5. The Tea of Nature

@Nuwara Eliya, Central Province, Sri Lanka.

This picturesque place was what followed our trip to Kandy; a colder place with a name which reminded me of the Prophet Elijah of Israel even if it is in no way related to him or anyone who has a special interest in his personality. It is supposed to mean ‘the city of light’. According to the guide, it was also called ‘Little England’ and was the favourite hill station of the British who has tried their best to make it look it as close as possible to a typical English village and I would say that they have succeeded in it upto an extent. It was not like any other hill station I saw in South Asia.

The place was quite cold at around 13-15 degree celcius when we set our foot on it. It was supposed to be another hill station like Kandy, but that was a wrong understanding. Compared to this, Kandy was just a warm place; it was not even as cold as Kerala during a heavy monsoon. But Nuwara Eliya was difficult to walk around without enough protection from cold, especially during night. No wonder it is full of tea plantations and has the best tea. We did bring home enough of the lovely tea to last a few months. In this place with an Indian Tamil majority, I had a feeling of being at two places at a time.

From Colombo to Negambo; then to Kandy and now to Nuwara Eliya; it was a step by step acceptance of colder climate for us, but Nuwara Eliya was a big step in that feeling of cold, something which was clearly absent in Kerala. The tea plantations and the hills are the most beautiful view, but with those mountains, fog and clouds on the background, we see the St. Xavier’s Church, not a big structure which arouses curiousity of the people who passes by, but an elegant structure which seemed to come alive with the passing fog. With a few drops of rain and the temperature which was getting cooler, it gave the feeling of a new generation church which was left alone in an English countryside.

There is the Gregory Lake, a water body which seemed to try and recreate the beauty of Lake District; what inspired the great poets of England coming alive in another part of the world. This artificial lake and the golf course adds a heavy British flavour to this place along with the architecture of many buildings around. Most of the hotels including the one we stayed seemed to be some old abode of random powerful people from Britain. Here, there were some other Indian tourists around, supposed to be from Pune. There were even people from the Middle East; I guess this is surely a cheaper alternative compared to some parts of India.

Hakgala Botanical Garden is a wonderful place near Nuwara Eliya. It is well maintained and looks too good. It is so clean that it will bring shame to other nations which claim to be more developed than Sri Lanka. Seetha Amman Temple is near this Garden and is believed to be the place where Seetha Devi was held captive by the King Ravana of Lanka in Ramayana. As this was basically a Ramayana tour, this was a major spot along with the stream that came from the hill and the marks on the rocks on the sides of that stream which is claimed to be that of Hanuman. The place was far away from the town, but this temple which went down from the main road was a calm and quiet place combined with natural beauty.

By travelling through these roads of Nuwara Eliya, what I gained was a great experience of cool climate which would aid and prepare me in my later journeys through England and Scotland, an early vision of what was to expect there and a certain amount of peace and cooling of head. It’s more lasting gift was the tea, the lovely thing which came in good looking green packets which I was also able to gift to some of my friends. It was tea and it was legendary. It was never to be replaced; it had substitutes, but that taste lived, still lives and might live forever. This was the first time when tea managed to overtake spirituality and competed with nature to inspire a poem; something which was never written.

Diving out —>

TeNy

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