After the rain forest, we decided to head for the very temperate hill-country; famous for it’s mountain gaps, tea plantains and amazing train routes. The bus to get to Hatputale was a grueling 7 hours, probably only traveling 100 km, but just beautiful-hair pin turn, after dizzying hair pin turn. Haputale is perched on the top of a ridge, with perfect views of the surrounding country side, we used it as a base to visit Horton’s plain and World’s end. We also took a pretty amazing hike around the tea plantations, scaring kids and visiting a very well placed Dutch church.
We left the guesthouse at around 5am (by van)to get to the park, which is a high-altitude plateau, right at sunrise, and what a strange sunrise it was. With mist clinging to the cliffs above us, and to the valleys below, filtering the light into bizarre colors and rays, it was really a very other-worldly scene. Once arriving to the park (a Unesco site), we took about a 4 hour hike, which culminated at “World’s end”-which is a cliff with a view that extends all the way to the ocean, 250 kms away, obviously breathtaking. Along the way, we passed a massive waterfall, roaming hoards of elk, odd dwarf trees and all sorts of beautiful birds. Really though I think the most interesting and enjoyable aspect of the trip wasn’t the individual sights, it was the bizarre atmosphere that existed throughout the area.
Our next stop was the town of Ella, about 20 kms further in the mountains from Haputale. Because we just missed the train, we decided to take a tuk-tuk there, which ended up being a very beautiful ride, past a couple huge waterfalls. Ella is at the cusp of a tourist explosion, so the little village is in a building frenzy, which didn’t really fit into the general atmosphere of the surrounding countryside. Luckily, right outside the guesthouse/cafe area, there are never-ending green tea plantains, nice hikes and the view, dubbed “Ella gap” is spectacular.
After our night there, we took the train to Hatton and-Nori agrees with this statement- this was by far the most beautiful train ride I’ve ever taken; must be one of the great train journeys in the world. Though it took 6 hours to do 80 kms, every inch had jaw dropping views of tea plantations, village life, jagged mountains, pine forests and wild rivers. I probably took over 500 pictures (keeping only 30). At one point I had to just put the camera down and experience it all-really because I knew that the pictures would only do a disservice to to the majestic landscapes. Our final destination was Dalhousie (via Hatton) which was going to be our base for the hike to Adam’s peak (Sri Pada).
We procured our accommodation, which ended up being the office of the guesthouse because they double booked for that evening. To see the sunrise from the peak, it is recommended starting the hike at 2am; so we went to sleep nice and early. Unfortunately, our office room had a little rat (didn’t realize this was included in the price) so I didn’t really sleep at all. We left at 2am, had a milk tea, and started the pretty intense, 3 1/2 hour (5200 stairs in total) in complete darkness. There are tea stands along the way to both relax and warm up (it’s very cold).
One thing that is almost impossible to put in words is the experience of witnessing the sun rise from Adam’s peak. It’s odd, we take the sun for granted and we have all witnessed a sunrise (or two) in our lives, but something about witnessing the sunrise from Adam’s peak, makes it seem like a miracle. It starts from the faintest glimmer of light, and you are looking, looking at this one point and it’s starting to change color and getter lighter ever so slowly. You know what’s coming, and you are waiting, waiting, and when the sun does finally crest, it’s not what you expect at all. I don’t know if it’s the expectation, or the locale (which is a major holy spot for 4 religions) or the hike to get there but I’ve never witnessed anything like that in my truncated life. Of course, after the sun does rise and make everything colorful and light, you realize where you are and how beautiful it all is.
Another amazing feature of Adam’s peak is that, as the sun is rising, on the other side of the mountain (facing due west) a very big shadow is cast of the mountain over the surrounding land, slowly racing towards the base of the mountain. The hike down is very hard on the knees and too beautiful for words (at least mine), with awesome views, temples, pilgrims and more than a couple cups of milk tea!