At 30m, the falls were pretty cool, and we read that they are used as the water supply for the town. The legend goes that a prince fell in love with a girl of whom his father disapproved, so the doomed lovers threw themselves off the top of the waterfall. We chose instead to sit at the bottom.
After our amble back to the car, we had Ajith drop us back in town for some lunch, and a wander around some of the colonial architecture. We started by looking around the Grand Hotel, an 154 room hotel built in the style of an Elizabethan-era manor house. It began life in 1828 as a single storey bungalow, and over the years has been extensively added to and refurbished. We walked around inside for as long as we could, avoiding the glances of the staff who could tell that people dressed like us probably weren't staying there. Eventually, we beat a hasty retreat, choosing to leave before we were asked to leave.
Our next stop was the post office, one of the oldest post offices in Sri Lanka. A tudor-style two storey red brick building with a clock tower, it was built in 1894. Today it is still a working post office, but the original post master's living quarters upstairs have now been converted to accommodation.
Back at Club Trout that afternoon, we pondered our activities for the following day. We had intended to make the trip out to Horton's Plains National Park to do a hike to World's End, a sheer cliff with a 1200m (4000ft) drop. After some research which, in hindsight, we probably should have done before going to Nuwara Eliya, we realised it was going to cost us $40NZD to catch a tuk tuk 2 hours out there, then $80NZD to do the 3 hour hike, to then turn around and spend 2 more hours in a tuk tuk getting home. It all seemed a bit ridiculous - 4 hours of travel and $120NZD for a 3 hour hike? In the end we decided to flag it, and spent the next day hanging out at Club Trout, catching up on some work we didn't finish before leaving New Zealand and generally being lazy.
That night we did head out to The Grand Thai, sister restaurant to The Grand Indian, after hanging around outside for half an house like pathetic losers waiting for it to open. It was worth the wait. Much like The Grand Indian, the food and service were impeccable, and the prices were amazing. It was a good way to leave Nuwara Eliya on a high note, even though it had been a bit of a disappointing destination.
We did get some other good news while we were in Nuwara Eliya. The visa company emailed us to tell us that our passports were ready to collect, complete with our Indian visas - YAY! We set off at 0800h the next day for our never ending drive back to Colombo to collect our passports, and then another never ending drive through the madness of Colombo's rush hour traffic to our Air BnB near the airport. Since then, we've been hanging out, writing, doing laundry, eating cereal and ice cream (not at the same time), watching TV, enjoying air conditioning, and generally mentally preparing ourselves for the next big challenge - India, here we come!
Lots of love,
S & Z