After being stuck in due to the weather yesterday afternoon we were keen to get going this morning but awoke to gale force winds and a fair bit of cloud. Still the wind looked like it was lessening by the minute and it wasn’t raining so we set off to find some delicious bananas for breakfast and a tuk tuk to take us up to the top of a nearby mountain called Lipton’s Seat.
The summit is named after Sir Thomas Lipton who created the tea company which is still going strong today and buying most of the tea produced in the hills surrounding Haputale. So the idea today was to walk down from the top through the tea plantations admiring the view and soaking up the atmosphere. Unfortunately when we started on our walk we could only see about 15m in front of us due to the cloud!!
About 3km down the road though we descended through the clouds and the plantations were really pretty indeed. The green of the tea plants was brilliant but the workers looked as though they were doing it pretty tough. A lot were smiling and saying hello to us but in reality theirs is not a great deal. They earn about 800 rupees a day which is about $7 Australian and they have to pick three times a day come rain or shine!!
They live in the plantations, some in fairly basic stand alone houses and others in what look like shanty towns. In amongst the tea and the houses were lots of areas devoted to growing edible crops presumably for the plantation workers. They certainly seem to live a hard life yet like all Sri Lankans we have met so far they flash a broad smile and say hello when you pass.
Halfway through the walk we arrived at the tea factory where we were able to take a tour. It was really interesting to see the tea being made and although it was a short tour it was informative and we got to see the whole process from start to finish. We weren’t allowed to take photos in the main area and I have a feeling this was because of the tea strewn all over the floor and the shovels which were being used to put it into bags. Now it might be the case that the floor is sterilised everyday and the shovels too but we were allowed to walk around in our muddy shoes without anyone batting an eyelid!!
With all these tours there are always a couple of titbits of information which we find interesting. There are between 10,000kg and 40,000kg of tea leaves processed in this factory everyday and these leaves are picked by 1200 pickers who pick three times a day. They have to pick everyday otherwise the new leaves get too old and the flavour isn’t right. For every 1kg of tea leaves 240g of tea is produced. The different qualities of tea all come from the same leaf, the difference in strength just comes from the different sizes of the tea after it has been cut.
We carried on our walk down through the rest of the plantation and were soon passing a school where the kids were shouting at us and waving. They actually invited us into the school and beckoned so enthusiastically for us to follow that we did. The headmaster appeared and was also happy to see us and showed us around a few of the classrooms. It turned out that he was desperate for help with exercise books and pencils and wanted us to organise sending him some so that the kids could have a better chance of an education. I have to admit it really got me thinking and I really admired his attitude of just asking random tourists for help as they are walking by.
Well that encounter certainly gave us loads to talk about for the next few kilometres and just as it started raining a minibus pulled up and offered us a lift into town. I say it was a minibus but it was fairly spartan. There was no door and no covering on the interior. In fact it was so basic that every 2 minutes we would have to stop and a guy would run around the front and move the window wipers by hand!! I was crouched in the back looking out the front window and I have no idea how the guy could see the road we just had to trust the fact that he had done this thousands of times before!!
Back in town and we had to sort out accommodation. We had originally booked for two nights but wanted to stay for a third, unfortunately our guest house was booked out but our host told us he would sort it out. I thought he would call another guest house and reserve us a room and the rest would be up to us. No this is Sri Lankan hospitality. He looked after our bags all day and met us in town where he had a tuk tuk driver arrive with our bags and take us to the next place!! It’s truly unbelievable how accommodating these people are! T
The tea pickers lining up for their instructions. This was the limit of the visability at the top of the mountain.
There is a wonderfully intricate system of pathways through the tea.
It really is a very picturesque part of the world and the mist/clouds added to the scene.
Pretty tough work.
Beautiful smiles all round!
Very well maintained veggie patches.
A typical scene in the plantations, you can see the pathways cutting through the tea.
There are quite a few of these villages where the 1200 pickers and their children live. There are schools, churches and even a hospital too.